Notes on Manuel, Rios, Lavarnway, Palmer and Hudak

The Orioles are still targeting Charlie Manuel in their search for a new hitting coach, according to sources, and they should know later this week whether he’s willing to fill the position.

The Phillies would need to give their permission for the Orioles to conduct a formal interview with Manuel and he’d need to demonstrate that he wants the job. The first step shouldn’t be an issue, but Manuel has been reluctant to throw his hat into the ring.

Manuel initially declined the Orioles’ offer, which came after they reassigned Jim Presley within the organization last month, but he remains atop their list of candidates.

First base coach Wayne Kirby could influence Manuel’s decision. Kirby played for the Indians while Manuel served as hitting coach.

manuel-charlie-phillies-sidebar.jpgManuel, who turns 71 next month, currently works as a senior adviser to Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. He was the Indians hitting coach from 1988-89 and again from 1994-99.

Under his tutelage, the Indians led the American League in runs three times and in home runs twice.

The Indians hired Manuel as manager in 2000 - he replaced Mike Hargrove, who later became the 14th manager in Orioles history - and fired him in July 2012. He managed the Phillies from 2005-13, winning the World Series in ‘08.

Presley was reassigned due to personal reasons, according to sources. He was offered a scouting job in the organization.

The Orioles have a shortage of internal candidates. They interviewed Jeff Manto, the former White Sox hitting coach who currently serves as the Orioles minor league hitting coordinator, but couldn’t convince part-time instructor B.J. Surhoff to consider the job. Triple-A Norfolk hitting coach Denny Walling retired to spend more time with his family.

Jim Thome declined a chance to interview with the Orioles. Raul Ibanez informed the club that he’d sit out a year if he didn’t get the Rays’ managing job and later withdrew his name from consideration. Harold Baines wanted to stay in Chicago. Melvin Mora was briefly considered.

The Rangers wouldn’t give the Orioles permission to interview Scott Coolbaugh, their minor league hitting coordinator.

The Orioles again led the majors in home runs this season with 211 and ranked sixth in the American League with a .256 average. Their .311 on-base percentage ranked 17th in the majors and 11th in the league.

The rest of the coaching staff remains intact for the 2015 season.

Another free agent outfielder came off the board last night with Alex Rios agreeing to a one-year, $11 million deal with the Royals.

I never got the sense that the Orioles had major interest in Rios. I might be wrong, but I would have slotted him below Delmon Young and Michael Morse on the club’s interest ladder.

The Dodgers designated catcher/first baseman Ryan Lavarnway for assignment last week after claiming him off waivers from the Red Sox on Dec. 5. The Orioles would seem like a potential fit, but I’ve heard that there’s no interest.

Once a highly regarded prospect in the Red Sox system, Lavarnway is a career .201/.249/.315 hitter in 97 games over parts of four major league seasons and doesn’t make up for these deficiencies with his work behind the plate, throwing out 10 of 63 runners attempting to steal. It appears that the Orioles will pass on him.

Hall of Famer Jim Palmer now has a Facebook page. Check it out at www.facebook.com/JimPalmer22.

Palmer also will have a Twitter account at a later date. It’s in the process of being verified, making it the only official account under his name.

The Orioles announced yesterday that they hired Kristen Hudak as their director of public relations. Hudak, who worked at MASN and ESPN, will begin her new duties on Dec. 29.

Hudak has been living in Connecticut, but kept close tabs on the Orioles.

“From afar, I’ve been wishing all good things for them and I was so excited to follow their recent success,” she said. “I’d say to everybody at ESPN that I love the people there and I’m so happy for them. I can’t say enough how happy I am to be back and around such wonderful fans. I think the world of the ownership group. It’s just a wonderful time to be there and a great place to be.”

Hudak and outfielder David Lough attended Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., “but we didn’t cross paths,” she said.

Hudak did cross paths with manager Buck Showalter last month at Camden Yards.

“I just have so much respect for him and what he’s been able to do at various points in his career,” she said. “He’s tremendous and he’s going to teach me so much while I’m here. I can’t wait to work with him. He’s so widely respected across the industry.”

There’s another layer of emotion for Hudak. She was friends with Monica Barlow, the former director of public relations who passed away in February after a 4 1/2 year battle with Stage 4 lung cancer.

“I’ve been thinking about her every day,” Hudak said. “At various points, I’ll think to email her and I’ll catch myself. It’s so hard. And the past couple of weeks, there’s been a flood of little things that she said. I’m carrying that with me. It’s humbling to have this opportunity to follow in her footsteps and try to do what she started. I can’t even comprehend how big that is, to have that opportunity. She taught me a lot in that time that I was around the team.”

Current and former Orioles will host 80 kindergarten through fifth grade students from Callaway Elementary School in Baltimore this morning as part of the 36th Annual OriolesREACH Holiday Party for Kids at Dave & Buster’s in the Arundel Mills Mall.

The guest list includes Showalter, Brad Brach, Steve Pearce, Al Bumbry, Scott McGregor and Dave Johnson. MASN broadcaster Jim Hunter will emcee the event.

Players will serve lunch, play games with students and sign autographs. Gifts donated by the Orioles and OriolesREACH will be distributed to each child. Students will play for free in the arcade room.

This year’s event marks the 36th year that the Orioles have held a holiday party for children from economically disadvantaged areas in Baltimore. A different school is selected each year.

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