CLEVELAND -- It doesn't take six degrees of separation to uncover the ties between the candidates vying for the Indians' vacant managerial position.
On Friday, one day after the Indians dismissed manager Manny Acta, general manager Chris Antonetti confirmed that Sandy Alomar Jr. and Terry Francona -- a pair of baseball minds with which the organization is plenty familiar -- are the only options the club is publicly considering at this point.
The Indians are still composing a final list, but will not openly identify additional candidates associated with other teams until the season concludes. Alomar is serving as interim manager for the club's final six contests. Francona has spent this season as an analyst for ESPN after parting ways with the Red Sox following the 2011 campaign.
"We'll acknowledge both of those guys," Antonetti told the media on Friday. "Beyond that, we won't acknowledge other names."
Francona won a pair of World Series titles during his eight-year tenure in Boston. He batted .311 in 62 games for the Tribe in 1988 and served as a special assistant to then-general manager Mark Shapiro in 2001. The 53-year-old maintains a close relationship with Antonetti.
"I actually speak to Chris from time to time," Francona told MLB.com. "We've been friends a long time. But I have spoken to him about the job, and at some point I'm going to come in and interview for that job."
The Indians are not operating on any definitive timetable, but Antonetti said he prefers to complete the hiring process as swiftly as possible. Francona said he plans to travel to Cleveland for an interview in the near future.
"I wouldn't come in and interview if I wasn't interested," Francona said. "They have some things to get in order. I know Sandy Alomar is also a candidate and I'm sure they'll be doing their homework. I'll let him do his business and [the team can] get back to me when it's appropriate."
Tribe starter Justin Masterson accepted responsibility for Acta's dismissal, surmising that if he boasted better numbers than an 11-15 record and 5.03 ERA in 33 outings, Acta might still have a job. Masterson spent the first year-and-a-half of his Major League career in Boston under Francona's tutelage before being dealt to Cleveland in a package for catcher Victor Martinez in 2009.
"He's a great guy. I enjoy him very much," Masterson said of Francona. "I'm sure there will be a process that Chris and everybody will go through. We have Sandy Alomar right now and I think everyone endears him. He's been on the staff. It's going to be a tough decision for those guys, but I'm sure by the time next year rolls around, we'll be in a good spot and be excited about a new season."
By cutting ties with Acta with six games remaining, the Indians provided themselves with an opportunity to observe Alomar in the chief position for a week. Antonetti, though, cautioned that the club's performance over the final six contests should not influence Alomar's standing.
Alomar has no managerial experience, though he spent two years as a catching instructor for the Mets before joining Acta's staff in 2009 as first-base coach and, this season, bench coach.
"Whether it's a tryout or not, I'm excited," Alomar said. "I'll give the best I can and we'll see what transpires after this."
Alomar played for the Indians from 1990 to 2000 and evolved into a local favorite. Few of the fans who passed through the turnstiles during a memorable '97 season will forget Alomar's go-ahead home run in the All-Star Game at Progressive Field or his game-tying long ball off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning of Game 4 in the American League Division Series a few months later.
Alomar will never forget those precious moments, either.
"Sometimes the grass is not greener on the other side," he said. "Let me say this about the Cleveland Indians: The guys used to harass me all the time to cut the cord. It's the place that I had success. I feel like I also had a lot of learning experiences here."
Alomar admitted that, should the club select him as the organization's next manager, it would fulfill a longtime dream of his. Alomar has interviewed for three open managerial positions over the last two offseasons: the Blue Jays, the Cubs and, ironically, the Red Sox.
To replace Francona, Boston's front office chose veteran skipper Bobby Valentine in favor of Alomar and a handful of other contenders. Now, Francona and Alomar appear to be the primary candidates hoping to land Acta's old job.
"If it happens at the end of the year that the organization feels it's my time, then yes, that would be great," Alomar said. "If they feel it's not my time, I can understand that. Nobody owes me anything. Nobody owes me anything in life. You get paid for what you do and if they make a different decision, I respect that. I'll respect whatever they decide."