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Ken Williams narrows his list for next White Sox manager

Possible White Sox managerial candidates include Red Sox manager Terry Francon(from left) Rays bench coach Dave Martinez Indians first-base coach

Possible White Sox managerial candidates include Red Sox manager Terry Francona (from left), Rays bench coach Dave Martinez and Indians first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr.

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Updated: December 2, 2011 2:11PM



Ken Williams offered to step away to another job in the White Sox’ organization or to step down.

He said he has a preferred candidate to replace Ozzie Guillen, who parted ways with the Sox on Monday with two games left in the season, as the team’s next manager. Williams said the successor could be named before the start of the World Series.

Pitching coach Don Cooper, who managed the team Tuesday and will do so in the season finale on Wednesday, was given a four-year extension, and first-base coach Harold Baines agreed to a multiyear deal.

And he refuted a Sun-Times report that he fired Guillen’s bench coach and close friend, Joey Cora, via text message.

And there you have a handful of revelations and news blurbs that came together on an eventful and somewhat peculiar day after Guillen’s last day in a Sox uniform. While the colorful manager was being sized for a Marlins uniform, Williams sat in Guillen’s pregame perch in the Sox’ dugout fielding questions about Guillen and the Sox’ future without him.

Indians first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr., a former Sox catcher, is thought to be a leading candidate to lead a post-Guillen era along with Rays bench coach Dave Martinez, but a major-league source said there’s substance to an even more intriguing name: Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

Francona, like Alomar, has ties to the White Sox. He interviewed with Williams along with Cito Gaston and Buddy Bell in 2003, when Guillen was hired. He began his minor-league coaching and managing career in the White Sox’ organization.

The reeling Red Sox are in danger of missing the playoffs, and Francona’s contract is guaranteed only through this season with options for $4.25 million for 2012 and $4.5 million for 2013. Francona and his agent have not been approached about the options, raising more speculation about his status beyond this season.

Asked recently about next year, Francona told reporters, “I don’t feel any different than I ever have. The organization not only has the right, but it’s their obligation to get the right person, the person they think is the best. If at some point they think it needs to be somebody else — other than that, I think it’s disrespectful for me to spend one waking moment thinking about my situation.’’

Class AAA Charlotte coach Joe McEwing is highly thought of and successful. Bell, the Sox’ director of player development, is not interested in being a candidate, Williams said.

Alomar has a lot going for him, having played parts of five seasons in three stops with the Sox. He’s an ex-catcher and has been thought of highly by Williams since he was a player. Alomar was the runner-up for the Blue Jays job last year.

“He’s ready to go,’’ a major-league source said.

“Plus, he would have no issue with keeping parts of the current staff — they all know each other and have worked together,’’ another major-league source said.

“There’s a clear direction as to the way I want it to go,’’ said Williams, who has had months — or more — to think about his next manager. “As I mentioned last night, there’s a very short list. I’ve already begun heading down that list. I’ll let you know when there’s something to announce.”

Asked if he has a preferred candidate, Williams said, “I absolutely do.”

Williams said he will talk about the qualities he’s seeking when the hire is made, which won’t come before the weekend but could come before the World Series.

“It could be, yes,’’ Williams said. “But we have to wait and see who the players are in the World Series and if there’s someone on a playoff team that I ultimately might want to talk to. It might have to drag a little bit.”

Martinez and Francona would fall under that group.

Williams said he will get an approval of the hire from chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. He also said he offered to step aside or step down from his GM duties because of the team’s disappointing performance. It wasn’t the first time he has.

“He didn’t like it very much, but I felt compelled to reiterate that I was completely prepared to vacate the seat,” Williams said, adding he had those types of conversations with Reinsdorf “one year ago, six months ago, four months ago, three weeks ago, two weeks ago.”

Cora, expected to be Guillen’s bench coach with the Marlins, exchanged texts with Williams but also a phone conversation, Williams said. Cora was told by Guillen that he would be managing the last two games. Williams texted him that Cooper would be managing.

“We had a conversation that we agreed [because] he’s likely to go with Ozzie, and it would have been, in his words, awkward for him to be here,” Williams said. “So I said, ‘That’s not a problem. I get it. Good luck.’ We exchanged pleasantries, and that was it, a three-minute conversation.”



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