Along with Sig Mejdal, Chris Holt was one of two members of the Houston Astros' scouting and development behemoth that Mike Elias initially brought with him as he tried to duplicate it in Baltimore.
Nearly two years later, Holt has received his third title in as many seasons, with Elias, the Orioles' executive vice president and general manager, announcing Monday that Holt will serve as Baltimore’s major league pitching coach in 2021, while also retaining his duties and title as the organization’s director of pitching.
Darren Holmes, who served as bullpen coach alongside pitching coach Doug Brocail in 2020, will remain on staff as the assistant pitching coach, a role in which Elias said he will be “predominantly working out of the bullpen but also assisting Holt in all facets.” Brocail was informed in September he would not be brought back, with Holt immediately seen as a potential replacement.
Holt’s two years with the organization have been fruitful. He joined the Orioles as their minor league pitching coordinator after serving as Houston’s assistant pitching coordinator following four years as a low-minors pitching coach. In his first year with Baltimore, four of the Orioles' six stateside affiliates led their respective leagues in ERA, while strikeouts also increased throughout the organization.
As director of pitching this year, Holt was expected to work with pitchers both in the majors and around the minors, but the coronavirus pandemic left him primarily working with those at the Orioles' alternate training site in Bowie. Prospects Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann all arrived in Baltimore and had successful stints. Akin and Kremer in particular seemingly locked down 2021 rotation spots and will likely be part of Holt’s first major league pitching staff, though Elias also said the Orioles will “definitely” add some starting pitching depth through major- or minor-league free agents.
“I think that Dean and Keegan’s debuts went about as well as they should’ve gone, and we really liked what we saw from them, just not results and stuff, but their professional demeanors, the way they carried themselves,” Elias said. “Knowing that, there will be some additional competition next year in camp. Players have rough sophomore years sometimes, so to speak. That’s all to be expected, so I don’t think we’re going to lock anything in stone, and we want to have that competition, but they’ve certainly more than put themselves on the map, not just for the 2021 rotation but we’re hoping for the next five years and beyond, that these are guys that are part of a playoff group here.”
For their other coaching staff opening, an infield and third base coach to replace José Flores, the Orioles are exploring options in and out of the organization, Elias said. He said it’s likely that the Orioles will fill that spot in some form and have as many coaches as they did last season — nine, including manager Brandon Hyde — though he cautioned that the coming months could change that.
“If I were handicapping, I think we’ll have the same number of coaches as last year, but we leave our options open for things,” Elias said. “If our search doesn’t pan out the way we envision or we have some conversations internally where we decide to structure things a different way, I don’t want to rule that out.”
Around the horn
Sunday, the Orioles activated Trey Mancini (colon cancer) and Richie Martin (broken right wrist) from the 60-day injured list. The moves are largely procedural, for teams are required to activate players within five days of the end of the World Series or remove them from the 40-man roster.
Asked for an update on Heston Kjerstad, the Orioles' No. 2 overall draft pick who did not participate in the team’s instructional camp because of what Elias then described as “undisclosed medical, non-sports related reason,” Elias reiterated that, “It’s been our policy with non-sports, non-physical injuries medical matters that we don’t specify what it is, and ultimately, it’s up to the player.” In July, he used similar language in saying the team would not disclose positive tests for COVID-19 among players or staff.
Elias said he expects the Orioles could announce their remaining players to be named from the trades involving pitchers Tommy Milone (Atlanta Braves) and Héctor Velázquez (Astros) in the near future.
Sixteen Orioles minor leaguers have become free agents, according to Baseball America: Cristian Alvarado, Danny Barnes, Malquin Canelo, Martin Cervenka, Brian Gonzalez, Tyler Herb, David Hess, Francisco Jimenez, Ty Moore, Luis Ortiz, Brady Rodgers, José Rondón, Dwight Smith Jr., Richard Ureña, Jesmuel Valentín and Andrew Velazquez.
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