No matter who fills out the Orioles coaching staff in 2019, the ability to teach is going to be crucial, with so many young players vying for roster spots and assorted veterans in need of some tweaking, if not a complete overhaul.
“I think the game in general has become a lot younger,” manager Brandon Hyde said Thursday night on the “Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan. “The older-type veteran guys, it just seems like it’s really becoming a younger game. Teams are giving younger players a little bit more of an opportunity now than before, so there’s so much development that’s happening on every team.
“I just came from a team that won the World Series and half our team was young guys that late in the year were still developing every day, so there’s still a lot of teaching going on. This team, obviously that’s going to be an everyday occurrence. We’re going to surround ourselves with coaching staff guys that are really development based because we’re going to try to improve the talent on this club.”
Trey Mancini continues to learn the intricacies of playing the outfield. Cedric Mullins is adjusting to the majors and figuring out how to compensate for a throwing arm that isn’t highly rated. Renato Núñez remains a work in progress at third base, the accuracy on his throws still in need of improvement. The catchers and utility infield candidates are young. The rotation and bullpen could be littered with inexperienced arms.
Class will be in session and the hours will be long.
Hyde can tap into his past experience as a bench coach while searching for someone to assist him in the dugout.
“I’ve had four managers and all of them used me in different ways,” he said.
“When I was bench coach for Jack (McKeon), he was 80 years old and he’d call me ‘kid.’ We’d take a cab to the ballpark every day and walk the warning track at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. He’d be smoking a stogie the whole time. Just listening to all his stories. But I did all the prep. He wanted to meet with the media and just manage the game. So, I did all the advance work and everything that led up to the game. So, everybody’s got a little bit of a different style.
“Ricky Renteria was more hands-on, would bounce things off me a lot during games. Joe Maddon is Joe Maddon. He really relied on me a lot for culture in the clubhouse, for communication between players, little things in between games about pinch-hit stuff and running game things, so there’s all different ways. But I think all of my experiences as a bench coach, what you’re doing is managing along. You’re just managing along in your head, knowing your manager, knowing when to throw things out.
“So, that’s bottom line, being able to have the relationship and a feel to know when to throw things out to the manager and what certain guys need and what certain guys don’t want in that way. So, I think that you are managing. You’re just not pulling the trigger. You’re just there right next to him. Whatever he needs, you’re right there for him. And that’s kind of what I’ve done for those guys.”
* Attempts to figure out the upcoming hires for the Orioles lead most people to research backgrounds and try to find a connection.
Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias worked for the Cardinals and Astros, making it a certainty that he’d bring along assistant Sig Mejdal to set up and run the analytics department. Chris Holt left the Astros to become the Orioles’ minor league pitching coordinator.
Hyde and Elias know Dave Trembley and I wonder whether the former Orioles manager could find his way back to the organization. He resigned as the Braves’ director of player development in August and wants to stay in baseball.
His teaching and organizational skills are exceptional.
Trembley served as third base and bench coach with the Astros from 2013-14, when he was dismissed along with manager Bo Porter. Elias was the director of scouting before becoming assistant general manager.
Food for thought.
* Pitcher Steve Johnson officially announced his retirement Friday night, posting the following message on social media:
“In June 2005, at age 17, I started my pro career in the Gulf Coast League with the Dodgers. After 14 seasons with a good amount of ups and downs, I have decided to retire. This game has been my life since I can remember and I’m so grateful to have been able to play this long. I want to thank all the organizations I was a part of for taking a chance on me and giving me the opportunity to chase this dream. I want to also thank all of the coaches who have helped me along the way. Most importantly, I want to thank my family and friends who have supported me throughout this crazy journey.
“Getting the call to the big leagues with the Orioles and being able to share that whole experience with everyone close to me in my hometown is something I’ll cherish forever. Being a part of the 2012 team that brought playoff baseball back to Baltimore after 14 years will always be special to me.
“I have been so lucky to meet and share this ride with some amazing people along the way. The baseball family is a close-knit group. You spend every day together for 8+ months with some of the best players in the world pursuing the same goal. I’ve had so many great teammates with wonderful families from all over the country who are now lifelong friends.
“It’s been a hell of a ride but I’m ready for the next chapter!”
It’s funny to me that one of the most vivid memories that I hold of Johnson’s tenure with the Orioles involves a game he didn’t appear in - the 2012 wild card in Texas. Johnson warmed in the first inning as starter Joe Saunders allowed the tying run to score. How many people remember that happening?
Johnson provided the beat crew with some wonderful stories, pitching for the same team as his father, current MASN and 105.7 The Fan analyst Dave Johnson. Their first major league wins came on the same date, Aug. 8, 1989 and 2012. Steve held the Mariners to two runs and struck out nine batters over six innings while Dave and his wife, Tera, watched from the stands at Camden Yards.
You can’t script it any better.
We marveled at his high strikeout totals - he averaged 10.2 per nine innings in the majors while going 6-1 - and so did Johnson. He didn’t possess an upper-90s fastball, but he knew how to set up hitters and put them away, giving the illusion that he had more giddy-up on his heater. The kid understood pitching.
Johnson sustained some injuries that slowed his career and the Mariners practically pitched him into retirement in 2016 by using him four times in six days and three times in four to spare their inflexible bullpen. He took another shot in 2017 by signing a minor league deal with the Orioles, who traded him to the White Sox in August. The last batters faced came in the independent Atlantic League in 2018 - 11 starts capping off his professional career.
He’s bright and dedicated and bound to succeed in whatever he chooses to do. As my father says, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Raise ‘em right, set a proper example and they’ll do just fine.
Kudos to Steve and his family, all of them good people.