November 2011

Castro to be named Orioles bullpen coach

The Orioles are expected to name longtime Milwaukee Brewers coach Bill Castro their new bullpen coach, according to an industry source.

A Santiago, Dominican Republic native Castro’s hiring will give the Orioles a much-need Spanish-speaking coach on staff, a preference manager Buck Showalter has hinted at many times. The rest of Showalter’s staff, which includes pitching coach Rick Adair, hitting coach Jim Presley, bench coach John Russell and first base coach Wayne Kirby, is expected to be officially announced in the next few days with the holdup being the vacancy at third base.

When reached by phone, Showalter had no comment on his coaching staff, but he has said previously –and reiterated on Monday — that the club hopes to have a staff in place by next week’s Winter Meetings.

A long-serving member of the Brewers’ staff, Castro was named bullpen coach in 1992 under first-year manager Phil Garner and –while he had several stints as pitching coach – predominately oversaw the Brewers’ bullpen for 18 years. Castro has been serving as the organization’s roving minor league Latin pitching instructor although he spent the end of this season as interim pitching coach for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds following Rich Gale’s resignation.  He was also the Dominican Republic’s pitching coach in the inaugural World Baseball Classic.

Castro and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette have a previous relationship from Milwaukee, when Castro was still pitching. Duquette got his start in professional baseball as a scouting assistant with the Brewers in 1980.

Lee MacPhail reassigned, Orioles unlikely to fill his spot

The Orioles front office shakeup continued Monday, with the news that director of professional scouting Lee MacPhail IV will be reassigned to a Major League position within the organization.

The news came on a conference call announcing the hiring of new amateur scouting director Gary Rajsich and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette indicated that more changes are on the horizon.

“We will make other changes to the staff to make sure we are strong, not just in amateur scouting but at all levels,” said Duquette, who added that the Orioles aren’t likely to replace MacPhail’s position but will have “appropriate” staffing at all levels of the organization.

The nephew of former president of baseball operations AndyMacPhail, Lee spent 3 1/2 years as an area scout for the  Minnesota Twins, and was a professional scout in ’07 before the Orioles hired him that October. His reassignment is the latest in a front office shakeup that started with Andy MacPhail’s departure. Duquette, who made his first big hire in Rajsich, said Monday that the organization’s front office will continue to shift, with most of the changes expected between now and the end of next week’s Winter Meetings.

*Duquette also said nothing is official with Korean right-hander Tae-Hyon Chong. Although the expectation remains that the two sides, who have agreed to terms, can get the physical completed and finish up the minor details needed to announce the signing.

Orioles announced Rajsich as scouting director

The Orioles officially announced Monday that Gary Rajsich has been named the organization’s new director of amateur scouting.

“We have added a very good, veteran baseball man with this hire,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said in a press release. “Gary is an excellent judge of talent at all levels.”

Rajsich, 57, began his scouting career with the Boston Red Sox, serving in both the amateur and professional departments from 1994-2006, which is when he first worked under Duquette, who served as Red Sox general manager. In his time with Boston, Rajsich drafted and signed current ace Jon Lester, and he was instrumental in acquiring  Derek Lowe with Jason Varitek from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for pitcher Heathcliff Slocumb on July 31, 1997.

Following his time in Boston, Rajsich joined the Texas Rangers as a professional scout, where he served from 2006-09. In the fall of his final season with Texas, he was hired by the Toronto Blue Jays as professional crosschecker. He will take over the position vacated by Joe Jordan, who accepted a position as the Phillies director of player development earlier this offseason.

Rajsich was drafted by Houston Astros as an 11th round selection in 1976 out of Arizona State University, and he played four years in the Major Leagues (1982-85). A first baseman and right fielder, he made his big league debut for the New York Mets in 1982, where he also played in 1983, and played for the St. Louis Cardinals (1984) and San Francisco Giants (1985). Rajsich finished his playing career with the Chunichi Dragons in the Japan Central League (1986-88).

Klentak on leaving the Orioles

Matt Klentak, who left the Orioles organization after four years to join the Angels as assistant general manager, said Friday that –while the decision was difficult to leave Baltimore—the career opportunity was too good to pass up.

