BALTIMORE—Doug Brocail knows that he has a difficult task as the Orioles’ pitching coach. Brocail, who just finished three seasons as the Texas Rangers pitching coach, brings experience working in the Houston Astros organization in the early years of their rebuild. He worked with Orioles general manager Mike Elias in Houston.
As a longtime reliever in the major leagues, Brocail saw the game change, and now with the fascination with analytics, he’s seen it change again.
“It’s just another tool,” Brocail said at Saturday’s FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center. “It’s just more information. The analytic team for us, it allows us to go out and coach. They give us the information. We decipher it. We find out what’s useable and what’s not useable.”
One of the ways Brocail uses analytics is by helping the pitcher simplify, and not add to his repertoire.
“We know that your sinker’s getting killed, we’re going to eliminate that,” Brocail says. “We know that your changeup isn’t efficient enough. However, we need something to get them off the fastball.”
Brocail is inheriting a pitching staff that lost a franchise-record 115 games in 2018.
“We had a team last year that didn’t win a lot of games,” Brocail said. “We have some time to experiment. If this wasn’t working, why not experiment a little bit?”
Brocail has starters Dylan Bundy, Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner, who enjoyed working with Brocail in Texas two seasons ago that he campaigned for his addition. He has Mychal Givens as a closer.
“We don’t know what we have right now,” Brocail acknowledged. “I know I’ve got three top-tier pitchers. I know I’ve got Givens and some relievers. I need a fourth [starter] and a fifth. If we don’t have that, we’re in trouble.”
Last year’s nominal fourth and fifth starters were David Hess (3-10, 4.88) and Yefry Ramirez (1-8, 5.92). Records like that don’t guarantee jobs in the major leagues.
“I’m just looking at it with a fresh slate with a bunch of new people coming in with no opinions whatsoever,” Hess said. “It’s a good opportunity to prove yourself to them firsthand.”
Hess and Ramirez made their major league debuts last season, but there others who could be starters. There’s Josh Rogers, who was obtained from the New York Yankees in the Zach Britton trade; Luis Ortiz, who came from Milwaukee in the Jonathan Schoop deal; Jimmy Yacabonis, who has experience starting and relieving; and Dillon Tate, who was also in the Britton trade.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of competition,” Ramirez said through a translator. “Hopefully, they can consider me for a starting rotation spot as well as a bullpen spot.”
A year ago, then-manager Buck Showalter contemplated using Miguel Castro as a starter, and he got some looks in spring training and an abbreviated start just before the All-Star break.
On Saturday, Castro said he’s preparing for spring training as a reliever.
Brocail will be assisted by new bullpen coach John Wasdin, who spent the last two seasons as the team’s minor league coordinator. Chris Holt succeeded him in that job, and Wasdin will supply institutional knowledge.
“I have John Wasdin, who knows all the guys,” Brocail said. “I’m going to lean hard on John because he knows everybody.”
Wasdin, who pitched 26 games for the Orioles in 2001 and was a teammate of Brocail’s in Texas under Showalter in 2004 and 2005, takes on the role of conduit for many of the players he taught in the minor leagues.
“They know me. They trust me,” Wasdin said. “There is that level of familiarity. For me to be able to talk to them and know their style … I think it’s going to be a great fit.”
Pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota, Fla., two weeks from Tuesday, and Brocail will have 31 pitchers.
“We’re going to pound the computer over the next [two] weeks so that when the guys come in and they’re ready to go, we have answers for them,” Brocail said.
The six weeks of spring training are going to be a challenge for a team not expected to do well.
“We’re going to have to find 12, 13 … guys that can compete at the big league level, and do it well,” Brocail said.
The March 28 opener at Yankee Stadium seems far away, but Brocail knows the time in Sarasota will go quickly.
“I don’t want to go, ‘Oh my God, are we ready?’ I want to be ready,” he said.