It appears to be Miller time for O's Pitching coach told 'to hang by' as Orioles quickly seek manager

Weekend decision possible

Only one approached is a favorite of Angelos

November 07, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Early indications suggest that the Orioles' fourth manager of the Peter Angelos era will be promoted from within, will be determined by the team's majority owner, will likely be named in the next few days and, barring an abrupt reversal of momentum, will be pitching coach Ray Miller.

So far, the search for Davey Johnson's successor has focused upon Miller and, to a lesser extent, hitting coach Rick Down, according to club sources. A decision is thought possible this weekend.

"I've been told to hang by and that's what I'm doing," Miller said.

Orioles management has asked Miller how his relationship with the pitching staff might change if he were promoted. It's believed he is the only coach to be approached so far.

Miller, 52, has extended roots within the organization, having served as pitching coach from 1978-85 before managing the rebuilding Minnesota Twins for parts of two seasons in 1985-86. The Twins were 109-130 before he was fired and landed with the Pittsburgh Pirates as pitching coach for 10 years.

At one point last season, Johnson even predicted to Miller that he would be managing the club in 1998. Miller cultivated respect among what became the American League's most dominant pitching staff last season.

"I think it's a good club," Miller said yesterday. "I've heard and read some things about high-ego ballplayers, I think it's a bunch of hard-working guys who are pretty focused on winning. We fell short on the end; maybe we were a little tired."

Miller admits Johnson's resignation Wednesday caught him by surprise even after learning of the antipathy between manager and owner.

"I figured it would be worked out," Miller said. "I don't know anything about Davey's relationship with Peter. I assumed that's what would happen. I think like in a lot of situations no one's wrong and no one's right. People go through a divorce and it's either incompatibility or irreconcilable differences. I don't think anybody knows the whole story. I sure don't."

Angelos is enamored of Miller's work. Indeed, Angelos advocated Miller be hired following the forced ouster of Pat Dobson after the 1996 season.

Down, a managerial finalist of the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays and a onetime possibility with the Toronto Blue Jays, described his possibilities to succeed Johnson with the Orioles as "just rumor, conjecture or speculation" right now.

"Nobody has said, Rick Down, would you be interested?' So I really haven't thought about it that much. It's flattering to hear your name mentioned and if someone asks you to interview, great. But I can't address anything until I'm asked."

Down has no major-league managing experience, but led the New York Yankees' Triple-A affiliate to three consecutive first-place finishes in 1990-92. He served as the Yankees' hitting coach under Buck Showalter from 1993-95.

Down and the rest of the Orioles' coaching staff were notified shortly after Johnson's resignation Wednesday that general manager Pat Gillick and assistant general manager Kevin Malone would lobby to keep the position in house. It's uncertain whether their desire might be complicated by yesterday's announced sale of the Florida Marlins, which allows manager Jim Leyland to exercise an escape clause in his contract.

Before Johnson's resignation, Leyland downplayed the possibility of leaving.

Down was shocked by Johnson's abrupt departure. The two spoke early Wednesday morning with Johnson wishing Down luck on his managerial candidacy in Tampa Bay but saying nothing about his intention to resign. Down later learned of Johnson's departure from a reporter.

Expressing a sense of betrayal, Down said, "I don't understand why Davey resigned. He talked about being a street fighter. He quit."

Down added he would have no problem serving as Miller's hitting coach as long as he received assurances that he was wanted. Down has another year remaining on his contract and does not want to be kept around solely for monetary reasons.

"I'd ask them if I have a future with them. If he's only honoring a contract and has no intention of rehiring me later, that wouldn't be good," Down said, putting the odds of his staying at "99 percent" if Miller wanted him.

Adjustments on the coaching staff are expected regardless of who is hired. Johnson hung on long enough for the club to offer his coaches contracts for next season, but the club could reassign them while paying them the same salary. There is strong sentiment for promoting Carlos Bernhardt, one of the club's six international scouts, onto the major-league staff. Bernhardt, who scouts the Dominican Republic, is a confidant of reliever Armando Benitez and second baseman Roberto Alomar.

Under a Miller administration, club sources believe former Cy Young Award winner Mike Flanagan would be approached about returning as pitching coach. Flanagan served in the role under Phil Regan in 1995 but was replaced by Dobson when Johnson was hired before the 1996 season.

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Pub Date: 11/07/97

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