In conducting the Orioles' search for a new bullpen coach, manager Buck Showalter made it clear that new pitching coach Dave Wallace would play a big role in making the hire.
Showalter said he saw the bullpen coach as an assistant pitching coach, and that ultimately, he wanted Wallace to make the final call on the hire.
In hiring Atlanta Braves special assistant Dom Chiti, who will likely be announced early next week, the Orioles brought in a knowledgeable baseball man with whom both Showalter and Wallace are familiar. They also brought in another coach who has an impressive resume in terms of pitching development.
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The free-agent season will start picking up in the next few weeks, and it’s unlikely that the Orioles will make a huge splash with the available free-agent pitchers. Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette has made it clear that the organization’s focus is on continuing to develop its existing pitching, hoping that more pitchers make the strides that right-hander Chris Tillman did this past season.
And Showalter wants a bullpen coach who is more than the guy who picks up the bullpen phone and warms relievers up, but more of a lieutenant to work side by side with him and Wallace, who was the Braves' minor-league pitching coordinator the past four years.
While Chiti served as Showalter’s bullpen coach in Texas during Showalter’s final season as Rangers manager, for the past five years, Chiti has been working in a Braves organization that has stood out in developing its pitchers.
Over the past couple of years, Chiti’s work morphed from scouting to a role in which he worked more closely with some of the Braves’ most touted young pitchers. He was credited with helping Atlanta right-handers Julio Teheran, 22, and Randall Delgado, 23, make significant strides at the end of the 2012 season. Teheran had a breakout year this past season, going 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA. Delgado was dealt to Arizona before last season in the trade for outfielder Justin Upton and was 5-7 with a 4.26 ERA.
Just as when they hired Wallace from the Braves, the Orioles have to be happy to get an experienced coach of Chiti’s caliber. Chiti was one of Braves general manager Frank Wren’s most trusted assistants.
Switching themes a bit, I know there have been a lot of defensive awards handed out the past few days, but the Rawlings Platinum Glove award is one you should know about, and now that third baseman Manny Machado has won the American League award for 2013, expect Showalter to laud the award often next season.
The award is just 3 years old and awards the best overall defensive player in each league. It is decided by an online fan vote and also the SABR Defensive Index. It is selected from the nine Gold Glove winners in each league.
Basically, it legitimizes what we’ve seen all year -- that Machado’s 2013 defensive campaign was something special.
Machado’s win also overshadowed the fact that shortstop J.J. Hardy placed third in the overall voting tally for the Platinum Glove. That wraps up a postseason in which Hardy won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger.
Friday night’s Gold Glove Award ceremony brought out some of the game’s all-time greats, among them Willie Mays, Ozzie Smith and Johnny Bench.
But one of the coolest moments of the night had to be when Orioles Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson, who won a record 16 straight Gold Gloves manning third base in Baltimore, presented the 21-year-old Machado with his Gold Glove award.
A fitting passing of the torch. When the Gold Gloves were announced last week, Machado was asked whether he had 15 Gold Gloves left in him. As he always has, Machado handled the comparison with humbleness, saying he was honored just to be mentioned in the same breath as Robinson.
After the ceremony, the Orioles’ three Gold Glove winners -- Machado, Hardy and center fielder Adam Jones -- posed with Robinson for a photo that had to bring a smile to any Orioles fan. Today’s current Orioles have great respect for the franchise’s proud history. You saw that in 2012 during the statue unveilings, and when Robinson was honored two Septembers ago, there was an unrivaled buzz around the clubhouse.
Speaking of Orioles legends, Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. received the Louisville Slugger Living Legend Award Friday at the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum in Louisville, Ky.
Ripken joins an impressive list of winners. Past recipients of the award include Tony Gwynn (2012), Johnny Bench (2011), Ernie Banks (2010), Hank Aaron (2009), Frank Robinson (2008) and Ken Griffey Jr. (2007).
Louisville Slugger has produced a limited-edition P72 collector bat -- the model Ripken used throughout most of his career -- autographed by Ripken. They've made just 100 bats and they are on sale for $250 each. Proceeds will go to the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. For more information, call 502-588-7271 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
One final note: Orioles center field Adam Jones' #StayHungry Purple Tailgate to be held tomorrow before the Ravens' home game against the Bengals is officially sold out.