Mentor gets Flanagan back in uniform again Miller lauds student/coach for 'double duty' last season

November 12, 1997|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

When asked during spring training about the chances that he would return to coaching at some point, former Oriole Mike Flanagan said he hadn't thought that far ahead. Told this later, pitching coach Ray Miller winked and said: "Yeah, he'll be back."

Miller made it happen yesterday, naming Flanagan as his pitching coach on the same day he was introduced as the 13th manager in Orioles history.

Flanagan, who signed a two-year contract, reclaims the job he held under Phil Regan in 1995. He had spent the last two years as a television analyst on Orioles broadcasts for Home Team Sports.

"I thought if I ever managed again, he'd be back," Miller said. "I just knew it was in his blood."

Flanagan had worked closely with Miller in spring training as a pitching instructor, and consulted with him throughout the season. "Mike Flanagan is probably 50 percent of my success as a pitching coach here," said Miller, who served in that role when the left-hander won 23 games and the Cy Young Award in 1979.

"It got to the point that I used Mike kind of double-duty. He was a TV person and was also helping me during the season several times."

Flanagan, whose 141 wins rank fourth on the Orioles' all-time list, accepted Miller's offer early yesterday, representing the fifth change in pitching coaches in five seasons. "I was very happy at what I was doing with HTS, but there are few opportunities that come along," he said. "Like the Dan Fogelberg song, 'A chance of a lifetime, a lifetime of chance.'

"I had a terrific conversation with the HTS people, and really had their blessing. They could see how the hand was starting to unfold. They knew, No. 1, my attachment to the Orioles and also my affiliation with Ray over the years and how strong a bond that was. I probably would not have considered any other place but here, probably not without Ray."

A spokesman for HTS said yesterday, "We've been thinking about this for a week or so," but that it's too early to say who might be candidates to replace Flanagan.

Flanagan said his relationship with the pitching staff is "fine," adding, "I think the thing I've always dealt with with them is honesty. It's easy to be there when they have a great game, but it takes a lot of internal fortitude to approach players when they have a bad day. And that's really when they need a coach."

Said Miller: "He has a great rapport with everybody, Mike Mussina right on through."

Jesse Orosco is one of several pitchers who were on the team during the 1995 season, which started late because of the previous year's strike and included an abbreviated spring training. He described Flanagan as "very knowledgeable and a fantastic person."

"I thought he had a lot of good qualities for being a pitching coach. His first year, it was just a matter of getting ripe," Orosco said.

"What I like about Flanny is they let him go in '95, and he wasn't happy about it, of course -- nobody's happy about losing a job -- but Flanny continued learning. And this year, he'd come to the park early and kind of pick Ray's brain, and Ray picked his brain. I think it's great that Flanny's still picking the brain of a guy who tTC took his job. He just never gave up.

"In spring training, he was there every single morning at 10 o'clock, helping out half the pitchers while Ray was helping out the other half. At the end of the day, they could put their thoughts together without giving all the pitchers about 20,000 things to worry about. They communicated really well."

Scott Kamieniecki said that relationship will be important for Miller in his second stint as a major-league manager.

"He won't have to concentrate as much on pitching," Kamieniecki said. "He and Flanny see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. If he trusts Flanny with the pitching, then he can just concentrate on his managerial duties."

Mussina, who is in Hawaii, spoke glowingly of Flanagan during spring training, recounting their season together in 1995, when Mussina won 19 games.

"I got a lot out of it," he said then. "I played with Flanny for two years [1991-92] at the end of his career, so we were kind of a cross between being teammates and there being a player-coach relationship. I could talk to him about anything, and he understood a lot about me. I have nothing but positive things to say about the experience."

The coaching staff that will serve under new Orioles manager Ray Miller is a work in progress, with several coaches remaining from the staff that worked for Davey Johnson last year, and at least two new faces. Here's a quick glance at the way it's stacking up:

Who's in

Mike Flanagan: Agreed yesterday to come out of HTS broadcast booth and serve as pitching coach under his old mentor. Will be second tour as Orioles pitching coach. Served one year under Phil Regan in 1995.

Rick Down: Hitting coach signed a contract extension this week after interviewing for several vacant managerial positions. Will serve in expanded capacity, also advising Miller on the bench.

Sam Perlozzo: Former Johnson lieutenant has been asked to remain as third base coach.

Elrod Hendricks: Has opened 29 seasons in an Orioles uniform, and will continue as bullpen coach for 21st straight season. He's a fixture.

Who's out

John Stearns: First base coach has been tendered a contract by Orioles, but would be reassigned if he decides to accept it.

Andy Etchebarren: Johnson's right-hand man and bench coach did not survive his resignation, but probably will stay in organization as a minor-league manager or instructor.

Who's under consideration

Carlos Bernhardt: Longtime Latin American scout, instructor has earned the security of a major-league coaching job. Just a matter of working out the details.

Eddie Murray: Future Hall of Famer has been rumored as possible replacement for Stearns, but has yet officially to retire // as a player.

Pub Date: 11/12/97

Peter Schmuck

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