LAKELAND, Fla. -- Against the din of hotel renovation as well as the tractor trailers rumbling within 100 yards on Interstate 4, the Orioles yesterday attempted to initiate a healing process after last Wednesday's abrupt firing of general manager Frank Wren.
Originally Wren's idea, the four-day organizational conference started with chief operating officer Joe Foss, executive vice president John Angelos, chairman's representative Louis Angelos and director of player personnel Syd Thrift addressing a gathering of scouts and player development personnel within the Cypress room at a Lakeland Howard Johnson's.
The three-hour meeting allowed field personnel to question executives on the organization's direction, the motive behind Wren's ouster and the implications it will have for those remaining.
"It was very positive for the simple reason we were able to talk to people we had never addressed before," said one attendee, referring to Foss and the two sons of majority owner Peter Angelos. "Instead of these guys being names, they're people. Now you at least feel you can sit down with them for an exchange of ideas."
The frank exchange included several blunt questions reflecting widespread dissatisfaction over Wren's firing.
While the Orioles remain coy about their plans for Wren's successor, a significant number of those attending is quietly rooting for the promotion of first-year assistant general manager Bruce Manno, a former farm director and assistant general manager with the Milwaukee Brewers. Hired by Wren last December, Manno was once in line to succeed Brewers general manager Harry Dalton but was bypassed by club owner Bud Selig for Sal Bando.
"It would mean a lot as far as continuity is concerned," said a member of the scouting department. "I think that's what has everyone worried most."
Thrift also is believed a candidate. Having served as director of player development before the role was passed last winter to Tom Trebelhorn, the former Pittsburgh Pirates general manager is Angelos' most trusted lieutenant within baseball operations.
Thrift, 70, repeatedly has denied interest in assuming the post of general manager, but club sources indicate the position will likely be eliminated in favor of a director of baseball operations. The significance of such a title change is unclear but it would not carry the equivalence of a club vice president.
As general manager, Pat Gillick was also a vice president; Wren did not receive the title.
As the list of possible successors to Ray Miller begins to shrivel, the Orioles continue to review managerial candidates after third base coach Sam Perlozzo received a two-hour interview from Angelos on Saturday. One thing is clear: Whoever is named apparently will be Angelos' third choice, as both St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and former Colorado Rockies manager Jim Leyland rejected recent feelers from the club.
La Russa signed a two-year extension with the Cardinals last Friday. Leyland, 54, has given no indication of recanting his desire to leave the dugout at least temporarily.
One name under consideration, Atlanta Braves hitting coach Don Baylor, won't be available for an interview until the Braves' season is over, possibly as late as Nov. 1. Baylor may have his pick of jobs as the Brewers and Anaheim Angels share an interest.
Phil Garner interviewed with the Chicago Cubs, Angels and Detroit Tigers over the weekend. Industry sources believe Wren's dismissal may eliminate the Orioles from consideration, as Garner is believed headed to the Tigers. He was considered Wren's top choice and was among Angelos' favorites.
Among those still interested is Grady Little, a longtime minor-league manager who has spent the past four seasons as bullpen coach with the San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox.
"I have an interest in any major-league job," Little said. "I managed 15 years in the minor leagues. I've been here with Jimy [Williams] for three years. I spent a year in San Diego. If it's my day, it's my day. Whether it's Baltimore or anywhere else, I would just look forward to the opportunity."
The Red Sox are prepared to grant permission for their AL East rival to interview Little. "Grady's a good baseball man," said Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette. "He's got the experience at the big-league level to manage in the American League."
Sun staff writer Ken Rosenthal contributed to this article.