Tee time is mostly history for Perlozzo

November 27, 2005|By RICK MAESE

Sam Perlozzo wakes up each morning and heads right to the computer. He reads over the transactions on the Internet, checks out rumors and peeks at the updated free-agent list.

The good days are the quiet ones. No news is great news because it means the Orioles might still be in the hunt for some of their top offseason targets.

But it's those other days that are a bit difficult to shake off, learning that Carlos Delgado is headed to the New York Mets or that B.J. Ryan is packing his bags for Toronto.

"It's a little frustrating when I see other guys signing elsewhere, only because I want this organization to be good and there's some guys we need to get in here," Perlozzo says.

"I just told myself today, `You`re going to have to learn to relax on this thing. We have from now until the end of March to do these deals. We'll keep plugging away.'"

It's part of the learning curve. This offseason is unlike any other Perlozzo has been through. Entering his first year as the Orioles' no longer interim manager, he is viewing this fanciful chess game from a new angle.

A baseball coach can afford to spend some time on the golf course or on a fishing boat. A baseball manager spends his offseason on the telephone.

On Friday, as Toronto was reportedly wrapping up its negotiations with Ryan, Perlozzo and Jim Duquette, the Orioles' vice president, spent two hours on the phone discussing more than a dozen players.

Losing Ryan was a blow, but hardly an unexpected one. The Blue Jays gave him a better deal than any other reliever has ever received. I knew Friday was a big shopping day, but who would've thought a left-handed closer was the hottest toy in Canada this holiday season?

The Orioles would have been foolish to throw that much money at Ryan. Now that Ryan is out of the mix, the team has more flexibility with its own offseason shopping. The Orioles have been slow to the trigger in November, but with reason. There aren't a whole lot of attractive free agents available - at least not enough to comfortably fill all of the roster holes.

Team brass made a strong run at Delgado, but now are left with Plan Bs that don't carry the impact or swing a bat like Delgado. They appear to be entering the Paul Konerko sweepstakes, a bit later than others because they'd invested so much in pursuing Delgado.

Perlozzo grilled a turkey with his wife, Beth, for Thanksgiving. He was planning on spending a couple more days at his Tampa home before driving up to Baltimore this week. He's preparing for his first winter meetings, which will begin Dec. 5 in Dallas.

The hot stove league isn't rotisserie baseball. You can't just pluck a guy simply because he's available, and you have to realize that some players may not want to come to Baltimore and be part of an organization that juggled mediocrity with embarrassment last season.

"If you lose one guy," Perlozzo says, "you have to be prepared for something else. You got to have enough groundwork laid with everybody who`s out there."

It's all new for Perlozzo, who spent 19 seasons as a coach. The offseason role before was simple: Occasionally, the manager calls for your thoughts on a particular player. Then it's back to the driving range.

Perlozzo hasn't had a whole lot of time for golf since the 2005 season ended. In fact, he played his first 18 holes last week, with Lee Elia, his new bench coach. Don Zimmer and Tom Foley, the Devil Rays' third base coach, rounded out the foursome. There wasn't as much baseball talk as you might expect.

"My ball is in the woods so much, it's hard to talk to anyone," Perlozzo says. "I'd have to do a lot of yelling."

He's chatting with Duquette or general manager Mike Flanagan daily. Perlozzo calls his coaches regularly, too. He sent them each copies of an updated free-agent list last week and asked them to look it over and send suggestions before the winter meetings.

It might not be realistic to expect the Orioles to make six or seven big free-agent signings. Looking at the talent available, it seems most likely they'll chase a starter, a reliever and maybe a catcher. Then they can begin brokering a couple of trades that can bring some offensive punch to the lineup.

But it's going to take a while, which is another adjustment for the first-year manager. He's eager to know the roster he'll take into spring training. Starting in the next couple of weeks, that lineup will begin to reveal itself very slowly.

"We can't afford any type of catastrophe," Perlozzo says. "My job is to manage the people they get me, and we're going to get the best people in here that we can. This part is a real challenge and we're all anxious. But I'm enjoying it."

rick.maese@baltsun.com

Points after -- Rick Maese

Got to have faith: There was an Internet report last week stating that Paris Hilton believed in Santa Claus until she was 17 years old. I'm not making that up. I actually admire that kind of innocent idealism. She strikes me as the kind of person who still thinks Brian Billick is an offensive genius.

Power play: Did you see the story last week about a team in the Ontario Hockey Association that was busted for a series of hazing incidents? Some players reportedly were forced to ride a stationary bicycle naked while teammates paddled them with hockey sticks. If that's really how they do things in Canada, why did the Blue Jays go after B.J. Ryan? Seems like Sidney Ponson would be more their fit.

Overheard at Thanksgiving dinner: "This year, I'm thankful for Jamal Lewis, who has helped me earn a starting job next season." - Chester Taylor, Ravens running back "That's a pretty big bird. I wonder if it can throw a football downfield?" - Ozzie Newsome, Ravens GM "I still remember that first Thanksgiving like it was yesterday. Squanto's wife made this creamed corn dish that I can still taste today. ... Can someone pass me my teeth?" - Peter Schmuck, Sun elder statesman

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