Coach class: New members of staff teach basic approach

April 05, 1992|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

During the first major-league training camp conducted by John Oates, the Orioles coaching staff played a large role.

"I delegated authority to them, and they handled it," the Orioles manager said. "All I had to do was watch. The work ethics of the entire staff have been very impressive."

And, if spring training is any indication, the input of the three new coaches on Oates' staff will be significant this season. Pitching coach Dick Bosman, hitting coach Greg Biagini and base-running/outfield coach Davey Lopes join holdovers Cal Ripken Sr., the third-base coach, and Elrod Hendricks, the baron of the bullpen.

Each of the newcomers has a basic approach.

"Get ahead, stay ahead -- and use your head," is the philosophy pitchers hear from Bosman, who pitched for 11 seasons in the big leagues with the Washington Senators, Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians and Oakland Athletics.

"You have to give Bos some of the credit for the improvement the pitchers have shown so far," said Oates.

"If you stay ahead in the count," said Bosman, "you put pressure on the hitter. You're an aggressive pitcher. The whole concept of pitching is to exploit a hitter's weakness and mess up his timing. When a pitcher is constantly behind, he becomes defensive, and you can't pitch that way in the big leagues."

Biagini, who played minor-league ball for 10 years, the last five in Mexico, where he had a .315 average, takes a balanced approach to hitting. "You start at the bottom and work your way up," he said.

"The first thing is balance -- and that starts with a comfortable stance," said Biagini, who managed in the Orioles minor-league system for the past nine years. "You try to work within the ability and capability of each hitter.

"One thing I believe in is establishing your hitting area -- so you're not chasing the ball all over the place. That and situational hitting is something we tried to stress throughout spring training."

As the manager at Rochester the past three years, Biagini has worked with most of the young players on the Orioles roster. "He already had the respect of the young guys," said Oates, "and he's earned it with the veteran players as well."

Lopes is the newest member of the organization, picked by Oates to help improve the Orioles' base running after serving as a coach with the Texas Rangers for the past four years.

"With our club, what has been indicated to me is that we haven't been very good at getting from first base to third base," said Lopes. "I think we made progress in that area during spring training.

"We stressed to them not to be afraid of making a mistake down there [in Florida]. Overall, I think we have been very aggressive -- and we're going to get better.

"It's an area where we have to improve, and Johnny has put a lot of emphasis on it," said Lopes, a former teammate of Oates with the Los Angeles Dodgers. "Good base running can help you improve -- and bad base running can cause you to lose."

A noted base stealer (557 in 671 attempts, an 83 percent success ratio) during his 15-year career, Lopes figures to help the weakest part of the Orioles' offensive game.

"You have to key on the pitcher's body," he said. "At some point, the pitcher will tell you what he's going to do.

"I want them to focus [on the pitcher's delivery] rather than scan -- my job is to scan," said Lopes. "I know it works; I did it my whole career."

With spring training past, the theories have been explained. Now, it's time to put them to the real test.

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