Considered an experienced teacher of young pitchers, Dave Wallace said it was difficult to leave the Atlanta Braves organization and its impressive stable of young arms.
But the allure of again becoming a major league pitching coach, and for a playoff contender, was too enticing.
"It's been a tough couple days, I want to tell you. It is a good situation over there [in Atlanta], and what they have going on with their young staff is great," said Wallace, who was named the Orioles' new pitching coach Tuesday. "But I think for those of us that have been on the field in a game and have the burning desire to compete, when you get a chance to do that on a stage like Baltimore, I just don't think you pass it up."
The Orioles interviewed four external candidates last week — Wallace, Seattle Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis, Texas Rangers bullpen coach Andy Hawkins and former Philadelphia Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee — to replace Rick Adair, who took a leave of absence in August for personal reasons and is not returning.
All four had impressive resumes, but Orioles manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette ultimately turned to Wallace, who spent the last four years as the Braves' minor league pitching coordinator. He also has been a major league pitching coach for the Houston Astros (2007), the Boston Red Sox (2003 to 2006), the New York Mets (1999-2000) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (1995-1997).
"He's an excellent teacher," Duquette said. "His staffs are known for his starters pitching a lot of innings and keeping the ball in the ballpark and throwing strikes. His experience and leadership helped the Mets and Red Sox win pennants, and his veteran presence should be a good addition to the Orioles. ... He's a real pro. He can do a lot to help this organization."
At 66, Wallace was by far the oldest candidate interviewed, but the 57-year-old Showalter said his age was not a concern.
"I didn't penalize anybody that was too young because of their lack of experience, and you don't penalize somebody that's older than normal," Showalter said. "What's normal? Heck, I'm an old you-know-what. And if anybody wants to match up with the energy level and the want-to part of Dave or I, just bring it on."
What impressed the Orioles was Wallace's ability to help young pitchers on their way up to the big leagues, as well as his history of success.He was the pitching coach for the World Series-champion Red Sox in 2004 and the National League-champion Mets in 2000.
"I'm looking forward to that fresh set of eyes, not only teaching, but evaluating," Showalter said. "We've got a bunch of guys out of options. If I'm a pitcher at home right now, I'm going, 'Wow, I've got a fresh start with a new guy.' I'm looking at what we have and how we can get it the best it can be. It's as simple as that."
Wallace said he's not familiar with the Orioles' pitchers personally, but believes he knows what they are capable of.
"I'm familiar with the abilities, not the personalities; that's going to take some time and some effort," Wallace said. "But I know there's some real talent there, no doubt about it."
The Orioles worked from an initial candidate list of a dozen before whittling it down. Internal candidates such as Bill Castro, who filled in as pitching coach when Adair took a leave of absence in August; Triple-A Norfolk pitching coach Mike Griffin; interim bullpen coach Scott McGregor; and pitching coordinator Rick Peterson also reportedly were considered, but none were formally interviewed.
"We looked at it and said, 'We've got a tough call here'" Showalter said. "But who we are, what we are, Dave fit us the best. … If you look at the job description in our situation, Dave was the perfect fit."
Showalter said Wallace will have a lot of input on the club's bullpen coach hire. Castro and McGregor are candidates for that job.
"I'll present the in-house candidates and see what he has to say," Showalter said. "Probably at the end of the day, he's going to have that call."
At a glance
Name: Dave Wallace
Birthplace: Waterbury, Conn.
Resides: Wrentham, Mass.
Most recent position: Atlanta Braves' minor league pitching coordinator
Major league pitching coach experience: Houston Astros (2007), Boston Red Sox (2003-2006), New York Mets (1999-2000), Los Angeles Dodgers (1995-1997).
Major league playing experience: A right-handed reliever, he made a total of 13 appearances in the major leagues, going 0-1 with a 7.84 ERA in 20 2/3 combined innings for the Philadelphia Phillies (1973-74) and the Toronto Blue Jays (1978).
Other: Wallace was 48-37 with a 4.13 ERA and 60 career saves in 363 games (34 starts) in 12 minor league seasons. … He has been with the Braves and their vaunted minor league pitching system since 2010. … He spent 20 years as a coach and executive in the Dodgers organization, including 17 straight seasons from 1981-1997. He also worked for the Dodgers from 2001 to 2003 as the senior vice president of baseball operations and, in 2001, was the Dodgers' interim general manager. … Wallace won a World Series title with the Boston Red Sox (2004) and a National League championship with the New York Mets (2000). … Before joining the Braves in 2010, he was with the Seattle Mariners as a special assistant to the general manager in 2008-2009.