Orlando Fires Pitching Coach; Manager Next?

John Smoltz
John Smoltz

The Orlando Calrissians have made a major shakeup to their coaching staff, and may be on the verge of an even bigger one.  The team fired pitching coach Tyler Thornton and hired Hall of Famer John Smoltz to replace him.  And according to team sources, manager Logan “Lobot” Bothan has been put on notice that if the team’s level of play doesn’t improve soon, he too may find himself on the unemployment line.

The Calrissians have been a major disappointment this season, posting a 10-21 record and remaining firmly in the Eastern Division basement for virtually the entire season.  While the team has been weak on both sides of the ball, the front office chose to address the pitching performance first.  Under Thornton, Orlando has posted a team ERA of 6.08, which is sixth in the league.  Three-fifths of the team’s original starting rotation has either been demoted to the minors or exiled to the bullpen.

When asked for the reason behind the change, Calrissians owner Brian Aufmuth was blunt.  “At this point, our pitchers couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn from 10 feet away,” said Aufmuth.  “Their mechanics suck and they clearly lack confidence.”

Aufmuth made it clear that he hopes Thornton’s firing will send a message to the rest of the team. “It was time for a change,” said the owner, “and to show the whole team they better start playing like they are being paid.”

Smoltz is a pitching legend, having won over 200 games in the major leagues while compiling a 3.33 career ERA over 22 seasons.   He excelled as both a starter and reliever, collecting over 150 career saves.  It was Smoltz’s success and versatility that made him appealing to the Calrissians, despite his lack of coaching experience.

“Smoltz is a proven winner as a starter and in the bullpen,” said Aufmuth.  “He is someone everyone on the pitching staff can respect and learn from.”

For his part, Smoltz is excited for the opportunity.  “I’d always considered coaching as a possible career path,” said Smoltz.  “To get in on the ground floor with a young organization… that’s a dream come true.  We’ve got a young staff with a lot of potential.  I see great things in their future.”

Logan Bothan
Logan Bothan

Some observers wondered why hitting coach Bobby Brunson was not let go, as the Calrissians offense has arguably been worse than the pitching.  The team’s .235 batting average is worst in the league, and their .363 slugging percentage is ahead of only the Salt Lake Samurai.  The scuttlebutt around the clubhouse is that Aufmuth has another big name in mind for that position: all-time hits leader and former manager Pete Rose.  However, the league office is reportedly hesitant to allow the Calrissians to hire Rose, given his lifetime ban from Major League Baseball.

The team’s poor overall performance has severely dented Aufmuth’s confidence in Bothan.  According to team sources, the manager has been stripped of his say in personnel decisions, and is reportedly on “a very short leash” to demonstrate improvement before his continued employment is in jeopardy.

Aufmuth declined to state how long Bothan would be given to turn things around.  “I’ve told him I’ve altered our deal,” said Aufmuth, “and he should pray I don’t alter it any further.”

Big Shakeup in Orlando

Orlando CalrissiansThe Orlando Calrissians have had a disappointing start to their season.  Orlando’s misfortunate has been less visible than the serious struggles of the Salt Lake Samurai.  But much like the Samurai, the Calrissians have spent the entire season in or close to the division basement.  This week, the Calrissians front office and manager Logan “Lobot” Bothan have decided to clean house, making major changes to both the lineup and the pitching staff with the goal of setting the team on a course to compete.

Logan Bothan
Logan Bothan

“If there’s a bright center to the universe, we’re on the planet that it’s farthest from,” said Bothan.  “Knoxville and Jackson are like the Death Star: the ultimate weapon, with only the smallest vulnerabilities.  We’re going to have to form our own little rebel alliance and find a way to defeat them.  It’s out only hope.”

Orlando’s lineup has been completely rearranged with an eye toward jump-starting the sputtering offense, the league’s worst.  Players that have performed, like DH Bart Law and 1B Brooks Defoor, have been moved up, while those who have struggled,  like 2B Jose Buendia and C Herschel Lesher, have moved down.  Two of the worst performers, SS Lucky Barnes (.189/.246/.264) and CF Monte Carquinez (.154/.241/.231), have been benched entirely in favor of Sean Gilmartin and Glen Madden, respectively.  The Calrissians also reduced RF Magnus Larson and Lesher to platoon duty, giving more playing time to Arnoldo Nabors and Amos McCormack.

The shakeup extended to the pitching side as well.  Orlando’s 5.52 ERA is among the league’s worst, and its starters bear most of the blame: the rotation has posted an ERA of 7.02 this season.  Bothan demoted fifth starter Tom Trane (0-2, 9.42) to the bullpen, and sent third start Rick Tomblin (0-1, 15.26) to the minors.  Long reliever Chuck Weaver, who has posted a 3.86 ERA in relief, has been slotted in as the new second starter (bumping Steve Gardner to third).  As the new fifth starter, Orlando has called up Oscar Morton.  The 31-year-old lefty pitched last season in Australia, where he posted an 11-9 record and a 4.34 ERA.  Morton is a hard thrower with a wild streak, which should be a contrast to the largely softer-tossing Calrissians rotation.

“I hope we’ve made it clear that playing time is tied to performance,” Bothan said.  “We don’t have the luxury of patience, and reputation is meaningless.  If you perform, you play.  If not, you sit.”

If the Calrissians hope to be contenders, they’ve got a ways to go; less than a month into the season, they’ve already fallen 9 games behind division-leading Knoxville and 7 ½ games behind second-place Jackson.  But Bothan hopes that these bold moves will turn things around and destroy what Bothan feels is a loser’s mentality that has settled in the Orlando clubhouse.  “We must unlearn what we have learned,” said Bothan of the team’s mentality.  “In a dark place we find ourselves, but a little more knowledge lights the way.”

Asked whether he really believed that the Calrissians had the talent to compete with the Smokies and Hammerheads, Bothan said, “I find your lack of faith disturbing,” and walked away.