McDowell 'happy with results' of new Braves pact
Pitching coach wanted fair offer from club in order to remain with Atlanta
ATLANTA -- Roger McDowell entertained the option of becoming the Phillies' pitching coach. But after receiving what he viewed as a fair contract from the Braves, he accepted the opportunity to continue working with a talented young pitching staff that he has helped mold over the past few years.
"I know I have my own kids, but I also have the pitching staff," McDowell said. "Having seen them from their beginnings and seeing them grow up and go through their bumps and bruises, the chance to be able to continue being there for them is huge."
As last week progressed, the possibility that McDowell could exit Atlanta seemed to increase. But everything changed on Saturday, when Braves general manager Frank Wren improved the financial aspect of the two-year contract he had offered McDowell three days earlier at Turner Field.
Without revealing the financial specifics, McDowell simply said he had no reluctance accepting this offer, which allows him to extend his long tenure with the Braves and remain close to his wife and children in Atlanta.
"There was always a hope it would happen," McDowell said. "This was the organization where [Braves president and former general manager] John Schuerholz and [former manager] Bobby [Cox] gave me an opportunity to become a big league pitching coach. It was always my hope and desire that I would get to stay here. The Braves' organization made it happen, and I am very happy with the results."
Dating back to 2006, McDowell's first season in his current role, the Braves have compiled the game's second-best ERA. They rank first in this category when going back to the start of the '09 season.
Still, McDowell was one of the game's lowest-paid pitching coaches until he received his new contract this past weekend. As he looked at the possibility of going to Philadelphia, McDowell was not seeking a top-dollar offer as much as he was simply hoping to get what he deemed was fair.
When Schuerholz and Wren eventually provided what McDowell viewed as fair, the Braves maintained some of the organizational stability that was weakened last week when the highly regarded Dave Wallace ended his days as Atlanta's Minor League pitching coordinator to become Baltimore's pitching coach.
While Wallace's exit could affect the development of some of the organization's top pitching prospects, McDowell's decision to stay will allow Atlanta's young staff to benefit from continuity.
On the way to posting a Major League-best 3.18 ERA this year, the Braves overcame a number of significant injuries. The relief corps posted a franchise-record 2.46 ERA despite the extended absences of top setup men Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters, who both underwent Tommy John surgery in the middle of May.
The Braves entered this past season with a rotation that included just two pitchers -- Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm -- who had made more than 55 career starts. Injuries limited Maholm (seven) and Hudson (two) to combine for just nine starts after the All-Star break.
But with Mike Minor and Kris Medlen building on last year's success and Julio Teheran enduring nothing more than minor growing pains during his first full Major League season, the Braves' rotation posted a 3.51 ERA -- the franchise's second-best mark dating back to the 2000 season.
"Our young pitching has been a key for the organization," McDowell said. "We haven't had to go out and pay the free-agent dollars to get a commodity that from an industry standpoint is hard to develop. We have some young kids that are developing. They got their feet wet this year and got a feel for what it is like to pitch in the big leagues."
If Hudson opts to pitch elsewhere next year, Medlen, who debuted in 2009, will have a longer tenure in Atlanta than all of the members of the Braves' pitching staff. In fact, with the assumption that Brian McCann will also bolt via free agency, there is a good chance Medlen will have a longer tenure in Atlanta than any member of the Braves' roster.
While McDowell appreciates the chance to continue working alongside manager Fredi Gonzalez, his good friend and neighbor, his excitement about returning is significantly influenced by the opportunity to continue aiding the development of Medlen, Minor, Teheran, Brandon Beachy, Alex Wood and the other young pitchers who have benefited from his presence in Atlanta.
"The next couple years we will keep molding them and pointing them in the right direction," McDowell said. "Hopefully good things result from that for them personally and also for our organization."