Last-place Orioles fire Perlozzo before road trip

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BALTIMORE — Since Davey Johnson guided the Orioles to a first-place finish in 1997, no manager has led the Baltimore Orioles to a winning season.

Sam Perlozzo became the latest one to fail yesterday when he was fired by the Orioles, the result of his inability to bring last-place Baltimore out of a lengthy funk that included an eight-game losing streak.

“We felt Sam was prepared. We felt the club was prepared to do battle every night,” executive vice president Mike Flanagan said in a press conference. “For whatever reason, it just wasn’t working.”

Bullpen coach Dave Trembley will be the interim manager when the Orioles begin a six-game trip in San Diego today. One of the leading candidates to fill the position on a full-time basis is Joe Girardi, voted NL manager of the year in 2006 with the Florida Marlins after he was fired in a dispute with ownership.

On another front, the Orioles are negotiating with former Chicago Cubs president Andy MacPhail about becoming chief operating officer, a job left vacant since Joe Foss resigned earlier this year.

After Johnson was fired after the 1997 season, Ray Miller, Mike Hargrove, Lee Mazzilli and Perlozzo all compiled losing records, and unless the Orioles pull off a surprising turnaround, the team’s franchise-record run of losing seasons will reach 10 at the end of this year.

This was supposed to be the year Baltimore finally competed in the AL East. The team spent $42 million to overhaul the bullpen, signed free agent hitters Aubrey Huff and Jay Payton and added Jaret Wright and Steve Trachsel to the rotation.

The additions haven’t provided the desired results.

Danys Baez, who signed a three-year, $19 million contract, lost his job as setup man and was 0-4 with a 6.52 ERA before going on the 15-day disabled list Saturday. Orioles relievers were 0-5 with a 6.00 ERA during their latest homestand.

Huff and Payton have been adequate, but the offense is batting .260 with a mere 50 homers in 69 games.

Wright was removed from the rotation in April with shoulder stiffness and could be lost for the year, and left-hander Adam Loewen had season-ending elbow surgery last week.

For two months, the Orioles performed beyond expectations. Baltimore was 27-27 and in second place May 31 before losing 13 of 15 in June, including the last eight games of a 1-8 homestand that ended Sunday.

Baltimore’s 29-40 record is the fifth worst in the major leagues. The Orioles started yesterday trailing first-place Boston by 15½ games in the AL East.

“We’ve changed a lot of things in the last three or four years to head in the right direction,” Flanagan said. “And we still feel that way about the organization in spite of what happened today. We believe that everything else in place is working well.”

The blame for the Orioles‘ losing record fell on Perlozzo, the first major league manager to be fired this season.

“It’s always based on results,” Flanagan said. “It really gets down to wins and losses and expectations and believing that this club is better than it looked.”

The 56-year-old Perlozzo was told of the decision during a 20-minute discussion yesterday with Flanagan and vice president Jim Duquette.

“As you might imagine, today has been a very difficult one for me and my family,” Perlozzo said in a statement. “I am very disappointed that I will no longer be managing the Orioles. That being said, I wish them nothing but the best. I have been with the team for 12 seasons, and I consider myself an Oriole. I believe that I have represented the club well during my time with them, and I hope that the fans believe that, too.”

Trembley, 55, spent the last four of his 20 years as minor league manager in the Baltimore organization. He served as bench coach on occasion this season while Tom Trebelhorn returned to Arizona to tend to his ailing wife.

“We think Dave deserves a chance,” Flanagan said.

The coaching staff will remain intact. Pitching coach Leo Mazzone, who joined the Orioles last year because of his tight friendship with Perlozzo, will continue his effort to right a staff with a 4.27 ERA and a league-leading 276 walks.

“Leo expressed disappointment, but at the same time believes in this pitching staff and is excited to see it go forward,” Flanagan said. “He feels like we can turn this around.”

After Sunday’s 6-4 loss to Arizona, there was talk in the clubhouse of Perlozzo’s imminent dismissal. Several players publicly defended him, including Kevin Millar, who called for a players-only meeting in San Diego today.

Sam Perlozzo doesn’t throw the ball and doesn’t catch the ball. We know that for sure, right? He doesn’t hit the ball,” Millar said. “He doesn’t play. We play.”

Flanagan inferred that Millar’s call for a team meeting was a factor in the team’s decision to fire Perlozzo.

“Those are the sort of things that indicate that things aren’t going well with the ballclub,” Flanagan said.

Perlozzo took over on an interim basis after the Orioles dismissed Mazzilli on Aug. 4, 2005. After guiding Baltimore to a 23-32 record the remainder of that season, Perlozzo signed a three-year contract in October 2005.

He finished 122-164, including 70-92 last season.

Perlozzo grew up in Cumberland, Md., and rooted for the Orioles during his childhood. Before being hired as manager, he spent 10 years on the team’s coaching staff. He was invited to stay with the organization in a different capacity.

“I don’t know what the future holds for me with regard to my career,” Perlozzo said, “but I certainly hope to stay in the game that I have been a part of for so long.”

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