11/11/10 5:00 PM EST
Crowley, Orioles 'on the same page'
Former hitting coach, now hitting evaluator, says choice was his
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
Speaking for the first time since it became public that Crowley would accept the newly created hitting evaluator role -- leaving the hitting coach position vacant for the first time since 1998 -- the 63-year-old is adamant in quelling any rumors of animosity or regime changes under new manager Buck Showalter that forced him elsewhere.
"I feel good about the role," Crowley told MLB.com on Thursday afternoon. "I like Buck a lot. I know he likes me. We worked well together. Now, in a new position, I work for [president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail], and I'm sure all three of us will be on the same page."
Crowley, who has served two stints totaling 16 seasons as the O's hitting coach, said he and Showalter first had discussions regarding a possible evaluating job in the final days of this past regular season.
Showalter called Crowley into his office and asked him if he had thought about life outside of the uniform, noting MacPhail's high praise for Crowley's ability to gauge young hitters' potential and how valuable that skill could be in the O's system. A Major League hitting coach for nearly a quarter-century, Crowley admitted that he wasn't sure how much longer he would be up for the rigors of being a daily part of the staff, particularly with baseball's grueling travel schedule.
"He invited me to be his hitting coach next year," said Crowley, who did not want to comment previously out of respect for the rest of the O's staff, no members of which were granted an immediate invitation to return. "But I thought about it long range, and he had also invited me to be something I was very good at."
Crowley told Showalter he would think about the offer, and after airing certain concerns with MacPhail -- namely, he didn't want his successor to think he was interfering -- Crowley made the call to Showalter -- it was time to start the search for a hitting coach.
"It was a perfect fit," Crowley said of a still-evolving role that will have him working with both Major and Minor League hitters, as well as assist in scouting and evaluating potential trade, free-agent or Draft targets.
Crowley will be in uniform in Spring Training 2011, but he will likely watch regular-season games from the stands. The travel will be minimal, consisting mostly of trips to the team's affiliates to watch players, although Crowley could also assist in scouting National League players who come through nearby cities like Washington and Philadelphia.
It's a multifaceted role that Crowley is looking forward to embracing with his expertise, and one that will likely have him working in tandem with new hitting coach Jim Presley. The pair spoke on the phone for more than an hour -- a conversation that helped put to bed any lingering concern of awkwardness.
"He's going to be a good fit for the Orioles," Crowley said of Presley, who was dismissed as hitting coach of the Marlins along with former manager Fredi Gonzalez. "[He] made it perfectly clear that he was going to seek some input from me in Spring Training about our hitters and the best way to help them.
"It's a good situation. It's not like I'll be looking over his shoulder."
Instead, it could be another sign that the Orioles -- who are also considering adding more instructors under Showalter -- are starting to streamline their Minor League operations in hopes of improving efficiency. The organization -- which cut ties with one of the Dominican League summer teams and a rookie-level club in Bluefield -- is still lacking positional depth, particularly at the upper levels, and adding the respected opinion of Crowley will help in evaluating the organization's needs.
The Orioles -- whose No. 1 offseason priority is landing a big bat -- finished 13th of 14 teams in the American League this past season in runs scored, and they spent the first three-quarters of the 2010 season ranked at the bottom of the Majors in batting average with runners in scoring position, RBIs and walks.
Still, Crowley -- who served as the hitting coach when the O's set franchise records in doubles (2004), batting average ('08) and hits in a season ('08) -- believes this past season's disappointments were mostly out of his -- and his players' -- control.
"There were days when we could not field a team," Crowley said of a young Orioles club that was missing leadoff man Brian Roberts and outfielder Felix Pie, started the season 2-16 and employed three different managers.
"There was a lot of stuff going on that wasn't conducive to scoring runs, let alone the pitching we faced," Crowley said. "We just had too many injuries in 2010 to overcome."
While Crowley's new position was Showalter's first order of business, his staff has also been filled with the likes of Presley, Mark Connor (pitching coach), Rick Adair (bullpen coach) and Wayne Kirby (first-base coach). Former interim manager Juan Samuel, who was offered his former job as third-base coach, officially accepted a job as the Phillies' first-base coach on Thursday, leaving Showalter with two spots -- bench coach and third-base coach -- to fill.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.