The Orioles will announce the firing of pitching coach Sammy Ellis after next week's organizational meeting in Lakeland, Fla., according to club sources, thereby assuring that the club will enter next season with its eighth pitching coach in eight seasons.
Vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift said Thursday night that he and manager Mike Hargrove have yet to discuss the composition of next season's staff. Trift reiterated through a club spokesman Friday night that no decsions had been made. However, club sources say Hargrove and Thrift have had "on-going" discussions about the coaching staff and informed Ellis of his status during meeting in the manager's office Thursday.
"I'm not in a position to say anything about the staff," Hargrove said yesterday after briefly meeting with Ellis during batting practice.
Hargrove called any discussion of Ellis' situation "totalIy inappropriate."
Asked Thursday night if he had been notified of his status, Ellis said, "No.' He then left the club-house without furth comment.
The pending move has been anticipated for weeks. Bothered by injuries and inconsistency, the Orioles entered last night with a 5.41 ERA - a run higher than their opponents - and are assured of finishing with the highest ERA in club history. The Orioles reassigned Ellis' predecessor, Bruce Kison, after the Orioles finished last season with the league's fourth-lowest ERA. No pitching coach has returned for consecutive seasons since Dick Bosnian in 1993-94.
Hargrove and Thrift intend to discuss the balance of the coaching staff at next week's organizational meetings, which coaches will not attend.
It already has been determined, according to club sources, that third base coach Sam Perlozzo, hitting coach Terry Crowley and bench coach Jeff Newman will be retained, though there may be a shuffling of roles between Newman and Perlozzo. Crowley and Perlozzo are signed through at least next season. First base coach Eddie Murray and bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks are nearing the end of one-year contracts.
Ellis was named Hargrove's pitching coach last Dec. 3 on Thrift's recommendation. Ellis had previously served as pitching coordinator for the Cincinnati Reds after serving as pitching coach for four major-league teams. Ellis was frustrated by the halting progress of younger talents Sidney Ponson, Jason Johnson and B.J. Ryan.
Ponson, 23, went from 12-12 to 9-13, though his 4.82 ERA was almost unchanged from last season's 4.71.
Johnson, projected as the Opening Day No. 3 starter, was optioned to Rochester in spring training and never found his bearings. He enters today 1-10 with a 7.02 ERA.
Ryan was considered a budding closer when the season opened but fell into an extended funk after allowing only one earned run in his first 11 appearances.
Though careful not to tip the move, there has been thought given to possible successors. Cleveland Indians minor-league pitching co-ordinator Mike Brown, passed over last December for Ellis, and Atlanta Braves pitching coordinator Rick Adair are believed on Hargrove's short list. Peter Angelos is still enamored of former Orioles pitching coach and manager Ray Miller.