Klentak, 31, served as the Orioles’ director of baseball operations and while he will continue to work on arbitration and contractual issues in Anaheim he is expected to be more involved in day-to-day operations in working with new Angels’ GM Jerry Dipoto.

“We are in a larger payroll,” Klentak said of one of the biggest differences in his new organization.

“It is difficult to leave the Orioles…I have all the respect in the world for the Angelos family and I thank them for all their support over the years. I give a ton of thanks to [former president of baseball operations] Andy MacPhail for taking the chance on me. I was a relatively unproven guy, and he continued to challenge me, he was a terrific boss for four years. I hold Jerry Dipoto in similarly high regard and I look forward to working with him.”

As for his new –and now former – boss in Baltimore, Klentak said Dan Duquette, named executive vice president of baseball operations earlier this month, couldn’t have been better about the whole situation.

“None of this was going on behind the scenes, Dan knew what was going on” Klentak said of his conversations with Dipoto, which really started to take shape at the general managers’ meetings. “He was supportive of me, and supportive of whatever decision I made. I felt either way, whether I went to the Angels or elected to stay in Baltimore, I was still choosing before two very good options. And that’s what made this a very difficult decision.”

Ultimately, the cache in a better title and the opportunity to work with Dipoto and a bigger payroll won out and Klentak made the decision to accept the Angels’ multi-year deal on Tuesday with word leaking out the following day. Klentak, who spent last weekend in Orange County with his wife, Lauren, said the Angels’ organization has been extremely accommodating and is looking forward to the next step in his career.

“I’ve made a lot of close friends here, a lot people I’ve worked with its going to be weird to not talk to them every day,” said Klentak, who maintains he will still keep close tabs on the Orioles. “But I’m confident the Angels have a lot of great people and I’m looking forward to getting to know them in working with them.”

Klentak to Angels, Orioles front office still in flux

The Orioles lost an integral part of their front office on Wednesday afternoon with the announcement that director of baseball operations Matt Klentak has been hired as the assistant general manager for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Highly regarded in the Orioles organization –and around baseball — Klentak is seen as an up-and-coming front office executive and he’s been instrumental in the team’s structuring of contracts, arbitration cases and the 40-man roster. He officially agreed Wednesday to a multiyear contract with the Angels and will work along with new GM Jerry Dipoto, who also hired Scott Servais as his assistant GM in charge of scouting and player development.

Klentak, 31, worked on the 2006 Collective Bargaining Agreement and helped advise teams on the rules, which is where he forged a strong relationship with Andy MacPhail. When MacPhail joined Baltimore’s front office as president of baseball operations in ‘08 he hired Klentak to join him.  While MacPhail chose to not seek a contract extension at the end of the 2011 season, Klentak was an integral part of the Orioles interview process in replacing MacPhail and was singled out by both new executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter. Dipoto also interviewed for the Orioles’ GM vacancy and was seen as one of the favorites to land that position, but accepted the Angels’ offer before Baltimore could get any further in the process.

It’s unknown what Klentak’s departure will do to an Orioles front office that is already in a state of flux. Duquette has been interviewing scouting director candidates and said at his initial press conference that he hoped to have most of the new hires in the front office in place before next month’s Winter Meetings. It’s also unknown who, or how many, people Duquette wants to bring to work with him in Baltimore. The Orioles also need to fill two positions on Showalter’s coaching staff.

Klentak got his start working in baseball operations for Colorado in 2003, where he was involved in video and advance scouting while coordinating amateur scouting reports. A native of Medfield, Mass., Klentak graduated in 2002 with a degree in economics from Dartmouth College, where he was a four-year baseball letterman, three-year starting shortstop and team captain his senior year. The Big Green won two Ivy League Red Rolfe Division championships (’00 and ’01) during his playing days.

Report: Klentak to the Angels?

According to ESPN’s Keith Law, current Orioles director of baseball operations Matt Klentak is likely to bolt for Anaheim, where he interviewed for the Angels assistant general manager job.

Dan Duquette, Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations, confirmed that Klentak interviewed and would be able to take the position if it was offered to him. So far, there’s no word from the Angels side on any official decision.  Highly regarded in the Orioles organization –and around baseball — Klentak is seen as an up-and-coming front office executive and he’s been instrumental in the team’s structuring of contracts, arbitration cases and the 40-man roster.

