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Friday, Oct. 20, 2006

New skipper Collins determined to turn Buffaloes into winners

Staff writer

OSAKA -- An intense student of baseball, Terry Collins wears his heart on his sleeve. His expectations are emblazoned on his shirt.

News photo
Orix's New Manager Terry Collins appears at a press conference in the Buffaloes' uniform to answer questions from the media on Thursday in Osaka. KYODO PHOTO

The Orix Buffaloes introduced Collins as their new manager Thursday in Osaka, the former major league skipper decked out in a Buffaloes uniform. He was wearing No. 1.

"I've come a long way, and I didn't come this far to lose," Collins said. "I didn't leave what I feel is the best organization in baseball to come here and lose. I came to win."

Collins managed the Houston Astros and then-Anaheim Angels for a combined six seasons in the 1990s, but he has spent recent years working in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. Collins was the manager at Triple-A Las Vegas, and he was the director of player development for the Dodger Blue last season.

Collins, who will be the club's third manager in three years of existence, is straightforward about what he wants.

"My first managing job in the major leagues, we had a motivational speaker come in, and he had all the players and myself write our goals on a sheet of paper," Collins said. "Mine took about two seconds, and it was three letters: W-I-N. That's my goal. It's plain and simple."

Collins takes over for Katsuhiro Nakamura, who was hired last offseason after Akira Ogi stepped aside. Ogi died of respiratory failure weeks later, and Nakamura was his hand-picked successor.

Japan is pretty far away from his last big-league managerial gig, but it was not a tough decision to join Orix, Collins said.

"All they had to say was the word, 'manage' " Collins said. "It was my time to get back on the field and do that. My passion to manage baseball is what has me here."

Collins is the fourth foreign manager to take the reins of a Japanese baseball team, joining Marty Brown of the Hiroshima Carp in the Central League, and Chiba Lotte Marines skipper Bobby Valentine and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters top dog Trey Hillman in the Pacific League.

In 2005, Valentine became the first foreign manager to win the Japan Series, and this season Hillman has the Fighters in the Series against the Chunichi Dragons, beginning Saturday at Nagoya Dome.

Although Leon Lee, who managed the Orix BlueWave to a 41-76-3 record in the final season before contraction with the Kintetsu Buffaloes, did not find success as a manager in Japan, the bar remains high for "gaijin" skippers, especially in the PL.

Collins said his desire to succeed comes from within, and he will be disappointed if 2007 doesn't hold anything more promising than 2006's 52-81-3 record and fifth-place finish.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself," Collins said. "I can't worry about what Bobby's done and what Trey's done. I've got 70 players to get to know, and next spring, I will have to have it down to 25. That's what I am focused on.

"One thing is, next year at this time, I hope we're talking about the same thing. I don't have a crystal ball, though. But I believe in accountability."

Collins said that he had seen much of the Buffaloes' 2006 season on videotapes during the last few weeks, and Friday when he begins meeting with his players, he said Orix star Kazuhiro Kiyohara as well as outfielder Yoshitomo Tani were at the top of his list.

"Let's get one thing straight here," Collins said. "I did not come here to change the game. I came here to add to the game. I come here with 36 years of experience, and with my background in player development, I can make players get better. That's what I do."

He added, "We have good players on the team, but the only way they can perform is if we keep them on the field. The health of this team has got to be No. 1 next year."

Kiyohara, among others, struggled with injuries, compounding Orix's disappointing season.

Collins' major league record is 444-434, and in six seasons, his teams saw second-place divisional finishes in all but one season.

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