High ERA leads to pitching coach's ouster

Updated: June 26, 2004, 5:31 PM ET
Associated Press

BALTIMORE -- Ray Miller returned to the Baltimore Orioles as their new pitching coach Saturday. He replaces Mark Wiley, who was reassigned after his beleaguered staff compiled the worst ERA in the American League.

Miller has been out of baseball since the end of the 1999 season. He was in uniform for Saturday's game against the Atlanta Braves.

Miller was Baltimore's pitching coach from 1978-85 and in 1997 before being hired as manager in 1998. He lasted two seasons, going 157-167 before being replaced by Mike Hargrove.

Under Wiley, the Orioles led the league with 323 walks and ranked last with a 5.34 ERA. He will serve as a scout.

"He has been a true professional," Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said. "We just felt it was important to try a different approach to see if we can have more success with our pitching staff in the second half of the season."

In Miller's first tour as Orioles pitching coach, the Orioles had two Cy Young Award winners (Mike Flanagan and Steve Stone) and five different 20-game winners (Flanagan, Stone, Jim Palmer, Scott McGregor and Mike Boddicker).

His decision to return came about a week after Flanagan, now the Orioles' vice president, called to ask his former coach for some suggestions about the plight of the Baltimore staff.

"You could tell he had a lot of interest in coaching and he'd been following us," Flanagan said.

The Orioles eventually offered Miller the job, and he took it after rejecting several other opportunities over the past 4 years.

"I was offered really some nice things, but I really didn't feel an allegiance. Here, I feel an allegiance," Miller said.

In 1997, Orioles pitchers compiled a 3.91 ERA -- second-best in the AL -- after finishing ninth in 1996 at 5.14.

"We'll see if we can reduce the walks and the number of pitches and get the defense involved,'' Miller said. "This team can score some runs and we've got a pretty good bullpen out there, so let's get these starters going and have some fun."

Wiley was in the fourth season of his second stint as Orioles pitching coach. He began his major league coaching career with Baltimore in 1987 and returned in 2001.

He left the clubhouse early Saturday before talking to reporters.

"I don't think anybody knew. We're all pretty shocked," Orioles rookie pitcher Matt Riley said. "Mark had a tough job this year. There were lots of young pitchers. With three rookies in the rotation, that's tough."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press