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Angelos says Hargrove, staff to return in '03


BOSTON - With questions about job security rippling through the Orioles' organization as the team endures its rockiest stretch in years, owner Peter Angelos quelled some of those concerns, saying manager Mike Hargrove and his entire coaching staff will be invited back for next season.

Hargrove has one more season remaining on his current contract, and while his status wasn't really in question, Angelos told The Sun his manager will be back.

Doubts about the coaching staff's future had surfaced with the team riding a stretch of 18 losses in 19 games heading into last night's 8-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Geronimo Gil hit a two-run homer and Rodrigo Lopez pitched six innings for his 15th victory, as the Orioles ended their losing streak at eight games.

Before the breakout performance, Angelos tried to put his team at ease.

"I have complete confidence in the coaching staff," Angelos said. "The coaches are certainly going to be renewed."

Angelos still has not addressed the status of Orioles vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift, whose contract expires after this season, but back in July, Angelos declared, "Syd is here to stay."

For now, Angelos appears in no hurry to find a scapegoat for the team's recent plunge. The Orioles had climbed back to .500 at 63-63 on Aug. 23 before going into their tailspin, and the owner feels the team has made progress this season.

Angelos did raise one specific concern about the Orioles' offense, however, saying he thinks this team has been too undisciplined at the plate. He said he noticed this before the stretch of losses began, but added: "It's not meant to be a criticism of any particular coach."

The Orioles entered last night ranked second to last in the American League in walks with 413 and second to last in hitting with a .249 team average.

Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley has felt the heat in recent days, with the club hitting .205 over its previous 19 games. To be sure, Crowley has a relatively inexperienced group of free-swingers under his tutelage, namely Jay Gibbons, Jerry Hairston and Melvin Mora.

What's more, Crowley has a track record of turning around careers for the likes of Orioles outfielder Gary Matthews, and Angelos wants him to stay.

Hargrove has said his current staff might be the best group of coaches he has had in 12 seasons as a big-league manager, and longtime baseball observers have said he might be surrounded with the best group of teachers in the business.

"These guys care so much about what they do," Orioles shortstop Mike Bordick said. "Every day they come to the field and are willing to put their time in. That's what makes them so special."

Pitching coach Mark Wiley is in the second year of a three-year contract and Thrift thinks so highly of him, he has brought minor-league pitchers to Baltimore so Wiley can give them instruction for the offseason.

Bench coach Sam Perlozzo has helped second baseman Hairston polish his defensive skills to the point Hargrove recently called Hairston the team's most improved player. Hairston had three of the Orioles' 12 hits last night.

First base coach Rick Dempsey, the 1983 World Series Most Valuable Player, doubles as the team's catching instructor, and he has been working with Geronimo Gil, trying to get him to cut back on his passed balls.

It's an experienced staff filled with ambition. Dempsey, like Perlozzo, has interviewed for big-league managing jobs, and third base coach Tom Trebelhorn already has six seasons of major-league managing experience.

Even though the Orioles went through a stretch last month where they had several runners thrown out at home plate, Hargrove praised Trebelhorn for his aggressive style.

Finally there's bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks, an Orioles institution in his 34th season who still spends most of his time in shin pads, working to keep the team's relievers prepared.

How tough have these losses been? Hargrove faced the question for the umpteenth time before last night's game and gave one of his most telling answers. "We'll be the better for this when we get through," Hargrove said. "We'll get through. Let's just hope we all have our sanity and our hair and our jobs."

Angelos put one of those doubts to rest.

Orioles today

Opponent:Boston Red Sox

Site:Fenway Park, Boston

Time:5:05 p.m.

TV/Radio:Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Pat Hentgen (0-1, 6.75) vs. Red Sox's Derek Lowe (19-7, 2.22)

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