La Russa, 51, who managed Oakland to three straight World Series appearances from 1988-90, has a contract to remain with the Athletics in 1996, for $1.25 million. But the same contract provides La Russa a 10-day window -- he's in Day 4 today -- when he can talk to other teams.
No one within the Orioles' organization would confirm the contact with La Russa and the A's manager denied talking with any member of the Orioles' organization. However, the future status of manager Phil Regan remains unresolved. Regan met with owner Peter Angelos Tuesday.
"It went [fine]," Regan said yesterday. "The only thing I'm going to say is that as far as I know, I'm the manager here. I have a contract here. I like Baltimore, and that's what I plan on doing."
Before hiring Regan last year, the Orioles asked for permission to talk with La Russa, and after the club's disappointing 71-73 record, the club was expected to at least ask about La Russa's availability before making a decision on Regan.
Angelos told the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday that he has not contacted La Russa. "The paramount concern is not to in any way embarrass those with the team now," he said.
Asked about La Russa, Angelos' respect for the Oakland manager was clear: "We have a good franchise, tremendous fan support, and the best ballpark in baseball. If Tony La Russa became a part of that, it would seem we would have a manager of similar quality.
"He obviously has first-class leadership abilities. He's clearly a student of the game. He has mastered the game. As I understand it, he's an individual with complete integrity, and in many ways, a model manager. The ideal baseball manager.
"What I like is, he's fiery only when absolutely necessary. But generally he's very stable and very even. Intense, but very circumspect. That's just from observation."
La Russa yesterday did acknowledge that he had direct talks with Jocketty. "It was interesting," he said of those discussions. "Interested is a legitimate word. I don't want to go far in talking about it right now, but they have a good situation there."
A's general manager Sandy Alderson has said he'll give La Russa more time beyond 10 days to make a decision if he needs it, and La Russa said, "I don't feel pressure to make a decision. I'm not going to do something that doesn't make sense."
Meanwhile, more meetings involving Angelos, Regan, GM Roland Hemond and assistant GM Frank Robinson are expected in the next week.
The Orioles' talks with San Diego GM Randy Smith, a front-runner to replace Hemond if Hemond is relieved, could begin early next week. The Orioles, and yesterday the Montreal Expos, received permission to interview Smith from Padres CEO Larry Lucchino, with the stipulation that Smith cannot hire away any San Diego employees or select any Padres minor-leaguer in the Rule V draft for a period of two years.
The Orioles also are expected to contact Kevin Malone, who resigned as Expos GM earlier this week, and Mike Port, the assistant GM for the Boston Red Sox, before making any final decision.
Previously, they asked for permission to talk to Cleveland assistant GM Dan O'Dowd and were turned down. But it's improbable the Orioles will ask again.