PHILADELPHIA -- The Orioles will hold a news conference this afternoon to announce that manager Johnny Oates has been signed to a new two-year contract with a club option for the 1996 season.
New managing general partner Peter Angelos confirmed last night that he and Oates will be at a 1 p.m. news conference today at Camden Yards to make it official. The status of general manager Roland Hemond has not been decided, but he apparently will be offered a contract extension soon.
"This [Oates' contract] is the first order of business," Angelos said from his Baltimore office. "It is not meant to detract from anyone else."
The Orioles had to move on Oates because they were under an Oct. 31 deadline to exercise the first of three consecutive contract options. Angelos chose instead to guarantee the next two years and leave only the 1996 season under a club option.
"It's essentially the same span of time, but we've guaranteed two years instead of one and given him a raise," Angelos said. "It's not a monster raise, but it is significant."
Angelos had met with Oates for 3 1/2 hours on Tuesday to talk contract and discuss the future of the team. He said at the time that he came away from the meeting very impressed, prompting strong speculation that Oates would receive a multi-year guarantee.
"The judgment was made on the man as a manager and as a human being," Angelos said. "He's an excellent manager, and with more front-office support and a demonstration of the confidence we have in him, I think the future will hold much promise."
Oates, reached at his Colonial Heights, Va., home, expressed relief that the situation had been resolved. His contract status had been the subject of tremendous speculation over the final weeks of the 1993 season, and the sale of the team early this month only led to more uncertainty.
"I'm glad it's over," said Oates, who led the Orioles to winning records in each of his first two full seasons as manager. "I look forward to achieving the same dream that everyone in Baltimore has, having a championship ballclub."
No salary figures were disclosed, but the contract is thought to bring Oates' salary more in line with those of the other American League East managers with similar credentials. He earned about $225,000 last year, which ranked sixth in the division, ahead of only Cleveland Indians manager Mike Hargrove.
The rehiring of Oates was the first in a series of decisions that Angelos is expected to make in the next few weeks. He said yesterday that he will meet with Hemond over a period of days next week. Angelos also is involved in talks with Orioles vice chairman Larry Lucchino about the role the former club president will play on the new management team.
"Roland and I will be meeting steadily over five or six days to discuss the baseball operation in general and what might be done to make him feel secure and take into account his fine performance as general manager," Angelos said.
The role that Lucchino will play in the decision-making nucleus of the front office also remains uncertain, but Angelos said that nothing has changed since the new ownership group took control of the team.
"I talk to Larry almost every day," he said. "Obviously, he's anxious to know what is expected of him in the new management structure. I can only tell you that he will play a very significant role."
Now that Oates is under contract for next season, the club also can turn its attention to the makeup of the 1994 coaching staff.
"Will I dictate to him what he will do as far as a 1994 coaching staff? The answer is no," Angelos said. "He's the manager. The ultimate decision has to be something that he is comfortable with. Did I give my opinions as managing general partner of the team? They crept into the conversation, but they are not controlling."
Oates was not ready to reveal his plans for the coaching staff. He said only that he hoped to have most of the staff decisions made by the end of next week.
There has been speculation that changes will be made, but neither Oates nor Angelos would shed any light on the subject. The club appears certain to retain bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks, dugout coach Jerry Narron, pitching coach Dick Bosman and hitting coach Greg Biagini.
The status of third-base coach Mike Ferraro is not so clear. He faced criticism late in the season for a series of coaching decisions, but the club could decide to retain him and move him to first base. The club is expected to invite first-base coach Davey Lopes back for '94, but he is a leading candidate to manage the Houston Astros next year.