To players, new boss is respected stranger THE HIRING OF PHIL REGAN


New Orioles manager Phil Regan has solid baseball credentials. He was a quality player, he has managed many years in the winter leagues and he was considered one of the premier pitching coaches when he was plucked from the Cleveland Indians organization yesterday.

But to the players he inherits on the Orioles roster, he is largely an unknown quantity.

"I guess that's good," first baseman Rafael Palmeiro said when he learned the identity of his new boss, "but I don't really know that much about him. I didn't really know he was out there until people started to bring up his name."

Palmeiro was an early supporter of Orioles coach Davey Lopes, who had been on the Texas coaching staff during much of Palmeiro's tenure there. He did not second-guess the club's decision to choose someone else, but he restated his confidence that Lopes would make a good manager.

"They know what they're doing," Palmeiro said. "I can't be criticizing who they hire. I like Davey. He is a personal friend of mine who has done a lot for my career. I'd like to have seen him get the opportunity, but I know that he'll be managing somewhere sometime soon."

There may be room to wonder why the Orioles chose a rookie manager whose major-league coaching experience has been focused largely on pitching, but the makeup of the Orioles roster may prove the logic of that decision.

"The manager is essentially a pitching coach, particularly on our team," said veteran utility man Tim Hulett. "We've already got a lot of guys who know how to play their positions -- veteran guys who know what to do -- so this might be a good way to go."

Left-hander Jamie Moyer thinks so. He has played for a number of managers during a major-league career that took him through Texas, Chicago and St. Louis before he arrived in Baltimore, but he never has played for a former pitcher.

"I think it will be interesting to see what it's like to play for a manager at the major-league level who was a pitcher -- someone who understands what it's like," Moyer said. "I'm not taking anything away from any of the managers I played for, but you can only know what it's like to play at the position you played at.

"I don't know Phil at all, but I know he did a great job in Cleveland, so this is exciting."

The Orioles got strong performances from several members of the pitching staff last year. Mike Mussina and Ben McDonald both were on 20-win paces when the season was interrupted by the strike. Lee Smith led the majors in saves. But there was tension between some members of the starting rotation and former manager Johnny Oates.

McDonald and Mussina both were known to be unhappy with the way they were handled. Now they will have a manager who knows pitching inside and out. If they have any doubts about that, they can ask former teammate Jose Mesa, who feels that Regan helped turn his career around.

"Phil made me realize I could be a good setup man in the big leagues," Mesa said yesterday. "He really worked hard with me.

"I think he should be able to manage in the big leagues. He has won championships in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Felipe Alou managed in the winter leagues a long time before getting a chance with Montreal. I just hope Phil makes a lot of mistakes against us."

Indians right-hander Albie Lopez agreed. Regan helped him come into his own last year and helped him build the confidence necessary to contribute to Cleveland's impressive 1994 performance.

"I'm happy for Phil," he said. "When I first came to Cleveland this year, I was struggling. Phil worked with me and showed a lot of patience. He's earned a chance to manage."

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