Buck Britton was a 35th-round draft choice by the Orioles in 2008 and played seven seasons at every level in their minor league system. The older brother of former Orioles reliever Zack Britton, Buck began his managerial career at Low-A Delmarva in 2018. After two seasons managing Double-A Bowie, he has been promoted to Triple-A Norfolk for the 2022 season.
This interview was edited for brevity.
Question: What does it mean to move up to managing Triple-A?
Britton: “Obviously, it’s exciting. I understand the responsibility of it. It’s nice that they think highly enough of me to take on the challenge. I’m looking forward to it. I hope everything starts on time.”
Q: Last year, you said you felt a lot of responsibility for managing many of the top prospects in the organization, and you felt there was lots of pressure on you to make sure you didn’t get in their way. Are you going to enjoy having them at a level short of the majors?
Britton: “After letting everything digest when they offered me the job, that’s going to be one of the most exciting things. I’m going to have the opportunity to tell, hopefully a lot of those players that they’re going to the big leagues for the first time.
“As a manager, the stress of having to release a player is probably one of the worst experiences and the worst part of the job, but on the flip side, telling somebody that they’re going to the big leagues for the first time is going to be super exciting.
“I had the opportunity [at Bowie] to tell Dillon Tate, so I have an idea of what it feels like, not only for the player, but for myself, and I’m looking forward to, hopefully, some more opportunities for that.”
Q: You had the top position player prospect, Adley Rutschman, and by some measures, the top pitching prospect in baseball, Grayson Rodriguez, with Bowie last year. Were they what you imagined they were going to be?
Britton: “When you’ve got a 1-1, you expect to be a pretty good baseball player. Obviously, the God-given abilities that both of those guys have been given, but what separates those two guys is their work ethic, and the type of human beings they are.
“There’s a lot of really good players, but when you have a package of a really good player, a really good arm and being a really good person, and being a joy to be around, whether it’s from the catching staff or from your teammates, that’s a pretty special quality and both of those guys, I would say, they’re loved by their teammates, they’re great teammates.
“They want others to succeed, and they set the example by how they go about their work. For a coaching staff, for a manager, when your best players are guys like Grayson Rodriguez and Adley Rutschman, it makes it a little easier for you.”
Q: Lots of fans have heard about Rutschman and Rodriguez. Who are some of the other players you managed at Bowie last year who you expect to manager at Norfolk this year?
Britton: “Guys like [outfielder] Kyle Stowers really came on this last year. I think this kid has got a chance to be a really good player. I think there are some things in his offensive game that translate to the big leagues, and I think there are definitely some things that we have to stay on top of, and maybe clean up a little bit, in Triple-A so that when he gets that opportunity, he’s ready to go.
“One of them being the whiffs. There’s some swing-and-miss in there. With the strike zone awareness, our whole philosophy in the hitting department, the swing decisions, cleaning that up is going to lead to a lot more success.
“I had a lot of guys at Bowie who had success. Patrick Dorrian came on real strong for us, playing every day at third base. He had a big year, was invited to a minicamp, so he got to get in front of the major league staff. Another guy, just a really good kid to be around, a really hard worker, and I’m glad he put himself on the map, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does.
“Those are two names that stand out on the position-player side. I was real impressed with Drew Rom, with what he was able to accomplish, one of those, not overpowering stuff. I think the velo is ticking up a little bit, but the kid knows how to pitch. I think he’s going to give himself an opportunity.
“Whether he starts at Double-A or Triple-A, I’m not sure. He probably starts in Double-A, I would imagine. He might be a guy we see pretty early in Triple-A.”
Q: You played in Triple-A, but this is your first time managing there. What do you see as the biggest difference between Double-A and Triple-A?
Britton: “The consistency of the game, players’ abilities. I think the biggest challenge is just going to be how the roster shakes out, sending guys to the big leagues, maybe holding back an arm in the bullpen, just in case he’s got to go the big leagues.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of the roster stuff. Just like as a player and like a coach, the game speeds up on you. You’ve got to make sure you’re prepared ahead of time. I think with guys like [fundamentals coach] Ramón Sambo that have been doing this a long time, and a guy that I know that I can lean on. I’m going to have a lot of help in that department with [pitching coach Justin] Ramsey helping control the bullpen stuff. I just think the roster manipulation is going to be the toughest thing.”
Q: You mentioned how much you’re going to enjoy telling a player they’re going to the big leagues. How hard will it be to work with players who’ve been to the big leagues and get sent down and don’t want to be in Triple-A?
Britton: “First off, it’s relationship building with those players so that we can have conversations when a guy needs an extra, not necessarily a punch in the gut, but a way to get them going.
“That’s going to be my biggest thing, how I go about building these relationships. Luckily, we have a lot of younger players. I’ve had a lot of those guys in 2019 that were in Triple-A last year.
“I get it. Everybody wants to be in the big leagues. I think the message for me is be present and let’s go to work so that when the opportunity does arise, take advantage of it.”
Q: You’ve been in this organization a long time. How much deeper is the organization now than it was two or three years ago?
A: “These last two weeks, I had the opportunity to work at a minicamp with some of the upper-level guys, some of our top prospects, and then this last week with some of these younger players that were first-year draft guys. I think the overall talent, you hear about it all the time in the magazines and the papers, but to see these young kids, [third baseman} Coby Mayo [catcher Samuel Basallo] that I saw at a hitting camp, these young Latin players that we’re getting. It’s really impressive what [executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias] has been able to do talent-wise in just these last couple of years.
“I know it’s sometimes hard for the fans to continue to hear, ‘be excited, be excited for the future,’ but I really do see there’s a lot of talent. Since I played here, at the minicamp last week, even this week, I don’t think I’ve seen as much talent on the field at one time as I have now.
“Now, it’s our job as coaches to make sure that we develop them properly, and that they’re ready to go. I guess the test is always: How do they produce in the big leagues, right? We just have to continue to develop these kids and see what happens, but there’s a lot of physicality. [That] would be a good word, a lot of big kids. It’s exciting.”