Chiti on not being pursued by Orioles: ‘It bothers me a lot’
Dom Chiti, who spent three years as bullpen coach of the Orioles before accepting the director of pitching job this week with the Atlanta Braves, didn’t mask his disappointment that he had almost no correspondence with his old team in the month leading up to the expiration of his contract – even though he says he tried on multiple occasions.
“How much does it bother me? It bothers me a lot,” Chiti told BaltimoreBaseball.com on Thursday. “Other people can attest to it more than me, but I put my heart and soul and a whole lot of work into that job.”
Chiti followed his good friend, pitching coach Dave Wallace, from the Braves to the Orioles before the 2014 season. For three seasons, the two worked in tandem with the club’s pitchers, and Chiti’s bullpen unit posted the best ERA in the AL in 2016.
After the season ended, Wallace stepped down, citing a desire to remain in baseball, but no longer wanting to deal with the daily grind and travel of the majors. Wallace also has accepted a job with the Braves this week – on the urging of Chiti — to be a roving pitching instructor and advisor.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who helped hire Wallace and Chiti, said publicly that he wanted both to remain in the organization. But there was little push towards that end result, Chiti said.
“I was never contacted. I was never contacted by anybody,” he said. “I read stuff in the paper or in the media that, ‘OK, I’m being considered for the pitching coach job or this, that and the other,’ but I was never contacted by anybody.”
Chiti said he had a brief conversation with Showalter before the season ended about his plans for the future. And they talked by phone in late October, but primarily because Showalter wanted to know what Chiti thought of a candidate for the vacant pitching coach position.
Chiti said during that conversation Showalter asked him about his own interest in the job, and Chiti said he replied that he wasn’t going to campaign for any position, but that he’s always willing to do whatever is asked of him.
“That’s honestly the way I feel,” Chiti, 57, said. “I don’t go out looking for jobs. I’ll let my work, my body of work, speak for itself.”
Chiti, however, said he contacted Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette on multiple occasions to ask about the status of his employment, but never received a response.
“I called and left three messages for Dan Duquette and he never called me back. I left three messages for the man. ‘This is Dominic, can I get a couple minutes of your time?’” Chiti said.
That was the most disappointing part of this process, said Chiti, who is not shy in voicing his opinions, which could have rubbed some higher-ups the wrong way.
“If you don’t think you want me (back), if you don’t like me, I’m OK with that. But just call me and tell me. ‘Dominic, we’re not going to have you back.’ I’m a big boy. I’ve been in the game a long time. I know how it works.”
When asked about Chiti’s comments, Duquette said he was unaware of any phone messages.
“I’m not sure who he was trying to contact,” Duquette said. “It wasn’t me.”
Duquette didn’t go into specifics on why Chiti wasn’t re-upped before his contract expired, but lauded the job that Chiti and Wallace did.
“Dave Wallace did a nice job for us. He’s a veteran pitching coach and we appreciated the good work he did for us here. He had several pitchers that excelled during his tenure,” Duquette said. “And Dom did a nice job in the bullpen. The bullpen was strong each of the years he was here. I wish them both a lot of luck.”
Showalter, who worked with Chiti when they were with the Texas Rangers organization, said he believed the two-year deal offered by Atlanta was too good to pass up for Chiti.
“He did a great job here and got a good deal there, and he’ll be good there. It’s really good for him and his family. I know a lot of what when on, and I’ve been with him for a long time, and he did a great job for us in that capacity,” Showalter said. “He was here three years, we liked him and we were hoping we could continue there. It was just the way it kind of worked out.”
Chiti’s contract expired Monday. On Tuesday morning, he said he was sitting on his back porch in Winter Haven, Fla., drinking coffee when he received a call from his longtime friend, John Hart, the Braves’ president of baseball operations.
Hart asked Chiti what he was doing and when the answer was, “Nothing, but drinking coffee,” Hart told him to, “jump in a car and come up here.” So Chiti drove the seven hours to Atlanta to meet Hart, with whom he’s had a working relationship of 25 years. Within hours, a job offer was made and accepted.
Chiti will be in charge of the Braves’ minor league pitching operations and be a special advisor for the major-league staff. He’s already in Arizona, looking at the Braves’ prospects in the Arizona Fall League.
“John knows I like to work. I don’t like sitting at home,” Chiti said. “I’m happy with where I am now. There are some really good people (with the Braves) that I’ve worked with for a long time and I trust. And I know they are going to leave me alone and let me do my work.”
In his tenure with the Orioles, Chiti bonded with — and helped further the careers of — several Orioles, including Zach Britton, Darren O’Day and Brad Brach.
“Losing both Dave and Dom is a big blow. When we brought those guys in in 2014, I was one of the guys that they got the opportunity to work with and was a project of theirs, if you want to call it that, me and a few other guys,” said Britton, the team’s All Star closer. “I think if you just look at where I am at now compared to where I was, that just tells you everything you need to know about Dave and Dom and how much work they put into it and the relationship we built.”
Britton said he and the pitching staff were braced for Wallace’s departure, knowing the 69-year-old wanted more time with his family and less on-field responsibilities. But Britton was holding out hope Chiti would be retained in some capacity.
“This is three years now that we built this relationship. We’ve had some influx of pitching coaches and we really haven’t been able to find somebody that a lot of the guys, the pitching staff as a whole, has really bonded with. And those were the guys that we did,” Britton said. “We found two guys that we bonded well with. So, to not have Dom coming back, is disappointing for me on a personal level. And I think for a lot of guys, as well. He brought a lot to the table.
“And I’m just trying to wrap my head around the fact that we didn’t even kind of pursue him. Obviously, I don’t make those decisions,” Britton added. “But I feel like when you have someone of that caliber, you make an attempt to retain him. But it’s not my job to do that. It’s just disappointing that we let him go to another organization without a fight.”
O’Day echoed Britton’s sentiments about Chiti’s coaching ability, saying that he felt he, “learned something every day” from Chiti.
“If I were running a team, I’d want him to be part of it. So, I think the Braves stole a pretty good coach from us,” said O’Day, the club’s primary set-up man during Chiti’s tenure in Baltimore. “I think it’s a loss. I love Dom, but I’m not a GM; I’m a relief pitcher. So, I don’t know what all the innerworkings of the front office are, but I’d want him to be a part of my team.”
Chiti called his time with the Orioles, Wallace and Showalter: “Tremendous, a tremendous experience. I mean that. It was great from start to finish.”
It just didn’t finish the way Chiti would have liked.
“I wish the Orioles the best, I do. I wish the best for Buck and those guys. Buck is like a brother to me. He is,” Chiti said. “The relationship the players talk about with us, well … I felt the same way. Good, bad or indifferent, they got better. I don’t know if I had anything to do with that. I hope so. But your family is your family. And you have to take care of them.”
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