After serving as the Atlanta Braves' pitching coach for the past 11 years, incoming Orioles pitching coach Roger McDowell will have to learn about the inner workings of a new organization and its pitchers once spring training begins.
McDowell received an introduction at last month's pitchers minicamp in Sarasota, Fla., working with the major league and player development staffs for the first time while familiarizing himself with the ins and outs of the team's spring training facility.
But the real crash course begins next Monday, when pitchers and catchers report for spring training. McDowell is a firm believer in building relationships, and he has reached out to all of his 40-man pitchers in some form or fashion, but he said it won't be until spring training when he can truly form a bond with the players.
"I think the biggest thing is me getting to know them," McDowell said at FanFest last month. "We've had some conversation on the phone and I've been able to watch some video, but the reality is that you don't get to see these guys. … When they compete is when you find out about what you need to do to help them. Obviously, we'll have conversations and communication back and forth, but it's going to be a process of learning them, not only them but the whole pitching staff -- as a matter of fact, the whole team, the coaching staff, Buck [Showalter], everybody. It's myself trying to fit in here and doing what I can to help anybody."
McDowell doesn't expect the adjustment to his new surrounding to be a problem, especially during spring training, which is typically a time to get accustomed regardless.
"I don't know how tough it will be," McDowell said at FanFest last month. "This is a game that we all love and this is a game that we all have a tremendous passion for and we really, really love to do, so from a standpoint of getting to know the players and them getting to know me, it becomes my job. When I look back at the past spring trainings, I think last year we had 40 or 42 pitchers in camp with the Atlanta Braves and 22 I had never laid eyes on. So the familiarity of getting to know the players as quickly as I can is not unfamiliar. So I'm looking forward to that. Again, it's a process of building your relationships with each pitcher and treating them as individuals, but collectively it's [answering] how we get 12 or 13 guys to compete and have a successful season."
He will, however, lean on new Orioles bullpen coach Alan Mills, who was promoted this offseason after serving as the pitching coach at Double-A Bowie for the past two seasons. Mills has been a minor league coach in the Orioles organization for the past five years, so he has a working knowledge of the team's pitching stable. Relievers like right-hander Mychal Givens and left-hander Donnie Hart flourished under Mills' tutelage.
McDowell and Mills will be reunited after pitching out of the same Orioles bullpen in 1996, and McDowell said he has already seen that the two have plenty in common.
"It will be a tremendous asset," McDowell said. "We go back 20 years ago when we were teammates here in Baltimore out of the same bullpen. We've got familiarity even though we've seen each other maybe a handful of times over [the past] 20 years. But when we sat down in the locker room in Sarasota at minicamp a couple weeks ago, it was like time really hadn't passed. It was like we knew the ins and outs of each other and what we like about each other and how we move forward as pitching coach and bullpen coach to help players, help our pitchers, become successful. So his knowledge, his knowledge of the system and the players, the kids that he's had who have come up and contributed, it's going to be huge. So I'm looking forward to leaning on him, too."
Hear more from McDowell on his working with Mills in the video above.