Orioles' inactivity is testing patience of manager Mazzilli

Citing `domino effect,' he's eager to get ball rolling

Baseball

December 14, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW ORLEANS - The same competitive nature that served Lee Mazzilli well as a major league player and coach also is testing his patience slightly at the winter meetings.

Named the Orioles' manager in November, Mazzilli has been offering his input daily to club executives Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan. He's privy to the negotiations going on with the representatives for free agents such as Vladimir Guerrero, Miguel Tejada and catchers Javy Lopez and Ivan Rodriguez, and he's itching to get some signatures on contracts.

Asked during yesterday's media session at the New Orleans Marriott if this has become an anxious time for him, Mazzilli answered as quickly as Deivi Cruz chasing a first-pitch fastball.

"Very much so," he said. "You want to think that you've got the right piece to start that domino effect, what's going to carry on after that. And the organization is in a good position right now to try to get those helping hands. I think we've made progress, meeting with clubs and the agents.

"From the outside, you look and you think you can get the deal done right away, and it doesn't work that way. Making a trade nowadays, it's not like you can do it over the phone like you did 20 years ago."

Rather than become discouraged by the almost daily upgrades made by the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, Mazzilli said, "You have to make your own moves, what you think is really going to help your club. If you get frustrated, you become sidetracked to what you want to do. I don't think you can be so consumed by what they're doing. But you're aware of it."

That doesn't necessarily make it any easier for someone like Mazzilli, who was running up a hefty phone bill with his persistent calls to Flanagan before heading to New Orleans, and who continues to push for as many new roster additions as the budget will allow.

"I think it's the competitiveness in you that drives you to do that," he said. "I've been very fortunate over my career that the places I've been have won."

The meetings are new territory for Mazzilli, who has never managed in the majors and spent the past four seasons as the Yankees' first base coach.

"I'm seeing how the other side works," he said. "It's very interesting. It's just seeing a different side of management."

Mazzilli praised the open communication with the front office, which runs various player names past him and seeks his opinions.

"We're on the same page," he said. "They're asking, `What do you want? What do you need? What are you looking for? How do you think this guy will fit?' So that's good. They've made it a lot easier for me to jump into this right away."

Given the choice, Mazzilli would prefer having a club with speed. The Yankees can turn loose Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter. The Orioles have Jerry Hairston, Brian Roberts and Luis Matos as their primary base-stealing threats.

"I like speed for myself," said Mazzilli, who also listed starting pitching as a top priority. "It's a disruptive type of a force. It changes a lot in the game, and we have some guys on the team who can run and play that type of baseball. You want to get guys who can move the ball around, hit-and-run, and you're looking for some guys with some juice. You always want to have a couple of boppers in the lineup."

Mazzilli has spoken with all six of his coaches to make early plans for spring training, but said he contacted only one player, Melvin Mora, who lives in Baltimore until relocating to Venezuela for winter ball. Mora could be moved to third base next season.

"I just told him what kind of direction we're going, what we're doing," Mazzilli said.

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