October 2010

A few notes and thoughts…

A few random Orioles-related tidbits...

*npbtracker reported earlier today on Twitter that Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima will not be posted.  The Orioles were reportedly among several teams interested in him.
*The Yankees are expected to confirm a new three-year deal for manager Joe Girardi today. After that’s in place, they’ll start the process of naming a new pitching coach. An industry source confirmed that there are plans  to talk to Orioles pitching coach Rick Kranitz, who has been rumored to be a candidate ever since Dave Eiland’s dismissal earlier this week.
*I wrote the other day about Mark Connor being the leading candidate for the O’s pitching staff if Kranitz is not retained or chooses to go elsewhere. As a special assistant with the team’s Minor League operations, he’s technically done with his duties for the season and the Orioles have been given permission to speak with him. Connor is expected to be in Texas this weekend to take in the Rangers World Series games.
*It’s been written a bunch that the four managerial openings are holding up the Orioles coaching staff final decisions and I’ve had a few questions as to why.  This is just an educated guess, but I’d bet on ex-Mariners skipper Don Wakamatsu -heavily rumored to be Showalter’s choice for bench coach – is in the mix somewhere.  Either way, the Orioles will have a pretty good idea who is -and isn’t – on board for next spring when they head to Phoenix for Monday’s organizational meetings, which includes the coaching staff.
*Forgot to post this yesterday. Sorry for the delay, but here’s the team’s statement on Thursday regarding the O’s newly-renovated Spring Training facility in Sarasota…

“Earlier today, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the Orioles’ spring training agreement with Sarasota County and completely validated the County process and the issuance of the construction bonds. In doing so, the Florida Supreme Court dismissed all of the plaintiffs’ claims against Sarasota County and the named County Commissioners.

The Orioles’ confidence in Sarasota County has yet again been reaffirmed by this decision.  We continue to move full speed ahead with the Club’s plans for the finest spring training facility in all of baseball and look forward to the opening of the stadium for Spring Training 2011.”

Source: Presley expected to sign with Os (updated)

With Tuesday’s news that longtime Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley will move to a hitting evaluator position, a Major League source said on Friday that he expects Jim Presley to soon sign a two-year deal to become manager Buck Showalter’s hitting coach in Baltimore.

Presley was also in the running to join new Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez’s staff. He served as Gonzalez’s hitting coach in Florida, but the Braves are thought to be pursuing other candidates.

Showalter would not confirm or deny that Presley was in line to be hired, but told MLB.com on Friday afternoon that Presley -who reportedly is in the mix for several organizations — is on a very short list of candidates, a list which he expects to close in on in the coming days.

A Major League player for eight seasons, Presley worked with Showalter as the hitting coach in Arizona from the D-backs’ inaugural 1998 season until 2000. He became the Marlins’ hitting coach in ’06 and was dismissed on June 23, along with Gonzalez and bench coach Carlos Tosca. A former American League All-Star, Presley was long rumored to be a candidate to join Showalter’s staff, along with Rick Down, Showalter’s hitting coach in New York and Astros Minor League hitting coordinator Mike Barnett.

The Orioles’ offense finished next-to-last among American League teams this season in runs scored, and spent the first two-thirds of the year ranked near the bottom of the Majors in batting average with runners in scoring position, RBIs and walks.

Crowley’s newly created role will involve him working closely with the Minor League side of the organization and applying the 63-year-old’s expertise in areas including scouting and the First-Year Player Draft. He has spent the past 12 seasons as the Orioles’ hitting coach and has been with the organization for two separate stints totaling 16 years. The O’s have yet to make an official announcement on Crowley’s new post, although he has also been tabbed by Showalter to give his input on his successor.

Both Showalter and Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail will be present for the organizational meetings, which are slated to begin on Monday in Phoenix. And although MacPhail said it would be “pretty ambitious” to reach a final decision on staffing over the weekend, he did tell MLB.com on Wednesday that the organization will have a pretty good idea where things stand by then.  Showalter, who will meet with MacPhail back in Baltimore on Saturday, reiterated that sentiment on Friday.

When the Orioles do make an announcement, it will most likely be for Showalter’s entire staff. The four vacant managerial openings around the League has slowed that process, with former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu — a rumored favorite to serve as Showalter’s bench coach –believed to be in the running for one of those positions.

In addition to Crowley, Showalter inherited pitching coach Rick Kranitz, bench coach Jeff Datz, bullpen coach Alan Dunn, first-base coach John “T-Bone” Shelby and third-base coach Gary Allenson. Rangers special assistant Mark Connor is believed to be the leading candidate to join Showalter’s staff as pitching coach, although Kranitz -who is also in the mix to join Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi — is thought highly of by Showalter and could still be retained.

