ARLINGTON, Texas — As the Orioles head into the All-Star break, they do so with a managerial situation that remains in flux and rumors that continue to swirl about their leading candidate soon taking over.
Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and ESPN analyst Buck Showalter met again this weekend, at least the third time they have discussed the managerial opening, an industry source confirmed. But there has not been a formal offer, and there likely won't be one until the end of the week at the earliest.
This week's break in the season seemed to be a logical time to replace interim manager Juan Samuel, but he will remain in charge of the team when it begins the second half Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards, according to another source with knowledge of the situation.
How much longer the club sticks with Samuel, who is 14-20 since taking over from the fired Dave Trembley on June 4, is uncertain.
One of the holdups in making an offer to Showalter could be that the Orioles have yet to comply with a commissioner's office directive by interviewing a minority candidate. The club, however, has given an extended tryout to Samuel, who is from the Dominican Republic, and so there is uncertainty as to whether the Orioles must formally interview a minority candidate.
MacPhail, who traditionally follows baseball's procedures to the letter, could interview at least one more person before an offer is made to Showalter. MacPhail, who will not discuss specifics of the negotiation process, would neither confirm nor deny the possibility of further interviews.
Since Trembley was fired with the Orioles' record at a majors-worst 15-39, MacPhail has interviewed former big league skippers Showalter, Bobby Valentine and Eric Wedge as well as MASN broadcaster and former Orioles player and coach Rick Dempsey.
Meanwhile, Samuel continues to remain upbeat while conjecture surrounds his position, one he knew was likely to be temporary when he agreed to take the job.
"For me, I couldn't ask more from what these guys have given me. The fire is there. These guys are playing hard, and it shows on the field," said Samuel, whose Orioles (29-59) ended the first half with a four-game sweep in Texas. "I have nothing but praise for these guys. They are playing hard for me."
If Samuel's managerial career ends soon, he said he would consider it a "very good experience" no matter the losing record.
"Of course, I am happy. If that is the decision that is going to be made, there are a lot of positive things for me to take out of this experience," Samuel said. "I have enjoyed it very, very much. I have to give it to the guys: The guys have stepped it up for me. And if [someone else takes over], then I will leave happy."
Gonzalez could be activated
Reliever Michael Gonzalez (left shoulder strain) is getting closer to joining the Orioles, perhaps as soon as Friday in Baltimore. Gonzalez pitched one-inning stints in back-to-back games at Double-A Bowie on Friday and Saturday for the first time since being injured. He has pitched in nine games at three levels during his rehabilitation assignment, going 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA in 91/3 innings.
It's possible Gonzalez will pitch for Triple-A Norfolk against Columbus on Thursday, and a move could be made after that, Samuel said.
"Maybe if the decision is that he is ready to come up, then we may have to make a roster move," Samuel said.
Samuel said designated hitter Luke Scott (left hamstring strain) would not come off the disabled list when eligible Saturday.
Scott "is going to need some time; he might need to go out on a few rehab games," Samuel said. "Out of that group, Gonzalez seems to be the closest one."
Samuel said second baseman Brian Roberts (herniated disk in back) has been fielding grounders and taking batting practice against coaches but there is no timetable for his return.
Tatum plays in four straight
With starter Matt Wieters out with a strained right hamstring, backup Craig Tatum started his second consecutive game for the first time this season. It came on a day game after a night game, a dreaded combination for a catcher. But Samuel's only other option was to start emergency catcher Jake Fox, who instead got the nod at first base.
"Normally, you would not catch Tatum after a night game," Samuel said. "We told him [Saturday] night, drink a lot of fluids and go get" them.
Tatum started Thursday and then had to replace Wieters in the fifth inning Friday, when the starter injured his hamstring running the bases. Tatum had played in consecutive games just once this season before the recent stretch.
Around the horn