Flanagan mulls over '99 pitch Return to TV booth, coaching both appeal to torn former pitcher

'I should know next week'

Miller: Exit would hurt O's free-agent pursuit

November 07, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Six weeks into a complicated career decision, Orioles pitching coach Mike Flanagan says he will decide by early next week whether to remain part of Ray Miller's staff or to return to the Home Team Sports broadcast team.

Trying to decide whether to remain with the club or jump to its television rights holder, Flanagan, 46, insists his personal tug-of-war will be won by whichever option he believes is in his best long-term interest. Miller has repeatedly lobbied Flanagan to return for the 1999 season. HTS, meanwhile, is offering Flanagan the lure of similar money in return for a reduced workload and greater job security.

"HTS is obviously very interested. They know what I gave up to leave the booth last year, and they've been very kind to express interest. Therein lies the decision," Flanagan said last night.

He also said he has decided against pursuing a third option as assistant general manager to Frank Wren, a possibility that he had explored before Wren's Oct. 23 hiring and one that apparently enjoyed the blessing of majority owner Peter Angelos. Flanagan withdrew from consideration after speaking with Wren, but still remains torn between the field and the booth.

On the heels of a fourth-place season, Miller already has replaced hitting coach Rick Down with ex-Oriole Terry Crowley and endorsed the reassignment of first base coach Carlos Bernhardt to supervisor of player development and scouting in the Dominican Republic. Miller has repeatedly downplayed the possibility of Flanagan leaving; however, many within the organization believe Flanagan did not enjoy last season's stint.

Last season marked Flanagan's second term as pitching coach. Like the first under Phil Regan in 1995, the experience was plagued by injuries to a staff that at one point missed 60 percent of its starting rotation.

Flanagan, among others, attempted to ease Armando Benitez into the role of closer while patching together a bullpen shredded by overuse. He also supervised the hasty insertion of rookie Sidney Ponson into the rotation one season after the Aruban was sidelined by an elbow injury.

Flanagan spent 1996 and 1997 working as an analyst for HTS, a role he excelled at and enjoyed. At last November's news conference to announce Miller's hiring and his return as pitching coach, Flanagan insisted he would have left the booth for no one else.

A former teammate of current Orioles Cal Ripken, Chris Hoiles, Brady Anderson and Mike Mussina, Flanagan enjoys an especially strong relationship with Mussina and Scott Erickson, something missing during predecessor Pat Dobson's one-year stay in 1996. Flanagan admits the bond has complicated his decision.

"It's not something that would be easy to walk away from," he said. "But I'm at a point where I have to think beyond next year. It's rather uncommon that several opportunities present themselves at once."

HTS officials, silent on the future of analyst Rick Cerone, have discussed Flanagan returning to broadcast 100 to 110 games. Given the industry norm of about $2,000 per broadcast, the move would roughly equal Flanagan's salary as pitching coach.

Flanagan is entering the final season of a two-year contract as pitching coach. The broadcast possibility would involve a multi-year package while offering Flanagan enough flexibility to still serve as a spring training consultant and pursue a managerial job in a winter league.

Flanagan describes his alternatives as "a win-win." Miller, however, is concerned about having to hire the organization's fourth pitching coach in as many years.

"Mike did a tremendous job for me in very trying circumstances," said Miller, the Orioles' 1997 pitching coach who spoke at length with Flanagan on Thursday night. "He had to deal with things that most other pitching coaches never dream of."

Miller said he is further concerned about the effects of conducting a coaching search during the club's pursuit of a free-agent starting pitcher.

"It's a big issue," Miller said. "This would be a very tough time to be looking for another [pitching coach]. You'd have to do a full search."

Encouraged by his most recent conversation with Flanagan, Miller said he is "98 percent sure" Flanagan will return to his staff. Flanagan, however, could not make the same statement last night.

"Right now I don't know which way I'm going to go. I should know by next week," Flanagan said. "I haven't told anybody anything."

Pub Date: 11/07/98

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