Former Orioles interim manager Juan Samuel told the Philadelphia media in a conference call Thursday that he "couldn't be any happier, I'm ecstatic" to have signed a deal to coach third base for the Philadelphia Phillies, the team with which he began his big league playing career in 1983.
Later, Samuel called it "unfortunate" that he couldn't work out an agreement to return to the Orioles as third base coach on Buck Showalter's 2011 coaching staff, something he was sure 10 days ago was going to happen.
"We talked about my role, what it would be, and I talked to Buck," Samuel said in the teleconference. "Things just didn't pan out the way I wanted it to be. And then later, here, Philly came into the picture through my agent Rex Gary … and then things developed quickly."
Ultimately, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and Samuel were too far apart economically on a two-year deal. The negotiations stalled about the same time the Phillies contacted Gary to see whether Samuel would be interested in filling a coaching vacancy created by the departure of first base/base-running coach Davey Lopes.
"It was a decision that I had to do with my heart — that had a lot to do with it," said Samuel, who spent the first six-plus of his 16 seasons as a major leaguer with Philadelphia. "I feel like that the decision [had to be] made. It was very unfortunate that things didn't work out, on one hand, with Baltimore, but we just couldn't [agree] to the contract situation in Baltimore.
"Time is crucial here for everybody and the contract situation continued to drag out and we could not agree to things, and [so] I decided we have to go a different way," Samuel added.
Samuel, 49, was the Orioles' third base and infielders coach from 2007 until June 2010, when he took over as the club's interim manager after Dave Trembley was fired. The Orioles went 17-34 under Samuel before the club hired Showalter as manager Aug. 2.
Instead of going back to the third base coach's box, Samuel left the big league team and worked as a special adviser, evaluating the organization's Dominican Republic operation. But when Showalter called Nov. 1, Samuel said he would be excited to return to Baltimore and the baseball diamond.
"I love Juan. He did a good job for us in a variety of roles," MacPhail said. "He's a consummate professional and a good human being."
MacPhail said he wasn't surprised that Samuel ended up with the Phillies, his old team and a perennial playoff contender.
"I was always thinking that was the likely landing spot based on his history," MacPhail said.
Samuel's arrival in Philadelphia pushes former Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo from coaching third base to first base for the Phillies. Perlozzo will continue to instruct the infielders and will also handle base-running duties.
Samuel will coach third and instruct the Phillies' outfielders. Although primarily a second baseman throughout his career, Samuel also played 267 major league games in the outfield. He is a member of the Phillies' Wall of Fame and becomes the 34th person to both coach and play for the organization.
The Orioles have two spots remaining on Showalter's staff: bench coach and third base coach. Potential candidates for the openings include Willie Randolph, Gary Allenson, Rich Donnelly, Rob Thomson, B.J. Surhoff and Mike Bordick.
Note: MacPhail is not one to publicly delineate his offseason plans or actions, but he acknowledged that he has made contact with many of the free agents that pique the Orioles' interest. That, he said, is rather routine.
"We've talked to a wide variety of guys," MacPhail said. "There's been no shortage of conversations with players' agents."
The Orioles are expected to pursue a corner infielder with power potential; among those they have interest in are third baseman Adrian Beltre and first basemen Victor Martinez, Adam LaRoche, Derrek Lee, Carlos Pena, Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Lance Berkman and Aubrey Huff.