Miller, Angelos hammer out deal Orioles to name him manager today

Down contract extended, too

November 11, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

The Orioles will announce at a midday news conference the promotion of pitching coach Ray Miller to manager, a club source said, ending the postseason intrigue that culminated with the resignation of Miller's predecessor, Davey Johnson, on Wednesday.

Recognized by many as the game's best pitching coach, Miller returns to the top step 11 years after a brief, unsatisfying term as manager of the Minnesota Twins. He becomes the fourth manager during majority owner Peter Angelos' five-year stewardship of the club and will immediately inherit the expectations created by consecutive appearances in the American League Championship Series.

Miller met at length yesterday with Angelos to hammer out a contract, the club source said, and to begin working out a relationship that proved so elusive between his predecessor and ownership.

Though Miller enjoyed the unanimous support of Johnson, general manager Pat Gillick and assistant general manager Kevin Malone upon his hiring last year, Angelos drove his acquisition. Nothing that has happened since has diminished Angelos' favorable impression.

Neither Miller nor Angelos was available for comment last night.

Hitting coach Rick Down also received a contract extension yesterday, club sources said, and may take on a dual role as bench coach.

Down traveled from his Las Vegas home to meet with Angelos yesterday and was reassured of his importance to the organization.

A managerial aspirant, Down was a finalist for the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays' job, but lost out Friday to Florida Marlins pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Down was never interviewed for the Orioles' job. However, Miller assured Down last week that he would welcome him to his staff if named.

Down and Miller were the only two coaches whose contracts were guaranteed through next season.

The rest of Johnson's coaching staff was tendered contracts for 1998 but may not serve in a major-league capacity. Bench coach Andy Etchebarren is expected to be reassigned within the organization, or could rejoin Johnson if he lands with either the Toronto Blue Jays or Chicago White Sox. First base coach John Stearns has yet to speak with Miller.

Third base coach Sam Perlozzo, whom Miller would like to retain, has yet to sign his one-year contract with the Orioles, club sources said.

Miller has asked Home Team Sports broadcaster Mike Flanagan to return as pitching coach, a post he held in 1995 before Johnson arrived. Team officials say Flanagan remains unsure whether to accept and will speak again with Miller.

There is no question that Miller enjoys Angelos' total support, something that Johnson quickly frittered away with an aloof nature that ran counter to his team's owner. While Miller is a fan of Johnson's work, he is a decidedly more low-key figure. Miller's success was predicated on his quickly gaining the trust of a staff that revolted under predecessor Pat Dobson. Under Miller, an overmatched pitching staff from 1996 became the American League's best. His task will now be to delegate as well.

Miller managed before with only middling success. He steered the 1985-86 Twins to a combined 109-130 record before being replaced by current Twins manager Tom Kelly.

Besides installing a new manager, the Orioles today also plunge into the free-agent pool, which includes center fielder Brady Anderson and closer Randy Myers as leading talents.

Anderson, 33, continues to wait for a modified offer from the club, which last tendered him a four-year, $23 million package including deferred money.

Six teams have expressed early interest in Anderson. The Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves are expected to make substantial offers early.

Myers, who converted a staggering 45 of 46 save chances last season, hopes to land a three-year guaranteed contract. The Orioles are unsure about this; the Seattle Mariners, among others, apparently are not.

Hamstrung by bullpen woes for much of the season, the Mariners would like to reunite Myers with fellow Cincinnati Reds "Nasty Boy" Norm Charlton. Myers earned $3.7 million last season and is poised to enter a neighborhood inhabited by Texas Rangers closer John Wetteland ($5.75 million per year). The Orioles see Myers' age (35) and flinch. They've yet to make him an offer.

The Orioles are expected to seek starting pitching and perhaps a designated hitter from the market. Darryl Kile, Andy Benes and Wilson Alvarez provide possibilities as a potential No. 2 starter. Paul Molitor, who spurned the Blue Jays' offer to serve as a player-manager last week, or switch-hitter Chili Davis could step in as designated hitter.

Pub Date: 11/11/97

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