Continuing a restructuring of an organization looking for its first winning season since 1997, the Baltimore Orioles announced Monday that longtime, popular bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks -- the longest tenured on-field member of the organization -- will not be part of the coaching staff in 2006 for the first time in 29 years.
The Orioles' changes also extended to the front office. Assistant general manager Ed Kenney, who was hired by former general manager Syd Thrift in October 2000, was told his contract would not be renewed. Kenney's position will likely be filled in part by one of a group of front-office executives who have been interviewed by Baltimore for an upper-level management position yet to be determined.
Executive Vice President Mike Flanagan, citing concerns about Hendricks's health, informed the former coach of the team's decision on Saturday night. Hendricks, 64, suffered a stroke on April 14 that Flanagan said had raised concerns about whether he could be strong enough to handle the bullpen catching duties for the entire season.
"Elrod and I have been together for a long time," Flanagan said. "I just had the sense that the traveling at the major league level is grueling. I felt it was time to look someplace else."
Hendricks said he was surprised and disappointed about the decision and said his doctor had cleared him a week ago for all activities. When asked whether he thought the decision was made simply to get fresh faces on the coaching staff, Hendricks said: "Doesn't matter what I believe. The only medical staff I know is the one that took care of me. He gave me a clean bill of health. Apparently nobody called him. I was hurt and disappointed in some areas. But then I sat back and thought about the good times I spent here."
Rick Dempsey, who under former manager Lee Mazzilli acted as first base coach and was Sam Perlozzo's third base coach, has been offered Hendricks's job.
"I don't really know what to do at this point," Dempsey said. "I have to evaluate the situation. It hasn't become clear what the organization is trying to do. If I go to the bullpen, I will probably not get another offer to [manage]. It's just a matter if I want to give up my dream."
The team is expected to announce the rehiring of hitting coach Terry Crowley soon. The other positions are still undetermined. Bench coach Tom Trebelhorn said he spoke with Perlozzo last week and thought he had a "good shot at coming back." A decision about pitching coach won't be made until Perlozzo speaks with Ray Miller, recovering from surgery for an aortic aneurysm. The team is interested in Atlanta Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone, who has been granted permission to speak to the New York Yankees, but Baltimore won't move forward until it hears something definite from Miller.
"There are no easy decisions here," Perlozzo said.
Perlozzo said it was difficult not to retain Hendricks, a popular figure in the Baltimore community.
"I shed some tears over it," Perlozzo said. "He's a great man, no question about it. He represents everything the Orioles represent."
Hendricks will be offered a yet-to-be determined position, Flanagan said. But Hendricks isn't likely to accept any position in community relations.
"I know it's not what I want to do," Hendricks said. "I have extended myself as much as I want to extend."
The decision not to retain Kenney is not much of a surprise. Several sources close to the team say that Flanagan is simply trying to solidify the front office with people with the same ideologies.
"I would only say it was an internal decision," Flanagan said.
Flanagan has interviewed three people so far to fill an upper-level management position and said he hopes to speak to two or three more this week.