Seconds seem like minutes, minutes like hours and hours like days. While Orioles owner Peter Angelos ponders his next manager, the team's holdover coaches sit with their cell phones, wondering what their future will bring when three weeks of suspense ends.
The situation is unusual but hardly unprecedented locally. The anticipated Oct. 6 firing of manager Ray Miller did not address a coaching staff that includes three candidates as Miller's possible successor, another two who are signed through 2000 and a sixth who has worn an Orioles uniform for the past 22 seasons.
A majority has received no assurances except that its status will be clarified upon the naming of the franchise's fifth manager in seven seasons.
"There was a time when I knew before the season ended whether the group would be back or not," said longtime bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks. "It seems like it's gotten longer each year before we find out.
"It's not a good feeling just sitting around waiting for any news, good, bad or indifferent. The longer it takes, the more apprehensive you get."
Like numerous other teams, the Orioles structure coaches' contracts to expire at the end of October. However, unlike much of the industry, the Orioles have made a habit of notifying coaches of their fate on the last possible day -- or even later. If a coach waits this long to learn he hasn't been retained, many jobs in other organizations already have been filled.
That third base coach Sam Perlozzo, first base coach Marv Foley and bench coach Eddie Murray have interviewed for the managerial vacancy only adds to the intrigue. Perlozzo's and Murray's contracts expire on Sunday but neither dares look elsewhere before Angelos announces his verdict.
"If I'm in the running for a managing job I'm going to have to take my time and hope for the best," said Perlozzo, a major-league third base coach the past 13 seasons.
"If they think well enough of me to consider me as a manager, you would think they would consider keeping me as a coach. I don't like to be in the situation but I'm real happy to be in the mix for a manager's job. I've been in this situation before. What makes this a little more bearable is there's a bigger upside."
Among Miller's holdover staff, only hitting coach Terry Crowley has been assured of his return next season. Crowley and pitching coach Bruce Kison signed two-year contracts when hired last November, but Kison's status came under critical review by Angelos beginning in May. The pitching staff righted itself during the season's second half; however, Kison would probably be reassigned within the organization if an outside candidate such as Mike Hargrove or Grady Little is named.
Kison's reassignment would give the Orioles their fifth pitching coach in as many seasons.
"It's not a situation I have control over," said Kison, yet to be contacted by anyone within the team's front office. "There are a lot of issues that need to be settled. When you lose a manager and a general manager, those people need to be put back in place. Then you can address secondary issues. Those issues include a coaching staff."
Foley's contract is slightly different from the Orioles' other coaches because it was not converted to a major-league deal when he was promoted last November from Triple-A Rochester, where he managed for four seasons. If he is not named manager, Foley says he would prefer to remain in the organization, hopefully in Baltimore.
"We'll just wait and see about the managing part of it," he said. "If they would like me to stay on the staff, that would be fine. I've enjoyed my time here."
Murray accepted a job to manage the Scottsdale Scorpions of the developmental Arizona Fall League as a means of augmenting his resume. Though the Orioles granted him an interview on Monday, Murray has the least coaching and managerial experience of the nine known candidates.
To many, Hendricks is the Orioles. No member of the organization makes more speaking and civic appearances. None has enjoyed his work more.
Hendricks' presence among next season's staff is considered a given by many within the organization. Hendricks does not count himself among them.
"I've never taken what I do for granted," Hendricks said. "I'm always worried about my job and whether I'll be here or not depending on who comes in."