Mazzone named O's pitching coach

Mazzone named O's pitching coach

BALTIMORE -- It took just three days, and a longtime desire to work with manager Sam Perlozzo, to get Leo Mazzone into an Orioles uniform.

The club made official on Friday what had been known for 48 hours, that Mazzone, considered one of the top pitching coaches of this generation, agreed to a three-year contract to join his best friend, Perlozzo, in the rebuilding of the Orioles franchise.

"I'm very happy to be coming to Baltimore, [and I'm] looking forward to working with Sam Perlozzo," Mazzone said in a conference call on Friday. "I look forward to getting a winning tradition in Baltimore, looking forward to be in my home state. My family and friends are close by, and the main reason I am coming here is Sam Perlozzo is the manager."

Mazzone, 57, will attempt to rebuild a pitching staff that hasn't had a legitimate No. 1 starter since Mike Mussina left to join the Yankees following the 2000 season. Mazzone spent the past 15 years as the mastermind of the Braves' dominant staffs that helped capture 14 consecutive division titles.

His contract with the Braves did not expire until Nov. 15, so the Orioles sent Minor League pitcher Moises Hernandez to Atlanta as compensation. The signing is a major coup for the Orioles, who now have a proven coach who can help attract free agent pitchers to Baltimore.

"The opportunities don't come where you can work with your best friend and come close to your home state," he said. "I'm 57 years old, and I want to finish with Sam in Baltimore. And the Orioles had a great tradition of pitching, and we hope to get that back again."

Perlozzo and Mazzone have been friends since their days of playing on the sandlots of Cumberland, Md., and they talked for years about working together. When Perlozzo was named manager on Oct. 12, he approached executive vice president Mike Flanagan about the possibility of asking the Braves for permission to talk to Mazzone.

Ray Miller, recovering from surgery to remove an aneurysm near his heart, gave the organization his blessing to pursue his replacement.

"I want to thank Ray Miller for all he did, for his support and his professionalism," Perlozzo said in a statement. "Ray did an outstanding job, and we remain good friends. Leo and I have been best friends for a long time and have always said that if I get the chance to manage, he would be my pitching coach. I'm glad for us that it will happen, but I'm really happy for the Orioles organization that Leo has joined the club. His record speaks for itself, and I have no doubt he will help our pitchers and the ballclub reach the next level."

The Orioles received permission on Tuesday evening and had a tentative agreement with Mazzone in place by Wednesday. The only snag was compensation for Mazzone, which was demanded by Braves general manager John Schuerholz.

The hiring of Mazzone could spark a change in the perception of the Orioles organization. Mazzone's pitchers have earned six Cy Young Awards, and he was present during the Braves' glory years, when the rotation was made up of John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Steve Avery.

Mazzone, who earned $250,000 with the Braves, is expected to make nearly twice that amount with the Orioles. Owner Peter Angelos made it clear that he would pay an above-market salary to attract Mazzone.

"I know that they have some good young arms, but I will be talking more with Sam and the pitching staff and the organization and let them enlighten me more on what we have," Mazzone said. "We had the same situation in June 1990, in Atlanta. Don't think we will have trouble because the track record has been proven."

Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.