Manager Lou Piniella and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are trying to end their relationship on a winning note.
Tampa Bay looks to snap a two-game skid and as it continues its regular season-ending three-game series with the visiting Baltimore Orioles.
Tampa Bay officially announced Friday that Piniella would not return next season, a decision that had long been expected after the third-year skipper questioned ownership’s commitment to winning earlier this season.
“We’ve got a new ownership group taking over. They need to bring in their own manager that they can grow with,” said the 62-year-old Piniella. “At the same time, it’ll give me time to go home and relax, fish and play some golf. I’m tired. I need some time off. It’ll give me a chance to do those things, and at the same time to evaluate and look at situations that might arise about my future.”
Piniella had one season remaining on a $13 million, four-year contract he signed in October 2002 but, according to the terms of a buyout, he will be free to pursue other jobs after Sunday’s finale.
Piniella’s frustration mounted during a dismal first half when the Devil Rays stumbled to a 28-61 record. However, he challenged his young players to continue playing hard and guided an impressive turnaround as Tampa Bay is 39-32 since the break.
Mark Hendrickson has been part of that turnaround. He looks to win his eight straight decision Saturday. Hendrickson is 8-1 in 14 second-half starts despite a 5.74 ERA.
The 6-foot-9 left-hander, who threw eight solid innings in an 8-4 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday, said Piniella provided him with some motivation earlier in the year.
“It was kind of a wake-up call for me when Lou told the press that if I didn’t turn it around, they may find somebody else,” said Hendrickson. “At that point, I kind of re-evaluated my approach and really looked hard into what I can do better. I’ve got one more start to finish up strong, and that’s where my focus is.”
Melvin Mora hit a two-run homer to help Baltimore win the series opener, 7-6 on Friday.
The Orioles won for just the second time in 13 games and are 21-32 under interim manager Sam Perlozzo, who could learn his status for next season by early next week.