Managing in relative anonymity in the winter leagues of Latin America since 1985, Phil Regan steps into the national spotlight early next week, when he will be interviewed for two of baseball's three managing vacancies.
"I'm supposed to come back to Baltimore for a second time, maybe Sunday or Monday, then go to Texas from there for an interview," Regan said by telephone from Caracas, Venezuela.
Regan, the Cleveland Indians' pitching coach, was the firsfinalist contacted, which could be interpreted as meaning the Orioles have moved up their timetable so as not to be beaten out by the Rangers, who also contacted former Orioles manager Johnny Oates yesterday.
Doug Melvin was excluded from the Orioles' managerial search, but he now appears to be having an indirect impact on it, after all. Hired as general manager of the Rangers on Monday, Melvin was the one who recommended that the Orioles interview Regan.
"You shouldn't read anything into him being the first one contacted," Orioles general manager Roland Hemond said. "He had to come in from outside the country. It's more complicated for him."
And certainly more complicated for the Orioles, considering Regan ranks at the top of the Rangers' list of managerial candidates. The same teams that dueled over first baseman Will Clark could be in the midst of a duel for a manager.
Yet, the Orioles search committee of Russell Smouse, Joe Foss, Frank Robinson and Hemond has not reached a consensus. About all the Orioles agree on, it seems, is that if Oakland manager Tony La Russa becomes available, they want him.
The A's, who have the first crack at keeping La Russa, could have an announcement today.
Two sources told the McClatchy News Service that La Russa, who met with Oakland officials yesterday, has decided he wants to remain with the A's.
Meanwhile, the Orioles are proceeding slowly, except with Regan.
"The other finalists will be contacted within the next few days along with the remaining candidates," Hemond said. "It is our desire to finalize the selection of the manager by early next week, or sometime next week."
Among the nine candidates likely to join Regan for second interviews are Davey Johnson, Rick Dempsey and, maybe, Jeff Torborg.
Torborg, who undoubtedly has the support of Robinson, said last night that he had not heard back from the Orioles.
"I enjoyed the interview very much and thought it went well," said Torborg, Regan's former catcher during their days with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"Phil's a good man," he said.
Such sentiments are expressed often about Regan, nicknamed "The Vulture" because of his penchant for scavenging wins out of the bullpen.
Regan, 57, coached and taught a baseball class at Grand Valley State College in Grand Rapids, Mich., from 1973 to 1982, then joined the Seattle Mariners as an advance scout and minor-league pitching instructor. He became the Mariners' pitching coach and went from there to the Dodgers, where he scouted for seven years.
Regan became the Indians' pitching coach in 1994, figuring getting back in uniform would enhance his managing chances.
What style manager would Regan be?
"Most of my teams down here are aggressive, run the basehard, go into second hard, run the ball out," he said. "We play hard. A team takes on the personality of its manager. . . . I'm fairly easygoing off the field, and very aggressive on it.
"I like pitching. I like speed. I like defense. If you have those three ingredients you are in every game. Hitting to me is a bonus. I like speed to try to manufacture runs and do things early in the game."
Regan's style has been likened to that of late Dodgers great Walter Alston, and it's no coincidence.
"The one person I really admired was Walt Alston," Regan said. "As I look at him, I see he didn't overmanage. He let the players play the game. He won with all different types of clubs. Whatever it took, he adapted."
Noted as a gentleman off the field, Regan was accused of bending the rules on it more than once, including an incident when a tube of Vaseline fell out of his pocket as he slid into second base.
"I always say when you go to war you should bring all of your weapons," Regan said jokingly.
Regan will talk to the Orioles, then the Rangers next week. Unless, of course, the Orioles offered him a job on the spot, which would cancel his trip to Texas.
@4 "That would be nice," Regan said with a chuckle.