Orioles widen skipper search

Griffey, McRae are first minorities interviewed

no GM hurts Rhodes

October 23, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- The preliminary stage of the Orioles' managerial search neared completion yesterday with a rush that included the first two minority candidates to interview for the job since Chris Chambliss was part of the process that landed Davey Johnson in 1995.

Almost two years after the Orioles closed an 11-day managerial search to outside candidates and one year after no minorities were included in the search for a general manager, Philadelphia Phillies hitting coach and ex-Kansas City Royals manager Hal McRae and Cincinnati Reds coach Ken Griffey were among four candidates who participated in a daylong series of interviews.

Boston Red Sox coach Grady Little and Orioles first base coach Marv Foley also spoke with an advisory committee that will forward its findings on eight known candidates to majority owner Peter Angelos.

Former Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres manager Jim Riggleman and Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen coach Rick Dempsey interviewed Thursday.

Club officials were unavailable for comment.

While the Orioles search for a manager, the absence of a successor to ousted general manager Frank Wren has affected the negotiating tack of pending free-agent reliever Arthur Rhodes.

Rhodes and agent Danny Horwits met with Angelos on Wednesday. The meeting adjourned with Rhodes insistent on a four-year contract and certain he will file for free agency and begin negotiating with other clubs 15 days after the World Series, according to Horwits.

"Right now, Arthur doesn't know who will be the general manager, the manager or his pitching coach. A lot of things are up in the air," Horwits said. "Obviously, those are important considerations that have a significant impact."

The left-handed power reliever is coming off a poor season (3-4, 5.43 ERA) that included frequent disagreements with manager Ray Miller and ended with a hairline fracture of his left index finger.

The Orioles have so far offered nothing more than two years plus an option for 2002. Should Rhodes defect, the club believes it has a fallback in rookie left-hander B. J. Ryan, obtained in the Juan Guzman deal. Left-handers Jesse Orosco and Doug Johns remain under contract for next season.

The Orioles have five pending free agents, the most noteworthy being Rhodes and first baseman Jeff Conine. For now, the Orioles need feel no urgency. The managerial situation is another matter.

Griffey, yesterday's fourth interviewee, wasn't contacted by the office of director of player personnel Syd Thrift until Thursday. The Orioles wanted to arrange a Monday interview but modified their timetable because Griffey is scheduled to leave for the Caribbean next week.

The Orioles became Griffey's third interview in less than two months. The Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies also spoke with the former All-Star. Colorado named Buddy Bell to succeed Jim Leyland on Wednesday, and Griffey remains under consideration in Milwaukee.

Griffey's name circulated earlier this season in connection with the Seattle Mariners, who reportedly were considering replacing Lou Piniella with Griffey as an inducement to keep center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. from bolting via free agency after the 2000 season.

Griffey Sr. and Griffey Jr. both denied the account, but Piniella's status remains a matter of speculation. If available, Piniella would have become a candidate with the Orioles.

Of yesterday's candidates, only McRae has previous major-league managerial experience. Of the eight men interviewed so far, McRae, Mike Hargrove and Jim Riggleman have overseen a major-league clubhouse. Little possesses more than 1,000 minor-league wins. Foley is the only man to win championships in three Triple-A leagues -- International League, Pacific Coast League and the defunct American Association.

McRae, 54, compiled a 286-277 record as Royals manager from 1991 to 1994. He was replaced by Bob Boone during the 1994 labor dispute despite a 64-51 record that had his team in wild-card contention. Management cited the small-market franchise's desire to commit to youth and McRae's perceived difficulty communicating with younger players. The Royals haven't enjoyed a winning season since.

Don Baylor, the Atlanta hitting coach and former Colorado manager, also remains a candidate but is unapproachable until after the Braves' season is completed.

Foley, originally interviewed Oct. 16, became the second candidate to receive a second interview. Third base coach Sam Perlozzo spoke with the committee on Tuesday, 10 days after meeting with Angelos.

Club officials have declined to comment throughout the process, but it appears only a handful of those interviewed will receive an opportunity to meet with Angelos next week. That decision suggests the club could name its next manager before coaches' contracts expire Oct. 31.

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