Randolph rounds out O's new coaching staff
Pair of ex-managers offer experience, fresh feel to young club
Orioles manager Buck Showalter is the first to admit that hammering out next season's coaching staff took a little longer than he originally anticipated. But the six-man group, including former Major League managers Willie Randolph and John Russell, is certainly impressive.
And it might not be done just yet.
"We may not be completely through with some of the assets we are using," Showalter said on Wednesday morning's conference call, adding that the "first place" he looked in filling his staff was within the organization.
In certain cases, the time commitment was too much. Showalter was also wary of "robbing Peter to pay Paul," meaning cleaning house and hiring guys from the O's Minor Leagues and then leaving that cupboard essentially bare. But he acknowledged on Wednesday that the current six-man staff could have further additions by Spring Training, perhaps filling one or both criteria -- a Spanish-speaking coach and former player -- that are missing from his current crop.
However nothing is set in stone, and what the Orioles do have in Randolph (bench coach), Russell (third-base coach), Mark Connor (pitching coach), Jim Presley (hitting coach), Wayne Kirby (first base/outfield) and Rick Adair (bullpen coach) is enviable in itself.
Five of the six men have at least six seasons of Major League coaching or managerial experience, with Kirby the only newcomer in that regard. At 46, Kirby is also the youngest of the group, but brings a scrappy, hard-fought mentality -- stemming from eight seasons as a big league outfielder -- that had always intrigued Showalter from afar.
"We thought there was a need for him in our clubhouse and on the field that we didn't have," Showalter said of Kirby, who has spent the last nine seasons as a Minor League coach, most recently with Texas. "In a lot of ways, he's as experienced as anybody, if not more, in what there was a need for."
"With each hiring ... it wasn't about how many years each person had accomplished in professional baseball," Showalter added. "It's about the players. It's about what their needs are going to be. It was no reflection on the previous staff. Every year and every challenge is different."
By all accounts, the enthusiasm surrounding next year's challenge -- and turning things around in Baltimore -- was radiating from Wednesday's conference call.
"Hopefully, we'll have some fun, and the only way you have fun is winning ballgames," said Randolph, who agreed to terms on Tuesday afternoon and, as former manager of the Mets, brings an expertise in instruction and baseball education.
"Buck is very prepared and one of the smartest guys I know in the game. He's going to delegate and let us do our jobs, which is all we want as coaches. ... The main thing is you have a guy that is professional and organized, and he's going to make sure we understand our goals and go out there and bust our butts every day."
By most accounts, the preparation is already well under way. Four of the six were present at the organization's mini-meetings held several weeks ago, although getting on the same page for a guy like Connor -- who will be working under Showalter for the fourth time -- won't take long. Instead, the 61-year-old Connor, who most recently served as a pitching instructor in the Rangers' Minor Leagues, has been studying film of the O's young arms and has come away impressed.
"We're going to have to build that trust [between the pitching coach and the staff], but it's nothing that we haven't done before," Connor said of the work ahead for him and Adair, who will review the tapes separately before meeting together.
"It's fun to come into this situation knowing that there is some talent there. The last place that I worked, it wasn't that way in the beginning. We were always trying to patch the tire in the beginning, guys that have been around, six-year free agents ... This is an organization now that is hell-bent on developing young pitchers. And if you look at the organizations in the playoffs this year, with the exception of one or two, most have done that. It's the way to go."
"I've been fortunate over the last few years to see this group of young pitchers, and from an opposition standout," said Adair, who was the Mariners' pitching coach last season. "The upside with the talent we have is unlimited."
Tasked with leading that pitching staff is 24-year-old catcher Matt Wieters, who will work closely with Russell, a former Major League catcher who spent three seasons at the helm in Pittsburgh.
"The kid really wants to be a good catcher, and I think that's important," Russell said of his early impressions of Wieters. "Looking at the numbers, he obviously has a very good arm -- he receives the ball well. It's just the maturity of being able to go out there day in, day out without always having to look over your shoulder.
"I think this kid, from everything I've seen and heard, he's on the right track."
The Orioles hope they can say the same for their offense, which struggled mightily this season with runners in scoring position. While obtaining a power bat remains a priority, Showalter is confident the addition of Presley -- and the newly created hitting-evaluator role for predecessor Terry Crowley -- is a win-win situation.
"I feel good about where we are ... the approach that we are going to take from a hitting philosophy standpoint," Showalter said. "[The] bottom line, the players are going to have to embrace it and have the want-to to try to bridge the gap to where we are and where we want to be."
Presley, who was not available on the conference call, spent the past five seasons as the hitting coach for the Marlins, presiding over the breakouts of players including Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez and Chris Coghlan. He played eight years in the Majors and worked for Showalter for three seasons as hitting coach in Arizona.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.