Piniella-Perlozzo team at home in SeattleWhen Lou Piniella...

BASEBALL

April 18, 1993|By JIM HENNEMAN

Piniella-Perlozzo team at home in Seattle

When Lou Piniella was named manager of the Cincinnati Reds before the 1990 season, the first person he hired was third-base coach Sam Perlozzo.

Three years later, when he took over as manager of the Seattle Mariners, Piniella again made Perlozzo his first choice to join the coaching staff. The first time these two hooked up was a matter of timing and coincidence, the second was not.

"When I took the Reds job, I wanted to put together a complete National League coaching staff," said Piniella, whose entire career had been spent in the American League. "Being in New York [with the Yankees], I knew of Sam, but I didn't know him."

Perlozzo, 42, and batting coach Bill Robinson were the sacrificial lambs after the 1989 season, when the Mets were greasing the skids for former manager Davey Johnson. "I called Joe McIlvaine [former assistant GM for the Mets] and asked him [about Perlozzo]," said Piniella, "and then I called Sam and asked him to come for an interview. I talked to him for an hour and told him the job was his."

After Piniella decided to leave Cincinnati last year and before he joined the Mariners, Perlozzo had some interest in the vacant third-base coaching job with the Orioles. Perlozzo is a native and still a resident of Cumberland, and the idea of being close to home was appealing to him.

But, while playing in a Halloween golf tournament at Eagle's Landing in Ocean City, where his brother Tom is Recreation and Parks director, Perlozzo learned that Piniella had taken the Seattle job -- and that he had an invitation to go west.

"You couldn't find a more dedicated baseball man," Piniella said of Perlozzo. "By the third year in Cincinnati he was running my entire spring-training program -- and he did the same thing here [with Seattle] this year."

Piniella figures Perlozzo's assignment is a temporary one. "I think he'll be a manager in the big leagues," said Piniella. "His time will come."

Slowed to a crawl

Jack Morris has always been noted as a slow starter -- in both games and seasons. However, his performance in his first three starts this year, in which he's 0-3 with a 17.18 ERA, has to be a source of concern for the Toronto Blue Jays.

On opening night in Seattle, Morris gave up a single, walk and home run (Ken Griffey) to the first three hitters. His next time out, against Cleveland, he started out by giving up two singles and a home run (Carlos Baerga). In his third start Friday night, also against the Indians, Morris got the third hitter (Baerga) out -- but only after giving up a double and a home run (Thomas Howard).

That's progress only if you're measuring by millimeters.

Put Pittsburgh's Jay Bell at the top of your list of baseball's most underrated players. It was only a couple of years ago that he led the majors in sacrifice bunts.

Last year, Bell led all major-league shortstops with 51 extra-base hits. And he's one of the most consistent defensive players in the game.

Jefferies at home at first

Give Joe Torre credit: The St. Louis Cardinals are not overly impressive, either in person or on paper, but they blend together nicely.

Gregg Jefferies is an example of a player Torre thought would fit into the St. Louis picture and he has been a valuable addition. After shuffling between second and third base for the Mets and Royals, Jefferies has found a home at first base.

His hitting abilities were never seriously questioned, but finding a position for the defensively deficient Jefferies was another matter.

Playing first base has given him an idea of what Wally Joyner went through last year.

"He earned his money," Jefferies said of the Kansas City first baseman. "I wouldn't want a person like me at third base."

Another cool cat

If you're looking for someone to compare to Orioles right-hander Mike Mussina, try Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter. Their styles are very similar -- excellent control and constantly challenging hitters.

Boog Powell, ex-Orioles first baseman turned barbecue king, said he enjoyed the challenge of facing Hunter. "His philosophy was 'here it is, if you can get it big boy, you win' and he always came right after you," said Powell.

Mussina has a similar approach, so there will be times when hitters like Frank Thomas or Juan Gonzalez get the upper hand. But it would be foolish to expect Mussina to back down -- that's not part of his game.

He'll keep challenging hitters, just as Hunter did. And a lot of people will tell you he does it with better stuff.

Something to chew on

Credit Joe Carter with the best line of the spring. After getting one extra-base hit in 59 exhibition at-bats, he equaled that total with a game-winning, three-run homer in the home opener.

"They don't put spring-training statistics on the back of bubble-gum cards," said Carter.

Watch out for . . . Pirates?

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