Manager Buck Showalter finally completed his 2011 staff Tuesday by selecting a bench coach who spent years battling the Orioles at Memorial Stadium.
Looking for a quality infield instructor with the added bonus of managerial experience, Showalter hired an old friend, former New York Mets manager Willie Randolph. It's a reunion of sorts for Showalter, who gave Randolph his first big league coaching job with the New York Yankees in 1994.
"It's kind of surreal in a way; as a young coach, I learned the ropes as a third base coach under Buck Showalter," said Randolph, who agreed to a one-year deal with the Orioles after spending two seasons as bench coach with the Milwaukee Brewers. "It's weird how things work out. We stayed in touch over the years, but not constant touch. But there has always been a mutual respect, and he knows what I bring to the table."
Randolph, 56, joins a staff rife with experience. Another former manager, John Russell, who was fired in October after three years at the helm of the Pittsburgh Pirates, will be Showalter's third base coach.
Mark Connor, who has been with Showalter at all four of his managerial stops, is the pitching coach, and Rick Adair, the former Seattle Mariners pitching coach, will handle bullpen duties. Jim Presley, who most recently was the hitting coach for the Florida Marlins, will take on the same role with the Orioles, and Wayne Kirby, a former major league outfielder who has spent nine years instructing in the minors, will be the first base/outfield coach.
Kirby is the only one of the six who has never coached in the majors; the others have spent at least six seasons each on big league staffs. The group, which includes no holdovers from last season, was officially announced Tuesday after nearly two months of speculation.
Randolph is the headliner.
A six-time All-Star second baseman in an 18-season big league career, Randolph spent 13 years with the New York Yankees, battling some great Orioles teams in the late 1970s and 1980s. He played 160 career games against the Orioles — practically a full season — and hit .272 with a .391 on-base percentage and 93 runs in those American League East contests.
He knows that to some Orioles fans he'll always be a Yankee.
"I appreciated my time in New York. I am a New Yorker … but that's not what defines me as a person," said Randolph, who lives in New Jersey. "I have tremendous respect for [the Orioles]. I remember back in the day, you couldn't get a ticket there. It was one of the most exciting places for me, and I hope to be a part of rekindling that excitement. When I put on that uniform, I will be part of them. And [the fans] can be assured of that."
As part of his duties, Randolph will also be the Orioles' infield instructor, a position he held in Milwaukee the past two seasons. While there, he was given credit for helping Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks improve defensively.
"That's probably been as rewarding as anything for me, working with the young infielders and the older guys, the ones who have been around for a while," Randolph said. "That's what I really look forward to each and every day."
Randolph was the New York Mets manager from 2005 to 2008, compiling a 302-253 record (.544 winning percentage) that included a 97-win team in 2006 that lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh game of the National League Championship Series. Randolph said he wants to manage again one day, but that's not on his mind.
"Even though you aspire to manage, that's always such a crapshoot, and you really have to be fortunate," Randolph said. "I've never made it any secret that hopefully I'll manage again, but I am the bench coach of the Baltimore Orioles right now, and my total energy will go toward that."
Uehara, Millwood not offered arbitration
The Orioles decided not to offer arbitration to any of their seven free agents, including pitchers Koji Uehara and Kevin Millwood.
Both were considered Type B free agents, meaning that if the Orioles offered them arbitration and they declined and signed elsewhere, the Orioles would receive a compensatory pick after the first round of the 2011 amateur draft.
There was concern, however, that the pitchers would agree to arbitration and could be costly to retain. An independent arbitrator chooses the team's offering or the player's, and there's no middle ground.
The Orioles want Uehara back, but presumably at a lower salary than his $5 million last season. The 35-year-old right-hander was 1-2 with a 2.86 ERA in 43 games. He excelled in the closer's role, saving 13 of 15 chances. But an inability to stay healthy is a concern. The club will continue to talk to Uehara about a new deal, likely him offering a one-year contract with incentives.
"It doesn't preclude us from continuing the negotiations," said Andy MacPhail, the Orioles' president of baseball operations. "We'd just rather not do it with a backdrop of an arbitration hearing."