Past searches for coaching replacements on the Orioles’ major league staff involved the casting of a wide net.
Most recently, they found first base coach Anthony Sanders in the Rockies system, bullpen coach Darren Holmes after his stint in Colorado and major league coach Fredi González after his tenure in Miami.
Third base coach José Flores came from Philadelphia prior to the 2019 season. Tim Cossins, the major league field coordinator and catching instructor, worked for the Cubs. Pitching coach Doug Brocail held the same job with the Rangers. Hitting coach Don Long held the same job with the Reds.
Previous hires for former manager Buck Showalter’s staff included first base coach Wayne Kirby and hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh from the Rangers organization, pitching coach Roger McDowell after his lengthy tenure in Atlanta, bullpen coach Rick Adair after two seasons with the Mariners and bench coach John Russell after the Pirates fired him as manager.
So many other examples could be cited, but you get the point. Lots of interviews conducted and rumors prior to the announcements.
The staff is going to look a little different in 2021, but quite possibly while retaining the same familiar faces.
When I reported on Sept. 30 that Brocail and Flores, who doubled as infield instructor, wouldn’t return next season, I wrote that no decisions were made on replacement candidates. The club hadn’t launched the process of compiling a list.
It might not get to that point.
There’s a very real possibility of the hires being made in-house, with duties expanded as the staff is reduced in number.
The Orioles are “rearranging things,” as one person worded it. The possibilities aren’t endless, but the flexibility creates multiple scenarios.
Director of pitching Chris Holt could be elevated to Brocail’s spot, expanding again on his responsibilities. The Orioles brought him over from the Astros in November 2018 to serve as minor league pitching coordinator, but the promotion extended his reach to the major league level and more easily allowed him to utilize the technology and data that became available to the organization.
Though Holt has never been described by the Orioles as the pitching coach in waiting, the perception follows him since the day of his arrival.
Naming Holt as Brocail’s replacement obviously would save money, with the Orioles escaping the task of making an outside hire and adding another contract. And economics are factoring into the shakeup, which involves broad structural changes.
Holmes has built a resume that makes him an attractive candidate and Brocail speaks highly of his work. He was the Rockies’ bullpen coach since 2015 while also holding the title of assistant pitching coach, and worked in 2014 as the Braves’ biomechanics pitching consultant.
A background as director of sports performance and biomechanics specialist at Acceleration Sports Institute in Greenville, S.C., where he was responsible for overseeing the training of Olympic, professional, collegiate and high school athletes, made Holmes a comfortable and desired fit in Baltimore. It worked for him in the bullpen and could work as easily in the dugout.
The Orioles could name Holt the bullpen coach, again bypassing the casting of the net, but I’d tab him as the early favorite for pitching coach if setting odds. With the freedom to adjust them, of course.
Similar shifts could be employed to replace Flores.
José Hernández, moved from major league coach to assistant hitting coach in 2020, is a former infielder who certainly could handle the instruction that used to be done by Flores. Maybe he also becomes third base coach, or goes to the first base box while Sanders shifts to third. Or the Orioles consider Cossins or González if willing to take him out of the dugout, where he’s basically become the bench coach.
There are positions to be filled on the minor league side, including Triple-A Norfolk hitting coach and Double-A Bowie fundamentals coach. However, the Orioles might be waiting to find out whether there’s actually going to be a minor league season.
Sean Berry was hired as the Tides’ hitting coach, returning to the organization and his former job, but never worked in a game. He was present at spring training and that’s it.