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Smith freed F. Robinson eyes Padres; O's assistant GM meets with Angelos, says status unclear; San Diego 'club on rise'; Smith lauds 'divorce,' still O's front-runner


CLEVELAND -- Randy Smith officially is out as general manager of the San Diego Padres, as of yesterday morning, and is free and clear to join any interested team, like the Orioles. And, officially, Orioles assistant general manager Frank Robinson would like Smith's old job in San Diego.

Robinson met with Orioles owner Peter Angelos yesterday afternoon, and afterward Robinson said he's not sure whether he'll be with the club next year. He is sure, however, that he wants to be a general manager, and it just so happens that the Padres need a GM.

"I would like to hear from them," Robinson said of the Padres. "Of course I'd like to be the general manager. That's a position I've worked for a number of years to [achieve].

"That's a good young ballclub that's on the rise. . . . I'm familiar with the people who work there, and they are familiar with me. That's an excellent opportunity."

Padres CEO Larry Lucchino used to be the president of the Orioles and worked closely with Robinson. Shortly after he assumed control of the Padres last winter, Lucchino asked for permission to interview Robinson and talked with him several times on the phone.

Lucchino offered Robinson, 60, a job as an adviser, to work independently of Smith and with no established authority in baseball decisions. Robinson turned down the offer, but at the time he said he would be willing to talk to the Padres again after the 1995 season.

Robinson said this, no doubt, with the knowledge that Smith's contract was set to expire after the season.

The Padres improved and Lucchino wanted to retain Smith, but the Padres' GM job came open anyway when Smith turned in a letter of resignation. Club sources in San Diego say that New York Mets executive Gerry Hunsicker, who spoke with the Padres earlier this week, is the leading candidate to replace Smith, and Robinson is being considered for a role as an adviser to Lucchino.

Robinson said he and Angelos talked about a number of issues in their meeting, including his future, and the club. Angelos wouldn't comment.

"Nothing was decided," Robinson said. "I think by next Thursday, or by the end of next week, we'll probably have a decision."

The Orioles have interviewed Smith and former Montreal Expos general manager Kevin Malone and could talk to New York Yankees GM Gene Michael, if Michael if fired by the Yankees. Smith appears to be the front-runner, and Robinson apparently is not in the running.

Lucchino officially accepted Smith's resignation yesterday, after a couple of weeks of negotiations over settlement terms.

"I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders," said Smith, 32, who became the youngest general manager in major-league history when he took over the Padres in 1993. "I'm just glad to be divorced."

Under the terms of his divorce, Smith can hire anybody he wants from the Padres organization.

However, the agreement that Angelos made with Lucchino for permission to talk to Smith likely would take precedence over Smith's terms of separation, meaning that if he goes to the PTC Orioles, he won't be able to hire any Padres employee for a period of two years.

However, Padres sources indicate that in individual cases, the club wouldn't necessarily stand in Smith's way; he will, in all probability, be able to bring along Steve Lubratich, who served as his assistant general manager in San Diego before resigning a week after Smith did so.

Smith interviewed with the Expos on Wednesday, and the Montreal Gazette is reporting today that the team made a strong push to woo him.

Smith said he has plans to talk to two other clubs (he would not say which teams) about secondary positions, under the general manager -- such as assistant general manager or scouting director.

The Detroit Tigers are expected to fire current GM Joe Klein and make a heavy pitch for Smith if he hasn't already made a deal elsewhere by then.

The Orioles continue to play a waiting game on whether to replace manager Phil Regan.

They'll likely contact Cincinnati manager Davey Johnson and Yankees manager Buck Showalter if and when those two become available.

They've talked to Oakland manager Tony La Russa, who is asking for a contract worth $1.5 million per season. La Russa is earning $1.5 million under his contract with the Athletics, not the $1.25 million that has been widely reported, including by The Sun.

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