Thrift packed to go ... to meetings

Saying he won't quit, VP set to be O's rep with GMs

October 29, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

In two weeks, general managers will convene in Tucson, Ariz., for their annual meetings. Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president for baseball operations, intends to be there.

Until he's told otherwise, his hands will be used to reshape the roster. Thrift has no plans to relinquish hold, despite rumors that he's going to retire.

The Orioles' plans aren't nearly as evident. Their season concluded on Sept. 29, and they still haven't made a formal announcement concerning Thrift and other members of the front office and scouting department whose contracts expire at the end of the year.

The New York Mets named Art Howe as their new manager, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays did the same with Lou Piniella. The Detroit Tigers already hired Alan Trammell, and other teams are bringing in candidates. And the Boston Red Sox continue to interview GM candidates.

If commissioner Bud Selig decides to fine the Mets for introducing Howe before the World Series ended, he also could ticket the Orioles for loitering.

Majority owner Peter Angelos hasn't spoken publicly about Thrift, a stance that continued over the weekend. Thrift remains in his current role, along with special assistant Ed Kenney, farm director Don Buford and scouting director Tony DeMacio.

It's business as usual, even in such an unsteady environment.

While Thrift makes reservations for the weeklong GM meetings, which begin Nov. 8, DeMacio and his staff are compiling their follow lists on players eligible for the 2003 draft and attending tournaments throughout the country and "scout days" at various colleges. Buford had been monitoring the fall instructional league in Sarasota, Fla., that ended over the weekend.

"We're just proceeding like we normally would," DeMacio said.

Thrift has adopted that same philosophy. Along with putting in the usual hours at his office in the warehouse, he also jokes about reports that he will step down this week.

"To retire, there's no such word in the Old or New Testament, so that's my rule book," he said.

Asked if it was safe to say he wouldn't do it, Thrift said, "It's very safe to say."

Should Angelos decide to remove Thrift, he could hire Orioles broadcaster Mike Flanagan, a former Cy Young winner who's respected within the industry but lacking in front-office experience. He also would consider outside candidates, including assistants from other organizations.

"I'll do whatever I'm supposed to do," said Thrift, whose contract runs through Dec. 31. "I just take it one day at a time. Don't you think that's the safe way to do it? Sometimes we get ahead of ourselves."

Any heavy lifting by the Orioles since their final game has been done to clear room on the 40-man roster. They've outrighted four players to Triple-A, with Calvin Maduro refusing the assignment and electing to become a free agent. Pitchers Kris Foster, John Parrish and Luis Rivera, each coming off injuries, will report to the new affiliate in Ottawa.

Four other players have been released: infielder Luis Lopez, catcher Raul Casanova and pitchers Chris Brock and Yorkis Perez. The Orioles, coming off another fourth-place finish, won't have to do much maneuvering if they add players through free agency or trades.

"We're making space," Thrift said, "so somebody can have a landing."

It appears that pitcher Pat Hentgen will touch down again in Baltimore. The Orioles want to bring him back, but not with the $6 million option they hold on his contract. They're attempting to lure him with a restructured deal, and discussions continue with agent Bob LaMonte that could culminate in a few days.

"We're working on that daily. We're making good progress with that," Thrift said.

A decision is pending on shortstop Mike Bordick, who hinted at retirement if the Orioles didn't resign him. The club's top prospect at that position, Ed Rogers, hasn't played above Double-A and most likely will start at Ottawa or Bowie next year.

"I haven't spoken to Mike yet," Thrift said. "I don't think there's any urgency at this time until we evaluate the entire situation. The issue really is what Mike wants to do, what's in his heart."

Bordick, who couldn't be reached yesterday, set the major-league record for consecutive errorless games and chances by a shortstop - rare highlights for the Orioles in a season that included 32 losses in their last 36 games.

Within a 67-95 record were 12 straight defeats to close the year, the longest season-ending streak in the majors since the 1899 Cleveland Spiders lost their last 16. Going 4-32 after Aug. 23 produced the worst 36-game stretch in club history.

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