O's name Down as hitting coach Last of Johnson's staff had been with Yanks

January 06, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

The new Orioles administrative machine can move very fast, as it proved during a lightning-quick free-agent spending spree in December, and it can move very slow, as it did in completing the 1996 coaching staff.

It took nearly two months, but the club finally finalized manager Davey Johnson's staff yesterday, adding hitting coach Rick Down to a staff that already included pitching coach Pat Dobson, bench coach Andy Etchebarren, bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks, third base coach Sam Perlozzo and first base coach John Stearns.

Most of those names have been public knowledge for weeks, but Johnson needed a little more time to select a hitting coach. He considered doing the job himself and he considered former Boston hitting coach Mike Easler before choosing Down, who spent the past three years as the batting coach under former New York Yankees manager Buck Showalter.

"Davey basically had most of the guys hired before I got here," said general manager Pat Gillick. "In the last situation, I tried to throw as many candidates in front of him as I could, and let him decide."

Down, 45, first reached the major leagues as a special assignments coach and roving hitting instructor with the California Angels. He joined the Yankees organization as a minor-league hitting instructor in 1989 and managed at both the Double-A and Triple-A levels before joining Showalter's staff in 1993.

He was once considered a candidate to manage the Yankees, but was fired along with the rest of the coaching staff after the Yankees did not get past the first round of the playoffs in October.

Down emerged only recently as a candidate for Johnson's staff, and will be the only member without some previous association with Johnson or the Orioles.

Dobson, 53, pitched two seasons (1971-72) in Baltimore and was one of four pitchers on the 1971 world championship club to win at least 20 games. He has spent the past three years as advance scout for the Colorado Rockies, but has vast experience as a major-league coach -- in Milwaukee (1982-84), San Diego (1987-89) and most recently with the Kansas City Royals in 1991.

He inherits a pitching staff that has been significantly upgraded with the acquisition of starters Kent Mercker and David Wells and free-agent relievers Randy Myers and Roger McDowell. Though his appointment was not made official until yesterday, the Orioles were able to access the knowledge he acquired as a National League advance scout during their pitching search.

"I got a chance to see a lot of these guys pitch, especially Mercker, Wells and McDowell, so I'll have a better idea how to approach things," he said.

Etchebarren, 52, has been managing in the Orioles' organization for three years, and led the short-season club at Bluefield to a 49-16 record last season. But his Baltimore roots are much deeper than that. He played 11 years here and was the starting catcher on the 1966 world championship team.

Stearns, 44, served under Johnson as both a coach and advance scout last year after spending three seasons as a scout and minor-league manager in the Cincinnati Reds' organization. He played 11 seasons in the major leagues before beginning his coaching career in 1988 as the minor-league hitting instructor for the Houston Astros' organization.

Perlozzo, 44, also has coached for Johnson, but spent the past six seasons working under Lou Piniella in Seattle and Cincinnati. He began his major-league coaching career in 1987 and spent three seasons as Johnson's third base coach with the New York Mets.

Hendricks is the only holdover from 1995. He'll be returning for his 28th season with the organization and his 19th year as the club's major-league bullpen coach.

"He [Johnson] has some personalities on there that will appeal to a wide range of players," Gillick said. "I think it's a pretty good mix."

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