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Career move gets Murray back home
The next phase of Eddie Murray's professional career has brought him back where it began, in the Orioles' organization. To the place where his uniform number is retired, the place where he'll begin the transition from future Hall of Fame player to coach.
Murray, 41, was introduced yesterday as the newest member of manager Ray Miller's coaching staff, leaving one more vacancy, which will be filled by longtime Dominican scout Carlos Bernhardt. Bernhardt's promotion is expected within a week, once financial details, including his pension, are resolved.
Though his exact role won't be defined fully until Bernhardt is added, Murray was told by Miller that he'll work with the outfielders. Miller said yesterday that he would prefer to keep Murray in the dugout, though he stopped short of naming him the bench coach, a job held the past two seasons by Andy Etchebarren. Bernhardt would be first base coach, replacing John Stearns, who, like Etchebarren, wasn't retained on the major-league staff.
"When you talk about hitting and you need a question answered on the bench, you can turn to Rick Down. If you have a question about defense, you can turn to Sam Perlozzo. If you have a question about pitching, you can share it with Mike Flanagan. And I certainly would love to have Eddie Murray sitting there because I think, between all of us, we ought to be able to come up with a solution for anything," Miller said.
"If you talk about other sports, they say Mario Lemieux sees more of the ice than the average [hockey] player. Eddie, from a young age, saw more of the field, more of what's going on, and I was really amazed at how knowledgeable he was about learning the game and seeing what was going on and putting it all together. He's a guy who's in the game. He loves the game and has a lot of fun working. If I can just get him to coach just a little bit better than he played, I'll have a heck of a coach.
"When I came here last year [as pitching coach], after the first month I said I felt like I came home. And it's my great pleasure to get Eddie back where he belongs, at home."
This is Murray's second return to the Orioles since breaking into the majors with them in 1977 and being named the American League's Rookie of the Year. He spent 12 years here, appearing in two World Series, before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers before the 1989 season. He was reacquired by the Orioles in a trade with the Cleveland Indians on July 21, 1996, and less than two months later became the 15th player in baseball history to record 500 home runs, hitting the historic shot at Camden Yards.
Murray was signed by the Anaheim Angels as a free agent, beginning a final season marred by an injured tendon in his wrist that has him contemplating surgery. He appeared in 46 games before being released, then got his last seven at-bats with the Dodgers, closing a career that included 3,255 hits, 504 homers and 1,917 RBIs. It was his only season out of 21 with fewer than 75 RBIs, a major-league record.
"This is a day of turning the page, and I'm glad to be here in Baltimore to start that other half of my career," said Murray, a three-time Gold Glove winner at first base and baseball's all-time RBI leader among switch-hitters. "I always thought I would know when it was time because it seemed to be something that was almost etched out in most careers, where a shoulder or knee would end someone's career. Basically, I'm being taken out by a little tendon, and that was hard to take, but this is something I want to do.
"I can't wait to get started with this. I love the game, and, hopefully, this part will be as much fun as the first half of it has been. I still have a little burning toward the game, so I'm giving this a shot and I think it will be a good thing. I could have gone and coached somewhere else, but I would love to work under [Miller]."
Murray, who received a two-year contract, said he began to consider a future in coaching about 10 years ago and someday would like the opportunity to manage, "or I wouldn't be here doing this," he said.
Much was made again yesterday of returning to the Oriole Way, a route that Miller believes will be more direct with the addition of Murray.
"I said before that I didn't necessarily care that the coaches I named to the staff were my best friends, but I wanted people who believed in the Oriole program, who know how much I believe in the way we were brought up in this organization," he said. "Everybody talks about chemistry on a baseball team, but I think the manager and the staff help set that up by the way they go about things, and their energy level and all. And when you talk about enthusiasm or knowledge of the game or leadership or work ethic, I always respected that about Eddie from the time he was 19 years of age.
"Every player I've talked to has been extremely receptive to this. Almost to a man, they said Eddie made a big difference in '96 when he came in this clubhouse. He walked in and a lot of things came together.
"I want to get back to a clubhouse where everybody's not afraid to get on everybody, where everybody's not afraid to cry with somebody when something goes bad and laugh when something goes good."
General manager Pat Gillick, who attended yesterday's news conference along with assistant GM Kevin Malone, said: "The one thing about Eddie Murray is he's a professional and he loves this game. We're just real excited and happy to have Eddie back as one of the members of our coaching staff. What he can impart to our young players, not only from a physical standpoint, but also the mental aspect, is going to give a big boost to our ballclub."
One adjustment for Murray will be the shift from teammate to authority figure in a clubhouse filled with friends.
"I think the guys listened to me when I was an equal, player to player," he said.
"Looking at Eddie right now, I can see myself when I started," said bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks. "A lot of the guys I started coaching, I played with. He was among the ones I had a problem with in the beginning. In a lot of ways, we've started the groundwork already. I've reminded him of certain things. I think his transition will be a lot easier because a lot of these guys that he played with a couple years ago have great respect for him and felt comfortable enough that when he suggested something, they listened, or if he picked something up and told them about it, they all believed."
Miller said yesterday that Hendricks will return to working with the catchers, a responsibility that former manager Davey Johnson handed to Etchebarren two years ago.
"Elrod is going to be the catching coach," Miller said. "I think people may be surprised at how much we improve our catching next year."
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