When something happens without explanation in the world of professional sports, the information vacuum invariably gets filled with opinion and speculation, which seldom provides any real clarity.
Here’s what we know about the decision by Orioles pitching coach Rick Adair to take a leave of absence, the club’s decision to elevate bullpen coach Bill Castro into the interim role and the arrival of former Orioles pitcher Scott McGregor to take Castro’s previous position:
Adair was not secretly fired because of discontent in the Warehouse over the rocky performance of the bullpen the past few days. He did not become the third pitching coach to depart the team during the Buck Showalter era because of any disagreement with the manager over his handling of the pitching staff.
He really did go home to deal with some personal and family issues that he and the team have chosen to keep private. Simple as that.
Showalter said during his pregame news conference today that the coaching shuffle had nothing to do with Adair’s performance as pitching coach and gave every indication that he will be welcomed back as soon as he’s ready to return.
"It has nothing to do with the job Rick was doing," Showalter said. "Rick’s doing a good job. There are some challenges we all have that take some time to take care of … I’m not going to put a timeframe on that and say, 'At this point this means that and that point means this.' That doesn’t help anything. There by the grace of God goes all of us."
Castro admitted that he felt "uncomfortable" when he was first asked to take over as pitching coach, but echoed Showalter’s contention that the transition will not be difficult because of his close association with Adair and every member of the pitching staff. He has been focused on the relievers during his time with the Orioles, but also supervised the starting pitchers when each warmed up in the bullpen before taking the mound.
"It’ll be different because now everything is on my shoulders," Castro said, "but I’ve done this before and I’ll be able to handle the guys. I’m pretty comfortable with everybody here and I think the guys are comfortable with me. I don’t think there will be anything drastic to the change with me in here."
This is just one of those times when real life reminds everybody that there are things more important than baseball, but the game has to go on and the Orioles are fortunate to have had a former major league pitching coach (Milwaukee Brewers, 2009) in the wings. Showalter said that the team considered several possible replacements for Adair, but concluded that the combination of Castro and McGregor would be the most "seamless."
Catcher Matt Wieters agrees. He said he isn’t worried about the pitching staff going through a signficant adjustment period at this important juncture in the season.
"Not really, because Bill’s involved on a day-to-day basis anyway and Bill is a great pitching coach and has been a pitching coach for a long time," Wieters said. "We’ll adjust on the fly and just keep going with the day-to-day business and keep trying to improve."
Showalter briefed the players on the situation when they got to Oriole Park to prepare for tonight’s homestand opener against the Colorado Rockies. He kept Adair’s confidence, but just the fact that he had to leave the team at this point speaks to the seriousness of the situation.
"We haven’t heard much," Wieters said, "other than he needed to take a leave of absence, so definitely all of our prayers are with him and his family and hopefully he gets whatever he needs to be able to get back here and, more importantly, that him and his family are okay."