The Orioles will begin interviews for a new pitching coach today, bringing an established group of candidates to Baltimore for the open position.
Former Philadelphia Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee will be interviewed today by Orioles manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette, followed by Seattle Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis on Wednesday. Texas Rangers bullpen coach Andy Hawkins and Atlanta Braves minor league pitching coordinator Dave Wallace are also expected to interview.
As the club’s search to replace Rick Adair intensifies, the Orioles have a solid group of external candidates to choose from.
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Of the four known candidates, three of them are currently under contract with other clubs but their respective teams have given the Orioles permission to interview.
That’s pretty rare.
Each of the three has their own situation. Willis is in limbo because of the Mariners’ current managerial search. For Hawkins and Wallace, the Orioles pitching coach job would be a move up from their current posts.
But this is an impressive crop of coaches. Regardless of which direction the search goes, Orioles fans should be optimistic they're getting a good coach. In baseball, coaches come and go, but the quartet of candidates coming through the city have had their share of success and lasted in the game.
There’s a chance that internal candidates -- like Bill Castro, the Orioles bullpen coach who filled in for Adair, as well as Triple-A Norfolk pitching coach Mike Griffin and interim bullpen coach Scott McGregor could get a shot, but it’s clear that the organization’s focus is on an external search.
Both Showalter and Duquette have trumpeted the importance on improving the organization’s pitching in sustaining success. Duquette said earlier this month that the Orioles will continue to focus on developing their pitching internally rather than build through free agency. Showalter and Adair -- who had been Showalter’s pitching coach since June 2011 -- forged a strong bond in their time together as they worked to build the club’s pitching.
Willis, who has been pitching coach for the Mariners since 2010 and also the Cleveland Indians (2003-2009), has coached three Cy Young Award winners -- CC Sabathia in 2007, Cliff Lee in 2008 and Felix Hernandez in 2010. He has a link to Showalter: the two worked together in Cleveland when Showalter was an Indians special assistant. He replaced Adair as Mariners pitching coach in mid-2010 after Don Wakamatsu and his staff were fired.
Dubee, whose contract as Phillies pitching coach was not renewed at the end of the season, coached Roy Halladay to a National League Cy Young Award in 2010 and was on the staff of two NL pennant-winning clubs and a World Series champion in 2008. During Dubee’s nine-year tenure as Phillies pitching coach, his staff had a combined 4.06 ERA, sixth best in the NL during that span. He was a minor league coach with the Montreal Expos when Duquette was that team's general manager. He’s also a Massachusetts native, and is “known for his New England gruff,” as Philly.com wrote.
Wallace won a World Series as the Boston Red Sox pitching coach in 2004 and was also pitching coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1995-97), New York Mets (1999-2000) and Houston Astros (2007) in addition to his time with Boston (2003-2006). He has a decade of experience as a major league pitching coach -- the majority of that time under the microscope of coaching in major markets -- before going into player development with the Braves.
Hawkins, who has been Texas’ bullpen coach for the past five seasons, was a part of Rangers teams that went to back-to-back World Series in 2010 and 2011. Working with well-respected Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux, Hawkins is known as a relentless worker with whom pitchers enjoy working. Under Showalter, the Orioles have strong Rangers ties, and Hawkins actually worked under Adair in Texas’ minor league system.