By DAVID GINSBURG
The Associated Press
Saturday, October 13, 2007; 4:36 AM
BALTIMORE -- Leo Mazzone was fired as pitching coach of the Baltimore Orioles on Friday, less than two weeks after completing his second season with a struggling staff. Mazzone worked wonders with the Atlanta Braves from June 1990 through the end of the 2005 season but could not duplicate that success with the Orioles. Baltimore ranked 29th among 30 teams with a 5.17 ERA and yielded more walks (696) than any major league club.
"I spoke with Leo today and told him I appreciated his efforts here," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "Moving forward, I felt that we would be better served with someone else working with our young staff and that it was in his best interests and our best interests to give him an opportunity to look elsewhere now."
Mazzone, who turns 59 on Tuesday, had one year left on the three-year contract he signed before the 2006 season. He was lured from Atlanta by then-Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo, a longtime friend who was fired on June 18.
"This is just the business of baseball," Mazzone said. "I had a strong inclination that 2007 was going to be my last year in Baltimore when Sam Perlozzo was released and Dave Trembley was hired.
"While disappointed at not having the opportunity to play a role in the reconstruction of the Oriole pitcher development program, I understand and wish the team great success. I want to thank the Orioles organization for the opportunity to coach some great young talent. And I especially want to thank the fans in Baltimore who always made me feel at home."
Mazzone has no intention of being idle during the 2008 season.
"He's not going to sit out a year. He has no desire to do that," said Brad Steele, Mazzone's business manager. "He will have plenty of time to do that after he retires."
The Braves were a fixture in the playoffs when Mazzone was there. In contrast, the Orioles lost more than 90 games in each of his two seasons with the club.
"I think Leo still has a lot of fire in his belly. He wants to be part of a winning organization," Steele said. "But he's not opposed to doing what he did in Atlanta, taking a team from last to first. Either way, we suspect there will be a lot of interest in him."
Mazzone was proud of the work he did in Baltimore with starters Erik Bedard, Adam Loewen and Jeremy Guthrie, who have developed into solid major league pitchers. But he never could get through to Daniel Cabrera and some of the other pitchers on the youthful staff.
Late last month, Mazzone expressed the desire to finish what he started next year.
"I want to go until I'm 62, and I hope the rest of the way it's in a Baltimore uniform," he said. "I mean this place, it's my home state and this is one of the greatest sports towns in the United States. All we have to do is start winning, and you'll never be able to get a ticket. These fans deserve that. They treat everybody very graciously.
"I expected to hear a few nasty things going out to the mound every once in a while. I don't hear them. They keep telling me to keep the faith, you're doing a good job. It's a wonderful place to be. Things have to be done to put this thing together."
Under Mazzone, the Braves led the NL in ERA in 12 of his final 14 seasons. He helped develop six Cy Young award winners and had 10 different pitchers named to the All-Star team, including Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.