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BASEBALL / DAILY REPORT : ANGELS

Oriole Coach Interested in Opening

August 24, 1996|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

Baltimore Oriole hitting coach Rick Down was Bill Bavasi's first hire--as roving hitting instructor--after Bavasi became the Angels' director of minor league operations in 1985. Now Down hopes to become Bavasi's next hire.

Down, who spent three years as the New York Yankees' batting instructor before going to Baltimore, said he is "very interested," in managing the Angels. Down, who managed six years in the minor leagues, was interviewed for the Boston Red Sox job that went to Kevin Kennedy last season.

Down, 45, had just signed a seven-year contract to work on future Arizona Diamondback Manager Buck Showalter's staff last winter when the Orioles called.

"I want to manage," Down said, "and I figured if I was out of baseball for two years, I'd be managing the Arizona Outbacks, not the Diamondbacks."

*

If Oriole Manager Davey Johnson is concerned about an irregular heartbeat, which hospitalized him Thursday night and forced him to miss a game, he certainly wasn't letting on Friday.

About an hour after a treadmill workout in the Orioles' exercise room, Johnson met with reporters in the Baltimore dugout before Friday's game against the Angels, appearing fit--and funny.

Is he on medication?

"Yes," he said. "So if I make any mistakes, blame it on the medication."

Did Johnson watch the Orioles' 10-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners Thursday night from his hospital bed?

"Yeah. I thought I was going to have the big one during the game."

Did doctors recommend any lifestyle changes?

"No coffee and no tobacco," Johnson said. "So I might be chewing some of this grass out here."

Johnson could laugh Friday, but there was one scary moment Thursday morning. After waking up, Johnson said he took about 15 steps, began experiencing extreme dizziness "and fell to the ground."

He was unconscious, and his head hit the floor.

"My head is pretty hard, as everyone around here knows, and when I hit the floor that woke me up," he said.

Johnson, 53, checked into St. Joseph Medical Center, and a series of tests revealed atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat. A 10-hour cycle of medication brought Johnson's heartbeat back to normal, and he remained in the hospital for observation overnight.

Johnson, who showed no signs of coronary disease or a heart attack, said he won't have to return to the hospital for regular checkups, but team doctors and trainers will monitor him closely.

"The medical staff here knows more about me than I know about myself," Johnson said. "They even did a CT scan to see if I had any brain left."

*

Bavasi got a kick out of an ESPN report that he had lunch with Philadelphia Phillie Manager Jim Fregosi on Monday. Bavasi was in Boston with the Angels, and Fregosi was traveling to Los Angeles. "I have a one-word hint--Concorde," Bavasi said, smiling. "How about two words--time warp." . . . The Angels moved to within 13 1/2 games of the Texas Rangers Friday, marking the first time since Aug. 3 they have gained ground on the West leaders. . . . Reliever Mike James was unavailable for the fourth consecutive game because of a stiff neck but hopes to be ready tonight. . . . Oriole shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. does not appear very close to retirement, but that hasn't stopped his hometown of Aberdeen, Md., from building a shrine in his honor. Charter memberships for the Ripken Museum are selling for $300.

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