TV-ready Flanagan relieved by Kison New pitching coach is Miller protege, too

Foley to coach first

November 13, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Having arrived at a career crossroads of one-way streets, Mike Flanagan resigned yesterday as Orioles pitching coach and chose the path leading upstairs.

Flanagan concluded two wrenching weeks of deliberations by notifying the club that he would return to the Home Team Sports broadcast booth next season, the same post he vacated last season for a second term as pitching coach. Flanagan's decision, surprising and predictable at the same time, left Orioles manager Ray Miller to quickly name former Kansas City Royals pitching coach Bruce Kison as Flanagan's successor.

Miller completed his staff for 1999 by promoting Rochester manager Marv Foley to first base coach. Half of Miller's six-man coaching staff has resigned, been reassigned or been fired since the end of a 79-83 season.

While Miller said last weekend he was "98 percent certain" Flanagan would return to complete his two-year contract, history suggested a change. The Orioles haven't retained a pitching coach for consecutive seasons since Dick Bosman served in 1992-94.

Flanagan, 46, had wrangled with three career options since season's end -- return as pitching coach for a manager without any contractual guarantees beyond next season; pursue a post as assistant general manager to Frank Wren; or return to the job as broadcast analyst that he held, and enjoyed, in 1996-97. Ultimately, Flanagan felt his long-term interests were served in the booth.

Speaking of what the former Cy Young Award winner described as a "long-term" decision, Flanagan said, "There was a time when there were three openings going at the same time. It's very unusual that all those coincided the same year. That's what made the choice difficult. I started weighing the upside of each one and it kept coming back to broadcasting."

Flanagan mentioned the strong ties he had developed with veteran pitchers, especially Mike Mussina, as complicating his decision. His influence on rookie Sidney Ponson and breakthrough left-handed reliever Doug Johns also tugged at him.

Miller unfailingly praised Flanagan's work during a fourth-place season obliterated by injuries. Four-fifths of the Orioles' season-opening rotation spent time on the disabled list. Only Scott Erickson survived without missing time.

The similarities were striking to his failed first term under Phil Regan in 1995 when an uncomfortable relationship with the former pitching coach and an outgoing general manager only worsened a terrible season on the field, which began with an abbreviated spring training due to the players strike.

"I didn't know any different in '95," Flanagan said. "Elrod [Hendricks] said you picked the worst year in the last 20 to coach. There were a lot of similarities to this year. You had a lame-duck general manager [Roland Hemond then, Pat Gillick last season] and you had injuries.

"What I liked about it coming in was the long-term aspect. I like to lay plans to see a kid grow long-term." Flanagan was quick to add his relationship with Miller was an enjoyable one free of backbiting. Miller persistently lobbied Flanagan to stay. However, Flanagan, who has no managerial aspirations, chose a path with a greater "upside."

"I don't have to worry about the year-to-year," Flanagan said. "It's hard [to coach] if you don't have any desire to be a manager. You're sort of looking at your own level and that's it. There's no upside."

HTS broadcaster Rick Cerone was not available for comment yesterday. Asked earlier this week about the possibility that Flanagan might return to the broadcast booth, Cerone said: "I have a contract and I would be willing to live up to it, but it's their decision."

Cerone, a former major-league catcher who spent 18 seasons with seven clubs, owns the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League and has been busy preparing for a May launch. "If they [HTS] decide to go another way, I'll be able to survive and live. My focus right now is on getting the place up and running. It's a good distraction."

Kison, 48, was dismissed last month by Royals manager Tony Muser after serving as the club's pitching coach for five years. His relationship with Miller dates to his time as minor-league coach and pitching coordinator for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"Bruce is a protege of mine from our days in the Pirates organization," Miller said. "He, like Mike Flanagan, is a disciple of my pitching philosophy and I think he'll be a great asset to our pitching staff."

Kison played for three teams during a productive 15-year major-league career. He crafted a 115-88 record and 3.66 ERA and played with the Pirates in the 1971 and 1979 World Series, both times against the Orioles. Flanagan and Kison were the starting pitchers in Game 1 of the '79 World Series.

The two men spoke yesterday and Flanagan plans to share any information Kison requests. Likewise, Flanagan will be invited to serve as an on-field consultant during spring training.

Miller contacted Kison about the possibility of a vacancy on Monday. "The whole thing caught me off-guard," said Kison, who received a two-year contract.

Foley, 45, assumes the role previously held by Carlos Bernhardt, who was reassigned as director of scouting and player development in the Dominican Republic.

The first manager to win titles in all three Triple-A leagues, Foley took the Red Wings to first- or second-place finishes in three of his four seasons as manager. Miller promoted him in September as part of a plan to codify instruction throughout the organization.

Miller last month named former Oriole Terry Crowley to replace Rick Down as hitting coach. Hendricks, third base coach Sam Perlozzo and bench coach Eddie Murray will return.

Pub Date: 11/13/98

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