Angelos likely to keep Perlozzo in '06

Source: O's owner pleased

players voice support, too

August 23, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Sam Perlozzo must feel like he's on the clock as Orioles manager. Or under the gun.

Unify a team that could have splintered after Rafael Palmeiro's steroid-related suspension and the mystery surrounding it. Gain the club's confidence after replacing Lee Mazzilli earlier this month and being put in charge for the first time. Pull it from another losing streak that otherwise might wrap around it and squeeze out the air.

Oh yes, and get it all done quickly enough to warrant a return in 2006.

Pressure? It doesn't show on Perlozzo's face, which often sports a grin. It doesn't show in his demeanor, his interaction with players, his decisions inside the dugout.

It also doesn't show in his record - 9-7 since taking over for Mazzilli, though the past three games have been losses heading into a homestand that begins tonight against the American League West-leading Los Angeles Angels.

Asked over the weekend if he's enjoying the new gig, Perlozzo said: "I enjoy the wins a lot. And I enjoy watching the guys when they play hard for you and do the things you ask. And I think that's happened so far. But wins are the bottom line."

They might not determine his fate in the end unless they run completely dry.

A source close to the front office said owner Peter Angelos is inclined to remove the interim tag from Perlozzo next season, though a final decision hasn't been made. Angelos favored Perlozzo during the last managerial search and seems willing to stick with him.

The front office is pleased with the attitude and energy Perlozzo has brought to the team, according to the source. And it has become apparent the players support him, some of them viewing Perlozzo as family after 10 seasons on the coaching staff.

"I think everybody here is happy for him," outfielder B.J. Surhoff said. "It's unfortunate circumstances, but that's the nature of the business. You only get a job here if a guy retires or is fired."

"We're relaxed with him," catcher Javy Lopez said. "He knows how to lift the team up. Because he wasn't the skipper before, he couldn't do anything about it. Now that he's the skip, he has all the opportunities to bring everything he knows to our team. He brings motivation, which we need."

Perlozzo can work a room like a politician. He chats with players at their lockers, at ease steering the subject away from baseball. He checks on their health, alerts them early to lineup changes. Perlozzo still tracks down backup catcher Geronimo Gil, who has been on the disabled list since July 3 with a thumb injury, to see whether he can swing a bat.

"He talks to everybody," third baseman Melvin Mora said. "He tries to stay on top of everything."

His personality is different from Mazzilli's, which was more reserved and introverted. Mazzilli had his supporters inside the clubhouse and the B&O warehouse, but it was tough for the New York native to shake the local perception of being an outsider.

"We all know Sammy, and we all know he's a very positive guy," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "Maz was positive, too. But I've always said a manager can only do so much. It's our job to get it done on the field."

"Everybody's going to handle things a little bit differently," Surhoff said. "He's had the advantage of learning from people he's worked for. He got to see what they did right, but he also can benefit from seeing the mistakes they made. Right now, I think he has an idea of what he'd like to do, but if we don't play better, it doesn't matter who the manager is.

"Obviously, something didn't work earlier because we didn't play that good the six weeks before they let Maz go. I can't put my finger exactly on it, but obviously something wasn't right. Sam's trying to take advantage of this opportunity and do what he thinks is best to get us headed in the right direction."

As the weeks pass, Perlozzo is finding the manager's seat to be more comfortable. It isn't so strange sitting behind that desk, having the final say.

"My pre-game preparation is beginning to become more of a routine," he said. "It's a lot more time-consuming than being a coach, but that's to be expected. We're just jumping into this thing. When you play teams the second time around, you're a little more familiar with what you want to do. It's been good."

Perlozzo's wife, Beth, always has been active in the Oriole Wives' functions, especially the annual food drive, helping to promote it through the media and collect items during the event. Mora regards her involvement as another endorsement for Perlozzo.

"He and his wife are good with the community. She's involved in all kinds of stuff in Baltimore, and that's important when you're the manager," he said.

"You see it, how many wins he has. He's doing a good job, so they should bring him back. Sam's been looking for this for a long time. And he's an infield instructor. He has a lot to offer. He gets two jobs and one paycheck.

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