Hentgen leaves Orioles, for now

Pitcher tests free agency with no manager in place

O's decline Fordyce option, too

Hentgen 6-3 after break, multi-year talks fall flat

October 30, 2003|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

The Orioles parted ways with starting pitcher Pat Hentgen yesterday, at least temporarily, when they declined his $4 million option for next season after the two sides couldn't reach an agreement on a multi-year deal.

Hentgen told the Orioles he wanted to wait until they hire a new manager before making a long-term commitment. Facing a Saturday deadline to make the decision, the Orioles will exercise Hentgen's $300,000 buyout and let him test the free-agent market.

But they still hope they can bring him back. Hentgen, who turns 35 next month, went 7-8 with a 4.09 ERA this year in his first full season since he underwent reconstructive elbow surgery in August 2001.

After the All-Star break, Hentgen was the Orioles' most consistent starter, going 6-3 with a 3.10 ERA. They would like him to come back and anchor what will probably be a young starting staff from the back of the rotation.

"We did talk to him about a multi-year contract - some parameters, we didn't get into specifics," Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said. "But he just decided that before it went any further, he wanted to find out who the new manager would be before he made a commitment. We said we would be in touch. He said, `Great,' and that's pretty much how we left it."

Hentgen did not return a call seeking comment.

As expected, the Orioles also declined their $4 million option for Brook Fordyce, exercising his $500,000 buyout. He regained his starting catcher job this season, batting .273 with six home runs, 31 RBIs and a .311 on-base percentage in 108 games.

The Orioles did not try to renegotiate Fordyce's deal.

"We just told him we would stay in touch," Beattie said. "I think there's a sense that we would both see what else was out there in looking for catching, but we didn't close any doors."

The Orioles have until Nov. 15 to decide whether to pick up the options for shortstop Deivi Cruz ($1.5 million) and reliever Kerry Ligtenberg ($1.2 million).

Foley interviews

Tampa Bay Devil Rays third base coach Tom Foley became the sixth candidate to interview for the Orioles' managerial job in a meeting with Beattie and Orioles vice president Mike Flanagan at the B&O warehouse.

Foley, 44, also interviewed to become Devil Rays manager last fall, before they hired Lou Piniella. Foley was named the Pioneer League's Manager of the Year in 1996, when he guided the Devil Rays' Rookie-level Butte (Mont.) team to a 37-35 record. His only other managing experience came in the 2001 Arizona Fall League.

Foley, who played 13 seasons in the major leagues, mostly with Montreal, also spent two years as Tampa Bay's minor league director. He said he wasn't expecting the chance to come interview for the Orioles' managing job.

"I was excited," he said. "I wasn't out there promoting myself. I won't do that. I think it was a very nice compliment that they called."

In 2001, Foley's first season as the Devil Rays' third base coach, he served under manager Hal McRae, who offered quite a contrast to Piniella.

"Hal was very patient; he'd pat them on the back, trying to keep things going," Foley said. "That was his choice, that's how he did it, and nothing against that. Lou was more outspoken. Lou's going to wear his emotions on his sleeve, and you're going to know what he's thinking, so when you're coming off the field or in the dugout, you might hear it.

"I think I would be somewhere in between," Foley added. "I don't think I'm as laid-back [as McRae], but I don't think I'm as fiery as Lou."

Today, the Orioles will interview New York Yankees first base coach Lee Mazzilli, who also interviewed for Tampa Bay's managerial opening last year.

Lasorda to speak

Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda will be the keynote speaker at the Mid-Atlantic Professional Baseball Scouts Association's annual awards banquet on Nov. 14 at the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor.

Former Orioles scouting director John Barr will be honored as regional supervisor of the year, and Atlanta Braves general manager John Schuerholz will receive Executive of the Year honors. The event is open to the public, with tickets available through Nov. 9. For more information, contact Ty Brown at 1-804-448-1646.

Around the horn

Scott Erickson, who missed all of last season after undergoing surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder, filed for free agency this week, along with outfielder B.J. Surhoff and reliever Hector Carrasco. The Orioles' other pending free agent, Tony Batista, will likely file soon. ... The Orioles re-signed third baseman Jose Leon to a minor league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Ottawa.

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