Orioles pitching coach Mark Connor resigns

Bullpen coach Rick Adair will take over

June 14, 2011|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

TORONTO — Mark Connor, who has been with Buck Showalter in each of his four stops as manager, resigned as pitching coach, citing personal reasons, the team announced Tuesday.

He was immediately replaced by his longtime friend and the Orioles' bullpen coach, Rick Adair, signaling the organization's 13th big league pitching coach change since 1994. Former hitting coach Terry Crowley flew into Toronto and will serve as interim bullpen coach for the remainder of the nine-game road trip, which began Tuesday.

Connor, on his way home to Tennessee, did not return phone calls seeking comment. But Showalter said Connor called him at noon Monday, asked to meet with him and explained in an hourlong discussion that he felt he could no longer keep the grueling pace associated with the demanding position.

"I don't think people understand or realize the intensity and the toll that these jobs take on you, especially guys that care like he does," Showalter said. "And he just didn't feel like he was able to provide what was needed, and no one understands what is needed more than Mark Connor."

Connor, 62, has been looking increasingly drained since the season began in April.

"Obviously, this is not something he pulled out of the air," Showalter said. "He had been thinking about it."

The Orioles' pitching staff and two catchers were summoned to Showalter's hotel room on Monday night in Toronto and told of the coaching changes.

"It was a surprise to all of us, I believe," starter Jeremy Guthrie said. "He'll be missed. We enjoyed our time, as little as it was, to work with him. We were starting to get a glimpse of all the things that Buck had said about him and his reputation as being a tremendous pitching coach as well as just a great person to work with. It's too bad his time was so short with each one of us. We were learning a lot from him."

Connor was in his first year with the Orioles after spending two seasons in player development with the Texas Rangers. He had been the pitching coach for the New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks, Toronto Blue Jays and Rangers, serving under Showalter in New York, Arizona and Texas.

The Orioles' 4.22 ERA heading into Tuesday was 11th in the American League this season, down from 4.59 at the end of 2010.

Connor turns over the staff to Adair, a former minor league pitcher who served seven years as a big league pitching coach with the Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers and, in the past two seasons, with the Seattle Mariners.

It was considered a coup this offseason when the Orioles landed Adair as bullpen coach when many in the game thought he would find another job leading a staff. But Adair's relationships with Showalter and especially Connor, whom Adair viewed as a mentor, drew him to Baltimore.

"[Connor] was one of the biggest reasons, there is no doubt," Adair said. "Plus the fact that competing against this club for the last couple of years, you saw a lot of ability here. So that was very intriguing."

Adair becomes the club's 11th different Orioles pitching coach in 17 years (Ray Miller and Mike Flanagan each held the post twice during that span). Adair said he doesn't expect to implement many changes to what Connor was attempting to accomplish.

"I think we both have a lot of the same ideas and, I don't like the word philosophy, but the same thoughts on how to do things," said Adair, who was visibly upset while talking to reporters about Connor. "Obviously, Goose is more experienced than I am, and if I can be half of what he has been, I'll be OK."

Both Guthrie and Showalter said the transition from Connor to Adair should be "seamless," considering how closely the two worked together this year and in the past (Adair was the Rangers' minor league pitching coordinator while Connor was the major league coach).

"They have the track record they do everywhere they have been. All you've got to do is look over at Texas and the wealth and pitching talent that's there," Showalter said. "That part of it, I don't think will be [difficult]. But everything is a little different, obviously, a different approach. But Rick will tell you he learned a lot of his stuff from Mark."

This is the first time since 2004 -- when Ray Miller replaced Mark Wiley -- that the Orioles have made a pitching coach change in-season. This time it's internal.

"Goose and Rick were on the same page, so it shouldn't be a tough transition for us," reliever Jim Johnson said. "We are going to miss Goose, that's for sure. But having Rick is definitely a competent replacement, for sure."

Asked whether Monday night was bittersweet -- his good friend left, but he would be taking over a staff again -- Adair said, "Right now, more bitter. I don't know if there is any sweet to this at all because he's a good friend and a good man. And I'll miss him."

Crowley back with Orioles

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