New Orioles pitching coach Drew French: 'Keep the train on the tracks' - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Spring Training

New Orioles pitching coach Drew French: ‘Keep the train on the tracks’

Photo Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel USA TODAY Sports

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SARASOTA, Florida—Drew French is in his first year as the Orioles’ pitching coach. He spent the previous two seasons as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves and was previously in the Houston Astros organization as a pitching coach. This interview has been edited for brevity.

Question: It must be quite an adjustment for you coming to the Orioles from the Braves. Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed?

Drew French: “Since the moment I got this job, I’ve been preparing myself mentally for what I thought this part of it would look like. I wouldn’t say it’s overwhelming, probably the time commitment more than anything, but in terms of the ebbs and flows of spring training, I feel like I was visualizing what this was going to be before I got here, and I feel like we’ve hit the ground running.

“I feel really, really good about that. Obviously, the people you were going to be around and you were going to work most closely with, especially, not knowing them personally. We did a lot of stuff virtually throughout the offseason so we kind of knew each other before we knew each other. I think some of those things, amongst traveling and seeing some of these players in January creating some relationships and dialogue helped us get to camp and kind of get to work.”

Q: How much of the adjustment is getting used to a new culture in an organization?

French: “When you leave one organization when you’ve spent years learning people and not just the people who are in the clubhouse with you every day, the baseball operations department, the people who do the on-field stuff during the games, the security people, it takes time to learn people.

“I hold myself to a pretty high standard when it comes to learning that quickly. I haven’t been to Camden Yards since 2021. I know it’s going to take time, but it feels really nice to be the guy that’s in the middle of a lot of people who have been here for some time now. Anything I need along the way, there’s a lot of really good people that can help direct me if I’ve got questions or just confused about one thing or another.

“You don’t know until you get here. It’s a product of a lot of nights in bed at home this offseason lying awake thinking about various parts of what camp would be and how I would address the team and what those conversations would be like. I feel comfortable. It’s been really nice to hit the ground running in November and feel like I’m way ahead of where I could have been right now.”

Q: Often, a new pitching coach comes in when a new manager does or when things are unsettled. How is it inheriting a 101-win team?

Drew French: “I never consciously think about it that way. However, there’s a lot of credit that’s due to [former pitching coaches] [Chris Holt and Darren Holmes and [current coaches] Ryan Klimek and Grant Anders and the group that’s been here before or that got this thing off the ground and pushing forward.

“I don’t necessarily think in terms of what the circumstances are. However, I do know there’s some really special players here and my only job is to keep the train on the tracks. There’ll be some different things that I learned along the way that hopefully can impact this group in a positive way. They took such big strides over the last couple of years that you just hope we can take another step forward.”

Q: The Orioles have two big-time veteran pitchers, Corbin Burnes and Craig Kimbrel, who are new to the team. Is it hard to deal with guys who are that accomplished?

French: “My style and my personality, I hope that it can kind of shine through that relationship building part of this whole thing because there’s a whole lot of people who would tell you until they can really trust that you’re kind of after what they’re after, they may be apprehensive to listening to you.

“I ask a lot of questions. I try to start conversations around baseball topics and non-baseball topics. You just want to be a really good connector. I don’t look at them every day as what they’ve done to this point in their career, although it warrants a ton of respect because when you’re on the other side, you recognize greatness when you see it. But they’re human beings, they’re fathers, they’re husbands. They have hobbies and they have passions outside of baseball and you try to leverage those things to building the relationship and by virtue of doing that, it becomes much easier to have a two-way conversation to them that’s related to baseball.”

Q: How is it working with catcher Adley Rutschman?

French: “I don’t know him great, yet. We did connect over the offseason on the phone and made an introduction. Quite honestly, I love any and all conversations with catchers, getting their perspectives, their feelings, what they’re reading in those moments is supremely valuable and even more valuable than what my eyes are telling me. Rutsch and [James] McCann aside, the entire group of catchers has been really special, and the conversation and communication to this point has been exactly what I think we would all want it to be.”

Q: Many people are excited about Grayson Rodriguez’s progress. Do you think he can become a top-of-the rotation starter?

French: “A hundred percent. There’s no doubt in my mind he can be. I think tf you look at what he did after being recalled in July all the way through the end of the year, he showed his versatility. He showed his ability to throw strikes with plus, plus stuff. He showed you that he could beat teams in different ways, and I think the number one guys, I think that’s one thing they feature is the ability to beat guys in different ways.

“Obviously, they all have their strengths. Grayson has a humongous fastball, he’s got a big arm. He’s got a great changeup, he’s got four above average pitches that really complement each other really well, and so what the entire group did to get him rolling for the second half is nothing short of amazing. We are trying to capture that energy and sort of that roadmap and keep rolling.”

Call for questions: I’ll be answering Orioles questions this week. Please email them to: [email protected]

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