The removal of Don Long as hitting coach yesterday will lead the Orioles to their latest set of offseason interviews. With candidates tabbed inside and outside the organization.
The first step was informing Long of the decision, followed by the compiling of a list of names that won’t be rushed.
Tim Gibbons could get consideration after completing his first season as Triple-A Norfolk hitting coach. The Orioles aren’t afraid to venture outside the box and Gibbons has performed these duties for only two years at the professional level if you include his assignment to Double-A Bowie in 2020 prior to the cancellation of the minor league season.
Gibbons spent six years as director of hitting for Be Elite Sports Training academy in Chicago. He’s one of several hires from non-traditional coaching backgrounds.
Any hitting coach who’s fired or doesn’t have his contract renewed could be linked to the Orioles. But they won’t all fit easily into the team’s philosophy.
Improvement in team offensive stats can happen if the Orioles are able to sign or trade for hitters with a more mature approach at the plate. Knowing how to manipulate a count, how to force a starter out of a game earlier by making him work harder. Don’t chase. Foul off borderline pitches to stay alive in an at-bat. The stuff that you see happening against the Orioles on a regular basis.
Gary Kendall’s departure as manager at Triple-A Norfolk after more than 20 years in the organization opens the door for Bowie’s Buck Britton to move up another level. He was hired prior to the new regime’s arrival, but he clearly is held in high regard. A fast riser in the system.
Britton is used to losing prospects to a higher affiliate. Now, he can experience the thrill of a Triple-A manager losing chunks of his roster to the shuttle to and from the majors, and holding back pitchers, no matter how shorthanded he is, to keep them available to the Orioles. That phone call comes frequently and creates a mad scramble to find a substitute starter.
Don’t judge Triple-A managers by their records.
I’m curious about Orioles assistant hitting coach José Hernández, who stays on the staff but with a different coaching role. I don’t know what that entails, but I’ll assume that a new assistant hitting coach must be found, as well.
Hernández has been in the organization for 12 years. The Orioles promoted him to major league coach in 2019 after he spent the previous six seasons with Norfolk and one each with the Gulf Coast League team, Single-A Delmarva and high Single-A Frederick.
* Beyond the changes already noted over the last few days, the Orioles also are parting with strength and conditioning coaches Joe Hogarty and Ryosuke Naito and home clubhouse equipment manager Chris Guth, as first reported by The Athletic.
Hogarty spent 12 seasons as the major league strength and conditioning coach and 18 in the organization. Naito completed his eighth season with the major league club and his 11th in the organization.
Guth spent nine seasons with the Orioles and also worked for the Yankees, Diamondbacks and Rangers with former manager Buck Showalter.
* The Orioles might not avoid 100 losses in 2022 with so much work left in the rebuild, but they should be a more enjoyable view with prospects joining the team over the summer - including catcher Adley Rutschman, outfielder Kyle Stowers and perhaps pitchers Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall, if they’re all healthy. Hall was shut down at Bowie with a stress reaction in his elbow.
I’m just naming a few here. There are others with a chance to make their debuts who are going to intrigue and excite fans.
“There’s a lot of positive things to look forward to,” left-hander Bruce Zimmermann said after Sunday’s loss in Toronto. “I know the guys that I got to see during my rehab stints and when I got optioned to Triple-A, got a lot of good players down there - Rutschman, Stowers, some of the pitchers with Dean (Kremer) making a lot of adjustments down there, (Kyle) Bradish. There’s a lot of opportunity and a lot of positives coming up out of the Triple-A area.
“It’s going to be really interesting come spring training next year. Obviously, you want to win more games than you did the year previously, and we’re going to have a lot more young guys that are going to put their foot forward to make a case for their name in the rotation or in the field. So, I’m excited. We’re definitely taking some strides in the right direction.
“This team battled through and through until the last out, as you saw even in this (Blue Jays) series. Put up runs in the eighth inning in the first game, put up runs again in the eighth inning and kept chipping away. There’s a lot of grit in this team and we keep bringing up the young guys that are going to keep getting the experience that they need. And hopefully we bring in some guys, a couple veteran presence, and we start making strides next year. And I firmly believe we’re going to be able to do that.”
They weren’t piecing together rallies one single at a time.
Kelvin Gutiérrez had three hits to leave his line at .248/.327/.336 in 153 plate appearances with the Orioles, compared to .215/.254/.296 in 142 plate appearances with the Royals.
I wouldn’t hand him the third base job and the club wants more “slug” at the position, as manager Brandon Hyde phrased it, but Gutiérrez could be in the mix in spring training. Mostly due to his rifle arm and solid - and at times spectacular - play at the corner.
Gutiérrez was 27-for-93 (.290) in September/October, with four doubles, a triple and two home runs. He posted a .347 on-base percentage, and had hits in 10 of his last 11 games and 14 of 16.
Using the middle of the field and going the opposite way earns him fans in the organization.