The Orioles’ two new coaches for 2021 have vastly different backgrounds. Pitching coach Chris Holt has been a high-profile member of the organization for the past two seasons while newly hired third base coach and infield instructor Tony Mansolino has no past connection to the team at all.
Holt, who maintains his title as director of pitching for the organization, came with Mike Elias from the Houston Astros in November 2018 and worked with minor league and major league pitchers in 2020.
Mansolino has a decade of experience as a minor league coach, manager, and last season’s fill-in third base coach for the Cleveland Indians.
It was no surprise that Holt was chosen to replace Doug Brocail, whose contract wasn’t renewed after two seasons. Although he’ll oversee all the pitchers in the organization, Holt left no doubt about his focus in a video conference call.
“My primary job is the major league pitching staff,” Holt said. “The goal of remaining the director of pitching is to have a top-down approach, make sure there’s a continuity from the minor league system up through the big leagues.”
Holt spent some time with the major league team in 2020 but spent most of his time at the Bowie alternate site where we worked with pitchers who made their debuts with the Orioles — Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann. He also worked with Michael Baumann and Zac Lowther, new to the 40-man roster
“With Akin, Kremer and Zimmermann, we’ve known that they have the ability to compete in the big leagues right now,” Holt said. “And we also see flashes from the other prospects.
“We’ve seen flashes of big-league potential or big-league readiness out of everybody. Obviously with Akin, Kremer and Zimmermann, those guys are more consistent with what they bring to the table right now.”
Mansolino was going to be Cleveland’s infield instructor until manager Terry Francona became ill and missed nearly all of the 2020 season. He was inserted as third base coach, replacing Mike Sarbaugh, who became the interim bench coach. Sandy Alomar Jr. was the interim manager.
“It was an honor, especially because it was Terry who asked me to do it,” Mansolino said. “I think any time somebody of that stature asks you to fill in onto his staff, I think you have to take it as a compliment.”
After the season, the Orioles decided to move on from José Flores, who had been the third base coach and infield instructor the previous two seasons. Mansolino was told by Cleveland’s assistant general manager Carter Hawkins that the Orioles were interested in him.
“I don’t necessarily have any direct relationships in the Baltimore organization,” Mansolino said. “It kind of came out of the blue, to be honest with you … I jumped all over it and, now, here I am.”
Mansolino learned from his father, Doug, who was a major league coach with the White Sox, Brewers, Tigers and Astros. He’s currently Atlanta’s field coordinator.
“There’s been a lot of good coaches that have gone through Baltimore’s organization, with Buck [Showalter] and now Brandon [Hyde] and his staff. I don’t think I’m going to bring anything new. I’m probably going to mesh in with what Brandon and the organization want right now. I think I bring some experience on the development side. I think I bring a pretty good balance of new and old in terms of baseball to the position.”
Holt said that he’s spent a lot of time pondering how to monitor pitchers’ workloads from last year’s 60-game season to the conventional 162 games.
“That’s a big question going on in the industry right now,” he said. “I think that everybody is consulting with medical and conditioning and sports science. As far as what we know what we have going in 2021, it’s always going to be a real-time read, whether they’re coming off a season where they threw 150 innings or a season where they threw 75 innings … We will have a proactive approach towards managing innings, recovery and workload in 2021.
“Maybe the only difference is that perhaps guys didn’t feel like they needed to take as much time off once they got home. Sometimes pitchers who throw north of 120, 150 innings will take six or seven weeks off before they pick up a baseball again, so perhaps a few guys got started a little earlier than maybe they would have coming off a longer season. Besides that, everything has been straightforward.”
One pitcher who will get lots of attention is right-handed reliever Hunter Harvey, who has thrown just 15 big-league innings in parts of the past two seasons.
“We’re always optimistic that Hunter is continuing to take steps with his strength and conditioning program, which he has done this offseason,” Holt said. “His delivery continues to be something that he works on. Those two things alone could help him mitigate any kind of health risks going into ’21.
“What a tremendous talent he is and, of course, we want to be able to manage his health and his recovery and his workload so we can keep him on the field all year.”
Call for questions: If you have questions about the 2021 Orioles, I’ll be answering some next week. Please leave your questions in the comment section below or e-mail them to: [email protected].