Klentak, 31, worked on the 2006 Collective Bargaining Agreement and helped advised teams on the rules which is where he met  Andy MacPhail, who hired him to work as part of Baltimore’s front office in ’08.  While MacPhail chose to not seek a contract extension this season, Klentak was an integral part of the Orioles interview process and was singled out by both Duquette and manager Buck Showalter for  his part in the process.

It’s unknown what a possible Klentak departure would do to an Orioles front office that is already in a state of flux. Duquette has been interviewing scouting director candidates and said at his initial press conference that he hoped to have most of the new hires in the front office in place before next month’s Winter Meetigns. It’s unknown who, or how many, people Duquette wants to bring to work with him in Baltimore

Orioles, Chong reach preliminary agreement

The Orioles are closing in on the signing of right-handed reliever Chong Tae-Hyon out of South Korea as the two sides — which were involved in heavy negotiations on Monday –have agreed to terms according to a baseball source.

The exact length and money involved in the deal was not immediately known, as exact details were still being hammered out. The Orioles had no comment on Chong, who would need to undergo a physical examination before anything can be made official. A 33-year-old submarine-style pitcher Chong closed out South Korea’s gold medal win over Cuba in the 2008 Summer Olympics, and his poise on the big stage was a major plus for the Orioles, who will most likely be using Chong in the later-innings of their bullpen.

Baltimore’s executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette –while declining comment on reports out of Korea earlier in the day that the deal was only pending medicals – did acknowledge that the organization was “very interested” in acquiring the free agent reliever. Duquette, who said during his first news conference since joining the organization that he is going to be aggressive internationally, singled out Chong’s pinpoint control and success against tough competition.

“He has a lifetime ERA under 2,” Duquette said. “[A] unique delivery. He has gotten results on the world stage when it’s counted.”

Since Chong is a free agent he didn’t need to be posted and he will join a bullpen that figures to undergo some vast changes this offseason. Chong has served as a starter, but Duquette  said that the Orioles’ interest would be in using him as a late-inning arm. The club is still mulling over moving setup man Jim Johnson to the rotation and will need to bolster the bullpen even further if they decide to go through with that.

Assuming the deal does become official, Chong would be the first Korean player to make the jump directly from the KBO to the Major Leagues.

Closing in on Chong?

First, I wanted to note that the Orioles made it official in signing free agent infielder Matt Antonelli today. He is expected to compete for a job in Spring Training and will be used at second and third base.

And there could be more news on the way. Multiple reports on Monday had the Orioles in talks with Koren submariner Chong Tae-hyon.  A free agent, Tae-hyon wouldn’t have to be posted and he would presumably be added to an Orioles’ bullpen that figures to undergo some vast changes this offseason.

As of early Monday evening, no deal has been reached with Chong, although word out of Korea is it’s a done deal pending medicals. New executive vice president of baseball Dan Duquette said in his initial press conference he was going to be aggressive internationally, and this would certainly be a step in the right direction.

Duquette didn’t comment on the reports that internationally that a deal with Chong is done but he did confirm that the club has a high level of interest in him, noting his pinpoint control and success on the world stage (most recently at the World Baseball Classic) as very intriguing.

“He has a lifetime ERA under 2,” Duquette said of Chong. “[A] unique delivery. He has gotten results on the world stage when its counted.”

Chong has started earlier in his career, but Duquette said the Orioles interest would be in using him as a late-inning arm.

Monday morning musings..

First and foremost, a big win (and Nebraska loss) for my Michigan State Spartans on Saturday. A spot in the B1G (Big Ten Championship game) and a glimmer of hope for Pasadena! (Yes,  I can be as incredibly hopeful/delusional as possible involving my alma mater.)

Now, a few Orioles notes for you to start this holiday week…

*The Orioles have inquired about Rockies closer Huston Street, according to MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal. That potential trade pairing would make sense for the O’s given manager Buck Showalter’s preference to put setup man Jim Johnson in the rotation without pillaging a bullpen that already needs some reworking for next season. Closer Kevin Gregg didn’t perform up to expectations and while there’s a case to be made for Johnson as closer, there’s also a case to add him to a very thin rotation.

