Russell expected to be bench coach
The Orioles’ coaching staff is one step closer to completion, as a Major League source confirmed on Monday afternoon that the organization is expected to name former Pirates skipper John Russell bench coach.
Russell interviewed with O’s manager Buck Showalter over the weekend in Baltimore and has yet to agree contractually, but according to the source “all wheels are in motion” and as of Monday afternoon it looks to be nearly a done deal. Russell is expected to speak with president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail -who is in Orlando, Fla. for Tuesday’s general manager meetings – to hammer out details in the next few days.
Russell was named manager of the Pirates on November 5, 2007 but became one of three Major League managers dismissed a day after the 2010 season ended. He finished with a record of 186-299 in Pittsburgh and is still under contract through 2011, meaning that the Pirates will be responsible for paying the rest of his salary.
A former big-league catcher, Russell brings the Major League coaching experience Showalter wanted as well as the expertise to work with young O’s backstop Matt Wieters. Russell played part of 10 seasons in the Majors, including five with the Phillies, who selected him in the first-round of the ’82 Draft.
Following his playing days, Russell managed in the Minnesota Twins and Phillies Minor League systems before taking over the helm in Pittsburgh. He will be the fifth coach hired under new manager Buck Showalter, who will bring in Jim Presley (hitting coach), Mark Connor (pitching coach), Rick Adair (bullpen coach) and Wayne Kirby (first base/outfield).
The only remaining position to be filled on staff is that of third base coach, which could be done by retaining Gary Allenson or bringing in another external candidate. Whoever fills the role will likely have an infield background given that former leading candidate Juan Samuel -who was hired away by the Phillies – chose to decline the Orioles offer, leaving Showalter without a specific infield coach.
Russell’s hiring is not official and both Showalter and MacPhail have declined to comment on the record until the entire 2011 staff is in place. Should Allenson not be on Showalter’s staff, he has been offered a position managing Triple-A Norfolk, which is where he started last season.
*Also, the Orioles have agreed to terms with Minor League free agent Mitch Atkins. A right-handed pitcher who spent time with the Cubs last season, Atkins will also get an invite to big league Spring Training.