Uncertainty makes itself at home in O's dugout

June 21, 2007|By DAVID STEELE

SAN DIEGO — SAN DIEGO-- --Every day this week, there has been all sorts of news about the Orioles. But never quite enough news.

The changes in the organization have been radical, but they're coming at a trickle instead of a deluge. Maybe it's better that it doesn't all happen at once, especially in the middle of the season. But it's not that great for all those involved for it to happen at this pace, either.

The players, coaches and executives don't seem all that fond of the uncertainty. Oh, it was novel when it first happened. On Tuesday, not long after the team arrived at Petco Park for the opener of its first post-Sam Perlozzo series, many of the players interrupted their activities when Joe Girardi's face popped up on the clubhouse plasma screens.

"What are they saying? What are they saying?" asked Miguel Tejada, who had just seconds earlier issued his first reactions to Perlozzo's firing.

Yesterday, there was more working of the room for information. Who knew anything about Andy MacPhail, the new boss in charge who was put in place earlier in the day? Was Dave Trembley still the interim manager, and for how much longer? Was that report about Girardi being offered the job accurate and, if so, has he or hasn't he accepted it?

And, on more immediate topics, what interesting new lineup did Trembley have in store for them? (Kevin Millar batting third, for one thing.)

Nobody has much of an idea of what the near future or distant future holds - except that Perlozzo isn't part of it, and a game against the Padres is part of it.

The fragility of it has to be unnerving, as temporary as it might be. Since the process got rolling Monday, the word "timetable" has gotten a lot of mileage. No timetable on when the Orioles would replace Perlozzo, no timetable on when they'd start interviewing candidates, then no timetable on when they were expecting an answer from Girardi.

Three thousand miles away, the players and coaches are also working without a timetable on when or if the information that directly affects their livelihoods will get to them.

The limbo extends almost to the top. Vice president Jim Duquette has been pretty much at loose ends this week; with the team since the start of the trip, he has been kept up on most of the news, but not on all the details of MacPhail's appointment. When the initial report surfaced Monday at the same time word came of Perlozzo's dismissal, Duquette said, he was "a little surprised."

Since you've asked: no, it's not clear what Duquette's duties will be in the new hierarchy, and the same for executive VP Mike Flanagan.

And no, there's no word, either, on what pitching coach Leo Mazzone will do, nor word from him directly on how he feels about the departure of his old friend and the man who brought him into the organization. For the third straight day, Mazzone evaded every chance to talk about it to reporters.

That situation might be as delicate as any other connected to this overhaul. There weren't many bright spots in the final weeks of the Perlozzo regime, but one (Jeremy Guthrie) started last night's game, and another (Erik Bedard) starts this afternoon. Mazzone is directly responsible for both their ascents this season, and figuring out if he'll stay and what to do if he leaves only adds to the general unease.

Truth be told, there likely aren't many people in Orioles uniforms right now who can feel much in the way of comfort. The new sheriff is already in town, at some point his hand-picked deputy (whoever it is) will join him, and jobs will not be secure, not that very many had been.

On Monday, Flanagan played down the impact of the trade deadline a month and a half from now, but realistically, no one around here can minimize that. Everybody has been put on notice, and as it's been suggested before, everybody recognizes that the pressure is off the exiled manager and on their backs now.

Trembley, for his part, said he thought this reality would relax everybody rather than seize them with dread. "I think they're a lot more realistic about what's happened," he said before the game. "I think they've accepted a certain amount of responsibility for what's gone on, for what's occurred here, and I think they're very capable of dealing with whatever happens."

Duquette acknowledged the same franchise-wide sense of accountability. "I think that's one thing everybody agrees on - that everybody has underachieved," he said. "A change at one position doesn't change that. We've all accepted that and know we have to do better."

But no one knows, three days after the shakeup began, when the picture will come fully into focus. Perlozzo's out, MacPhail's in. Maybe more will fall into place today, maybe tomorrow.

Until then, the Orioles keep playing, coaching, managing, front-officing ... and waiting.

david.steele@baltsun.com

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