Angelos: Miller is `safe, period'

Owner says manager to stay despite 3-9 start

April 19, 1999|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Orioles owner Peter Angelos has heard the whispers about manager Ray Miller, but he wants to make one thing perfectly clear:

They aren't coming from him.

Angelos said last night that he has no plans to make a managerial change, even though the Orioles are in the throes of a troubling early-season slump that has dropped them to the bottom of the American League East standings.

"I'm not thinking about firing the manager," Angelos said. "He's safe, period."

The speculation had increased to the point where a published report had Orioles officials asking the Atlanta Braves for permission to talk to Braves coach and former Colorado Rockies manager Don Baylor about the job. But both Angelos and Braves officials emphatically denied that there has been any discussion of Baylor.

Angelos did speak to general manager Frank Wren yesterday, but the conversation centered on the condition of injured third baseman Cal Ripken and yesterday's injury to first baseman Will Clark, who fractured his left thumb during the club's 6-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at SkyDome.

"I'm not going to be after Ray Miller," Angelos said. "I'm going to be looking for bullpen help and addressing the problem with Will Clark."

The comments of the majority owner mesh with earlier statements from Wren, who indicated that he was not leaning toward a managerial change. Angelos said yesterday that he would be guided by Wren and the baseball operations staff on any significant mid-course corrections.

Angelos certainly could be forgiven for growing impatient with the performance of his expensive club, which had the highest payroll in the industry in 1998 and is third behind the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers this year, but instead is displaying only sympathy for Miller's unenviable situation.

"I don't mean I'm not concerned about the club," Angelos said, "but I don't think the solution is to fire the manager.

"He's under a lot of pressure. We spent a lot of money to bring a lot of new players here. But it's 12 games out of 162. That's the main thing. It's too early for that kind of judgment."

The 3-9 club has struggled because the starting rotation has been undependable and the bullpen has been erratic. The offense has been reasonably productive, but has not been able to score enough runs to gloss over the pitching deficiencies.

"He is doing his best," Angelos said of Miller. "The performance of the starting rotation just hasn't been up to par. I know that [Scott] Erickson will come through. Mike [Mussina] is already having a good year. And I think Juan Guzman and [Sidney] Ponson will come around. I think we can straighten the pitching out. The potential is there."

Angelos, however, could not hide his disappointment about the injury to Clark, who has been one of the club's most productive hitters since signing a two-year contract over the winter.

"That's a real negative happening," he said. "On the other hand, we have Calvin Pickering in Triple-A, but the reason we signed Clark was we wanted to keep him [Pickering] in the minor leagues until we're sure he's ready. We think he's got a chance to be another Mo Vaughn."

The Orioles likely will bring up Pickering to share first base with newly acquired Jeff Conine, hoping that they can produce enough to buy time until Clark's return.

Sun staff writer Joe Strauss contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 4/19/99

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