The Orioles are discussing a multi-faceted position with Terry Crowley, an arrangement that will end his long career as the team's hitting coach but keep him in a prominent teaching role in the organization.
The details have not been finalized, according to multiple sources, and the Orioles haven't completely closed the door on Crowley returning for his 13th straight season as the team's hitting coach and his 17th overall on the staff.
However, Orioles manager Buck Showalter and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail have had extensive discussions with Crowley recently about a different position, one where the 63-year-old wouldn't travel regularly with the team and be in the dugout during games.
Instead, Crowley, who is highly regarded for his ability to evaluate hitters, will work with both major and minor leaguers hitters, and assist in scouting and evaluating potential trade, free agent or draft targets.
Showalter, who met Thursday with MacPhail and team owner Peter Angelos for about 2½ hours, declined to comment about Crowley, other than saying that no final decisions about his stafff have been made. Continuing his stance of mostly staying out of the coaching decisions, MacPhail also declined comment. Crowley hasn't returned calls this week seeking comment.
If Crowley agrees to the new position, it will likely trigger a thorough overhaul of the coaching staff. Bench coach Jeff Datz could be headed to Seattle to serve in the same capacity under new Mariners manager Eric Wedge, Datz's long-time boss in Cleveland. Third base coach Gary Allenson also could return to managing Triple-A Norfolk, while several of the remaining coaches could be reassigned in the organization or left to pursue other opportunities.
Showalter has told his coaches, a group that also includes pitching coach Rick Kranitz, bullpen coach Alan Dunn and first base coach John Shelby, that they remain under consideration for the 2011 staff, but he also encouraged them to look into other options.
"I've made a couple of phone calls just to see what was going on in a couple of different organizations," said Shelby, the Orioles' third base and outfield coach the past three seasons "That's what he advised for us to do until a decision has been made. He didn't want to miss an opportunity if one became available. There's no doubt [that I'd like to stay here]. This is where I started my professional career. It looks like things are changing for the better and I want to be a part of it."
Shelby said Showalter acknowledged it has taken longer than he expected to assemble his 2011 staff, the delay likely a result of the number of managerial vacancies around baseball. Even with the Mariners, Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs settling on their field bosses in the past couple of weeks, there are still five teams without managers.
Brian Butterfield, the Toronto Blue Jays' third base and infield coach and a member of Showalter's staffs in both New York and Arizona, remains a candidate for the Blue Jays' managerial vacancy. Former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu, Showalter's bench coach in Texas and a top candidate to come to join his former boss in Baltimore, has also been mentioned as a managerial candidate. Another potential hire, Mark Connor, Showalter's pitching coach in Texas, currently works as an adviser for the Rangers, and it stands to reason that he'd wait until Texas' playoff run ends before making any decisions about 2011.
The candidates to become the next Orioles' hitting coach are not yet clear, though a source familiar with Showalter's thinking said that he'd likely choose somebody with major league coaching experience in that position. That would eliminate former Orioles B.J. Surhoff, Mike Bordick and Brady Anderson from consideration.
A mainstay with the franchise as a player for parts of 12 seasons before becoming a coach, Crowley is extremely popular among Orioles' hitters for his work ethic and his positive approach. Felix Pie, Nick Markakis and Luke Scott are among the Orioles who regularly credit Crowley for their development as hitters.
However, Crowley was the subject of much criticism during the 2010 season as the Orioles ranked 13th of 14 American League teams in runs scored. The club's 613 runs in 2010 was its worst output for a full season since 1988 and it marked the eighth time in the past 12 seasons under Crowley that the Orioles have finished in the bottom five of the American League in runs scored.
However, for nearly two-thirds of the 2010 season, the Orioles' lineup was without leadoff hitter Brian Roberts. Scott, Matt Wieters and Pie also spent time on the disabled list.
The offense also lacked a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter, a commodity that MacPhail has made a priority again this offseason.