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Piniella in limbo; others in demand

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published October 14, 2002

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- With Lou Piniella's status unresolved, the Rays today resume interviewing official candidates for their manager's job by bringing in Yankees third-base coach Willie Randolph.

Piniella asked the Mariners for permission to speak to other teams, the first step to being released from his contract so he can work closer to his Tampa home.

The Mariners are expected to grant that permission, but they have not acknowledged doing so and, according to spokesman Tim Hevly, have not scheduled any announcements. Team officials are believed to be meeting today and may have something to say after that.

Saturday, Piniella told the Times, "We'll find out soon."

Piniella is believed to be seriously interested in the Rays' job as it would give him the chance to work at home and be near his elderly parents, children and grandchildren.

Whether the Rays would be willing to pay him likely in excess of $2-million per year and compensate the Mariners, who might want players and money, remains to be seen. The Rays are not expected to take any action regarding Piniella until receiving formal notification that contact would be permissible.

Piniella also is considered a strong candidate for the Mets' job, which would allow him to get closer to home while managing a better team and making more money.

Speculation is rampant in New York, with some published reports suggesting Piniella would seek a $5-million salary, and that the Mets would have to give up All-Star Roberto Alomar as compensation. There even is a rumor that because Mets owner Fred Wilpon was out of town Saturday he was in Tampa negotiating with Piniella.

According to an unnamed Mariners coach quoted in the Tacoma News Tribune, "It's got nothing to do with the money, or the team, or Seattle. Lou's father isn't doing well. His mother isn't doing well. They both live in Tampa, and I think he's feeling the reality of going back to work 3,000 miles away from them."

Another Mariners official suggested he might want to take a year off. In any event, it seems Piniella, 59, is unlikely to return to Seattle after 10 years with the team.

Piniella's uncertain status is only one of the issues that makes the Rays managerial search interesting.

Randolph also is a candidate for jobs with the Mets and Brewers, and his interview in Milwaukee was said to have gone so well that he is considered by some baseball officials to be the leading candidate.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, "He's won championships as a player, he's won championships as a coach, he's worked with Joe Torre and Buck Showalter and he's New York battle-tested. The only thing he doesn't have is experience managing."

Oakland bench coach Ken Macha is scheduled to interview with the Mets on Tuesday, the Brewers on Thursday and the Rays on Friday, but it sounds as if he hopes it doesn't come to that.

After interviewing with Cubs officials last week, Macha said, "For me, it's the No. 1 job out there that's open with the pitching staff they have."

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