Orioles dig in to unearth manager

One day after firing Mike Hargrove, the Orioles were busy seeking his replacement yesterday.

Cleveland Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said he granted the Orioles permission to interview Hall of Fame slugger Eddie Murray, and the Orioles also spent the day talking to references for others on their long list of candidates.

"Right now, we've probably got 15 or 16 people on the list, and there are already some pretty good names," Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said. "We're trying to not just look at the usual suspects, but dig a little deeper and try to find somebody who has all the skills but might not be on the radar screen yet."

Major league sources continue to speculate that Murray, who is the Indians' hitting coach, and Orioles bench coach Sam Perlozzo are the two leading candidates for the job.

Other potential candidates, as confirmed by club officials, include Orioles first base coach Rick Dempsey, Milwaukee Brewers bench coach Rich Dauer, Triple-A Ottawa manager Gary Allenson and New York Yankees third base coach Willie Randolph.

Two high-ranking Orioles sources also have mentioned Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer as a name to consider. Palmer, who has spent 11 years as an Orioles television analyst, downplayed that possibility yesterday.

"I would never, ever be naive enough to think that there won't be better candidates out there," he said. "It would be something, if they couldn't find a viable candidate, I'd consider, but it's not something I have a driving ambition to do.

"I like broadcasting. I enjoy that part of the game."

Beattie said the goal is to have the first round of interviews completed by the time the World Series starts. A second round of interviews will follow, but the time line isn't set in stone, because a candidate such as Randolph could still be involved with the playoffs.

The Orioles will hold their organizational meetings this weekend in Sarasota, Fla., and next week figures to be slow, as Beattie and vice president Mike Flanagan have plans outside the office. For that reason, they hope to start conducting interviews this week.

"We're probably at the point where we have a couple definite [candidates], and we may try to interview them as soon as possible," Beattie said. "We're doing some more work and calling some people for recommendations.

"I think we want to be careful. The interview process itself is an iffy proposition because you can get fooled by someone in a three- or four-hour interview.

"There's a lot of other information that needs to be gathered. Just like a scouting report on players, you've got to check work ethic. And you know someone might just be telling you what everyone knows you want to hear. So you've got to do some in-depth work before you get down to the nuts and bolts of it."

Beattie said the reference checks aren't as necessary with Perlozzo and Dempsey, who were a part of this year's team and have both interviewed to become Orioles manager in the past.

But those interviews will still be thorough.

"They may have kept some things to themselves [this season], just out of respect to being a coach under a manager," Beattie said. "So you want to dig in and see what they might have done differently."

Asked to talk about his candidacy, Perlozzo said: "I just feel uncomfortable with the fact I haven't been asked [to interview yet] and the fact it's so close to Grover [getting fired], but it is extremely flattering to have your name in the paper and the people considering you, and it's something I've always wished for anyway. When the time comes, I hope that I'll be one of those candidates."

Dempsey said he also hadn't been asked to interview yet, but he'd be interested when the time comes.

"It's as good a fit now as it will ever be," he said. "You've got a young ballclub that needs a lot of direction. So, if you can't break in with a ballclub like this, you can't break in. It's not like you're taking over a veteran team that needs an established guy. It would be a good group to grow with and make a dynasty out of.

"I know there's some good candidates out there, especially Sammy, a guy that had been with this organization for a while. There's only room for one manager, so hopefully I'll get a shot at it."

The baseball industry continues to speculate that the Orioles are prepared to hire Murray or someone from within because Beattie and Flanagan have already made overtures about keeping Hargrove's entire coaching staff intact.

"We haven't made a firm commitment to them or sent out contracts, but it's going to be one of the things that we impress upon the new managerial hire," Beattie said. "It'll be a part of the interview process - how easily is it going to be to come into this situation and work with this present staff? Because we like this staff, we like the things they've done and we'd like to continue with that."

Notes: Initial attempts to reach Murray through his agent and the Indians were unsuccessful yesterday. Shapiro told the Associated Press that Murray has been invited back to Cleveland's coaching staff. ...There had been speculation in the Orioles' clubhouse that Beattie might be interested in returning to the Seattle Mariners if their general manager jobopened. But when former Orioles GM Pat Gillick resigned from his post in Seattle yesterday, Beattie said he wasn't a candidate. Beattie has a three-year deal with the Orioles, and his family recently bought a house in Baltimore.

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