NEW YORK -- Within a climate raining speculation, Orioles general manager Frank Wren said yesterday that any inferences regarding manager Ray Miller's job security are "out of place" and that he believes the team "not at a panic point" despite struggles that have left it in last place in the AL East.
Speaking before last night's 14-7 loss to the New York Yankees, Wren said of the Orioles' start, "Every club, including this Yankees club, is going to have a 2-5 run. Ours happened to come at the beginning of the season. Now if we have a whole bunch of 2-5 stretches, then it adds pressure on everybody. But 2-5 is not a panic point in my mind.
"It's disappointing. I wish we were 5-2 and I know Ray does. But you're going to go through it. We've all gone through it. We just hope we can minimize it."
Wren, in his first season as Orioles general manager, has been wholeheartedly supportive of a manager he inherited from the previous front office regime. Miller has likewise frequently endorsed Wren's work ethic and his willingness to collaborate on player moves.
Acknowledging the speculation that has greeted the season, Wren said, "I think it's entirely too early to be talking about those kinds of things."
Miller, 190-219 as a major-league manager, is in the final season of a guaranteed two-year contract that includes an option for 2000. Neither Wren nor majority owner Peter Angelos has given any indication of the situation being addressed before season's end. Miller has chosen not to push the issue. Meanwhile, his status has become fodder for Baltimore talk shows.
Perhaps more distressing than the Orioles' record has been their uneven defensive play and inability to convert scoring chances. Sunday they stoked a five-run seventh inning by Toronto with a botched rundown. Tuesday's eighth-inning collapse against the Yankees featured a wild pitch by reliever Arthur Rhodes and a subsequent three-run homer by slumping catcher Jorge Posada. Last night they fell behind 3-1 in the first inning because of a bungled play, with Scott Erickson covering at first base and a miscue by third baseman Cal Ripken.
The Orioles also entered last night's game hitting only .250 with runners in scoring position compared to .272 overall. Several losses have been peppered by early scoring opportunities squandered.
"From what I have seen the first seven days, there are no alarms," said Wren. "Coming out of spring training we felt confident our starting pitching would be competent. Our starting pitching let us down a little bit the first week. That's going to happen.
"We've got some offensive guys in this lineup and they're going to hit. When we start getting the big hits and the add-on runs, we'll be scoring seven or eight runs instead of the one, two or three with nine hits and 10 men left on base."
Wren suggested "a pitch here and there, a hit here and there" are all that separate the Orioles from a 5-2 start. "And if you're 5-2, everybody's talking about beating the Yankees," he said. "If you don't start capitalizing on those opportunities, then maybe your club's not as good as you think."
Pub Date: 4/15/99