Fired Little is upbeat in O's interview


Grady Little didn't sound like a man harboring a grudge.

He didn't sound shaken. He didn't sound deterred.

Four days after getting fired by the Boston Red Sox, Little had a chance to sell himself to the Orioles yesterday, and he stressed how much he still wants to manage.

"I've got a lot of confidence in what I can do," Little said. "And I've got a lot of confidence in what I can bring to the club, whether it's the Baltimore Orioles or someone else."

Little, 53, became the eighth candidate to interview for the Orioles' managerial opening and the first who already boasts a winning record as a major league manager.

But several industry insiders yesterday were speculating that Little, who was a late addition to the Orioles' interview list, probably won't land the job.

For weeks, the consensus favorite has been Hall of Fame slugger Eddie Murray, but Orioles bench coach Sam Perlozzo still has widespread support from within the organization, and New York Yankees first base coach Lee Mazzilli may have been the most impressive of the external candidates.

Refusing to tip their hands, Orioles vice presidents Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan finished a week of intensive interviews, with plans to reconvene this weekend.

Beattie didn't rule out interviewing another candidate or two, and he wasn't sure if there will be a second round of interviews. Earlier, Beattie had said the club may designate one day next week to meet with three to four finalists before making a final decision.

"Much of that is up in the air," Beattie said. "Mike and I are going to talk about all that over the weekend."

Little left another solid impression, just as he did when he interviewed with the Orioles in 1999, before they hired Mike Hargrove. But part of the reason the Orioles fired Hargrove is because they didn't think he showed enough fire in the dugout, and that's not exactly Little's forte, either.

In Boston, he was credited with holding a team of proven stars and shaky journeymen together, amid all those New England expectations. The Red Sox won 93 games his first year, and 95 this year, before bowing out against the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

Said Little: "I think it was Casey Stengel who said, 'Once you get an opportunity to manage, the only way you're not going to get fired is if you die on the bench, or you're the owner of the club.' I also know my first year in Boston, we won 93 games, and I felt like the second year I was a better manager than the first. And I feel the same way if I get the opportunity to manage again: I'll be better the second time around going through it."

Little will be remembered in Boston as the manager who left Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the ALCS for too long. Martinez had a 5-2 lead in the eighth inning, but the Yankees came back to tie it, and then won on Aaron Boone's 11th-inning home run.

Boston fired Little less than two weeks later, and gave him a $250,000 severance bonus. Yesterday, Little insisted he's not out to prove the Red Sox wrong.

"That doesn't enter into my thinking at all," he said. "I know I did the best I could up there in that position, and they decided to go in a different direction, and that didn't involve Grady Little.

"We had a great season there in Boston," he added. "It didn't turn out very well in the end. I made a decision to leave a pitcher in the game, and that decision that I made there got bad results, and so there you go."

NOTES: The Texas Rangers are reportedly open to trading shortstop Alex Rodriguez to clear the seven years and $179 million he still has remaining on his contract, but don't look for the Orioles to pursue him. That's $25 million per year, and even if the Rangers eat a sizable portion of the contract, Orioles officials say they have too many needs to spend anywhere near that much on one player. ... There had been speculation that Mazzilli's job was in jeopardy with the Yankees, but yesterday, New York manager Joe Torre said Mazzilli will be back on staff if he doesn't land the Orioles' job. ... The Orioles were in the process yesterday of renewing the contracts for director of baseball administration Ed Kenney, scouting director Tony DeMacio and assistant farm director Tripp Norton.

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