O's pitching coach Adair takes leave of absence
Bullpen coach Castro takes over as pitching coach; McGregor joins staff
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles held a brief team meeting on Friday afternoon, with manager Buck Showalter wanting to deliver the message to his club regarding the abrupt announcement of pitching coach Rick Adair, who has taken a leave of absence for personal reasons.
Adair, who joined the Orioles' coaching staff prior to the 2011 season, will have his role taken over by bullpen coach Bill Castro. Former O's pitcher Scott McGregor will serve as interim bullpen coach.
"When things are personal, I know everybody here knows what that means," Showalter said. "It's not a matter of closing ranks or whatever, it's just we all have some things in our lives we need to take care of that are more important than this, believe it or not. We are just fortunate to be in an organization that's willing to do those things, and we're fortunate to have people like Billy and Scott that can make it seamless. That's nothing to do with the job Rick was doing, Rick's doing a good job. There are some challenges we all have that we need to take some time and take care of."
Could Adair return this season?
"[I] hope so," Showalter said. "We'll see. That's up to how it goes. I'm not going to put a time frame on that."
The 55-year-old Adair spent his first few months in the Orioles organization as bullpen coach before he stepped in when Mark Connor resigned in June 2011. Currently under contract through 2014, Adair has 20 years of coaching experience, including three other stints as a pitching coach. He previously worked in the same role for the Indians (1992-93), Tigers (1996-99) and Mariners (2009-10). Adair has also served as a Minor League pitching coordinator and bullpen coach for various organizations.
"It's never going to be a good situation when somebody has to leave," pitcher Tommy Hunter said. "I don't want to say baseball is any more important than anything else, but it's a pretty public spot, I guess you can say. And it's always going to be tough to get out of it. We are all behind him 100 percent, we don't really know what's going on yet either, I haven't even talked to him yet."
"It surprised me, just because I didn't know [until the meeting]," added starter Chris Tillman of the coaching changes. "But I think we are all on the same page here. I think we all know what we need to do and will go about our business the same way we have been."
By all accounts, the transition should be easier than with previous coaching changes, given that Castro has been with the Orioles for two seasons and worked closely with Adair. The 61-year-old, who has two decades of coaching experience, said the key will be to keep the lines of communication open as he takes on his first Major League pitching coach position since serving that role for Milwaukee in '09.
"I was surprised," Castro said of his initial conversation with Showalter. "I felt uncomfortable in the beginning with the situation. I don't anything bad to happen to anybody. Rick will be fine, and we'll take care of things around here. [We're] going to keep doing what we've been doing. Nothing is going to change."
Castro typically is present for every bullpen session, so he's familiar with what makes each pitcher tick and what each guy is working on. Hunter compared the relationship of Adair and Castro to that of a pair of parents.
"It's kind of like the Mom-Dad relationship growing up, where you always have to ask Mom and then Mom says, 'Go ask Dad,'" Hunter said. "It's kind of funny to think of it like that, but these guys are pretty on the ball as far as communication goes and it's kind of like that, where you can't tell one person one thing and then the next one [already knows]. They keep up. So, I don't think it's going to be much of a transition, really. It'll be pretty smooth until he gets back and then get back into the normal swing of things. "
The pitching staff is also familiar with McGregor, who was around during expanded rosters last September and in big league Spring Training. McGregor has spent the past two seasons as the O's pitching rehab coordinator in Sarasota, Fla., and also served as Baltimore's interim bullpen coach for parts of the '11 season after Connor stepped down.
The former All-Star won 138 games in 13 years with Baltimore, including a career-high 20 in 1980, and joked that he's well versed in talking to Showalter on the phone. McGregor admitted he made the mistake once of hanging up on the O's skipper before he was through, a faux pas he won't repeat again down in the 'pen.
"Billy's a very talented guy who is very adept at the job and job description," Showalter said. "Players know him and like him and he's been part of a reason for our success, just like Rick has. And to have someone there like Scotty, who has been a jack of all trades for us, he's been very instrumental last year and this year in the rehab program."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.