Long on hitters: “We’ve had a lot of room to grow”

Because the terms of manager Brandon Hyde’s contract with the Orioles weren’t shared with the public - and that does include the media, even if some of us shouldn’t be allowed to mingle - it’s more of an assumption than solid confirmation that his three-year deal includes an option for the 2022 season.

The expectation is that he’s returning, though nothing official has come across.

The outlook is more uncertain for the coaching staff, which routinely seems to undergo changes.

Doug Brocail wasn’t retained as pitching coach following the 2020 season and José Flores was replaced as third base coach and infield instructor.

Arnie Beyeler was first base coach and outfield instructor in 2019. John Wasdin was bullpen coach and Howie Clark assistant hitting coach.

Thumbnail image for long-don-squinting-spring-sidebar.jpgThe house was cleaned after 2018.

I’m sure the current staff will be re-evaluated after the season, the normal process and one that’s common in every organization.

Hyde was asked yesterday about that process and exactly what it entails. Hitting coach Don Long, made available to the media after Hyde’s session in the dugout, was a natural example.

“I think there are a lot of factors that go into evaluating a coach,” Hyde said. “One of me is consistency and how he is every single day, how the players react to him, how prepared he is. You have to look at what he’s working with, also. The guys that need to get better, have they gotten better?

“Don is an ultimate pro, he’s all those things. Unbelievably prepared, steady influence, incredible at breaking down a pitcher and a gameplan going in, from an approach standpoint. Players really like him. He’s just really, really a pro.”

The season has challenged everyone in the dugout and bullpen. Hyde, his coaches and his players. Last night’s 4-3 loss providing another unwanted and unnecessary example.

Improvements can be cited - just check out Cedric Mullins and the emergence of Rule 5 pick Tyler Wells despite back-to-back blown saves - as well as the regressions and the failures to take the next anticipated step in development and production.

A mixed bag figures to contain plenty of disappointments for a team that has the worst record in the majors, nudging past the Diamondbacks.

It isn’t just the numbers that are judged, however. There’s the approach and the mental side of the game.

Also a tough task for a coach working with a team that’s used a club-record 59 players and had a club-record 16 make their major league debuts.

“We’ve had a lot of room to grow, I can say that,” said Long, who replaced Scott Coolbaugh in January 2019.

“I think we’ve improved, I think we’ve gotten better. I think we’ve got a combination of guys who, a lot of guys at the beginning of the year were still trying to prove themselves at this level, and with that comes a whole lot of different things. So, it’s really learning from a hitter’s standpoint how to manage your emotions and manage your confidence day-to-day, staying confident even if your most recent results say you shouldn’t be confident, and just understanding that because you have a tough week doesn’t mean you can’t play here and you don’t belong here.

“So, I think we’ve worked through a lot of that with some of our younger hitters. I think our approach overall has improved, but I still think we have a long way to go until we become really efficient and what I think we can become.”

Last night’s defeat, after Austin Hays became the fourth Orioles player with 20 home runs, made the club 39-5 when leading after the eighth inning. It’s lost 29 series this year.

Umpire Tim Timmons ordering the grounds crew off the field while it rained in the ninth inning probably didn’t warrant the flood of media attention, since it had no bearing on the outcome and the tarp wasn’t in the process of being unrolled. But yes, it was definitely bizarre and a first for me.

(I could be wrong, but I don’t believe they were “ejected.” They’d certainly be allowed to return to the field in a downpour.)

The crew is allowed to line up behind a tarp. Perhaps Hyde can shed some light on the situation later today.

If Timmons allows light to be shed before a day game.

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