O's get permission to interview Mazzilli for managerial job

Yanks coach, A's Francona likely to visit next week

Little may be in mix, too


October 24, 2003|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

MIAMI - After interviewing four managerial candidates with close ties to their organization, the Orioles are preparing to branch out a little when their search continues next week.

Grady Little? Stay tuned.

The Orioles received permission yesterday to interview New York Yankees first base coach Lee Mazzilli, and they will likely meet with him next week, along with Oakland Athletics bench coach Terry Francona.

Yesterday, major league sources said the Orioles may also try to interview Little if the Boston Red Sox turn him loose next week, as expected. But those sources disputed an ESPN Radio report that Little will wind up with the Orioles' job, saying he is simply a candidate they would consider.

Earlier this month, the Orioles interviewed Cleveland Indians hitting coach Eddie Murray, Orioles bench coach Sam Perlozzo, Milwaukee Brewers bench coach Rich Dauer and Orioles first base coach Rick Dempsey.

Little, 53, was in the Orioles' organization from 1980 to 1984. He managed at Rookie-level Bluefield, Single-A Hagerstown and Double-A Charlotte. He interviewed for the Orioles' managerial opening in 1999, before they hired Mike Hargrove, and left a favorable impression with owner Peter Angelos.

Privately, some Orioles insiders have even taken to defending Little's decision to leave Pedro Martinez in to finish the eighth inning in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.

The Yankees tied that game when Martinez gave up a bloop, two-run single to Jorge Posada, and New York went on to win the series when Aaron Boone hit his dramatic 11th-inning home run.

The Red Sox haven't won the World Series in 85 years, and most of New England is taking out its latest frustration on Little, even though he guided the team to 93 wins last year and 95 wins this year.

The Red Sox have until next Friday to exercise the one-year option they have remaining on Little's contract, but in a candid interview with The Boston Globe yesterday, Little said he's not even sure he wants to be back.

"If Grady Little is not back with the Red Sox, he'll be somewhere," Little told the newspaper. "I'll be another ghost, fully capable of haunting."

For now, however, Little is not available, so most of this is speculation.

Tampering rules prevent Orioles officials from commenting.

Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said the club is trying to line up two or three more interviews for next week, and though Beattie didn't specify, those interviews will probably include Mazzilli and Francona.

Mazzilli, 48, interviewed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays last winter, and those in the know say he made a very good impression, but they decided to hire Lou Piniella.

Asked about the Orioles' interest last night before Game 5 of the World Series, Mazzilli said, "Out of loyalty to the Yankees, I'm just thinking about this game."

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