Samuel faces challenge of igniting Orioles
Baltimore's interim manager intense with a positive approach
BALTIMORE -- Juan Samuel, named the Orioles' interim manager on Friday, is faced with the most difficult test of his 12-year coaching career.
Baltimore dismissed Dave Trembley from his role as manager, handing former third base coach Samuel the reins to an under-performing and injury-plagued Orioles team that is a Major League-worst 15-39.
"The last time I played against the Orioles, I went to him and said, 'Hey, when are you finally going to be a big league manager?'" said Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez, who played under Samuel in the Minors. "I'm happy for him. He's a good man."
He's also a man who has been around the game, with a career in professional baseball spanning 27 years. The 49-year-old was a three-time National League All-Star and played 16 years in the Majors with Philadelphia (1983-89), the New York Mets (1989), the Los Angeles Dodgers (1990-92), Kansas City (1992, 95), Cincinnati (1993), Detroit (1994-95) and Toronto (1996-98).
Following his retirement as a player, Samuel coached first base for the Tigers in 1999 and moved into the third-base role four games into the 2002 season. He spent a combined seven years coaching in Detroit before moving on to become a manager for Binghamton, where he led the Mets' Double-A squad to a 70-69 mark, good enough for second place in the Eastern League.
"He was a fiery coach, competitor," said Mets right-hander Mike Pelfrey, a member of Samuel's Binghamton team.
"He's going to give you everything he has. I know [the Orioles] are not playing together as a whole. Sometimes when you mix things up, it changes things, so maybe they'll be better than they have been. I guess we're about to find out."
Samuel is known for his no-nonsense, aggressive approach -- a coaching style the Orioles are undoubtedly hoping will kick-start some better baseball.
"His chore's going to be how to back it off a little," Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge said, "because he's very intense ... very intense.
"In all the years that I've been around him, he definitely knows the game. He just hasn't had a chance to be out front. So it'll be interesting to see how he handles it. Good for him. He's stuck it out. He's been around the game long enough; he deserves it."
Samuel is the Orioles' ninth manager since Peter Angelos became the principal owner in August 1993. He is in his fourth year on the O's staff and, in addition to his third-base duties, also works closely with the team's infielders.
"He was a great guy, very positive, worked hard with the outfielders -- that was his role when I was [in Detroit]," Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson said. "Outside of the other stuff, he's been around the game for a long time as a player and as different kinds of coaches. If need be, he can definitely step into that [managerial] role."
Samuel is the only player to reach double figures in doubles, triples, home runs and stolen bases in each of his first four Major League seasons. He stole 396 bases in his career. In addition to second base, Samuel also played first, third and all three outfield positions at the big league level. "I learned a lot [from Samuel]," Gomez said of the '06 season in Binghamton.
"He had a good association with the players. He was an active guy. He fit in, like he was one of you. He was always pumping me up, always teaching me, saying, 'Be ready, you're going to be in The Show soon.' He made me feel good."
Any goodwill for a beleaguered Orioles team would be a step in the right direction. Samuel's promotion comes on the heels of a winless six-game road trip, with series sweeps at Toronto and New York. Baltimore enters Friday's series opener against the Red Sox with an eight-game skid and having won just two of its first 18 series.
"The season starts today," Samuel said in his introductory press conference on Friday. "The past is the past, what we do from now on is what we are going to be judged on, and I have full intention to push these guys as hard as I can. Push them to the limit."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.