October 2010

MacPhail on 2010, the offseason and Buck


I’ve got a full story up later on Orioles.com about president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail’s thoughts on last winter and looking ahead to this offseason. Here are a few of the topics touched on..

On getting a true power bat….
“Easy to say, not so easy to do,” said MacPhail, who gambled on free agent Garrett Atkins, only to release him for poor performance in early July. 

“That [bat] is going to be our chief goal in the offseason. Wherever that position is, that’s something we need to try to augment because I think it would have a beneficial effect up and down the lineup for some of our existing guys.”

Asked if he would take on another risky proposition like Atkins -who was signed to a one-year, $4 million deal including a club option for ’11 despite declining power numbers – MacPhail said it will depend on the market.

“Our preference always is the more established guy,” he said.  “Sometimes you have to deal with what the market makes available to you. You have to take a gamble when that looks like your best option. Hopefully there will be options available that are less risk than that one was.”

On priority two being a starter and more bullpen help..

“We will never turn down pitching. We made it no secret that pitching most likely is going to have to come up through our system because it is fragile and expensive through free agency and through trades,” MacPhail said. “So, that’s something we continue to focus on in terms of our player procurement and development areas from amateurs on up. The pitching.

“It doesn’t really matter, even if you think you are in pretty good shape [pitching-wise]…things happen. Guys get hurt. You can never have enough pitching even if you think you are in pretty good shape. A couple of years ago everybody thought Boston had one too many starters.  It just never turns out that way. Ever.”

On the Orioles turnaround being harder than he envisioned…
“It is. Because Tampa hadn’t really asserted itself yet. They were on the cusp. They were in the mid-90 loss category so it was a team you could take advantage of in your own division. But that does not exist anymore, unfortunately. 

It’s no surprise to me that our good month of August was essentially playing away from our division. But it is what it is, we are just going to have to find a way -not unlike these other teams have done too – to play better in this division.”

On if he’s impressed by what Showalter has done so far…
“How could you not be,” said MacPhail, who dismissed the notion that Showalter has more say than former skipper Dave Trembley.

“The manager always has a lot to say about the composition of his roster. I think in Buck’s case he is going to be more involved only because it’s an area of interest. In Dave’s case it was more ‘give me the players and I’ll go.’ But we certainly asked his input as well.

“Buck takes more active interest than most managers do. For example, he’s already been to Aberdeen, he’s already been to Bowie, he’s got the list of the Triple-a and Double-a clubs and he kind of knows who was starting where. All this information is available, or those opportunities were available to the mangers that preceded him, but he takes advantage of it, because I think he enjoys it. That’s just more information which is fine with us. We don’t have any interest in saddling with him with a player he doesn’t want. That’s not productive for anybody.”

on if Buck’s personality and attention to detail has been as advertised…
“I think so. We had a pretty good idea what we needed and why we needed it. Who fit the bill,” MacPhail said. “[Showalter] is who he is. That’s not going to change. He’s over 50. And I thought then, and I obviously think now, he’s been a really good fit for us. He’s really what this franchise needed.”

This year’s acquisitions..
“We had a mixed bag,” MacPhail said of this year’s five veteran additions, which included reliever Will Ohman, closer Michael Gonzalez, infielders Atkins and Miguel Tejada and starter Kevin Millwood, who was acquired in last winter’s trade with Texas. Ohman and Tejada were dealt at the Trade Deadline while Millwood -who will be one of the Orioles’ seven free agents —  is unlikely to return.

“One of the issues this franchise has had and continues to have is a lack of depth to absorb the inevitable departures that you are going to have over the course of the year due to injury,” said MacPhail.  “We need to do better at being able to plug people in there and not take such a hit.”

on his role in selecting Showalter’s coaching staff…
“As I’ve said before, the front office really just has veto power,” MacPhail said. “I don’t think we really ought to be dictating who the coaches are, I just don’t think that’s the way it should work. We can voice our opinion and in the end we have the right to veto. But that coaching staff is got to be something the manager’s comfortable with. He’s got to parcel out the responsibilities.

In the end we don’t want to put our spies down there, we just want people that he 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.” 

on the season as a whole…
“Well it certainly was a lost start to the year. We just played miserably out of the gate,” MacPhail said of the O’s 2-16 start, the second-worst mark in franchise history.  “We weren’t healthy and we weren’t playing well. It took a little for our bullpen to get to the point where it was effective and our production with runners in scoring position was just abysmal. And it was just a horrific start. It was important to us as a franchise to leave a better taste in the mouths of our fans. We need to finish better than we started.”

MacPhail also said that organization isn’t necessarily out of the trading away prospects phase and each trade will be evaluated on a “case-by-case basis.”

“Do those [possible trades] stand the scrutiny in the context of the here and now, where you think you are and what do you think you have?,” he said.

“I wouldn’t rule anything out just on a philosophical basis, if you thought it was a good trade for you, I think you would make it. Particularly if you think you are getting something that you don’t have in your system. If it took young players to get it, you would do it. But it has to stand the scrutiny of making sense for you. And it has to stand the scrutiny of where you think you are as a franchise and why it would make sense.”

Tillman ends on a high note


Chris Tillman ended a rocky 2010 season with one of his best starts, holding the Tigers to one run on three hits over seven innings in Friday’s Game 1, 10-6 win of a doubleheader. Due to the short turnaround time, most of these quotes didn’t make it in the game story, but here’s what Tillman said.

on ending the year strong.. 

