Baird close to picking Royals manager

Wednesday, May 8th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Allard Baird's search for a new manager for the Kansas City Royals is nearing an end, and an announcement could come as early as next week.

Fans can expect someone with experience managing in the minor leagues, such as Houston coach Tony Pena, whom Baird interviewed Wednesday while the Astros were in Philadelphia.

``I want a guy who is high-energy,'' said the Royals general manager, who narrowed his list to five men. ``I want a guy who has understanding of pitching, who knows how to handle pitchers. We're going to have a lot of young pitchers trying to make their mark at the major league level.

``All five are very well qualified candidates.''

The other two names on the short list that are known beyond Baird's inner circle are interim manager John Mizerock and Bucky Dent, manager of the Royals' Triple-A team in Omaha. Baird declined to identify the others, but one who is not there is former Gold Glove second baseman Frank White, who was told on Tuesday that he will remain in the front office as a special assistant to the general manager.

Since firing Tony Muser on April 29, the Royals were just 1-6 under Mizerock going into Wednesday night's game at Minnesota.

Mizerock was a manager in the Royals' farm system for nine years before he was elevated from Omaha to be bench coach in Kansas City. He was replaced this year by Dent, who gained fame while playing with the New York Yankees but ended his career with the Royals.

Minor league managing experience would help satisfy the main criteria that Royals' owner David Glass has voiced.

``I want a communicator at the minor league level and at the major league level,'' Baird said. ``I want somebody who can motivate and relate. I want somebody who has a defined approach, who is able to take an organization's plan and execute it.''

Pena, 44, meets the criteria of somebody with experience. For the past three years, he managed Houston's Triple-A team in New Orleans, which was co-champion in the Pacific Coast League last season.

In addition, he has plenty of experience working with pitchers because he was a five-time All-Star during an 18-year career as a major league catcher.

``We want somebody who will be up front with the general manager, the staff and the players,'' Baird said. ``I'm looking for somebody who feels like he's a big part of the team, a guy who has passion. And most of all, somebody who puts the organization above himself.

``Now we've got it down to a short list of five. There are some second-tier guys we may have interest in at some later date but right now there are five.''