Bernhardt spent only a week with the Orioles, but that's all it took to straighten out Benitez, who has since pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings, earning three saves after his arrival May 3.
The Orioles' Latin players -- Benitez, Roberto Alomar, Rafael Palmeiro -- revere Bernhardt. So do Jeffrey Hammonds and Alan Mills, who are black, and Jeff Reboulet, who is white.
At this point, it's almost a no-brainer.
Bernhardt should be a full-time coach.
Not necessarily this season. And not at another coach's expense.
But considering Bernhardt's work with players, and the way he has stocked the farm system with Dominican talent, a promotion is long overdue.
"I have a lot of respect for him. I consider Carlos a friend of mine," manager Davey Johnson said. "If I ever had an opening, I wouldn't hesitate to add him. He'd be my first choice."
Granted, more pressing issues exist for a club trying to reach the World Series for the first time in 14 years. But Bernhardt is never a pressing issue, which is why he always gets overlooked.
Entering spring training, he had signed seven members of the Orioles' 40-man roster (Manny Alexander and Cesar Devarez have since left the club) and 44 players in their minor-league system.
How's that for a contribution?
Bernhardt, 46, doesn't just deliver players; he delivers them cheaply. Dominicans are the factory workers of baseball. Benitez signed seven years ago for $1,500. Brian Falkenborg, the Orioles' top draft pick last June out of Redmond (Wash.) High, received $375,000.
Scouting director Gary Nickels said the Orioles' Dominican efforts would suffer if Bernhardt joined the major-league staff -- the scout also operates the club's Dominican summer and winter programs.
But Bernhardt could recommend a replacement to join the Orioles' other Dominican scout, Patrick Guerrero. And the scouting department's loss would be the major-league club's gain.
"He's valuable down there," Palmeiro said. "He's valuable up here, too."
And he'll be even more valuable if Benitez becomes the full-time closer and when the next wave of Dominican prospects (pitcher Julio Moreno, shortstop Juan Bautista, outfielder Wady Almonte) breaks through.
Bernhardt has been overworked and underpaid for most of his 13 years with the Orioles. He earns approximately $40,000 as a scout. Major-league coaches generally earn between $75,000 and $125,000.
"I'm an organization man," Bernhardt said. "If they want me to work in the clubhouse, that's what I'll do. Whatever they believe I can do to help, I'll do."
The Orioles already have six coaches, the maximum number they can put in uniform. But they still could add Bernhardt, who could assist the staff during batting practice and scout from the stands during games.
It's not an uncommon practice -- Johnson hired John Stearns as an unofficial coach in Cincinnati, and Frank Robinson used Curt Motton the same way in Baltimore.
Bernhardt certainly would be a popular choice in the Orioles' clubhouse, where he is widely respected for his work ethic, fairness and knowledge.
"He's got a great attitude," Alomar said. "When you're going bad, he comes and talks to you. Mentally, he can work for you.
"To me, he's like my father. He's not only a guy that is a scout or whatever they want to call it. To me, he's a guy I can trust."
But don't just take it from Alomar.
Take it from others.
Hammonds: "For me, personally, Carlos is a rock. It's been well-documented how he deals with the Latin players. But anyone who needs the help, he's definitely there."
Mills: "Everyone likes him. I've never heard anyone say anything negative about him. And when we see him, it brings a smile to your face. He must be doing something right to make you feel that way."
Reboulet: "What stuck out to me was that he was pretty good at reading people. He really knows the game. He watches little things, and he's able to read the talent level pretty well. You could tell he knows what he was talking about."
Reboulet, a reserve infielder signed by the Orioles last off-season, said he made a point of thanking Bernhardt at the end of spring training. The two often would retreat to a back field when Reboulet wanted extra work.
Bernhardt also spent the final month of last season with the Orioles, serving as a mentor to Benitez and confidant to Alomar, particularly after the spitting incident in Toronto.
"He stood by me the whole time," Alomar said.
The Orioles summoned Bernhardt back after Benitez endured a rocky three-game stretch in April. Benitez said he likes Miller, but there's a language barrier. Bernhardt helped Benitez make the change Miller wanted.
"Sometimes, I can't understand English. Sometimes, Ray talks too fast," Benitez said. "I say, 'I'm confused. I can't understand.' I say, 'Carlos, you understand?' He says, 'Yes.' And I say, 'Explain it to me.' "
Bernhardt did, and Benitez got back on track.
"It's just to follow through on what we're doing, make sure he understands what we're saying," said Miller, who played winter ball with Bernhardt 25 years ago.
"Carlos is very knowledgeable about baseball. He's kind of an intermediary, a surrogate to go to. If there's something a guy might not want to ask someone here, they can ask him."
Benitez described Bernhardt as "someone special, someone who makes you feel good in your heart like my daddy, really."
And now that the scout is back in the Dominican, he's staying in touch.
"He called me last night and said, 'Hey, you forget me?' " Benitez said the other day, laughing. "I said, 'Carlos, I'll never forget you.' "
Neither should the Orioles.
Pub Date: 5/23/97