Nearly three years into his term as Orioles executive vice president/general manager, Mike Elias continues to reshape the organization.
Monday’s news that hitting coach Don Long was fired shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Long’s departure and the reassignment of his assistant, José Hernández, leave manager Brandon Hyde with just one coach, Tim Cossins, from his original staff. Cossins is the major league field coordinator and catching coach.
Elias replaced pitching coach Doug Brocail after the 2020 season, bullpen coach John Wasdin after 2019, and base coaches Arnie Beyeler (first, after 2019), and José Flores (third, after 2020).
Long, who has extensive major league experience with the Orioles, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, will try to take his talents elsewhere, and Oriole hitters will get accustomed to a new voice.
One candidate could be Anthony Iapoce, who is expected to leave the Chicago Cubs, according to Robert Murray of FanSided. Iapoce worked with Hyde when both were in player development for the Cubs.
The news that Triple-A Norfolk manager Gary Kendall was leaving the organization wasn’t as big as Long’s departure, but it is significant.
Kendall had managed in the minor leagues for the Orioles since 2004, through four administrations and six major league managers. He’s well thought of throughout the game but, at 58, knows that it might be difficult to get another position because of the consolidation of the minor leagues before this season.
A lifelong Marylander, Kendall had strong Baltimore credentials — coach for Baltimore City Community College and Towson University, batting practice pitcher and scout for the team and, except for four years (1996-1999) with San Diego, had worked exclusively with the Orioles.
Before he became manager of the Bluefield Orioles in 2004, Kendall was a coach for Bluefield and Aberdeen for three seasons. He spent a year at Bluefield, three at Delmarva, three at Aberdeen before starting an eight-year run with Bowie. Since 2019, he had managed Norfolk.
The dismissals on Monday included another minor league manager, former Orioles reliever and bullpen coach Alan Mills, Norfolk pitching coach Kennie Steenstra, strength and conditioning coaches Joe Hogarty and Ryo Naito, and equipment manager Chris Guth.
There are few people remaining in the baseball operations department who preceded Elias’ arrival. However, all the minor league managers in 2021 were holdovers.
Buck Britton, who could succeed Kendall at Norfolk, was at Bowie; Kyle Moore, Aberdeen; Dave Anderson, Delmarva; and Kevin Bradshaw, who managed the Florida Complex League teams with Mills, were in the organization before Elias.
This past season, the Orioles had two Florida Complex League teams, and it’s unknown whether there will be two in 2022.
Bowie pitching coach Justin Ramsey, who has received praise for his work at Delmarva in 2019 and Bowie this past year, could be a candidate to succeed Steenstra.
Roster decisions: The construction of the 40-man roster during the offseason will be interesting, and probably ongoing.
After a season with relatively few injuries, the Orioles ended the season with 12 players on the injured list, seven on the 60-day injured list.
Starting pitcher Matt Harvey will be a free agent, but there’s still pitchers Keegan Akin, Hunter Harvey, Travis Lakins and Jorge López, infielder Jorge Mateo and outfielder DJ Stewart.
Harvey and Fernando Abad, who finished the season as the only left-hander in the bullpen, are the two free agents, though some of the players on the 40-man roster could opt for free agency if they pass through waivers.
With the retirement of Chris Davis, the Orioles have no players under contract for next season and eight players eligible for arbitration: first baseman/designated hitter Trey Mancini; outfielder Anthony Santander; catcher Pedro Severino; infielder Pat Valaika; and pitchers John Means, Paul Fry, Tanner Scott and López.
Mancini, Means and Santander will be offered arbitration, but the Orioles will have decisions to make on Fry, López and Scott.
López struggled as a starter but thrived in the bullpen. Fry and Scott struggled in the bullpen. Fry ended the season at Norfolk, and Scott finished it on the 10-day injured list because of a knee injury.
It seems unlikely that Severino, who made $1.82 million this year, will be back. Valaika was signed to a split contract that paid him $875,000 while he was in the majors and $300,000 in the minors, and he seems unlikely to return as well.
The Orioles have first claim on American League players placed on waivers. The Tampa Bay Rays, with the best record in the league, have 13 pitchers on the 60-day injured list and the Orioles could claim some of those.
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