The Baltimore Orioles received permission Tuesday to speak with Atlanta Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone, which could help clear the way for him to join Manager Sam Perlozzo's staff.
Perlozzo and Mazzone grew up together, are close friends and have often talked about being on the same staff. Baltimore planned to begin negotiations with Mazzone as soon as Tuesday night.
"We'll see where we get with it," said Mike Flanagan, the Orioles' executive vice president. "He's a terrific pitching coach. His track record has spoken."
Meanwhile, New York Mets executive Jim Duquette has emerged as the leading candidate for a yet-to-be-named front office position that will be created to assist Flanagan, according to one baseball source, and a deal between the two sides could be struck this week. One Baltimore source said the team wants to secure a deal before the start of the World Series.
It would likely take an offer in the $500,000-a-year range to lure Mazzone from the Braves or keep him from going to the New York Yankees, who have also received permission to speak to him. The highest-paid pitching coaches make $300,000 to $400,000, but Mazzone was at the lower range of the scale at approximately $150,000 to $160,000, according to a National League source. The Orioles, according to the team source, are ready to compete financially with the Yankees.
"Believe it or not, we've saved some money," the Orioles source said. "It will take more than usual to lure him but we think he is the guy."
Under Mazzone, Atlanta's pitching staff ranked either first or second in ERA in the majors each year from 1992 to 2002 and was first in 2004. Mazzone's hiring also could help Baltimore in the free agent market. Free agent pitcher Kevin Millwood, the American League's ERA leader with Cleveland, worked with Mazzone in Atlanta.
"It would probably make anyplace more attractive to a pitcher," an agent of a prominent free agent pitcher said.
To pursue Mazzone, the Orioles also needed permission from current pitching coach Ray Miller, who is unlikely to return to coaching next season after having surgery for an aortic aneurysm.
"We talked to Ray and Ray was fine with it," Flanagan said.