Don Long speaks on Trumbo, Davis and analytics
Back in January, the Baltimore Orioles hired Don Long to be their Hitting Coach for the 2019 season. Long spent the past five seasons as the Hitting Coach for the Cincinnati Reds and this season will mark his 33rd season as a coach or a manager.
Long began his coaching career as Head Coach of Seattle University (WA) for one season before joining the California Angels organization as the Hitting Coach for Class-A Quad Cities in 1987. He spent 12 years in the Angels organization, including 11 seasons as a manager in their system with Bend (1988-89), Quad Cities (1990), Midland (1991-93, 1998), Vancouver (1994-96), and Lake Elsinore (1997).
He was voted his league’s Manager of the Year three times during this span. Long was a Roving Hitting Instructor for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1999 before serving as the Phillies Minor League Hitting Coordinator from 2000-07. He spent 2008-10 with the Pittsburgh Pirates as Hitting Coach and served 2011-13 as Minor League Hitting Coordinator for the Atlanta Braves. The Bremerton, Washington native was selected in the third round of the 1983 First-Year Player Draft by the San Francisco Giants. He played three seasons in the Giants farm system.
Joining the Orioles, Long had a tough task in front of him: help the league’s worst offense start hitting again. More importantly, given the young talent on the roster, the proven veterans such as Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis needed to show up ready to lead by example. Of course, Trumbo is recovering from knee surgery that ended his season last year, but should be ready to make his Grapefruit League debut this week.
During the MASN broadcast on Saturday evening when the Orioles hosted the New York Yankees, Long spoke with Gary Thorne and Brian Roberts about Trumbo and offered an update on how he is progressing. “He looks good,” Long said.
“He’s doing everything. He’s been active in all the drills, the base running drills, the outfield drills, a lot of hitting. He’s got four appearances against live pitching [with] another tomorrow [Sunday]. I think he actually did some sliding yesterday [Friday], so he’s on track and getting healthy and feeling good.”
The Orioles have are off today and the Ed Smith Stadium complex is closed. However, there is no guarantee he will be ready for Opening Day, but we could see him return to the lineup this week. Davis could also be returning to the lineup this week as the MRI he had a few days ago came back clean.
Speaking on Davis, Long said, “He’s missed the last five days but he hit again today [Saturday], took BP on the field and then hit some more in the cage off the machine. It felt good and he’s actually going to participate in the live BP tomorrow [Sunday] against Cobb. He had done some work this winter to try and just simply get in a better position to hit.”
“I really believe that if he continues to work the way he was before he got hurt and continues to grab hold of that though and put himself in a position to be direct to the ball, the swing works. The swing is good it’s just trying to capture that strong position to hit. The swing will take care of itself if he’s in the right position to hit.”
Maybe Davis’ improved workouts, beginning in December, will help him be more direct to the ball throughout the season. Or, maybe the introduction of analytical tools to further develop players will help him get through this multi-year slump he’s in. Long spoke about how he’s adapted to analytics in the modern-day game, versus his tenure as a coach prior to the introduction of the data teams have available to them now.
“I think it’s a balance for sure because you’re talking about interacting with people and you’re talking about the importance of developing relationships and trust with people so what you’re trying to sell they’ll buy into. They’ll be willing to be open to taking the opportunity and the chance and having the courage to improve.”
“I have a tendency to look at it more from what we’re doing because we don’t have the ball. We’re hitting, we’re trying to be offensive without the ball. I use a lot of the numbers to highlight where we’re good in the zone [and] what we’re good at so we’re always trying to hit according to our strengths, up until two strikes and then we’re all trying to have a philosophy of being really competitive and really tough outs once we get to two strikes.”