Former Orioles outfielder Don Buford became the sixth member of the club's major-league coaching staff yesterday, filling the vacancy left when the team fired third-base coach Mike Ferraro on Oct. 22.
Buford takes Ferraro's place on manager Johnny Oates' coaching staff, but he will not move into the third-base coaching box. He will act as bench coach and outfield coach, the same role he played under Frank Robinson during the 1988 season.
The coaching staff has been realigned. Jerry Narron has moved from bench coach to third base and Buford has moved into the dugout. Davey Lopes, who was passed over for the managerial opening with the Houston Astros, will return as first- base coach and base-running instructor.
Lopes also acted as outfield coach last year, but he will work with the infielders in the new coaching alignment. Pitching coach Dick Bosman, hitting coach Greg Biagini and bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks were not affected by the reorganization.
The announcement yesterday ended a month-long review of the coaching staff. The day Ferraro was fired, Oates indicated that the club might stay with a five-man staff and increase the duties of each member. Then rumors surfaced that former Oriole Al Bumbry might return and coach third base.
Instead, the Orioles rewarded Buford for his years of service in the Orioles' player development department. He became the club's director of field operations after the 1988 season and spent the past two seasons managing the Orioles' Double-A minor-league affiliate.
"I'm excited and my family is excited," Buford said. "It was kind of a surprise. When the coaching opening developed, I called Roland [Hemond] and told him that I was interested, but he surprised me with the call today.
"It's nice that they promoted from inside the organization. I think that helps everyone down in the minor leagues. There are a lot of people doing a great job down there and this lets them know that they have a chance to move up."
Buford managed the Hagerstown Suns in 1992 and remained with the team when it moved to Bowie (actually Memorial Stadium) for the 1993 season. He led the Bay Sox to a 72-68 record last year.
"He has done a good job in the organization," general manager Roland Hemond said. "It's nice to be able to reward someone by bringing him back to the major-league level. It's nice to promote from within."
Buford's promotion, however, apparently hinged on the outcome of the managerial hunt that the Astros completed this week. If Lopes had been hired in Houston, there is the possibility that the Orioles would have hired Bumbry to be the sixth coach because of his ability to work with base runners.
"He was considered," Hemond said. "If we had hired him, there would have been some duplication, because Davey is in charge of base running. Doug [Melvin] is scheduled to talk to him [Bumbry] tomorrow about a job in our minor-league system."
Oates wanted Buford because his outfield expertise would free up Lopes to concentrate more on the club's base running -- an area that was a sore spot for the club.
"We have talked a lot about base running and we felt this was a way we could do a better job," Oates said. "I felt that with the young outfielders we have, they would need a lot of attention. Don can give that to them and Davey will be able to concentrate more on the base running, which he originally was brought in to do. Because of the nature of our infield, he won't have to spend nearly as much time working on that as he would have if he had remained the outfield coach."
Narron, a former major-league catcher, has been a successful manager in the Orioles' minor-league system. He now appears to be next in the club's line of succession behind Oates.
"It's a step forward in his career," Hemond said. "There are a lot of third-base coaches who have gone on to become major-league managers. Birdie Tebbetts used to say that Jerry reminds him of Walter Alston. He's a quiet guy, but he's all business. He's a good baseball man."