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Leo Mazzone
Albert Chen
April 03, 2006
Friends since they were kids growing up in the foothills of western Maryland, Mazzone and Sam Perlozzo made a pact two decades ago when they were both minor league coaches, Mazzone in the Braves' system and Perlozzo in the Mets'. "We promised each other that before our careers were over, we'd coach together," says Mazzone, the new pitching coach in Baltimore, where Perlozzo became manager last August. "I'm here because Sammy's here. I always said it would take something special for me to leave Atlanta."
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April 03, 2006

Leo Mazzone

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Friends since they were kids growing up in the foothills of western Maryland, Mazzone and Sam Perlozzo made a pact two decades ago when they were both minor league coaches, Mazzone in the Braves' system and Perlozzo in the Mets'. "We promised each other that before our careers were over, we'd coach together," says Mazzone, the new pitching coach in Baltimore, where Perlozzo became manager last August. "I'm here because Sammy's here. I always said it would take something special for me to leave Atlanta."

Over the last 15-plus seasons with the Braves, Mazzone (above, right, with Perlazzo) became the best-known pitching coach in the game--as much for his constantly rocking in his seat on the bench alongside manager Bobby Cox as for developing some of the National League's best pitchers (six Cy Young Awards, 20 or more wins nine times, 10 different All-Stars) and presiding over staffs that ranked first or second in the league in ERA for 12 of the last 14 years.

That's not to say that the 57-year-old Mazzone can afford to kick back and relax with his buddy Perlozzo, 55, this season. There's a big job ahead of him, and if Mazzone works his magic with the Orioles staff--which has had no 20-game winners in 22 years and an ERA above 4.45 every season since 1997--he will cement his status as one of the game's great pitching coaches (perhaps even Hall of Fame material). "I came in knowing that there was a core of very good young arms to work with," says Mazzone, who rejected overtures from the Yankees before signing a three-year, $1.35 million deal with Baltimore. "This can be a very good staff this year."

A disciple of pitching sages Johnny Sain and George Bamberger, Mazzone distinguished himself by guiding Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz to peak performances and resurrecting the careers of John Burkett, Chris Hammond, Mike Hampton, Darren Holmes and Mike Remlinger. "One of the biggest things was that he had a plan," says Remlinger, a Brave from 1999 through 2002, "and as a pitcher you could buy into it because you could see it working." Baltimore's staff is young and inexperienced: The Orioles' most promising starters, 27-year-old Erik Bedard and 24-year-old Daniel Cabrera, have 34 major league wins combined; new closer Chris Ray, 24, made his major league debut last June, served as B.J. Ryan's setup man and is still looking for his first save.

Mazzone addressed his pitchers for the first time on the grass of Fort Lauderdale Stadium in late February, and they listened in rapt silence. Blunt in his delivery, Mazzone preaches that movement and location are more important than velocity, believes in building arm strength (his pitchers throw twice between starts, while most coaches typically require one bullpen session) and wastes no time reciting his basic tenet in a booming voice: "My job is to get you ready to throw strikes, especially down and away. In Atlanta we owned that pitch."

His new pupils are all ears. "Especially for newer guys like me, he immediately commands respect and attention," says Ray. "Knowing what he accomplished in Atlanta, you have to believe in every word he says."

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