Dempsey, Lopes first up as Orioles' search begins


The Orioles can't talk to Tony La Russa yet, so yesterday they arranged to interview almost everyone else on their list of potential successors to Johnny Oates.

The Orioles can't afford to assume La Russa will choose them from a long list of suitors, so they will begin their aggressive managerial search by talking to two candidates today.

Rick Dempsey, a former Oriole and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Triple-A manager, and Davey Lopes, the Orioles' first base coach, will be interviewed today, said Orioles general manager Roland Hemond.

Dempsey flew in to Baltimore from Los Angeles last night, and Lopes will fly in today from Providence, R.I.

Hemond also requested and was granted permission to speak to Cleveland Indians pitching coach Phil Regan and Pittsburgh Pirates coach Bill Virdon, who will be interviewed tomorrow.

The Orioles also requested permission to speak to Cincinnati Reds manager Davey Johnson, who ranks high on their list, and were awaiting a response from the Reds last night, Hemond said. The Orioles' GM made the request to Reds GM Jim Bowden, who had to ask owner Marge Schott for approval.

Johnson's contract with the Reds expires Dec. 31, which means that even if Schott does not want to bring the former Oriole back next season, she could block him from landing another job.

Neither Johnson nor Schott returned phone calls last night, but Schott is expected to grant the permission.

La Russa is eligible to become what amounts to a free agent on Oct. 7, but the Oakland Athletics are expected to try to sign him to a contract extension before that. La Russa is not expected to return from his vacation in England until a day or so before that deadline.

Virdon was the most surprising name contacted by the Orioles and is not considered a leading candidate.

Virdon, 63, has not managed in the major leagues since 1984. He has a career record of 995-921, managing with the Pirates, New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Montreal Expos.

Virdon last interviewed for managing jobs with the expansion Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies.

Regan, 56, has no major-league managerial experience, but he has managed winter ball in Latin America every season since 1985.

"That shows a great deal of dedication," Hemond said.

Regan spent the day at the Indians' organizational meetings at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, then made the five-hour drive to his home in Byron Center, Mich.

Dempsey and Lopes will be the first candidates interviewed, but Hemond cautioned not to read too much into that.

"Because we are interviewing someone, that doesn't mean right after the interviews we turn in a report," Hemond said. "We compile the information and make comparisons as we go along. Then as we get a shorter list, we might want to bring them back for a second time."

Lopes brings a familiarity with the Orioles, the respect of the players and a depth of knowledge of the game, but he has little managing experience. He managed his team to a first-place finish in the Arizona Fall League.

He also brings ties to the fired Oates, which are not expected to impede his candidacy.

"I have a lot of respect for Johnny as both a manager and more importantly as a man," Lopes said. "It's a difficult situation for me, but you have to try to capitalize on opportunities when they come. I don't have any doubt Johnny will find a job as a manager somewhere in baseball very soon."

Lopes said that if he got the job, his transition from coach to manager would follow a path similar to that of Dusty Baker, who underwent such a change smoothly with the San Francisco Giants.

"My relationship is not going to change," Lopes said. "I'll be able to explain to them exactly what I would expect of them. I look at what Dusty has done in San Francisco. His relationship didn't change at all. I would just be in a position of more power."

In his second season as a minor-league manager, Dempsey led the Albuquerque Dukes to the Pacific Coast League title. In his first season, he managed the Single-A Bakersfield Dodgers to a 42-94 record.

"Those guys remind you of the Orioles of old," Dempsey said of the Dukes. "A lot of power. A lot of come-from-behind victories. Guys hung in there the whole way and overcame some unbelievably tough challenges."

How did Dempsey manage to get a two-level promotion despite a 42-94 record in 1993?

"We had dropped our Rookie league team, and they sent all the teen-agers to the California League, only to find out the California League is probably the oldest league in baseball," he said.

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