Showalter tries new approach with downtrodden O’s

Corey Patterson had just been doubled off first base on a short

fly to center. When he reached the top step of the Baltimore

Orioles dugout, manager Buck Showalter was waiting for him.

Given Showalter’s reputation, a scowl and a scolding were surely

upcoming.

Instead, Showalter asked Patterson to detail his thought process

on the hit-and-run play. The manager nodded, then suggested that

next time Patterson should keep running to third instead of

hesitating at second.

Showalter left it at that.

The man currently managing the Orioles is clearly not as tightly

wound as the one who sternly guided the New York Yankees and

Arizona Diamondbacks in the 1990s. Although his track record made

an immediate impression on the lowly Orioles when he walked into

the clubhouse on Aug. 3, the 54-year-old Showalter has saved his

outbursts for umpires.

”The day is gone when the manager says, ‘This is what you’re

going to do.’ We play 200 games counting spring training. There’s a

relationship there that has to be,” Showalter said. ”It’s very

liberating when you have a pure heart about things. I’m just trying

to present an atmosphere, a culture where guys can be as good as

they can be.”

The Orioles have been very bad for a long time. Although they’re

12-8 under Showalter, their 32-73 record before his arrival doomed

Baltimore to its 13th consecutive losing season.

The resurgence under Showalter can be attributed in part to the

894-840 ledger he compiled with the Yankees, Diamondbacks and Texas

Rangers.

”The thing that sticks out is his reputation,” third baseman

Ty Wigginton said. ”You look at win-loss record, and everyone in

here knows he’s been manager of the year. That kind of stuff.

Obviously that’s going to grab your attention.”

Much more so than Baltimore’s other two managers this season.

Dave Trembley never played or managed in the majors before his

stint with the Orioles, and Juan Samuel’s first experience came

when he stepped in for the fired Trembley on an interim basis.

”I think the difference is, ever since I was here there were

rumblings about Dave Trembley. You could say we blocked them out

but they were out there,” Wigginton said. ”And then Juan had the

interim tag. Now we’ve got Buck, and he’s the guy.”

President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail hired Showalter

in August to give the newcomer time to assess his players and

coaching staff before heading into next year. To aid the process, a

wall in Showalter’s office lists most of the players in Baltimore’s

minor league system.

But he’s not a general manager, and he’s not going to wait until

2011 to put his stamp on an organization that has become accustomed

to losing.

”The last thing I want is the players to think is that I’m some

kind of traveling instructor or something,” Showalter said. ”Once

the game starts, my priority is to manage that game and trying to

put them in position to be successful.”

Success has been elusive for the Orioles. This season, they

opened by losing 16 of 18 and carried the worst record in the major

leagues until this month.

”I realize how tough a challenge this year has been for a lot

of them – emotionally and mentally,” Showalter said.

During a recent game, Showalter walked over to starter Brad

Bergesen and shared some knowledge about pitching. The funny thing

is, Bergesen wasn’t even in the game.

”He’s the first manager that’s really come up to me during the

game and pointed out situations when I’m not pitching,” Bergesen

said. ”He just told me what he thinks and explained different

things. It’s very small things, but he’s trying to get us to learn

the game and open our eyes to make us better ballplayers.”

Which is precisely what Showalter had in mind when he pulled

aside Patterson after that double play.

”You present an atmosphere not of confrontation, but, ‘OK, talk

to me. What are you thinking there?”’ Showalter said. ”Instead of

going, ‘You got to do this, you’ve got to that.”’

Patterson isn’t surprised.

”We all heard things about him being a taskmaster or what not.

Me, I don’t believe what I hear. I’ve got to see it and witness

it,” Patterson said. ”Since he’s been here, I haven’t seen him

get in a guy’s face and chew him out. Not to say he won’t. A player

might deserve it. He’s not here to be nice and baby us.”

Showalter chuckles when asked if his style has changed from

drill sergeant to nurturer.

”You’ve got to be yourself,” he said. ”I’m not as complicated

as everyone makes me out to be. I have a belly laugh out here every

single day. It’s a great gig. I love baseball players. I don’t take

myself near as seriously as everyone thinks I do.”