Leftovers for breakfast

Not only are the Orioles preparing pay increases for the arbitration-eligible players who will be tendered contracts for 2017, they also are considering contract extensions for part of the group.

There’s no time like the present.

Chris Tillman front trop.jpgThe Orioles failed in the past to reach agreement with pitcher Chris Tillman and third baseman Manny Machado, though talks never reached a point where deals were realistic. That’s especially true with Tillman, who made headlines a few springs ago when word broke that the Orioles reached out to his agent. I’ve heard the conversation never advanced beyond an initial offer from the club that was the equivalent of sticking a toe in the water.

Hardly worth the media fuss, which included reporters surrounding him outside the visiting clubhouse in Lakeland, Fla.

Tillman is a free agent following the 2017 season. Machado and closer Zach Britton can test the market after 2018. And they’re not getting any cheaper.

Asked about extension talks this winter, executive vice president Dan Duquette replied, “That’s always a possibility.”

“We usually address that during the course of the negotiation,” he said. “Some of these players, that will come up during their arbitration contract negotiation. And we’ve got a couple other young pitchers - (Mychal) Givens, (Dylan) Bundy, (Kevin) Gausman. You could add them to that list for speculation, too, if you want.”

Like I’d ever pass up a chance to speculate.

“Those are some good guys for us,” Duquette continued, “and we can always address that as we go through the process.”

* Givens is included on the list of young pitchers who benefited from the tutelage of Double-A Bowie pitching coach Alan Mills. Left-hander Donnie Hart is another one.

Mills interviewed for the positions of Orioles pitching and bullpen coach, the latter seeming like the more likely spot for him. I asked him recently whether he takes special pride in how Givens and Hart have contributed on the major league level.

“I enjoy working with all the guys, even the guys that haven’t made that jump,” Mills said. “Same thing with guys like John Means and Matthew Grimes. Whenever you come up a level, you have to go through a learning curve, what the guys are doing at that level. Whenever you have a guy and you see him make progress, I always feel good for them.

“It’s understood that when you’re playing professional baseball, you’ve been pretty good at the game for most of your life and sometimes you hit a little stumbling block or whatever. And once you see guys make breakthroughs, it’s a joy to watch.”

* Still no word on a new pitching coach, but it continues to appear that Roger McDowell is the favorite unless there’s a late change.

There are a certain number of steps involved before a deal becomes official, including the final word from ownership. It could happen at any minute.

The new hire obviously will have some input on the selection of a bullpen coach. The Orioles will make their decision and hope there’s no conflict.

It’s easy to become spoiled by the relationship between Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti, but such package deals are a rarity.

* The Orioles took an early liking to free agent catcher Jason Castro, but a FOXSports.com report that he’s got multiple three-year offers and could net a four-year deal seemingly removes them from the competition.

They’re looking for a veteran on a shorter-term contract to pair with Caleb Joseph as they prepare for Matt Wieters to sign with another club and wait for top catching prospect Chance Sisco to push for a promotion.

I’ve written previously about the Orioles’ ongoing interest in Nick Hundley and how they wanted to retain him after the 2014 season, but they weren’t willing to offer a second guaranteed year and he bolted for the Rockies. They haven’t soured on him. He’s still an attractive option for them. But would they give him two years with Sisco waiting in the wings?

It’s déjà vu all over again.

* Don’t try to sell former Oriole Aubrey Huff on the notion that team chemistry is overrated. He’s not buying it.

“The biggest thing I can take out of my career, and I hate when people say this, they say, ‘Oh, chemistry is bull(crap). Get the best players out there and you’ll win.’ No, that’s not true,” Huff said.

“I’ve been on teams where it was absolutely toxic in the locker room and you’re in dead last place. I get to San Francisco and everybody there shows up early and leaves late. Everybody loved each other. It was a blast to be in that clubhouse. I couldn’t wait to get there. My feet would hit the floor in the morning and I could not wait to get to the clubhouse. When you have a clubhouse like that, how you are in the clubhouse around your guys is going to determine if you win or not.

“I’m a huge believer in getting baseball guys for clubhouse chemistry, not superstars, and I think that’s where GMs across the league miss the mark. They go after all these big high-end free agents and they don’t do their due diligence on the baseball guys that are good people in the locker room who will lead by example. Not so much by the stats they put on the field. You get a bunch of guys who like to play together, that’s a difference-maker.”

* The Orioles are among the group of businesses to receive the 2016 Mayor’s Business Recognition Awards at the 42nd annual luncheon ceremony on Dec. 5 at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront.

The annual awards event, which is presented by the Greater Baltimore Committee, the Baltimore Development Corporation and the Mayor’s Office, honors businesses for “their outstanding corporate leadership, commitment to community and dedication to improving the quality of life in Baltimore City.”

These businesses have engaged in specific activities or projects that have significantly benefited the Baltimore community and are outside of the business’s regular mission or day-to-day work or activities of the business. Casey Cares Foundation nominated the Orioles.

Here’s the complete list of winners:

Baltimore Orioles
Ayers Saint Gross, Inc.
BB&T Corporation
Feats Inc. and Fund for Educational Excellence
Radisson Hotel Baltimore Downtown - Inner Harbor
Roland Park Place
University of Maryland, Baltimore
WBAL Radio/98 Rock
Wright, Constable & Skeen, LLP
Write Notepads & Co.

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