CARACAS, Venezuela -- Phil Regan, still on his honeymoon, promises to give a lot in his marriage with the Orioles, and he expects a lot in return.
Regan had more interest in the Orioles' managing job than the Texas Rangers' opening because, he said, he thought the Orioles had more talent. But that doesn't mean Regan is satisfied with maintaining the status quo heading into 1995.
Regan wants more speed, deeper pitching and a better bench than the Orioles had in 1994. And if the Orioles don't fill all those needs from outside the organization, he promises to have an open mind and take a long look at players from the farm system.
"I think we have got to take a look at the pitching," Regan said. "And I would like more speed. We had only two players in double figures in stolen bases [Brady Anderson and Mark McLemore]. We can increase our stolen bases and manufacture more runs by getting runners over, taking the extra base, doing the little things.
"There's a need at second base if McLemore doesn't sign with us. Maybe Manny Alexander is the answer. I like that possibility because of his speed. I see a need in the outfield, depending on how the young guys come along. I'm really anxious to see Damon Buford play. I like his speed. We need another left-hander in the bullpen. That's a big priority. I'd like to have two, maybe three left-handers out there. Another thing I would like to have is a left-handed-hitting catcher."
One common ingredient he insists upon from all players, he said, is the willingness to work. In return, he promises to offer positive reinforcement.
"Even a mosquito doesn't get a pat on the back until its work is done," Regan said, laughing at his corniness.
Alexander, Buford, power hitter Sherman Obando and right-hander Brian Sackinsky, to name a few, are players who should be encouraged that Regan has replaced Johnny Oates.
"I think the young players should come into camp with an open mind," Regan said. "I'm new, and the whole coaching staff [except bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks] is new. We have not formed opinions. I think they ought to be excited, and they ought to come to spring training in the best shape they've ever been in with the attitude they are going to win a job. They shouldn't be thinking about Triple-A. They should be thinking about the big leagues.
"We're looking to be surprised. You've got to give the guys a chance."
Regan said he is hoping someone from the Double-A Bowie pitching staff blows him away in spring training so much that he has no choice but to include him on his 11-man staff.
"There is no reason -- if you've got a good arm and can throw strikes -- you can't pitch in the big leagues," Regan said.
Rushing a pitcher to the majors isn't necessarily a mistake, Regan said.
"It all depends on the makeup of the pitcher," Regan said. "If you get a guy like Mike Morgan, who is not as confident as some, he has to be brought along more slowly. But you take a guy like Billy Swift, who has more confidence, and it can work out."
Bill Swift -- there's that name again. Swift, a ground-ball pitcher extraordinaire, ranks at the top of the Orioles' free-agent shopping list, right alongside left-hander Danny Jackson.
Regan says landing a solid No. 3 starter is the club's top priority, and ownership is willing to back him. Most clubs plan to wait until January to tap the free-agent market in hopes that will drive prices down. Orioles owner Peter Angelos, however, isn't about to let other clubs dictate his policy.
Still, should the free-agent path prove blocked, the Orioles will seek to trade for pitching help. General manager Roland Hemond, assistant GM Frank Robinson and farm director Syd Thrift are attending this week's GM meetings in Phoenix, and, at the minimum, will lay groundwork for trade talks.
The Orioles will talk with the Houston Astros, who are seeking to trim their payroll and are dangling pitching. Astros GM Bob Watson andmanager Terry Collins, on a scouting mission in Venezuela, stopped by the Caracas Lions clubhouse before a recent game to congratulate Regan on landing his new job. But it was more than merely a social visit.
The Astros have been telling clubs that outfielder Luis Gonzalez ($3.5 million salary in 1994) is available, but clubs suspect the Astros might not tender him a contract anyway in an effort to cut costs, thus making him a free agent.
The Astros also have spread the word they are looking to trade two of the following starting pitchers: Doug Drabek, Pete Harnisch or Greg Swindell.
However, they will do everything they can to trim the payroll withoutparting with staff ace Drabek. The Orioles long have had an interest in reacquiring Harnisch, but they would like to do better than Harnisch for the No. 3 spot in the rotation.
The Orioles could solve their two biggest needs by trading young pitching to the Astros in exchange for Drabek and Gonzalez, should the Astros decide to let Drabek go.
Of course, the Orioles would like to hold onto their young pitching and trade one of their veteran left-handers instead. The Orioles will float the name Sid Fernandez this week at the GM meetings. Because of Fernandez's hefty salary, though, the Orioles likely will find more interest in Jamie Moyer, who would fit nicely into the Rangers' starting rotation.
Moyer, a fly-ball pitcher more suited to The Ballpark in Arlington than to Camden Yards, had a good working relationship with former Orioles pitching coach Dick Bosman, who now has that job with the Rangers.
Meanwhile, Regan has been in daily contact from Venezuela with the Orioles, giving his input on what direction he believes they should head. His input will be weighed more heavily than his predecessor's, according to club officials.
New Orioles manager Phil Regan has identified speed, deeper pitching and a better bench as the team's three biggest needs for next season. Here are some players, inside and outside the organization, who may fit those needs, with some comments from Regan:
Manny Alexander: "There's a need at second base if [Mark] McLemore doesn't sign with us. Maybe Manny Alexander is the answer."
Damon Buford: "I see a need in the outfield, depending on how the young guys come along. I'm really anxious to see Damon Buford play. I like his speed."
Doug Drabek, Pete Harnisch or Greg Swindell: The Astros apparently are looking to trade two of these starting pitchers.