The next phase of Eddie Murray's professional career has brought him backwhere it began, in the Orioles' organization. To the place where his uniformnumber is retired, the place where he'll begin the transition from future Hallof Fame player to coach.
Murray, 41, was introduced yesterday as the newest member of manager RayMiller's coaching staff, leaving one more vacancy, which will be filled bylongtime Dominican scout Carlos Bernhardt. Bernhardt's promotion is expectedwithin 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 saidyesterday that he would prefer to keep Murray in the dugout, though he stoppedshort of naming him the bench coach, a job held the past two seasons by AndyEtchebarren. 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 thebench, you can turn to Rick Down. If you have a question about defense, youcan turn to Sam Perlozzo. If you have a question about pitching, you can shareit with Mike Flanagan. And I certainly would love to have Eddie Murray sittingthere because I think, between all of us, we ought to be able to come up witha solution for anything," Miller said.
"If you talk about other sports, they say Mario Lemieux sees more of theice than the average [hockey] player. Eddie, from a young age, saw more of thefield, more of what's going on, and I was really amazed at how knowledgeablehe was about learning the game and seeing what was going on and putting it alltogether. He's a guy who's in the game. He loves the game and has a lot of funworking. If I can just get him to coach just a little bit better than heplayed, I'll have a heck of a coach.
"When I came here last year [as pitching coach], after the first month Isaid I felt like I came home. And it's my great pleasure to get Eddie backwhere he belongs, at home."
This is Murray's second return to the Orioles since breaking into themajors with them in 1977 and being named the American League's Rookie of theYear. He spent 12 years here, appearing in two World Series, before beingtraded to the Los Angeles Dodgers before the 1989 season. He was reacquired bythe Orioles in a trade with the Cleveland Indians on July 21, 1996, and lessthan two months later became the 15th player in baseball history to record 500home runs, hitting the historic shot at Camden Yards.
Murray was signed by the Anaheim Angels as a free agent, beginning a finalseason marred by an injured tendon in his wrist that has him contemplatingsurgery. He appeared in 46 games before being released, then got his lastseven at-bats with the Dodgers, closing a career that included 3,255 hits, 504homers and 1,917 RBIs. It was his only season out of 21 with fewer than 75RBIs, a major-league record.
"This is a day of turning the page, and I'm glad to be here in Baltimoreto start that other half of my career," said Murray, a three-time Gold Glovewinner 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 besomething that was almost etched out in most careers, where a shoulder or kneewould 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 alittle burning toward the game, so I'm giving this a shot and I think it willbe a good thing. I could have gone and coached somewhere else, but I wouldlove to work under [Miller]."
Murray, who received a two-year contract, said he began to consider afuture in coaching about 10 years ago and someday would like the opportunityto manage, "or I wouldn't be here doing this," he said.
Much was made again yesterday of returning to the Oriole Way, a route thatMiller believes will be more direct with the addition of Murray.
"I said before that I didn't necessarily care that the coaches I named tothe staff were my best friends, but I wanted people who believed in the Orioleprogram, who know how much I believe in the way we were brought up in thisorganization," 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 goabout things, and their energy level and all. And when you talk aboutenthusiasm or knowledge of the game or leadership or work ethic, I alwaysrespected that about Eddie from the time he was 19 years of age.
"Every player I've talked to has been extremely receptive to this. Almostto a man, they said Eddie made a big difference in '96 when he came in thisclubhouse. 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 oneverybody, where everybody's not afraid to cry with somebody when somethinggoes bad and laugh when something goes good."
General manager Pat Gillick, who attended yesterday's news conferencealong with assistant GM Kevin Malone, said: "The one thing about Eddie Murrayis he's a professional and he loves this game. We're just real excited andhappy to have Eddie back as one of the members of our coaching staff. What hecan impart to our young players, not only from a physical standpoint, but alsothe mental aspect, is going to give a big boost to our ballclub."
One adjustment for Murray will be the shift from teammate to authorityfigure 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," saidbullpen coach Elrod Hendricks. "A lot of the guys I started coaching, I playedwith. He was among the ones I had a problem with in the beginning. In a lot ofways, we've started the groundwork already. I've reminded him of certainthings. I think his transition will be a lot easier because a lot of theseguys that he played with a couple years ago have great respect for him andfelt comfortable enough that when he suggested something, they listened, or ifhe picked something up and told them about it, they all believed."
Miller said yesterday that Hendricks will return to working with thecatchers, a responsibility that former manager Davey Johnson handed toEtchebarren two years ago.
"Elrod is going to be the catching coach," Miller said. "I think peoplemay be surprised at how much we improve our catching next year."
Blue Jays hire Tim Johnson
Tim Johnson, a minor-league manager and former Toronto shortstop, is hiredas Blue Jays manager, a job for which former Orioles manager Davey Johnson wasamong the finalists.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun