Orioles hire Wallace as new pitching coach
BALTIMORE -- In the search for their new pitching coach, the Orioles wanted an experienced candidate with a proven track record of developing pitching at the Major League level, with Baltimore's uneven rotation -- and frequent short starts -- a well-documented part of last season.
On Tuesday, the O's felt confident they got that guy in 66-year-old Dave Wallace, who most recently was the Braves' Minor League pitching coordinator. Wallace, who has worked in professional baseball since 1981, has a decade of Major League pitching coach experience with the Dodgers (1995-97), Mets (1999-2000), Red Sox (2003-06) and Astros (2007).
"I think you never stop teaching when it comes to baseball, especially young pitchers," said Wallace, who has an affinity for working with younger starters and has spent the past four years working with Braves Minor Leaguers -- a great situation he admitted was tough to leave.
So what attracted Wallace to the Orioles' job and back to the competition of the big leagues?
"There's a couple people running this organization that I've respected from afar for a long time," he said in a conference call Tuesday night that included manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette. "The Orioles history, it's a fantastic baseball town, it's a great place to be, I know their work ethic, and I know what they do and I know the respect they have in the game.
"When you get a chance to do that on a stage like Baltimore, I don't think you pass it up. It's been one of those things that has been very intriguing to me."
Wallace will replace Rick Adair, who took a leave of absence for personal reasons during the 2013 season and won't return to the organization. One of a dozen initial candidates whittled down to four finalists, Wallace was given the nod over former Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee, Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis and Rangers bullpen coach Andy Hawkins. Bill Castro, who filled in for Adair, was also interviewed, and he is a candidate to return next season as bullpen coach.
"We would have felt comfortable with any of the guys there at the end, but all things considered, we felt Dave was the best match -- not only from a track record standpoint, but where our organization was," Showalter said. "It was an important hire for us."
A right-handed pitcher, Wallace made 13 Major League appearances between Philadelphia and Toronto in his brief career, and he served as a special assistant to the general manager in Seattle prior to joining the Braves.
He also spent 20 years in the Dodgers' organization, including his final three seasons as the senior vice president of baseball operations, overseeing Los Angeles' Minor League operations and consulting on Major League baseball operations.
"I've respected Dave from afar," Showalter said of Wallace, who is credited with helping develop pitchers Pedro Martínez, Ramón Martínez, Pedro Astacio, Darren Dreifort, Hideo Nomo, Chan Ho Park, Ismael Valdéz and John Wetteland.
"I've always respected his presentation, his presence, the way his pitching staff has presented itself and the common denominators they have ... it's not for the weak. It's a tough situation, a tough job and you got to respect it."
Wallace said he's familiar with the abilities of the Orioles' pitchers, and he will try to reach out to each player this winter to start forming a relationship before heading south for Spring Training. With a thin free-agent market for starters, the O's are more likely to try to upgrade what they have internally, and Wallace will be tasked with getting the most out of each guy -- a challenge the organization believes he's more than up for.
"I wake up in the morning and feel real good about where we're headed with our pitching," Showalter said.