 It is possible Showalter keeps several of the coaches on staff, although it could require a change in roles. He has also made it clear that he wants to retain the old “Oriole Way,” making it plausible to give expanded roles to former players, including Minor League offensive coordinator Mike Bordick, who is expected to be at next week’s organizational meetings along with a good portion of next spring’s coaching staff.

Butterfield on Buck

As you probably know, Brian Butterfield was passed over to replace Blue Jays skipper Cito Gaston but has opted to return to Toronto as third base coach.

Butterfield chose not to comment on rumors that he had a coaching job awaiting him in Baltimore, with good friend and Orioles manager Buck Showalter still piecing together his plans for his staff. Due to his decision to stay with the Blue Jays, Butterfield told MLB.com that he did not believe discussing other opportunities was relevant.
 
“I’d just rather not even comment on it,” Butterfield said. “I will say this, Buck and I are very good friends and I think that through all this, the one thing that I have always been confident in is, Buck would always be a guy who would support any decision I made. I still feel that way.”

The full story on Butterfield can be found on BlueJays.com or you can just follow this link.

Looking ahead

While the Orioles coaching staff decisions largely remain in limbo, next spring’s schedule is set at the brand-new Ed Smith Stadium.

Below is the O’s home dates, with the full 2011 Spring Training schedule available at orioles.com.

Date     Time     Opponent    
Tue., March 1     1:05 p.m.     Rays    
Thu., March 3     1:05 p.m.     Twins 
Sat., March 5     1:05 p.m.     Red Sox (ss)    
Mon., March 7     7:05 p.m.     Yankees (ss)    
Wed., March 9     1:05 p.m.     Twins    
Fri., March 11     1:05 p.m.     Phillies   
Sun., March 13     1:05 p.m.     Tigers 
Mon., March 14     1:05 p.m.     Pirates  
Tue., March 15     1:05 p.m.     Astros  
Fri., March 18     7:05 p.m.     Twins 
Sat., March 19     1:05 p.m.     Phillies
Tue., March 22     1:05 p.m.     Yankees
Thu., March 24     7:05 p.m.     Pirates
Sun., March 27     1:05 p.m.     Red Sox (ss)
Mon., March 28     1:05 p.m.     Tigers  
Tue., March 29     1:05 p.m.     Blue Jays

And if you really can’t wait for some more baseball, you can follow the Orioles Arizona Fall League and Winter League happenings here

Connor for pitching coach?

BALTIMORE– There is nothing definite concerning the Orioles coaching staff for 2011, but all signs indicate that the group manager Buck Showalter decides on will have a decidedly different makeup then the six men he inherited in 2010.

In addition to Tuesday’s unofficial news that hitting coach Terry Crowley will return in a new role as organizational hitting evaluator, a separate source confirmed on Wednesday morning that Mark Connor is a leading candidate to become the team’s next pitching coach.

Connor, a special assistant in the Rangers Minor League operations, recently finished instructional leagues and, according to the source, has had preliminary discussions with Showalter about joining his staff.  Prior to his most recent stint with Texas, Connor served as the Rangers bullpen coach from 2003-2005, and became the team’s pitching coach, under Showalter, in ’06. His history with Showalter dates back to their coaching days in New York and Connor went with him to Arizona, where he served as the team’s pitching coordinator, scouting and preparing for the expansion draft. He was the Diamondbacks pitching coach from the inaugural 1998 season until 2000, and held that same post with Toronto before coming to Texas.  

The Orioles current pitching coach, Rick Kranitz, still remains a possibility to be retained, although Kranitz was told — like the rest of the O’s staff -that he is free to explore other options while Showalter’s weighs his final decision.

Kranitz, who served predominantly under ex-skipper Dave Trembley and interim Juan Samuel could be in the mix elsewhere with an unprecedented amount of movement this offseason in Major League managerial and coaching staff positions. Both division rivals Boston and New York are looking for a pitching coach, and Kranitz’s name has emerged as an external candidate for the Yankees given his relationship with manager Joe Girardi.

Kranitz and Girardi first crossed paths when Girardi was a newly-drafted player with the Cubs, and Kranitz was just starting out in his coaching career. He got his first big break serving as Girardi’s pitching coach in Florida in 2006 and was named  Baseball America’s  Major League Coach of the Year that season.  Under Kranitz’s tutelage, the Marlins became the first staff in history to field four rookies with 10 or more wins. He was tasked with an equally young and inexperienced group of Orioles arms in 2010, a group that included Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman, all under 25.

