By Craig Heist
When the Orioles revamped their minor league coaching staffs in the middle of December, for two teams the philosophy was, “If it ain't broke, don’t fix it.” Meanwhile, they made wholesale changes to other clubs in the organization.
The field staffs of both the Triple-A Norfolk Tides and the Single-A Carolina League Champion Frederick Keys will return. However, new managers will take over the other five minor league clubs, with two staff members getting the promotion to manager and one newcomer to the minor league staff.
Gary Allenson will manage Norfolk for a second season after going 69-74 with the Tides last season. This will be Allenson’s third season in the organization. He will have his pitching coach back as Larry McCall, in his 19th year in the Orioles organization, will hold the title again, and Dallas Williams will begin his third year as the O’s Triple-A field coach.
The Carolina League champion Frederick staff will remain intact, with manager Tommy Thompson and field coach J.D. Cannon returning for their second seasons. Pitching coach Blaine Beatty will return for his third year with the Keys. The Keys went 32-37 in each half last year, winning the Northern Division’s first half before taking both playoff rounds for the title.
Scouting director Joe Jordan said he was impressed with what the Orioles organization has done with the changes, especially Single-A Delmarva, where Ramon Sambo, who joined the organization last spring and managed the Gulf Coast Orioles to a 32-34 record, will be manager of the South Atlantic League team this year.
“I thought he did a terrific job in the Gulf Coast League with those kids,” Jordan said. “It was a team made up of some young players and a lot of older players, and it was very energetic and very organized.”
Pitching coach Kennie Steenstra will be back for his fourth stint with the Shorebirds.
Gary Kendall, who managed Delmarva the last three seasons, will move up to Aberdeen this season to take charge of the IronBirds. In four years as manager in the organization, Kendall is 232-247 overall. Orioles Hall of Famer Scott McGregor will join him as the IronBirds’ pitching coach after stints with both Frederick and Bowie the last five seasons.
“For me, I’m very excited about that, because he’s really good with the players,” Jordan said. “He’s a great worker and very organized, and I think a lot of players that come out of the draft -- the college players -- end up playing at that affiliate first. They’re going to be very fortunate to have him as their manager, and it’s a good first taste of our organization for players when Gary’s running the show. And obviously we’ve got the wonderful facility there.”
Having McGregor in Aberdeen and what his leadership can mean to the young arms is not lost on Jordan.
After coaching stints with the Frederick Keys and Bowie Baysox, Orioles Hall of Famer Scott McGregor will join the Aberdeen IronBirds as pitching coach.
“I think it’s a really good move,” Jordan said. “Scott going to Aberdeen to be the pitching coach. The guys are going to walk in. They’re going to have a really solid manager, and they’re going to have a former Oriole major league pitcher. Scotty can help those guys. I think the restructuring that we did kind of toward the bottom of the organization, I’m excited about it.”
Brad Komminsk will manage Double-A Bowie. He spent part of the 1990 season with the Orioles as part of his eight-year playing career and coached the Phillies' Single-A Clearwater team last season.
Pitching coach Mike Griffin, a former Oriole who spent the last nine seasons in the Boston organization, five of them at Triple-A Pawtucket, will join Komminsk.
Orlando Gomez will manage the rookie Appalachian League Bluefield team. Gomez spent the last three seasons as a batting practice pitcher and bullpen catcher on the Orioles' major league staff. He has 12 years of minor league managerial experience.
Jesus Alfaro, who coached the last two seasons at Aberdeen, begins his 14th season in the organization and will return to manage the Gulf Coast League Orioles. He also managed that team from 1999-2003.
Dave Schmidt starts his 11th season in the organization as a minor league pitching coordinator. He was a coordinator for the Orioles' minor league facility in Sarasota, Fla.
According to Jordan, the changes are many but needed. He knows the Orioles would like to get another starting pitcher to start the season, and the changes he has made to the organization may help him get the guy the club wants.
“In talking to Dave [Trembley] and talking to Andy [MacPhail] over the last month or so,” he said, “they’ve given the indication that they’d like to get another starting pitcher with the experience of Steve Trachsel, who of course was traded at the end of the year. Then if everything works out right, barring a [Erik] Bedard trade or anything like that, you should have four pretty healthy guys going in next year.”
Tickets for the Orioles’ 2008 home games will go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. Visit www.orioles.com, call 1-888-848-BIRD or visit the Orioles box office at Camden Yards or the Orioles official team store in York, Pa.
Issue 3.2: January 10, 2008