Coaching Staff is Complete

The Orioles announced the minor league assignments for the 2014 season on Thursday (Jan. 9).  It’s definitely a sign that the season is truly around the corner.  I know the cold weather doesn’t help put the baseball aroma in the air, but I promise we’re under 90 days until the Shorebirds home opener (April 10) at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.

I wanted to deliver my (Bret Lasky) take (not that I’m necessarily paid to do so) on the new staff.  The biggest question we’ve received so far is why did Ryan Minor and Luis Pujols flip-flop teams.  It’s definitely a fair question.  Here is what Brian Graham (Director of Player Development) told Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com in regards to the switch…

“With Ryan Minor, he’s a real good teacher and instructor, and with the group of players we have coming to that level, I feel strongly that he’s a good candidate to teach those kids and a good candidate for the development process in Delmarva,” Graham said.

“Luis Pujols is a good manager of players and Frederick is the best level for him for 2014. Come 2015, depending which players go in which direction, all of this could change.”

I’m not sure that tells us much besides Brian Graham likes the match of Ryan in Delmarva and Luis in Frederick for this season.  It certainly gives you the feeling that the Orioles are very meticulous in trying to match managers/coaches to personnel.  

I’ve always been a big Ryan Minor fan.  The players connect very well with him (trust me).  Or don’t trust me and ask any Shorebirds player (2010-2012) that played under Ryan and see what they say.

The ratio of wins and losses hasn’t been favorable under Minor, but the developing of players has.  I’m thinking Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Michael Ohlman, Xavier Avery, L.J. Hoes, etc. 

And he’s a local – played for the Shorebirds in 1997 and has a great family (Allyson, Reagan, Finley) that lives in the area.  It’s really a great fit for the Shorebirds.  It’s extremely rare to find a manager in the minor leagues that also calls the city he manages in home.  I can think of only a couple over the years (Rocket Wheeler in Myrtle Beach, Joe Mikulik in Asheville).

I’ve heard nothing but great things about Alan Mills, the Shorebirds new pitching coach.  In 12 years in the major leagues, he won 39 games (including 10 in 1992).  What has impressed people (Orioles brass/fans) is the way he is teaching the young talent.  The Ironbirds (where Mills was the last couple of years) pitching staff was strong last year.  Many of those guys will likely start in Delmarva in 2014.  Some of the really impressive arms from last year under Mills include…

  • Sebastian Vader – 8th in the NYPL w/ 2.43 ERA
  • Hunter Harvey – Orioles 1st rounder, made 3 starts w/ Ironbirds plus gem in postseason
  • Steven Brault – 1-2, 2.09 ERA
  • Donnie Hart – 3-1, 2.25
  • Jimmy Yacabonis – 3-1, 1.52

You get the point – he worked with some strong arms.

Paco Figueroa, the Shorebirds new hitting coach, is intriguing to me.  He had a similar role to Shawn Roof last year in Aberdeen.  He was the fielding coach and coached first base.  It’s definitely a step up this year for him.  He is young – only 30 years old and fresh off a long and productive playing career.  

Of course, Paco played for the Shorebirds in 2005 and 2008. After being selected in the ninth round of the ’05 draft by the Orioles, he batted .307 in 40 games during the 2nd half.  He helped the Shorebirds win the 2nd half Northern Division title.

We’ll see how the staff translates on the field when the season opens on April 3.  So far, it looks very strong on paper. 

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