Huson plays support role in O's win But utility man knows his future hangs on Regan

Double drives in 2

Tigers tumble, 6-3, as Erickson triumphs

September 21, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

DETROIT -- The fate of manager Phil Regan, to be determined at the end of the season, will affect the entire organization. But his future, whether he is retained, reassigned or fired, means more to some players than to others.

If Regan is let go, Cal Ripken still will be here, and so will Mike Mussina, Chris Hoiles, Bobby Bonilla. That is not necessarily true for some of the more replaceable Orioles, such as utility man Jeff Huson, whose job status could be linked directly to that of Regan.

Huson has played his role well, filling in at second and third, stealing an occasional base and driving in an occasional run; his two-run double in the second inning yesterday helped propel the Orioles to a 6-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers. Scott Erickson pitched a complete game for his 12th win, and Rafael Palmeiro, Brady Anderson and Harold Baines hit homers.

But, in baseball parlance, Huson is Regan's guy. That is, Regan brought him in, Regan probably would keep him if he's the manager next year, and if Regan goes, Huson may be gone, as well.

Huson's been through this before. Bobby Valentine used him as a utility man in Texas, and Toby Harrah, Valentine's temporary replacement, played him even more. Then Kevin Kennedy became manager, and Huson lost favor, spending the entire 1994 season in the minor leagues.

"I'm used to it," Huson said. "After you've been through it once, it's easier to deal with. Like after being traded once, and released once.

"It's out of my hands. . . . If they bring in another manager, he brings in his own coaches and maybe some of his own players. If they bring in a new GM, same thing."

If Tony La Russa replaced Regan, maybe he would want to bring along Mike Gallego or Mike Bordick to be his utility man. If Davey Johnson replaced Regan, maybe he would want Lenny Harris. A new manager can't immediately alter the Orioles' core -- six players are already under contract for 1996 -- but he can easily change the supporting cast, which makes Regan's guys, such as Huson and reliever Terry Clark and third baseman Jeff Manto, all vulnerable.

"I'd love to come back," Huson said. "I think I've done everything I could. I think I deserve a chance to come back. I've never been a big RBI man, but I've hit .260 [.261, actually]. I haven't made any errors. I play different positions. I'm not sure what I can do in the role that I have.

"I'm happy in my role, and with a lot of guys, you don't necessarily know if that's the case."

Huson's major-league salary this year is $265,000, and he agreed the club wouldn't want to pay him much more than that next year, because utility men don't usually get raises.

"It's a case where I'm definitely not going to price myself out of the market, even though I've got more than five years in the big leagues now. I think something could get done quickly after the season if they wanted to do it. These types of jobs are hard to come by, and I'm no dummy. I would know what my role is. I wouldn't sit and complain."

If Regan is manager, then Huson likely will be back. "He's got a great attitude," Regan said. "He'll do whatever we ask him to do, and he's great with the young players. If he's out of the lineup, he doesn't sulk. He just goes out and does the best he can."

Huson was in the lineup in place of slumping second baseman Bret Barberie yesterday, and he came to bat with runners at first and second and one out against Tigers rookie Clint Sodowsky. Huson pulled a double into right field, scoring Baines and Hoiles and giving the Orioles a 3-1 lead.

Anderson and Palmeiro hit back-to-back homers in the third, and Baines led off the sixth inning with his 22nd homer of the year.

Huson finished with two hits, played the middle man in a double play and made a few other plays. He'll finish out the year doing more of the same, filling in at second, playing in place of Bobby Bonilla at third here and there.

Once the season is over, he acknowledged, he'll play close attention, from his home in Texas, to the future of Phil Regan.

Orioles today

Opponent: Detroit Tigers

Site: Tiger Stadium, Detroit

Time: 1:15 p.m.

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Mike Mussina (16-9, 3.70) vs. Tigers' C. J. Nitkowski (1-3, 7.80)

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