Rangers' job narrowed down to four

Rangers' job narrowed down to four

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have narrowed their search to four candidates for their managerial opening, according to industry sources.

Rangers bench coach Don Wakamatsu, Oakland Athletics third base coach Ron Washington, New York Mets third base coach Manny Acta and Trey Hillman, who is managing the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan, are expected to be the four finalists for the job.

General manager Jon Daniels has only confirmed Wakamatsu and Hillman, but said the Rangers are close to finalizing the list.

"We've narrowed down the candidates," Daniels said on Wednesday morning. "We've done a lot of due diligence, talking to people in the industry who have gone through this experience and can give us some advice.

"Everybody we're considering is intelligent, an up-and-coming name in the business who is extremely well thought of by their contemporaries, players and industry executives. We feel good about the group we are going to talk to."

Wakamatsu is the leading candidate, having spent four years as bench coach under Buck Showalter. He is familiar with the organization, has a strong relationship with Daniels and has four years of Minor League managing experience in 1997-2000 in the Arizona Diamondbacks' and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim organizations.

He will probably be the last one to be interviewed.

"I told Don that I didn't want to interview him and leave him hanging for two weeks," Daniels said. "In the whole setup as far as interviewing candidates, I'm going to talk to the other guys and then talk to the internal candidate last. He's the one I'm most familiar with."

Hillman managed for 12 years in the New York Yankees system, winning three Manager of the Year Awards, before becoming the Rangers farm director in 2002. He was a candidate for the job four years ago when the Rangers hired Showalter, but could not get out of a commitment to managing in Japan.

Hillman, who played at the University of Texas at Arlington, has spent the past four seasons managing the Fighters, and they are in the Japanese League playoffs. The Ham Fighters are currently one victory away from winning the Pacific League title and advancing to the championship series. His contract is up at the end of the season.

"Trey is a guy I have a great deal of respect for," Daniels said. "I've known him from the time he was here and have stayed in touch with him. We'll wait until they are done with their season, I don't want to cause any more distractions."

The Rangers also have to wait on Acta and Washington while their teams are in the playoffs.

Acta has been the Mets' third-base coach for the past two seasons and also managed the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic last spring. He has also managed in the Dominican Winter League, earning Manager of the Year honors while leading his country to the Caribbean World Series title in 2003. He managed in the Houston Astros organization in 1998-2000 and was the Florida State League Manager of the Year in 1999.

Washington, a former Major League infielder, has spent the past 11 seasons as a coach for the Athletics and has two years of Minor League managerial experience prior to that in the Mets organization. He played for the Rangers' Triple-A team in Oklahoma in 1990 at the end of his playing career.

Sources said the Rangers reached out to both Angels pitching coach Bud Black and former Twins manager Tom Kelly, but Black told the Rangers he was not interested in managing right now and Twins general manager Terry Ryan said Kelly is not interested in managing again despite inquiries from a number of teams.

The job became open when Showalter was dismissed at the end of the season. Daniels said the process could take a couple of weeks before a new manager is selected.

"The timing of the search can be dictated a little bit by candidates participating in postseason," Daniels said.

Daniels is currently in Arizona, watching the Instructional League and holding meetings with his staff. The primary topic of conversation is potential free agents and trades the Rangers will pursue during the offseason.

Daniels has also stayed in touch with representatives of their own free agents, although it doesn't appear that anybody is eager to re-sign anytime soon.

"We've made some offers on a couple of guys, but we're really not getting any feedback," Daniels said. "For the most part, these guys want to test the market while keeping the door open for a possible return. We respect that and we've identified guys we want to bring back. But at the same time, it's got to be a two-way street. We're going to continue to have dialogue, but we're also going to make contingency plans in case we're not able to re-sign them."

The meetings have been productive in one sense -- the Rangers believe they have found the rare "fourth option" on pitcher John Rheinecker, which means he could be sent to the Minors next year without having to clear waivers. The Rangers thought that he was out of options, but that does not appear to be the case.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.