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Orioles thoughts and observations on hitting coach vacancy, Davis rumors and more

Orioles first baseman Chris Davis walks out of the batting cage during workouts the day before game one of the 2014 ALCS against the against the Kansas City Royals.
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis walks out of the batting cage during workouts the day before game one of the 2014 ALCS against the against the Kansas City Royals.(Tommy Gilligan / USA Today Sports)

The Orioles have received plenty of interest in their major league hitting coach position since the opening became public Monday.

The club would ideally like to have the position filled by the time baseball's winter meetings begin in San Diego on Dec. 8. But that's less than two weeks away, and with just two applicants having been interviewed, the Orioles are willing to take their time.

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Minor league hitting instructor Jeff Manto, who interviewed Monday, made an impression in his first year in the organization. He had a positive impact on two of the organization's top position-player prospects, first baseman Christian Walker and Dariel Alvarez, according to a club official.

Manto worked closely with Walker, helping him to draw more power from his legs. Walker hit a career-high 26 home runs and won the Orioles' minor league player of the year award.

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Manto also helped Alvarez with his two-strike approach at the plate. Like Walker, Alvarez enjoyed a breakout season, hitting .306/.330/.474 between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk.

Ideally, the team would like to interview five finalists, but the Orioles are still trying to get their hands around who is available and who would be a good fit.

A major league hitting coach job is difficult because it includes a lot of advance work, film study and one-on-one work with players. Sometimes a good hitting coach might not be a good fit because he doesn't match the needs of the players with whom he'd be working.

One intriguing name is Texas Rangers minor league hitting coordinator Scott Coolbaugh. Like Manto, he has experience as a major league hitting coach -- he was the Rangers' hitting coach for 1 1/2 seasons, from 2011 to 2012. He was replaced by Dave Magadan after the 2012 season, but remained in the organization and was the Rangers' Triple-A hitting coach in 2013.

Also, Rudy Jaramillo was Orioles manager Buck Showalter's hitting coach when he was the Rangers manager, though Jaramillo isn't seen as a top candidate. His name is one that likely won't go away until a hire is made.

-- The Miami Marlins apparently inquired about the availability of Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, according to the Miami Herald.

That's not necessarily surprising. This time of the year, teams inquire about other players. Lots of names are sent back and forth as teams gauge interest.

Davis, who still has one game remaining on a 25-game suspension for testing positive for an amphetamine he said was Adderall, figures to receive a significant raise in his final year of arbitration. He made $10.35 million last season and is projected to make around $12 million in 2015.

Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette has made it clear that he would like to upgrade the club's pitching and the Miami Herald mentioned that a trade would have to include top quality pitching, possibly including left-hander Andrew Heaney, who is the Marlins' top pitching prospect.

Everybody wants talented young pitching. The Orioles constantly get inquiries about Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy.

But a Davis trade involving a pitcher like Heaney wouldn't seem to make much sense to the Marlins because they'd be getting just one year of Davis before he becomes a free agent after the 2015 season. However, if the Marlins weren't competitive at next year's trade deadline, they could flip a player like Davis.

But more importantly, Davis is very much in the Orioles' plans for 2015. In fact, I've heard that the club really expects him to have a good season. All signs point to it. He has something to prove coming off a down season that ended with the suspension, and he's in a contract year.

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-- Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas agreed to a six-year, $68.5 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, according to a report by MLB.com.

The Orioles scouted Tomas heavily, watching his workouts on multiple occasions, but believed he would be out of their price range.

He was.

A club official also said there was some concern about holes in his game, including his physical conditioning.

And if the Orioles aren't giving known commodity Nelson Cruz a four-year deal, they're definitely not giving six years to a player who has yet to play a major league game.

Instead of investing lots of money in Cuban players who are perceived to be major league ready -- and take the inherent risk they don't pay off -- the Orioles would rather stick to their philosophy of signing lesser-known Cuban prospects and allowing them to grow within the minor league system.

Outfielder Henry Urrutia, who is working out five days per week in Sarasota, Fla., and rising prospect Alvarez are examples. Over the next few seasons, we will see how those investment pay off.

-- Recent minor league signing Terry Doyle completed his winter ball season in Venezuela by allowing just three hits in six scoreless innings in his final outing this week.

Doyle, 29, pitched at the Double-A and Triple-A levels last season, and caught the Orioles' eyes with a strong winter ball season. He went 3-3 with a 3.86 ERA in Venezuela, posting a 1.93 ERA over his last five starts (6 ER in 28 IP).

Doyle, who previously pitched in three major league organizations and briefly in Japan, likely would start in Bowie, but that will be decided during minor league spring training.

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