- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 26, 2004

BALTIMORE — It’s never a normal game when the New York Yankees come to town. Last night, however, brought some added theater to Camden Yards.

Son vs. father. Student vs. teacher. Apprentice vs. mentor.

Every time Baltimore Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli looked across the field, he saw the man who taught him how to handle himself as a big league player and helped groom him to become a major league manager — Yankees skipper Joe Torre.

“I think it will be a little strange, no question,” Mazzilli said before the first game of a three-game series against the Yankees. “But you have to keep your emotions out of the game and just play the game, just put my guys out there on the field and let them play.”

When Mazzilli broke in with the New York Mets in 1976, Torre was near the end of his career. The Brooklyn natives became close friends. Torre served as a father figure to the brash young outfielder, even after Torre took over as manager of the Mets in 1977.

“I had him as a baby,” Torre said. “The one thing you noticed right away, even though he was inexperienced and young, is that he wasn’t afraid of the heat. He was never really afraid to fail. I think you find those guys, I don’t want to say rarely, but you don’t find them coming down the pike often.”

Torre didn’t forget the qualities he saw in his former teammate, who retired from baseball in 1988. Mazzilli bounced from job to job — he spent time as a banker, an actor and as president of an independent minor league — before joining the Yankees organization as a minor league manager in 1997. After Mazzilli had three successful seasons with Yankees farm clubs in Tampa, Fla., and Norwich, Conn., Torre brought his close friend back to the majors, adding him to the Yankees coaching staff.

As a first base and outfield coach for New York, Mazzilli learned from Torre, who led the Yankees to three World Series and one championship from 2000 to 2003, and took those lessons with him when he got the Orioles job this winter.

“We have a special relationship on and off the field,” Mazzilli said.

Mazzilli tried his best to keep a straight face when he insisted he had not been anticipating his first game against the Yankees.

“No, I haven’t been looking ahead to this day,” he said. “I knew we were going to play them, but I wasn’t looking at the specific date. I know we have to play them 19 times.”

Still, one of the first guys Mazzilli called when he got the job was Torre, even though it was past midnight.

“I called around 1 a.m., thinking he was home. I said, ‘What the [heck], I might as well wake him up.’ When I did call, he was in California at the time, so I didn’t feel as bad.”

Torre said Mazzilli has handled the job well.

“We haven’t seen him,” Torre said. “But from just watching the results, watching the scoreboard with as many games as they are in, that’s an indication he is doing very well.”

The two have spoken several times throughout the season, including before Mazzilli’s first game as Orioles manager.

“[Torre] wished me luck, and he said he can’t pull for me anymore,” Mazzilli said. “I said, ‘That’s not true. There’s only 19 games that he can’t pull for me for.’”

Notes — The Orioles called up right-hander Denny Bautista from Class AA Bowie and infielder Jose Leon and catcher Robert Machado from Class AAA Ottawa. To make room for the trio, the club designated catcher Keith Osik and infielder Jose Bautista for assignment and sent right-handed reliever Rick Bauer to Ottawa.

They also activated left-handed starter Matt Riley from the 15-day disabled list and sent him to Ottawa. Riley, 1-1 with a 6.33 ERA in five games, had been sidelined since May 11 with tightness in his left shoulder.

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