O's close to naming Perlozzo as manager

Players happy at prospect of his return



With the composition of their front office coming into sharper focus, the Orioles are ready to eliminate the haziness inside the manager's office. Their choice is clear. In time, they'll learn whether it was a wise one.

Two weeks after completing another losing season, the Orioles are expected to reintroduce Sam Perlozzo as manager today, removing the interim tag from his title.

"We're deep into contract negotiations, and it's progressing well," said Mike Flanagan, whose promotion to executive vice president of baseball operations became official yesterday. "There's a pretty good possibility that it'll be done by [today]."

Perlozzo took over for Lee Mazzilli, who was fired on Aug. 4. The Orioles went 23-32 under his leadership, winning their last three games. He has been with the organization for 10 years as third base coach, bench coach and manager.

Reached yesterday afternoon, Perlozzo said: "We're getting close. I hope by the end of the evening, I'll be good to go."

This comes as welcome news to a group of players who endorsed Perlozzo for the job over the final weeks of the season. They wanted him in the dugout, further motivating them to finish strong despite a brutal schedule that included 14 September games against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

Each loss, they feared, would sabotage his opportunity to return.

"Given a fair chance like he's going to be given, starting in spring training, I think he's going to do a great job," outfielder Jay Gibbons said. "I couldn't be happier. I look forward to playing for him next year.

"He's got a little more attitude. When you [mess] up and he sees a guy not hustling, he's going to let you hear it a lot more than previous managers I had. He'll bring a different kind of intensity that, quite honestly, this club needs."

"I think it'll be positive," pitcher Bruce Chen said. "I'm very comfortable with him. He did a real good job, and I look forward to playing for him.

"The thing I like about him is, he was very approachable and he was able to hold the team together with all the things we went through. He never let us get down on ourselves, as bad as things were going. He was always positive, talking to us, pushing for us to win.

"I'm very excited. I'm glad he's coming back. I think he's going to be good for us. I feel like he's going to be a good manager, and hopefully he can take us to the next level."

The Orioles need Flanagan to do much of the lifting.

While former executive vice president Jim Beattie cleaned out his office yesterday with the team's offer to become a consultant still on the table, Flanagan was besieged with calls from the local media. He agreed to meet with individuals at the B&O warehouse over a two-hour period, and also had a list of phone messages that required his attention.

"Jim and I were really shoulder to shoulder," Flanagan said. "Anytime you're that close to someone, and through all the tough times, you can't help but develop a friendship, in the office and out of the office."

Flanagan and Beattie reflected yesterday on how their three years together passed so quickly. They were hired in December 2002, with owner Peter G. Angelos intending to promote Flanagan from vice president once the former pitcher had gained a sufficient front office education from the more experienced Beattie.

"I don't think I looked at it that way. It was more of a day-to-day challenge, and I'd see how it went. I don't think I had a long-term view of it," Flanagan said.

"It helped me a lot. Just his expertise, going to the GM meetings and setting up the winter meetings. To be shoulder to shoulder with him was very beneficial."

Flanagan won't stand alone as the executive vice president. He expects to begin interviewing candidates for the assistant position later this week, and indicated he wants to increase the staff by more than one person. It's possible the Orioles will make two or three hires and divide the duties.

"What we're going to do is to try to bring in some experienced people," Flanagan said. "We don't have, at this point, a well-defined person that we're looking for. We're going to bring in a variety of people that can do a variety of different things.

"There haven't been any [interviews] scheduled at this point. We would like to have the front office settled before the GM meetings in November."

Asked about the status of Ed Kenney, the director of baseball administration, Flanagan said, "We're going to review everything."

Flanagan, 53, has been part of the Orioles' organization for all but five years since being drafted and signed in 1973. He went 141-116 in 15 seasons with the club, ranking third in games and innings pitched, fourth in strikeouts and complete games, fifth in victories and seventh in shutouts.

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