Bench coach Perlozzo named interim manager

Updated: August 4, 2005, 10:24 PM ET
Associated Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A miserable week for Lee Mazzilli began with Rafael Palmeiro's suspension and ended with the manager's dismissal.

The Baltimore Orioles fired Mazzilli on Thursday in the middle of a massive slide, just three days after Palmeiro became the biggest major-league star to be caught using steroids.

Thu., Aug. 4
[Lee Mazzilli getting fired has] been rumored for a while now. If any team went from 14 games over .500 to five under in a month and a half, the manager would be in trouble. But [Orioles owner] Peter Angelos hasn't been happy with the manager for a long time.

And I have to admit I've heard a lot of stories that suggest [Mazzilli] was [in] over his head. You never like to see anyone lose his job, and this guy is a very likeable guy. But that team needed to do something!

This was a small segment from Stark's chat with users on Thursday. To read the full chat, click here Insider.

"It's not the kind of week that you want to have very often, that's for sure," Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts said.

Sam Perlozzo was appointed interim manager for the rest of the season -- and he won his first game. The Orioles beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-1 Thursday to end an eight-game losing streak and win for only the second time in 16 tries.

Sammy Sosa's first home run in a week came too late to save Mazzilli's job.

"I was surprised when I walked in here today and found out," Sosa said. "Mr. Mazzilli was great to me. I feel sad about what happened to him, and I wish him the best. But nobody's quitting in here. We're going to be all right."

The change was announced just two hours before the game. General manager Jim Beattie said he told Mazzilli of the club's decision at the team hotel Thursday morning. Perlozzo held a closed-door meeting with the players before the first pitch.

"It's not something that's been brewing for a long time," Beattie said. "The decision really was made in the last day that we should make the change. I talked to Maz this morning about making the change. Maz was very professional about it. He understood, and he thanked me. But it was one of those short meetings you have where there weren't a lot of questions you have to ask or answer."

Perlozzo held a closed-door meeting with the players before the first pitch.

"It was quiet in there," he said. "I probably spoke a little longer than I'd planned to. I thought that we'd point the finger at each other today -- all of us. We're all part of what happened here. After today, they can point them at me, if they want."

A message left by The Associated Press on Mazzilli's cell phone was not immediately returned.

"It's a bittersweet day," said Perlozzo, reiterating one of his pregame remarks. "I never wanted to have a job at the expense of somebody else, especially a good friend like Lee Mazzilli. I'm very thankful that Maz kept me here for two years. He could have fired me, but he didn't."

The Orioles are 52-56 and 10 games behind first-place Boston in the AL East. They finished 78-84 in 2004, Mazzilli's first season, and this year appeared on course to end a run of seven straight losing seasons.

Baltimore got off to a solid start and on April 23 gained sole possession of first place, ahead of the defending champion Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

"Nobody worked harder than Maz," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I know he worked very, very hard at getting that team and their whole organization going in the right direction. But when it doesn't happen, you're accountable. That's the life of anybody who's in this position. If you're not moving the organization forward, they make you pass the baton to somebody else."

The Orioles stayed on top through June 23. Baltimore was in second place, just one game back, on July 15 -- the day Palmeiro got his 3,000th hit and became the fourth player in baseball history to reach 3,000 hits and 500 homers.

But Baltimore then went on the skid that cost Mazzilli his job. From July 16 through Wednesday, the Orioles lost 16 of 18 to fall into fourth place.

"I don't think anybody really saw it coming," Roberts said. "But the way that we've played, I don't know that it blows anybody's doors off."

Added Perlozzo: "Are we as good as we were the first two months? I'm not sure. But we do know that we aren't as bad as we are now."

One thing Mazzilli didn't expect was for Sosa to struggle as badly as he has in his first season back in the American League. Sosa, fifth on baseball's career home run list, is hitting just .239 with 14 homers and 40 RBI in 87 games after connecting for a two-run shot Thursday.

"I'm not frustrated," said Sosa, who was sidelined for almost three weeks in May because of an abscess and staph infection in the bottom of his left foot. "I go out there and try to do the things that I have to do every day, work hard at everything. I'm in a different league and everybody who's played this game sometimes has got to go through tough times, and now it's happening to me. So I've got to deal with it."

Perlozzo was a minor-league manager for five seasons before becoming a third base coach in 1987 with the New York Mets, where Mazzilli spent the final three years of his playing career. Perlozzo also worked under Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella, Ray Miller and Mike Hargrove before Mazzilli got his first managing job and kept Perlozzo on the staff.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press