Both Showalter and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail will be present for the Orioles organizational meetings, which are slated to begin on Monday in Phoenix, Az.  Showalter said in a text message to MLB.com on Tuesday night that there remains no exact timetable for naming his staff.

In addition to Kranitz and Crowley. Showalter inherited bench coach Jeff Datz, bullpen coach Alan Dunn, first-base coach John “T-Bone” Shelby and third-base coach Gary Allenson.  It is possible Showalter keeps several of the coaches on staff, although it could require a change in roles.  He has also made it clear that he wants to retain the old “Oriole Way” making it plausible to give expanded roles to former players, including Minor League offensive coordinator Mike Bordick.

MacPhail has the “right to veto” any of Showalter’s final decisions, although he has maintained a stance that the manager should dictate who he works with on the field. He did not return several attempts by MLB.com to contact him, but said last month that the coaching staff has to be something the manager is “comfortable with”.

“In the end, we don’t want to put our spies down there,” MacPhail said. “We just want people that [Showalter] feels comfortable with, can instruct and teach our kids, and do the things that need to get done over the course of spring and summer.”

Crowley out as hitting coach, other coaching tidbits

BALTIMORE– Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley will have a new role in the organization for the 2011 season although there is no timetable on an official announcement from the team.

Crowley’s departure as hitting coach was first reported by the Baltimore Sun, which cited two unnamed sources in a report Tuesday night detailing Crowley’s role as an organization-wide offensive evaluator. A source confirmed the move to MLB.com, although it’s uncertain when the decision will be officially unveiled.

Crowley’s newly-created role will involve him working closely with the Minor League side and applying the 63-year-old’s expertise in areas including scouting and the Draft.  He has spent the past 12 seasons as the Orioles hitting coach and has been with the organization for two separate stints totaling 16 years.  
 
According to the Sun, Crowley was offered his role as hitting coach for another season, but elected to step aside in favor of the offensive evaluator position.  Crowley did not comment on the Sun’s report and did not return immediate attempts to reach him by MLB.com.

Showalter has said that the organization could ask certain members of the staff to move to new positions, and Crowley’s case might not be the only one.    

The rest of the Orioles coaching staff remains in limbo, although Showalter told the group -which includes pitching coach Rick Kranitz, bench coach Jeff Datz, bullpen coach Alan Dunn, first-base coach John “T-Bone” Shelby and third-base coach Gary Allenson – that they are free to explore other options.

With a pair of division rivals, in Boston and New York, both looking for a pitching coach, Kranitz could be in the mix elsewhere. He has a previous relationship with Yankees manager Joe Girardi, stemming from when Girardi was a player with the Cubs, and he served as Girardi’s pitching coach in Florida in ’06.  Datz -who just completed his first season in Baltimore — could also make a move to join new Mariners manager Eric Wedge, who he coached under in Cleveland.

With Monday’s news that longtime third base coach Brian Butterfield has elected to stay in Toronto for another year, it’s possible  Showalter could retain Allenson -who started last season as Triple-A Norfolk’s manager – or give more of an expanded role to Minor League offensive coordinator Mike Bordick.

Former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu is thought to be another leading candidate to join Showalter’s staff as a bench coach as well as his pitching coach Rick Adair, who was dismissed along with Wakamatsu in early August. Rangers special assistant

Mark Connor’s name has also been speculated as a candidate to be Showalter’s next pitching coach, should Kranitz not be retained or chose to move on.

Butterfield staying in Toronto, Yanks coaches moves

The Blue Jays announced this afternoon that former Red Sox pitching coach
John Farrell will be their new manager, and third base coach Brian Butterfield
–a heavy favorite to join Buck Showalter’s staff — has decided to stay on in
Toronto.

Butterfield is a very well-respected third base coach that goes way back with
Showalter to their days playing in the Yankees Minor League system. With
Butterfield reportedly out of the mix, it could bode well for current O’s third-base coach Gary Allenson. Allenson also has a previous relationship with Showalter and took over third base duties when Juan Samuel was named interim skipper in June.

Also, it’s important to note that the Yankees fired pitching coach Dave Eiland today, which clears a spot perhaps for Orioles pitching coach Rick Kranitz. Kranitz knows Girardi very well from their time with the Marlins in 2006 and they both also have a history with the Cubs organization.

Kranitz could be retained by Showalter, but there are other names rumored to be in the mix, such as Rangers special assistant Mark Connor.  I blogged recently that it’s important to keep an eye on the Yankees coaching staff situation, since virtually all of their contracts are up. There’s also an undercurrent of thought that Showalter –a longtime fixture as a player and manager — could take a coach or two for his staff.

