Batman had Robin. Martin had Lewis. Jerry had George. It might be unfair to classify a pitching coach as a sidekick, but the fact that Ron Johnson and Mike Griffin are reunited this season makes me smile. The pair worked together flawlessly for three seasons together in Pawtucket. Johnson managed and Griff was the pitching coach. They now serve the Norfolk Tides in the same capacity.
Seemingly, always in a good mood, Griffin is happy in the Orioles organization. “Everything’s good right now. I can’t complain. I like the way some of our pitchers are going, so that makes me a little bit happy. We’ve had some pitchers go up and have done well. That’s what it’s all about, so right now, I’m doing well.”
Griff says this is a good time to be with the Orioles. It’s a time for optimism. “I would definitely say so. We have things going in the right way for us now, as an organization. It’s a really good time to be an Oriole and to be in the system and watch things get turned around.”
Although he’s an Oriole, Mike Griffin still keeps a close watch on some of his former charges. “I always keep up with everybody I’ve had in baseball. That;s just the way I do things. I watch Clay (Buchholz) and Jonny (Lester). They look similar to when we had them in Pawtucket. There’s always some things you could talk to them about, but I think they’re doing pretty good themselves. I know Clay is struggling a little bit, but the season is still early and Jonny, from what I see, is pitching pretty good.” Griff is equally upbeat when talking about future Baltimore pitchers. “Chris Tillman is one. Jason Berken, another of our starters is another. We have Stu Pomeranz coming out of the bullpen. There’s another guy who started out in the biullpen, who’s in the rotation, Miguel Gonzalez, who has really opened some eyes. There are some things going on now that are really standing out. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”
Griffin laughed when asked his reacton to the news that RJ had been hired to manage in Norfolk for 2012. “Oh boy. I was ecstatic. To be quite honest, I told my wife when he was hired as manager and I think she said it best. Denise was jumping up and down and screaming at the topof her lungs- ‘he’s back, he’s back!!’ I said, Yeah, I know, he’s back. Seriously, we work very well together, we know each other like the back of our hands,we can think ahead two innings and know what the other is thinking.”
One of the staples for Johnson is his daily “Circle of Trust”. It’s a chance to get the guys together and air out any issues and have a laugh to start the day. Griff says the Tides players love it. “They embraced it quite well. We have a lot of fun with it. It’s a way to start our day off on the right foot. It works out really well for us.”
The Tides pay a return visit to Pawtucket during the next homestand and Griffin is looking forward to it. “I am always looking forward to going to Pawtucket. I love the fans there, They are great fans. I’m anxious to see everybody in the office. It’s always a pleasure to go back. I always look forward to it.” It will be great to have Mike Griffin and Ron Johnson back home. Like Fred and Barney. Like Laurel and Hardy.