Former Orioles Darren O’Day and Nick Markakis, both of whom are now key contributors for an Atlanta Braves team that leads the National League East, returned to Camden Yards for a series against the Orioles Sept. 14-16.
Former Orioles pitching coach Rick Kranitz is now the pitching coach with the Braves and has seen firsthand what both players bring to the table. O’Day has brought his vast experience to the Braves bullpen since being dealt to Atlanta in 2018. He pitched a scoreless fifth inning against the Orioles Sept. 15, helping guide the Braves to victory. O’Day, 37, has a 0.64 ERA in 14 innings this year.
“Those kinds of guys are just invaluable to have. They’ve been through the wars,” Kranitz said of O’Day on Glenn Clark Radio Sept. 14. “They’ve been hurt, they’ve rehabbed. I mean, there’s so much experience, not only on the field but off the field. It makes my job just so much easier. I’m happy he is having a wonderful year now.”
Markakis is enjoying another steady season with the Braves, hitting .252/.313/.408 in 112 plate appearances. Markakis appeared in 1,365 games and collected 1,547 hits during his time with the Orioles from 2006-2014.
“[Markakis is] exactly the same guy. It was crazy because we went into this pandemic and we got shut down and he had 499 doubles,” Kranitz added. “… What a career this guy has had — a model of consistency on how he carries himself every single day. He’s the same person. You see why guys have success. That’s exactly how I would build a baseball player.”
Kranitz was the Orioles’ pitching coach from 2008-2010. Baltimore was going through the early stages of a rebuilding process when Kranitz was with the club, and he was pleased to see the team have success after he departed.
“At that time, we were starting to get some of the drafted players to come through. I mean, we always had high picks. You just hope that some of those players got going,” Kranitz said. “… We struggled the time I was there, but at least we were competitive to some degree.”
“I think Andy [MacPhail] made a couple of great trades,” the coach added. “When he got Adam Jones from Seattle, that was huge.”
Kranitz knew the team’s younger players, especially the pitchers, were going to grow from the struggles they faced in the AL East during his time with the club.
“They had to make multiple pitches to get guys out. These guys were grinders, these teams, and they made you work,” Kranitz said. “I felt like if they got through a couple of these tough years, there will be some good years ahead. So I’m happy to see it.”
Kranitz recalled watching right-handed pitcher Chris Tillman’s big-league debut with the Orioles, saying that Tillman “always had it in him” and that he was happy to see him improve throughout his big-league career. Tillman had a productive 10-year run in Baltimore, particularly from 2013-2016.
“He always had that kind of stuff. I saw him as a young kid,” Kranitz said. “He was so easy [throwing] the baseball, and it was kind of crazy, because his first start … he’s in the bullpen and I’m like, ‘OK, he’s got really good stuff.’ He goes out and I think his first pitch might’ve been 87 or 88 and I was like ‘Whoa, what is this?’ … And then when the game gets going, next thing you know he’s throwing 93, 94.”
Kranitz also discussed the role injuries are playing during this unique season. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, players did not prepare the same way going into the season. He said his biggest fear going into the season was the amount of injuries that could crop up. He did not want his starters to go past 75 pitches early in the season.
“The thing is, these guys are so competitive. They think they can do anything,” Kranitz said. “They say, ‘I can do this, I’m ready to go, I can go.’ Yeah, you’re ready to go, you believe you’re ready to go, you’re a great competitor, but I think our jobs, as coaches, is to protect them from themselves because they’ll go out and pitch because that’s who they are. But I think we have to be smart enough to understand that and protect them.”
For more from Kranitz, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox