Brocail faces challenge in constructing Orioles pitching staff - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Brocail faces challenge in constructing Orioles pitching staff

Doug Brocail
Photo credit: Bruce Kluckhohn - USA Today Sports

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.”

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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.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Fareastern89

    January 28, 2019 at 7:22 am

    At least Brocail knows what he’s getting into. Also sounds like he’d like to get another starter or two from the current free-agent pool. Rich — what would you say are the current odds of that, probably a one-year deal for a bounce-back candidate?

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 28, 2019 at 7:31 am

      I’ve been surprised Fareastern, by the lack of free agent activity. As I detailed a few weeks back, not a lot of attractive candidates on the list.

  2. bmorebirds

    January 28, 2019 at 9:36 am

    Brocail’s selection is a head scratcher? He was fired as the Rangers pitching coach following three lackluster years, including a 2018 where they registered a 4.92 ERA and a .271 batting average against, both 28th in the majors. If nothing else, I hope he can teach Bundy how to keep the ball in the yard.
    And he might be able to maximize Jimmy Yacabonis’ potential.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 28, 2019 at 10:36 am

      From people I’ve talked to, bmorebirds, Brocail has a good reputation.

    • jkneps63

      January 28, 2019 at 10:54 am

      I agree that Brocail’s selection is a head scratcher, the overall stats of the MLB pitching staffs he has coached have been pretty poor.

    • mlbbirdfan

      January 30, 2019 at 10:15 am

      Brocail was Pitching Coach in Houston 2011 and 2012. He helped develop the young pitchers who became the nucleus of the world championship Astros of 2017. My guess: he is here to offer development expertise. When the time comes to win, I expect someone new to be O’s Pitching Coach.

  3. Bhoffman1

    January 28, 2019 at 9:39 am

    I have been called negative but I’m very optimistic about everything Elias has done so far. The hiring of him and the staff he brought in was a genius move by the Angelos brothers. I know nothing about them and I don’t agree with some of the players let go last year who I felt this team could be rebuilt around but I rather lose any day with these guys then with Bucky and DD again.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 28, 2019 at 10:37 am

      It will be an interesting year, bhoffman.

    • Camden Brooks

      January 28, 2019 at 2:10 pm

      I’m optimistic as well, but it might be a little early to call these hires as genius. I certainly hope they turn out to be so.

  4. Ekim

    January 28, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    In construction you start with a good foundation and go up from there. Brocail will be building his foundation on “sand”, the sorry lot he’s being given to work with. NOT a good thing! I’m with bmorebirds on this one. He’s not got a great reputation to start with and is being given a pretty weak cast of characters to work with. BUT… as my grandfather used to say… “First things first…” and the first is for him to take a look at what he’s got. Maybe he can find a “gem” in the “sand”.

  5. cowhand214

    January 28, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    I’m looking forward to spring training to see how this all fits together and how this new group starts making decisions. Obviously, coaches can have only so much impact and dependent on the players they are given to work with but as they’ve all said, you gotta start somewhere?

    Will you be making the trip south to Sarasota, Rich?

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 28, 2019 at 11:19 pm

      I’ll be there for the entire six weeks, Cowhand.

    • Ekim

      January 29, 2019 at 8:32 am

      Rich… you’re a glutton for punishment! At least you’ll be warm…

  6. GSISDANNO

    January 29, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    I look at the pitchers we have and I don’t know how we are going to throw nine innings every night. Brocail may be the greatest pitching coach of all time but if the Orioles don’t have the arms, it won’t matter. Personally, I am glad they haven’t spent money on over-priced pitchers in the free agent market. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that there are some surprises in spring training.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 29, 2019 at 4:14 pm

      Danno, spring training will be fascinating.

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