I think it is huge. That last start of the year is always a big boost to the offseason. Last year, I had that tough one going into the offseason and it kind of sat there with me the whole offseason. It kind of gave me an extra kick in the butt though. It’s a lot better to end the season on a good note.
On improving his consistency…
That’s what I worked on coming into this year, too, is being consistent. With that new pitch this year, it has come a long way and I think it showed it today. I think that was one thing I needed to work on and hopefully now the whole package is there and  the consistency will be there next year.
Using the cutter

It’s been my best pitch this last go-around. I think it’s been one of my best pitches, yeah, and definitely today, throwing it for strikes whenever I need to throw it in the zone. I think it was my best pitch.
On his confidence
Its been a rollercoaster year. Those good [starts] are so good and those bad ones you’re kind of down low. But I think the key is to stay consistent. .. I think that’s something I’ll take with me into the offseason.
Why has the cutter improved so much?
 [I’ve got] confidence in throwing it. I’ve never thrown it before. I came to spring training, it was a new pitch. [Pitching coach Rick Kranitz] told me you need to throw it. Throw it as much as you can. And today actually he told me he wanted me to go to the cutter instead of the curveball when I got ahead of guys as my putaway pitch. I did that.

Tillman also said he will work out in California with fellow Orioles starter Brian Matusz in the offseason.

Buck on coaching decisions: the sooner the better

Just two days after saying he would probably wait until after the World Series to make the final judgment, manager Buck Showalter has taken a “the sooner, the better” approach regarding the fate of the Orioles current six-man staff.

“That’s not something that I’m going to string along for very long, in fairness to everybody concerned,'” Showalter said prior to Friday’s doubleheader. “We’ve had a couple conversations with them…I’m going to try to speed up the process a little before they all leave so they know what’s going on.

“Instead of waiting ’til after the World Series or something like that. I’d like to stay away from that timeframe. I don’t think it’s fair to them or their families,whether it’s positive or negative.”

Showalter has said previously that’s it’s possible he retains the entire coaching staff –inherited from ex-manager Dave Trembley and interim Juan Samuel — although that seems like a long shot. It’s more plausible Showalter will fill at least a portion of next season’s staff with his own coaches, although he has understandably shied away from speculating.  

“I’m focused on the six coaches here and what they could potentially bring. I’m not out there coveting other [staffs],” he said. “There’s are a lot of people capable of doing the job I’m doing as good, if not better, and they understand how competitive this business is. But I can tell you this, I can see why [the current coaches’] work was wanted and coveted and why they are well thought of.”
Showalter will meet with the current coaches individually, hopefully on Saturday, to let them know which direction he’s heading so -whether they return or not – each knows where they stand and if they need to start looking around the League.

Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley has been with the organization for two stints totaling 16 years, including the last 12 consecutive seasons. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz, first base coach John “T-Bone” Shelby and bullpen coach Alan Dunn are finishing their third full seasons, while bench coach Jeff Datz is in his first year in Baltimore. Third base coach Gary Allenson started the season as Triple-A Norfolk’s manager, but was promoted to the big league club after Juan Samuel moved from third base to interim manager in early June.

Although president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail has the final say, MacPhail has said previously that Showalter will have the flexibility to do what he wants in terms of bringing people in from outside the organization. Simply put, Showalter can elect whomever he wants to serve on his staff, and MacPhail retains “veto power”.

Dismissed Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu, Rangers special assistant Mark Connor and Blue Jays third base coach Brian Butterfield are both close friends of Showalter’s and rumored to be in the mix, and Showalter has also made it clear that he wants to retain the old “Oriole Way” making it plausible that he brings former players back into the organization in some official capacity.

Orioles lineups and tidbits GM 1

*Brian Roberts is out for both games today with headaches. More info in my previous post can be found here.
*Jason Berken visited the Orioles today, to get his right shoulder checked out and see the rest of the team. He has been resting at home in Georgia and was hoping he’d get cleared to start a rehab regimen soon.
*Just two days after saying he’d be “be shocked” if there were any coaching decisions before the World Series, manager Buck Showalter now has taken a “sooner the better” approach. He will talk with the O’s current coaching staff, likely on Saturday, to let them know where things stand. While Showalter has said there’s a chance the staff stays as is, I’d be shocked if that happened. There will be movement and in the next week or two, Showalter will unveil his coaching staff for 2011. 

Corey Patterson DH
Nick Markakis RF
Ty Wigginton 3B
Luke Scott 1B
Felix Pie LF
Adam Jones CF
Robert Andino 2B
Craig Tatum C
Cesar Izturis SS

Chris Tillman RHP

Roberts out all Friday

Brian Roberts will not be available for either of Friday’s doubleheader games against the Tigers, as manager Buck Showalter reported that the second baseman is still dealing with headache-type symptoms.

“[He’s] about the same, not the improvement we had hoped to see,” Showalter said of Roberts, who was a late scratch from Tuesday’s game against the Rays. “[It’s] a day-to-day thing with him.”

Roberts saw a doctor on Thursday and did some running on the field prior to the Orioles batting practice, with head athletic trainer Richard Bancells overseeing his exertion. 

“It didn’t go well enough for us to feel like he was a player in the first game,” Showalter said. “I just don’t see that improving enough all of the sudden between games to where he plays the second one. We’ll see where he is [for Saturday].”

When asked if the headaches stemmed from a particular incident, Showalter said he’d prefer to have Roberts talk more about the specifics. Roberts was not available to the media prior to Friday’s game.