ROSEMONT, Ill. -- The Baltimore Orioles finally named a new scouting director yesterday, but stopped short of giving former Midwest scouting supervisor Gary Nickels the job permanently.
Nickels, 44, was named acting director of scouting, replacing John Barr, who left the organization in October to become assistant general manager in the San Diego Padres' revamped front office.
Orioles president Larry Lucchino and general manager Roland Hemond made the decision at a staff meeting Friday, but held the announcement a day to release it during baseball's winter meetings, which opened here yesterday at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare Hotel.
The club also announced several personnel changes, naming Fred Uhlman Jr. assistant scouting director and appointing Orioles area scout Mike Ledna to replace Nickels as Midwest scouting supervisor.
The Orioles also learned last week that they will have to look for a new advance scout. Ed Farmer has left the organization to become a special assistant to new Chicago White Sox general manager Ron Schueler.
Nickels was named "acting" scouting director because he intends to keep his home base in Chicago. The club is uncertain how that will affect baseball operations, so the position will be treated as temporary for the next several months.
"We wanted something in place for the meetings," said Hemond, who arrived at the headquarters hotel yesterday morning. "He has the background and ability to maintain continuity within the organization."
But Hemond conceded that the Orioles have to get used to the idea of having a scouting director who cannot just walk across the hall to attend a staff meeting.
"That's part of it," he said. "Naturally, we've had our scouting directors in the past live in Baltimore, but several clubs have scouting directors that live outside their home city. We just want a smooth transition. We'll study the situation as we go along."
Nickels said he doesn't think that the geographic situation will be a major problem. The job requires him to travel extensively, and there will be opportunities to meet face-to-face with other front-office officials, but the bulk of the scouting information compiled by the club is transmitted telephonically anyway.
"Fred Jr. will be in the office to run the communications end of xTC the scouting department," Nickels said. "We have three fine regional supervisors [Ledna, John Stokoe and John Cox], and I will tie the country together."
Uhlman's stock in the organization continues to rise. He is only 23 years old, but has been working in the front office for five years. Nickels had been the Midwest scouting director for two years. He previously was an area scout for the Chicago Cubs.
Farmer's departure was not a major shock, though the Orioles were happy with his work as advance scout. He is a longtime friend of Schueler who was granted permission to interview with the White Sox even though he was under contract to the Orioles through 1991.
"Ed has served us very well," Hemond said. "We hate to see him go because he was a very solid and effective person. He is an extremely capable baseball man who worked well with [manager] Frank [Robinson], but he had an opportunity to move up.