Sources: Cubs want to talk with Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter October 22, 2013 10:29PM
St Louis Cardinals v Boston Red Sox
Updated: October 23, 2013 10:07AM
Two years after landing Theo Epstein in what was widely considered a coup, the beleaguered Cubs are still waiting on the Boston Red Sox. And Epstein still can’t seem to escape Boston, no matter how deep he sinks his gritted teeth into this long and grueling rebuilding process.
With first choice Joe Girardi long gone from the Cubs’ latest managerial search and four Plan B candidates already interviewed, the Cubs’ front office watches a World Series that opens Wednesday for its next interview candidate to get done with his season.
Bench coach Torey Lovullo, who was hired by Epstein four years ago to manage the Red Sox’ Class AAA affiliate when Epstein was their general manager, is in the Cubs’ sights for an interview after the World Series, sources say.
He would join San Diego Padres bench coach Rick Renteria, Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Dave Martinez, San Diego Padres assistant GM A.J. Hinch and former Cleveland Indians and Washington Nationals manager Manny Acta in a candidate pool that could grow by one or two ‘‘mystery candidates’’ by the time the process is complete.
Epstein, who said three weeks ago he hopes to have a new manager by the GM meetings 2½ weeks from now, wouldn’t comment on the process or the potential candidates.
But Renteria was considered a favorite of the front office as soon as Girardi was off the table. And Lovullo, who joined the Red Sox’ staff this season when manager John Farrell brought him from his staff with the Toronto Blue Jays, is admired by the Cubs’ brass for his leadership, intelligence and ability to relate to a wide range of players.
‘‘To me, he’s a manager-in-waiting,’’ Farrell told reporters in Boston during the American League Championship Series. ‘‘He’s going to have opportunities until he ends up securing one of the jobs. He’s been integral to the success we’ve had here. He’s a great baseball mind. The conversations and the feedbacks and just the insights he gives, he’s going to be very good.’’
Other teams are said to have targeted Lovullo as a potential manager, too. But Cubs insiders say the fact several other teams, including the late-arriving Detroit Tigers, are trying to land managers won’t affect their timeline or process.
Meanwhile, Boston native Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer and player-development executive Jason McLeod all watch from 1,000 miles away as the Red Sox play in their first World Series since those three were together at the helm in 2007 — and only one year after the Red Sox challenged the 101-loss Cubs in the spectacular-crash category.
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, Epstein’s former assistant GM and onetime replacement during a three-month ‘‘retirement’’ eight years ago, swept out manager Bobby Valentine and a handful of big-money free agents signed during Epstein’s final seasons to rebuild around a sizable core put together during Epstein’s regime.
‘‘I’m really happy for Ben and all the baseball ops folks, many of whom are like extended family to me,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘They’ve done a great job and deserve this success. I still feel connected to some of the players, too, and it’s been fun to watch this team bring the franchise back to where it should be and perhaps to new heights.’’
He wouldn’t comment about his thoughts on leaving for the Cubs as he watches the Red Sox return to the Series or on how especially big the task in Chicago looks when he sees the division rival St. Louis Cardinals reach the Series for the second time in three seasons.
But he couldn’t be blamed if he wonders what he has gotten himself into with the economically downsized Cubs under the Ricketts family’s ownership as he watches the Series during the next week — especially after Red Sox owner John Henry offered a public reminder last weekend of a plan hatched and discussed with Epstein in 2011.
‘‘We knew for years that [Cherington] was going to be our next general manager,’’ Henry said. ‘‘At one point, we’d even talked about Theo becoming president, allowing Ben to become general manager.’’
Epstein already was committed to leaving Boston.
It’s unclear whether ‘‘committed’’ has taken on new meaning to him by now.