The models that first-year pitching coach Mike Flanagan draws from are two of his former coaches, George Bamberger and Ray Miller. They developed strong bonds with their regular communication.This is what Flanagan wanted to do with his pitchers in his first year, have that strong relationship. So his one big regret this season, Flanagan said yesterday, was the spring training time lost to the strike.
"I know the relationship that I want to have [with the pitchers]," he said. "I don't know if I have it yet."
Flanagan knew many of the pitchers who had been with the organization, like Mike Mussina, Ben McDonald and Brad Pennington. But he didn't know Kevin Brown, Jesse Orosco or Doug Jones.
"I want them to be able to come to us with their problems," Flanagan said, "whatever they're thinking about, their ups and downs, whatever. . . . I wish I had the time in spring to get that relationship going."
His pitchers have been complimentary of Flanagan. Even Pennington, who left the organization on bad terms, praised Flanagan for his communication and his work ethic.
Orioles manager Phil Regan said the same. "He relates to pitchers well, he has a good knowledge of pitching, he communicates well, he's caring," said Regan. "He takes losses hard, he studies the hitters. I think he's got everything it takes to be a good pitching coach.
"I really think he's learned a lot, and he gets better and better. Overall, I'm really pleased with him."
Regan said he would like to see Flanagan be more assertive. If he thinks it's time to visit the mound, then Regan wants him to feel free.
"The same thing happened to me my first year as pitching coach," Regan said. "He'll start to do that as he gets to feel more comfortable."
Flanagan agreed. Several times, he said, he saw something in a pitcher's mechanics or demeanor and thought about going to the mound, but didn't because Regan hadn't told him to go. Then the pitcher got hurt, and Flanagan second-guessed himself.
"Phil's been very supportive in that way," Flanagan said.
Regan is a former pitcher himself, a former pitching coach, with strong feelings on how pitchers should pitch. Nevertheless, Regan and Flanagan said there haven't been any clashes of philosophy or personality. On many mornings the club is on the road, Flanagan will call Regan in the morning and the two will go for coffee and discuss the pitching staff, the team.
"If anything," said Flanagan, "it's given me someone I can confer with on a highly technical level. He's a former pitching coach; when we are talking pitching, we know exactly what the other is talking about. It wouldn't be the same if the manager was a second baseman.
"And he's given me someone to bounce things off of. Our egos aren't so large that we're saying, 'I fixed them, you fixed them.' It's 'We fixed them.' "