Butterfield still in Blue Jays mix, Os staff uncertain

Some Orioles-related news from Arlington, where I’m helping out ALCS coverage…

Longtime Toronto third base coach Brian Butterfield told MLB.com earlier today that, as far as he knows, he’s still in the mix for to replace retired skipper Cito Gaston. Butterfield also expressed a desire to manage and the article also goes on to state the Blue Jays timetable could come as early as next week.

What does this mean for the Orioles? Hopefully, it will shed some clarity on the Buck Showalter’s coaching staff decisions. Butterfield is believed to be a leading candidate to join Showalter’s staff as a third base coach, but all of the openings around baseball has caused a holdup in that regard.

As I blogged on Tuesday, there’s a lot of moving parts with the coaching staff, and some of that could also depend on two teams playing now: the Rangers and Yankees.

Rangers special assistant Mark
Connor’s name has been mentioned as a candidate to become Showalter’s pitching coach, a role he
served when Buck was in Texas. Connor is currently a Minor League
consultant in the Rangers organization.

Yankees third base coach Rob
Thomson is another name to keep tabs on. Thomas figures heavily in New
York’s scouting and Spring Training and is incredibly well-liked and
respected for his work. He’s in his 21st season in the Yankees
organization, which is where he crossed paths with Showalter, and
although it’s unclear whether he would be open to leaving it’s an option
worth mentioning, particularly since all of Yankees manager Joe Girardi’s coaches’ contracts are up after this season.

Also, this is worth another mention.  Despite several news outlets reporting definitively that hitting coach Terry Crowey is returning next season, Showalter has been adamant that nothing is set in stone. A scenario where Crowley comes
back as some kind of instructor or roving role isn’t out of the
question. That’s important to note because on Thursday afternoon, the Baltimore Sun, citing several unnamed sources furthered that idea and said it has been discussed on a preliminary basis within the organization. According to that report, nothing has been finalized.

Showalter sat down with principal owner Peter Angelos and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail today for a state of the union of sorts. Typically, this is just Angelos and MacPhail who have the yearly meeting, but Showalter has made it no secret that he desires an active role in all facets of the Orioles.

I’m not sure how much they discussed the coaching staff, since much of that depends on what happens with openings around MLB, but their offseason needs and payroll moving forward were both on the docket.

Odds and Ends

From the pressbox of the new Yankee Stadium (where I’m covering the ALCS as part of MLB.com’s coverage team), I’ve gotten a few Orioles-related tidbits to pass along…

*If you missed it, Ryan Adam is off to a hot start in the Arizona Fall League, taking AFL Co-Player of the Week honors.
*It’s been written and speculated that Terry Crowley is a lock to come back as hitting coach and that may end up being true. However, nothing is set in stone and a scenario where Crowley comes back as some kind of instructor or roving role isn’t out of the question.
*It’s assumed that Orioles manager Buck Showalter’s delay in naming his staff is because of all of the managerial openings with candidates such as Brian Butterfield and Don Wakamatsu being considered for jobs with a vacancy.
But the teams still playing could also have a hand in that. Another name that has been circulated is Rangers special assistant Mark Connor, who presumably would be Showalter’s pitching coach, a role he served when Buck was in Texas. Connor is currently a Minor League consultant in the Rangers organization.
*Yankees third base coach Rob Thomson is another name to keep tabs on. Thomas figures heavily in New York’s scouting and Spring Training and is incredibly well-liked and respected for his work. He’s in his 21st season in the Yankees organization, which is where he crossed paths with Showalter, and although it’s unclear whether he would be open to leaving it’s an option worth mentioning.
*I spoke to Rangers infielder Michael Young, who is close to Showalter, at length during Sunday’s workout and, like many who know the Orioles skipper, he wasn’t shocked at the O’s end-of-season surge. Showalter is every bit the disciplinarian advertised and Young said he was approached by several players, including Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis for a scouting report of their new skipper. Young said the players “seemed relieved” and “enthusiastic” about having a proven manager, and one that would be around for a while. 

Adams off to hot AFL start

Orioles prospect Ryan Adams took home Arizona Fall League Co-Player of the Week honors for the period that concluded Saturday. He went 6-for-12 with a homer and seven RBIs for Scottsdale.

Adams is coming off his best season as a pro. Playing for Double-A Bowie, he set career highs with 15 homers, 68 RBIs and 158 hits. The 23-year-old infielder shared the Eastern League lead with 43 doubles and was named a Postseason All-Star.

In five Minor League seasons, Adams owns a .287 batting average with 34 home runs and 184 RBIs. He was the Orioles’ second-round (58th overall) selection in the 2006 Draft.

For more on the O’s Fall League guys and to stay updated on stats, you can check out MLB.com’s AFL page here.

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