Last O's change may come at GM


July 09, 1995|By BUSTER OLNEY

This season has been one transaction after another for the Orioles, from the signing of Kevin Brown in April to the trade for Scott Erickson on Friday. But there's at least one major decision forthcoming -- next year's general manager.

The contract of general manager Roland Hemond expires after this season, and his fate might rest on how the team fares the rest of the way. If the Orioles win the division and play deep into the postseason, they've made a great case for him. If not, owner Peter Angelos might look for a replacement.

He could look in-house, at assistant general manager Frank Robinson, who has been with the Orioles for 19 seasons as a player, manager and executive. He may consider Syd Thrift, the club's director of player development, or scouting director Gary Nickels.

Or Angelos may go outside the organization, and perhaps talk to San Diego Padres general manager Randy Smith, whose option for '96 hasn't been exercised.

Whenever a decision comes to pass, remember this name: Dan O'Dowd, the thirtysomething assistant general manager for the Cleveland Indians. His reputation is growing within baseball because of his work as the right-hand man for Indians general manager John Hart; this week, the expansion Tampa Bay Devil (( Rays asked for permission to talk with O'Dowd about becoming their general manager.

O'Dowd has a history with the Orioles. For five years, he worked in the organization in different roles, including assistant director of player development, before going to Cleveland in January 1988. He was responsible for the development of the Indians' minor-league system, which was rated the best in baseball by Baseball America in 1993. Hart has credited O'Dowd with playing a major role in helping to plan and instigate the rebuilding of the franchise.

"Like anybody in my job," O'Dowd said Friday, "my goal is to run a baseball team."

More work for Aguilera

Acquiring Rick Aguilera to fill their closer's role is a major addition for the Boston Red Sox, but it will be interesting to see how antsy manager Kevin Kennedy handles him.

Playing for bad teams the past few years, the aging Aguilera was used sparingly because he didn't have many save opportunities, a nice and easy way to keep his arm healthy. Now Aguilera is shifting into the thick of a pennant race.

He'll go from having one save opportunity a week to two, three or four -- and that's not even accounting for all the times Kennedy may have him up just because he manages as though every game is the seventh game of the World Series.

An educated guess: Aguilera will break down by the start of September.

* When Melido Perez went on the disabled list last week, the New York Yankees were left with a rotation that consisted of Jack McDowell and four pitchers with a total of 14 major-league starts going into this season.

* In the past two weeks, some Orioles have fallen into the habit of not running out every fly ball and ground ball, sometimes coasting to first base and sometimes not reaching it at all. The lack of hustle looks terrible, there's no good reason for it, and if it continues, it will inevitably cost them a run and maybe a game. Philadelphia Phillies catcher Darren Daulton is the latest player to take issue with the umpires. He was ejected by plate umpire Ed Rapuano 10 days ago for arguing a balk call -- Daulton didn't even turn his head back to the ump as he talked.

"The best way to know an umpire has done a good job is when the game is over, nobody has noticed him," Daulton said. "But you're asking guys who want to be on prime time not to be noticed. I think an umpire's job is to control the game and keep order. But don't let your calls decide which team wins and which team loses."

* Kevin Mitchell, the wannabe San Francisco Giant, is apparently Japan-bound. Again. "I talk with Joe Sroba [Mitchell's agent] all the time, and Kevin is going back to Japan." said Cincinnati GM Jim Bowden, "His knee is getting better. He's going back in about two weeks." San Francisco manager Dusty Baker talked in the past tense about the possibility of getting Mitchell.

* After striking out in consecutive at-bats Wednesday, San Diego Padres catcher Brad Ausmus, a Dartmouth graduate, attacked a water cooler -- and lost. He suffered a four-stitch gash across his palm and wrist that knocked him out of the lineup. "There's a fine line between frustration-intensity and stupidity," said Padres manager Bruce Bochy. "He crossed it. He's an intense competitor, but you have to realize this is your hand. He did a good job on it. He was a mess."

* There are growing concerns in Cincinnati that Reds ace Jose Rijo isn't going to make it through the season without having surgery to remove a bone spur on his right elbow. He can't throw his slider, and he's battling perpetual stiffness in the joint. Rijo also is afraid that cortisone shots are reducing pain and masking a serious injury.

Can't get any worse

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