Think about it. There’s a lack of free agent starting pitching depth this winter and teams are becoming more and more reluctant to part with it via trade or even as prospects. The Orioles need to fix their starting rotation, adding 2-3 Major League ready caliber arms. How they go about doing that, whether it’s adding Johnson or trying to seek outside help, remains to be seen. But their best bet might be to restock the bullpen from outside the organization and move Johnson to rotation.

*New executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette touched base with about 15 GMs during the recent meetings, and he seemed encouraged with the initial conversations, calling the meetings beneficial in helping seek out potential trade partners. Remember , a lot of the groundwork for what happens at baseball’s Winter Meetings takes place at the GM meetings in November. And Duquette seemed to be more willing to trade and shore up the Orioles international efforts than spend big money elsewhere.

*The Orioles scouting director search started last week and those efforts will be ramped up this week. There are internal and external candidates being considered and once that hire is made you should see a domino effect as far as several other hires announced.

*The Orioles coaching staff should be resolved soon as well, and since I’ve been asked this a whole bunch of times it bears repeating: they are looking to hire a bullpen coach and third base coach. All of the other coaches are expected to remain in their current roles from last season, meaning John Russell will continue as bench coach (where he ended the season) and Rick Adair as pitching coach.

*Duquette’s international plan that was referenced in his introductory presser has already started to take form and is in the initial stages. Again, it’s about putting the right people in the right places and there is expected to be additions made on that front as well.

*I’m  planning a long overdue Orioles inbox to address all other offseason questions. You can email me at and include your first name and hometown for submission. Please try to limit the “Are we getting Prince Fielder?” questions. If there’s one thing you can immediately take out of Duquette’s initial presser it’s that the Orioles aren’t going to be overly aggressive in signing high-priced free agents.

When asked at the GM meetings about his comments to try to “throw water” on the Fielder to the Orioles rumors, Duquette had this to say:

“I didn’t say yes, I didn’t say no,” he said. “I did say I was more comfortable signing players out of markets other than the premium free agents.”

*Finally, I’m deeply saddened to hear the news of Mariners’ outfielder Greg Halman’s death.  There will be plenty of reaction around the league on today, but  I wanted to take the time to say my thoughts and prayers go out to Halman, who was just 24 years old and reportedly stabbed to death. I exchanged emails with Orioles pitcher Rick VandenHurk –who just toured Europe with Halman — and he was still in shock, writing that he was at a “complete loss for words.” O’s outfielder Adam Jones –who came up through the Seattle system and was on the European big league tour — took to Twitter early this morning to express his sympathies as well.

You can read more on that here.

Orioles add Drake, sign Antonelli

The Orioles added right-handed pitching prospect Oliver Drake to their 40-man roster prior to Friday’s deadline, thereby protecting him from next month’s Rule 5 Draft.

The move leaves the Orioles current 40-man roster at 39 and according to baseball’s regulations they can’t add another player from within the organization. However, they can add anyone who is acquired from another team via trade, or a free agent signing. The final spot will be Matt Antonelli, a former Padres’ first-round pick, who has agreed to a big league deal pending a physical in Baltimore early next week.

Antonelli will compete for the team’s third base position and will add infield depth for an organization devoid of any true positional prospects in the upper levels of its system. Antonelli spent last year with Triple-A Syracuse, the Washington Nationals’ affiliate, hitting .297 with eight homers and 30 RBIs in 86 games. The 26-year-old also posted a .393 on-base percentage in Triple-A last season.

Drake, a United States Naval Academy product, went 11-8 with a 3.32 ERA at three different levels in 2011. The 24-year-old Drake went 8-3 with a 2.14 ERA in Class A and finished the season at Double-A Bowie, going 3-5 with a 5.20 ERA in his final 12 starts. In protecting just Drake, the Orioles left a few notables exposed to the Rule 5 Draft, including 2011 Minor League Pitcher of the Year Tim Bascom.

According to Major League Baseball’s regulations, any player who signed his first professional contract before age 19 and has been in an organization for five years, or who signed after age 19 and has been in the organization for four years, is eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft if left unprotected.

The Rule 5 Draft takes place next month on the final day of baseball’s annual Winter Meetings and any player taken must remain on his new team’s active roster or disabled list all season, or be offered back to his original club at a discounted price.