The Baltimore Orioles and pitching coach Leo Mazzone have agreed on a three-year deal that will make him the second-highest-paid pitching coach in baseball, according to a high-ranking baseball official. As compensation, the Atlanta Braves, who allowed Mazzone to terminate his deal that was due to end on Nov. 15, will receive a fringe prospect from Baltimore.
Mazzone's hiring will be announced by the team Friday. The Orioles and representatives for Mazzone talked late on Thursday trying to square up the last few details of the contract that will pay him approximately $450,000, according to the official. Only Dave Duncan of the St. Louis Cardinals, who makes approximately $500,000, will be paid more than Mazzone.
Orioles Manager Sam Perlozzo, Mazzone's best friend since childhood, said he has talked to Mazzone at least three or four times a day in the past few days.
"If I were a betting man, it's going to happen [Friday]," Perlozzo said. "From all indications, [that] might be the day."
The hiring of Mazzone, who led the Braves' pitching staff to a ranking of either first or second in the league in ERA from 1992 to 2002 and again in 2004, appears to be a huge coup for the Orioles.
"I think it's one of those things that could be a decisive move," said one team official. "It's a really good thing for the young guys. This gives us instant credibility."
Mazzone has often been credited with maximizing talent from marginal players, and he will have plenty of potential with which to work in Baltimore. Starters Daniel Cabrera, Erik Bedard and Hayden Penn are generally considered to possess some of the top arms in the game.
"He's anxious and ready to go," Perlozzo said. "He's got new energy."
Mazzone's hiring would not have happened if not for Perlozzo. The two were childhood friends in western Maryland and have always dreamed of being on the same coaching staff. Perlozzo was the best man at Mazzone's wedding.
On other fronts Thursday, the team officially announced the hiring of former Mets executive Jim Duquette, who was given a three-year deal to become vice president of baseball operations. He will work in tandem with Flanagan, though Duquette said there will not be a dual general manager system.
"First off, it's one of the historic franchises in baseball," Duquette said of why he took the job. "These types of positions don't come around too often. I think it's a very good fit. I view it as a step up. If I thought it was a lateral move I wouldn't be coming down here. I feel I have more authority, more decision-making abilities with the Orioles than I do with the Mets. That's the reason I'm here."
Flanagan ultimately will have the final decision on player transactions, but Duquette, the Mets' general manager in 2004, has been granted authority. He will officially start to work with the Orioles on Monday.