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Mariners finish first step of managerial search

GM Zduriencik to bring in finalists for second interviews soon

SEATTLE -- General manager Jack Zduriencik has concluded his initial round of talks in Phoenix with prospective managerial candidates for the Mariners, and he will return to Seattle this weekend and then begin bringing in several finalists for second interviews in the coming days.

Zduriencik is believed to have talked to at least a dozen candidates to replace Eric Wedge, who stepped down at the end of last season. The fifth-year GM is keeping the process as confidential as possible, given that two other teams -- the Tigers and Cubs -- are still pursuing many of the same names for their own vacancies.

The Reds and Nationals have both filled their openings, with Cincinnati promoting pitching coach Bryan Price prior to the World Series and the Nats finalizing their deal with D-backs third-base coach Matt Williams on Thursday.

Zduriencik is known to have talked with A's bench coach Chip Hale, Padres bench coach Rick Renteria, Dodgers third-base coach Tim Wallach, Tigers hitting coach and former Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon and Giants bench coach Ron Wotus.

An interesting sixth name emerged Thursday, as a report came out that former Mariners catcher and current broadcaster Dave Valle had interviewed for the job this week. A source familiar with the talks confirmed that story, but indicated the interview actually took place last week.

Though Valle has no prior managing experience, Zduriencik met with him after the former catcher expressed interest. It's not known if any other internal candidates have interviewed, though assistant GM Ted Simmons and two of Wedge's coaches -- Daren Brown and Robby Thompson -- are all potential candidates.

Valle, 53, was a 13-year Major League veteran who played for Seattle from 1984-93 and then had short stints with the Red Sox, Brewers and Rangers before retiring in 1996. He has worked as a broadcaster for the Rangers and Mariners since his retirement, and he also has done analysis for MLB Network.

Though Valle has no managing experience, all five teams with Major League openings this offseason seem more open to non-traditional candidates after the success of Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny, a former catcher who reached the World Series in his second year on the job after never managing prior to his hiring.

Robin Ventura of the White Sox is another former player who worked only as a special advisor to the club before getting his shot at managing the past two years. Don Mattingly never had any managerial experience before being hired by the Dodgers in 2011, but he did work as a Major League hitting coach for several seasons and was a bench coach.

Of this offseason's two hires, neither Price nor Williams has previously managed, though Price was a longtime pitching coach and Williams worked as the D-backs' third-base coach the past four seasons.

The Tigers interviewed Renteria -- who managed in the Minors before moving onto the Padres' coaching staff in 2008 -- on Thursday as they continue searching for a replacement for Jim Leyland. Detroit is also known to have interviewed Wallach, McClendon and Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus, another former player with no coaching or managing experience.

The Cubs interviewed Wedge on Tuesday and have also spoken with Renteria as well as former D-backs manager A.J. Hinch, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez and former Indians and Nats skipper Manny Acta.

Both the Cubs and Tigers are believed to be interested in Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, who hadn't been available until now because he was coaching in the World Series. It's not known if the Mariners have any intention of pursuing Lovullo.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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