The changes on the minor league side of the Orioles’ operation continued today at the highest and lower levels.
Triple-A Norfolk manager Gary Kendall and pitching coach Kennie Steenstra, and Rookie-level Florida Complex League manager Alan Mills won’t be returning in 2022, according to multiple sources. They were informed of the club’s decision this morning.
The Orioles haven’t announced the moves.
Kendall spent eight seasons as manager with Double-A Bowie before joining the Tides in 2019. He set the Baysox record with 570 wins and led them to three postseason appearances, including the Eastern League championship in 2015.
Two years earlier, Kendall guided the Surprise Saguaros to the Arizona Fall League title.
Kendall also managed Rookie-league Bluefield in 2004, low Single-A Delmarva in 2005-07 and short-season Single-A Aberdeen from 2008-10 before joining Bowie in 2011. He amassed 1,014 career victories.
Norfolk went 52-78 this summer and finished sixth in the Triple-A East Southeast division. The Orioles kept the shuttle running with a franchise-record 62 players used.
Kendall worked at the alternate camp site in 2020 following the cancellation of the minor league season due to COVID-19. He was in the organization initially from 1991-95 and returned in 2000 as a field coach at Bluefield.
Kendall is a 1982 graduate of Sparrows Point High School in Baltimore. He was just the third Tides manager since they became an Orioles affiliate in 2007, following Gary Allenson (2007-11) and the late Ron Johnson (2012-18).
Bowie manager Buck Britton would appear to be a leading candidate to replace Kendall after receiving the Cal Ripken, Sr. Player Development Award last month. The Baysox went 73-47 and earned a trip to the Double-A Northeast Championship Series.
Steenstra, who appeared in four games as a reliever with the Cubs in 1998, was named pitching coach at Norfolk in 2020 prior to the shutdown. He spent three seasons in the same role with Bowie and the previous four with Single-A Frederick, which no longer is an Orioles affiliate.
Steenstra was Bowie’s pitching coach from 2010-12 and Frederick’s in 2009.
Mills was a reliever with the Orioles for nine seasons, including his last two in the majors in 2000-01 after signing as a free agent with the Dodgers in December 1998. He returned to the organization again in 2012 to begin a five-year run as pitching coach with Aberdeen (2012-13), Delmarva (2014) and Bowie (2015-16).
The Orioles employed Mills as their bullpen coach in 2017-18. His managerial debut came in 2019 in the Gulf Coast League, and the Orioles posted the best record at 38-15 before Hurricane Dorrian forced the cancellation of the playoffs.
Mills was named GCL Manager of the Year.
The league underwent a makeover in 2021, becoming the FCL. The Orioles had two entries.
The Athletic first reported that Mills’ contract wasn’t renewed.
Other known changes in the system include the departures of hitting coaches Tom Eller and Patrick Jones at Aberdeen and Delmarva, respectively, according to sources.
Eller was head baseball coach at Harford Community College until his hiring in January 2019. The Orioles assigned him to Aberdeen in 2019 and Frederick in 2020. The IronBirds became a full-season affiliate this year.
Jones was hired prior to the 2020 season and assigned to the Gulf Coast League team. He worked the previous two years as a coach at Moeller (Ohio) High School and as a private hitting instructor for three years.
Meanwhile, release of the Arizona Fall League rosters has been pushed back to Wednesday.
The news was supposed to go out this afternoon, but the heavy volume of content issued by Major League Baseball Communications delayed the AFL announcement.