Holt to serve as Orioles' pitching coach

Holmes retained in expanded role from previous bullpen duties

November 2nd, 2020

The Orioles have filled their pitching coach vacancy with the in-house candidate they’ve been grooming for the role for some time.

Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias announced Monday that Chris Holt will serve as the Orioles' pitching coach for the 2021 season, assuming duties at the big league level that had been the purview of Doug Brocail for the past two seasons.

It is the first Major League coaching position for Holt, 41, whom Elias recruited from the Astros two winters ago and quickly grew into one of the organization’s most influential pitching instructors. The Orioles also envision the position being unlike any other coaching role in MLB. Holt’s new title is pitching coach/director of pitching, under which he will retain access to and authority over the development of Baltimore’s Minor League pitchers as well as work directly with the big league staff.

Elias also said the club is retaining bullpen coach Darren Holmes under a new title: assistant pitching coach. Holmes, 54, will serve as Holt’s second-in-command in what will also be an expanded, wide-ranging role.

“We are arranging internal roles there on the pitching side,” Elias said.

Arriving in Baltimore from Houston in November 2018 as Minor League pitching coordinator, Holt was integral in introducing data and technology-driven development practices to an organization that had previously eschewed them. He worked this season under the title of director of pitching, shuffling between Baltimore and the O’s alternate site in Bowie, Md., in a role that provided him oversight of the entire organization. When Brocail was informed in early October his contract would not be renewed, Holt became the favorite to replace him.

Over the past few years, Holt has been credited as a central character in many success stories involving the O’s pitching-rich farm system, from ' emergence to No. 9 prospect Michael Baumann’s breakout to the arrivals of Dean Kremer (No. 10) and Keegan Akin (No. 15). For a rebuilding team like the Orioles expecting to graduate more prospects to the big league level, providing those players a primary pitching coach who rose through the organization with them was the goal.

Hired before the 2019 season, Brocail oversaw MLB’s worst pitching staff that year but an improved unit in ’20, when Kremer, Akin and others arrived.

The Orioles also need to replace third-base coach Jose Flores, who from 2019-20 was their primary infield instructor.

In the market for arms
Despite what Elias called a “most uncertain” upcoming free-agent market, he confidently predicted the O’s would scour it for one area of need: starting pitching depth.

“I think we’ll definitely be signing starting pitchers,” Elias said. “You can never have enough.”

Cautioning those signings could come on either Major League or Minor League deals, Elias hinted at a free-agent strategy similar to the one the O’s have taken the past few winters. They aren’t expected to be big spenders, by any stretch. But they expect again to target lower-level veteran help, like they did last winter with Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone.

Both ended up in the rotation. Milone, after a hot start, was flipped at the Trade Deadline for two prospects. This year, additions would profile as injury insurance behind prospects such as Kremer, Akin and , who are ticketed for key 2021 roles but will be managed carefully. The O’s used 18 different starters in 2019 and 10 in 60 games in ’20.

“We will definitely need to sign some outsiders,” Elias said.

Mancini update
The Orioles also completed a bit of roster maintenance over the weekend, reinstating shortstop (broken wrist) and outfielder/first baseman (colon cancer) from the 60-day injured list. These are essentially paper moves, housekeeping maneuvers that swell Baltimore’s 40-man roster to 35 but say little about the injury status of the players involved.

On that front though, the prognosis continues to be positive. Elias said Mancini is “slowly getting into baseball-ish-type activities,” with an eye toward returning to the field sometime next season, assuming he’s not restricted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

That has been Mancini’s stated goal since he was diagnosed in March. Mancini, 28, missed the 2020 season. He completed the last of 12 prescribed chemotherapy treatments in mid-September.

“We all have our fingers crossed,” Elias said. “I think it’s gone as well as it could’ve possibly gone since we got that horrible news back in March. I think any of us would’ve traded anything to get to Nov. 2 and be where we’re at with him right now. He’s getting his strength back.”