CLEVELAND -- With an empty ballpark as his backdrop, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti sat inside a suite at Progressive Field on Thursday afternoon, discussing his plans for the coming offseason.
At the forefront of the Tribe's decisions is the current vacancy in the manager's chair. Antonetti was taking a break from a formal interview with Sandy Alomar Jr. to meet with the local writers, and the general manager has an interview on tap Friday with Terry Francona.
The Indians feel that is a great starting point to a critical winter.
"I feel very confident," Antonetti said, "that we will emerge from it with a great leader."
As things currently stand, interim skipper Alomar and Francona are the only two publicized candidates in Cleveland's search for a full-time manager. If Antonetti has any others in mind, the general manager has done an incredible job of keeping those targets close to the vest.
Antonetti reiterated on Thursday that he would like to name a new manager as soon as possible. If the Indians want to announce the hiring this month, the ballclub will need to work with Major League Baseball's Commissioner's Office on the timing.
It is possible that Cleveland might have the situation resolved by early next week.
"Our goal remains to try to reach a resolution as quickly as possible," Antonetti said. "But we won't rush the process for us to do that."
Antonetti noted that the manager selected by the team will have primary control over the construction of the coaching staff.
The Indians dismissed Manny Acta on Sept. 27 in the midst of the team's second-half collapse from contention in the American League Central. Cleveland was in first place through 70 games and within 3 1/2 games of the division's top spot on July 26, but the club tumbled to fourth place and ended with a 68-94 record.
There are a variety of areas in need of attention this winter -- holes exist at first base, left field, designated hitter and in the starting rotation -- but naming a manager remains the first step in the process. In Alomar and Francona, the Indians have two worthy, but contrasting candidates.
"What we are looking for is for someone to lead this group of 25 guys," Antonetti said. "We're looking for someone who has the ability to inspire and motivate a group of guys to achieve and perform at their best.
"A lot goes into that, like creating a winning environment and a winning culture, as well as helping players develop and reach their potential."
Alomar's resume includes 20 seasons spent in the Majors (parts of 11 seasons with the Indians) as an All-Star catcher and five years spent as a coach (two with the Mets and the past three with the Tribe). He worked as a bench coach under Acta this season before shifting to the interim manager role for the season's final six games.
Those six games gave Antonetti a brief look at Alomar's potential as a manager, considering the former catcher had no previous experience.
"As expected, Sandy did a great job," Antonetti said. "He did an exceptional job in how he went about preparing for it, reaching out to coaches, how he communicated with players, and putting himself and the team in a position to succeed. In a short time, he did a good job."
Antonetti feels the 46-year-old Alomar -- who previously interviewed for managerial jobs with the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Cubs -- is ready to handle the role, whether it is with the Indians or somewhere else.
"I have no reason to think otherwise," Antonetti said. "I fully expect that he's ready to do the job and be successful at it."
As for Thursday's interview -- which included meetings with ownership, president Mark Shapiro, Antonetti and others from the front office, along with the scouting and player development departments -- Alomar said it was a great experience.
"Everything went well," Alomar said. "It was a fun and very organized interview from Chris, Mark and the entire scouting department. Let's see what transpires out of this. Those six days I managed taught me a lot. I'm glad I did it."
Francona, 53, comes in with a vastly different background. He has managing experience with both the Phillies (1997-2000) and Red Sox (2004-11), and won World Series titles in Boston in '04 and '07. Francona worked in the Indians' front office in 2001 and his father, Tito, played for the Tribe from 1959-64.
Over the years, Francona, who is currently an analyst for ESPN, has maintained a good relationship with Shapiro and Antonetti.
"We've always had a great deal of respect for Terry," Antonetti said. "It was great to hear that he was interested. ... I think he's excited to get back on the field. From the converations I've had with him to date, I'm really looking forward to getting together with him [Friday] to talk further about that."
Antonetti was quick to praise Francona's track record in player development, too.
"He's also had success in developing players," Antonetti said. "There are a number of guys that, while he was a manager there [in Boston], he helped transition to the Major League level. In addition to that, he's a great communicator and an accomplished leader."
There has been speculation that the Indians might not be able to afford the kind of salary a manager such as Francona could command. Antonetti said money would not be a stumbling block in this situation.
"I don't expect economics to be an issue in this decision," Antonetti said. "We'll go with the best person that we think fits best for the job."
Antonetti will not tip his hand as to whether that might be Alomar or Francona.
"I wouldn't give anyone a leg up in the process," Antonetti said. "I'd say we feel very good about the two initial candidates that we've identified."