The Orioles made it official today, hiring Roger McDowell as their new pitching coach and promoting Alan Mills from Double-A to be the club’s bullpen coach.
McDowell, 55, had spent the past 11 seasons as the pitching coach for the Atlanta Braves, but was dismissed in October. During his tenure with the Braves, the club had the fourth best ERA in the majors (3.88) and baseball’s second-best relief ERA (3.58).
A veteran of 12 major-league seasons as a reliever – he picked up the win in Game 7 of the 1986 World Series for the New York Mets – McDowell finished his career with 41 games in relief for the Orioles in 1996. It was his lone season in an Orioles’ uniform; during that year he was in the club’s bullpen with Mills.
Mills, 50, spent roughly nine of his 12 seasons as a big reliever with the Orioles. He has been coaching in the organization for the past five years, including the last two as pitching coach for the Bowie Baysox.
Combined, McDowell and Mills appeared in a total of 1,197 big league games, and started seven of those.
They’ll be replacing the well-respected duo of Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti, but it’s possible there won’t be a major transition between the two regimes.
McDowell has called Wallace a mentor during their time together with the Braves and Mills has tutored several Orioles pitchers while they were in the minors.
The Orioles are still looking for a minor-league director of pitching, a big-league assistant hitting coach and now a Double-A pitching coach to replace Mills.
Manager Buck Showalter said filling the pitching positions took priority and now he, executive vice president Dan Duquette and player development director Brian Graham can turn their attention toward those vacancies. There is no set timetable to make those hires.
Here are some quotes from the news conference Tuesday:
Showalter on hiring McDowell:
“Was a long process for us. … We felt real lucky to have someone like Roger available with his credentials and his background and his knowledge of the major leagues, especially interleague play. I talked to a lot of people and we kept coming back to Roger. … We just felt like Roger stood out.”
Showalter on hiring Mills:
“I’ve known Alan for a long time, and the things that he’s about. One of our strengths has been our bullpen and we think Alan can help maintain that along with Roger, obviously. We feel very lucky to add these two guys. We think it’s a great fit. Guys that bring the qualities that you look for in these two positions and both of them have walked the walked and understand the ups and downs of a major-league season. … I feel real good about it today and I know the players do, too.”
McDowell on his career as a pitching coach:
“One thing I hoped I never forgot was how hard this game is from a player’s standpoint, the length of the season. … I think the most important thing here is the pitching staff (as a whole) and for me, it has always been about the pitching staff.”
McDowell on the transition between the old pitching coach regime and the new one:
“I mentored under Dave Wallace. I have a very good friendship with Dom Chiti. We have a great relationship and familiarity. … I’ve learned everything I know (about) being a pitching coach probably from Dave Wallace. I think from that standpoint the pitchers can rest assured there’s some familiarity. … Hopefully, as we continue this process and get to meet and watch and (analyze) bullpens and spend time together, (I’ll) get to know (the current pitchers) and build the relationship. I think that’s very important, building that relationship within your pitching staff.”
Mills on his familiarity with some of the current Orioles’ pitchers:
“It helps tremendously. I’ve been fortunate enough in those five years to have spent time in spring training with the big-league team, so I know some of the guys, most of them actually, and had the opportunity to coach some of them in the minor leagues. … When you’re familiar with guys, that helps with the comfort level they have working with you and working with one another.”
Showalter on choosing the two candidates:
“There’s no blueprint where it’ll tell you that you have to have exactly this to be able to do this. Obviously, they both bring a great resume. … It’s a people game. It’s a relationship. Sincerity plays out in a hurry and I think the players will realize they’ve got no agenda other than making these guys as good as they can be and making our team and our organization successful.”