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Rizzo prioritizing experience as manager interviews begin

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals plan to start interviewing candidates for their managerial opening this week, according to two sources familiar with the situation.

The job became available after general manager Mike Rizzo relieved Matt Williams of his duties last week. Rizzo said that in looking for the Nationals' sixth full-time manager, he is seeking someone with experience.

"As we go through the laundry list of things that we look for in our manager and the perfect leader of the ballclub on the field, leadership qualities, knowledge of the game, X's and O's, are all important," Rizzo said. "Communication in the clubhouse, communication within the coaching staff, is vital. Experience is always helpful. It always adds a layer of expertise to anybody's resume.

"We feel that where we're at in our timetable of winning a championship, we certainly would lean toward someone that has some type of managerial experience, especially at the Major League level. But again, we're going to be open-minded and look for the best candidate that we can that allows us to win a championship here in the very near future."

One source said he expects Rizzo to take his time in hiring the new manager. During the 2013 season, Rizzo made up his mind that Williams would be the skipper in 2014, even though Williams had limited experience.

With that in mind, here are possible candidates who could interview for the managerial job:

Wally Backman: He has managed a combined 1,539 games in the Minor Leagues and Independent Ball. He has a .519 winning percentage. Backman has a history with Rizzo. In 2004, Backman was the manager of Class A Lancaster, while Rizzo was the D-backs' scouting director. The next year, Backman was named manager of the D-backs, but never managed a single game for the Major League club because of off-the-field issues. There were reports that Backman was going to join Davey Johnson's coaching staff after the 2011 season, but that never materialized.

Dusty Baker: He has 20 years of managing experience in the Major Leagues, has won Manager of the Year three times and has taken every team he has managed into the postseason. The only thing that is missing is a World Series title. If he joined the Nationals, Baker wouldn't have to worry about a team being in the rebuilding stage.

Bud Black: He is one of three former pitchers -- Tommy Lasorda and Larry Dierker are the others -- to win Manager of the Year honors. He can handle a pitching staff, but never had a solid offense to work with when he helmed the Padres.

Randy Knorr: He knows the organization more than any candidate, but his contract as the Nationals' bench coach wasn't renewed after the 2015 season. He recently became a senior assistant to Rizzo in the player development department. Rizzo said Knorr will interview for the vacant managerial post.

Trent Jewett: He has already interviewed for the job twice, in 2006 and '13, but the position went to Manny Acta and Williams, respectively. Jewett has 17 years of managing in the Minor Leagues and has a .503 winning percentage.

Charlie Manuel: He told the Washington Times that he was interested in the job. One thing Manuel has going for him is that he has outfielder Jayson Werth in his corner. Manuel gave Werth a chance to become an everyday player beginning in 2008 on the Phillies.

"He is the best manager I ever played for. Nothing against Davey [Johnson]," Werth said in 2013. "I owe [Manuel a lot]. … It took a lot to win him over. Once he put me in there, he believed in me as much -- if not more than -- anybody that I've ever played for. … He is the one that pushed me to be the player that I became. Between him and those guys I played with over in [Philadelphia], it kind of goes hand in hand."

Manuel was dismissed during his ninth season with the Phils. He took them to the postseason for five consecutive years (2007-11) and the World Series twice (2008-09), winning in '08.

Dave Martinez: He finished second behind Williams during the interviewing process in 2013. Martinez will most likely get another chance to interview for the position after the postseason. He doesn't have any managerial experience, but being Joe Maddon's bench coach the last few years doesn't hurt.

Lloyd McClendon: During his seven years as manager, McClendon never had great teams to work with. It would be a different story with the Nationals. His best year at the helm was 2014, when he guided the Mariners to an 87-75 record. He finished fourth in the American League Manager of the Year voting that season.

Phil Nevin: Once a valuable player for the Padres, Nevin has six years of Minor League experience and has a winning percentage of .469 in the Tigers and D-backs organizations. Nevin's best year was 2014, when he guided Triple-A Reno to an 81-63 record.

Rick Renteria: According to the Washington Post, Renteria wants to be a manager again. In his only year as manager in 2014, the Cubs were 73-89. They showed signs of improvement during the final two months of the season, going 28-27.

Cal Ripken Jr.: While he is a popular choice, the Nationals have not contacted Ripken about the managerial opening, according to two sources. One source doesn't expect the Nationals to call Ripken, who has no managing experience.

Don Wakamatsu: He has two years of Major League managerial experience -- all with the Mariners. The first year, 2009, was solid. He finished fourth in the AL Manager of the year voting. The next year, the Mariners were 42-70 before Wakamatsu was relieved of his duties.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All theTime. He can also be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
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