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Down picks up where Johnson left off Manager has to go home, but approach carried on

CLEVELAND — CLEVELAND -- Orioles manager Davey Johnson missed yesterday's game against the Cleveland Indians and traveled to Orlando, Fla., where club officials said he was to address personal problems within his family.

Johnson, who left town around noon, handed over the team to hitting coach Rick Down.

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Team officials thought it unlikely that Johnson would rejoin the team in time for today's series finale. The club leaves tonight for a two-game series against the New York Yankees.

Johnson, a father of six, notified Down of his departure with a phone call around 8: 45 a.m. Down, a highly successful minor-league manager within the Yankees' organization, has long been Johnson's second in case of ejection. Down once served the same role with Yankees manager Buck Showalter, but yesterday's 8-3 win represented the first time he had handled a major-league game from start to finish.

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"I manage according to the people on the field and that's what Davey does, too," said Down, who repeatedly put base runners in motion as the Orioles grabbed a 4-0 lead after three innings. "You don't ask a player to do something where he doesn't have a chance to be successful."

The call from Johnson took Down by surprise. "I came down to the ballpark expecting to go to the [batting] cage," he said.

Down did not alter the lineup, keeping slumping Eric Davis as designated hitter in the No. 3 spot. He did move catcher Chris Hoiles ahead of B. J. Surhoff in the lineup, typical against a left-handed starter such as Steve Kline. Down stayed with Orioles starter Mike Mussina for seven innings and 116 pitches. Johnson has allowed a starter to go past 120 pitches only once this season.

Down was a finalist for the Anaheim Angels' managerial vacancy last fall, but was edged out by former Houston Astros manager Terry Collins.

"Somebody made the decision they were going to go with previous experience," said Down, having just gained an important bit for himself.

Pub Date: 5/25/97



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