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A rave review for Tampa Bay’s Dave Martinez

 Dave Martinez is next up interview for Cubs' managerial position. | J. Meric~Getty Images

Dave Martinez is next up to interview for the Cubs' managerial position. | J. Meric~Getty Images

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Updated: November 16, 2011 9:01AM

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — When Dave Martinez was hired for his first big-league coaching job with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf went out of his way to find the former Sox outfielder on the field and congratulate him.

‘‘When I was there, I always had a good relationship with him,’’ said Martinez, who still seemed surprised that Reinsdorf was paying attention to him all those years later. ‘‘He actually came down and wished me all the best. That was nice.’’

Reinsdorf still has his eye on Martinez, and Sox general manager Ken Williams — Martinez’s onetime teammate in Montreal — has the Rays’ bench coach on a very short list of favorites to replace Ozzie Guillen in the Sox’ dugout next season.

‘‘I’m overwhelmed by the fact that they’re considering me as a managerial candidate,’’ Martinez said a couple of hours before the 24th postseason game in Rays franchise history, all since Martinez joined the staff. ‘‘At the end of all this, I’d love to sit down with Kenny and talk about it. . . . But right now, my focus is on what’s going on here and trying to win today.’’

Depending on the day, the source or the direction the wind blows, Martinez or Cleveland Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. is the favorite to land Guillen’s old job. Terry Francona’s sudden availability adds a high-profile wrinkle to the mix, and there’s some talk of a surprise off-the-radar candidate.

Martinez, 47, has been down this manager-candidate road before, having interviewed with the Toronto Blue Jays last year and Cleveland the year before.

But this might be as close to an ideal fit for the rising-star coach who played on both sides of town during a 16-year career, whose wife is from the Chicago area and whose son just started his freshman year at Northwestern.

‘‘It’s a great city,’’ he said, ‘‘one of my favorite places.’’

But whether the homecoming works out for the kid originally drafted by Dallas Green’s Cubs 28 years ago, Martinez knows this could be a huge offseason for his career. The Boston Red Sox are said to be eyeing him for their managerial vacancy, created by Francona’s departure. And a handful of other teams also could be looking for a new manager.

Teams haven’t contacted the Rays for permission to talk to him yet, but that’s expected to change now that the Rays are done.

‘‘There’s always possibilities,’’ said Martinez, who downplayed the likelihood of this winter being the one that finally brings that first managing gig.

‘‘I’m not a real big self-promoter. I just come out here and do my job every day, and by doing so, [Rays manager] Joe [Maddon] and I have a great rapport. We run things the way we see fit, and I guess people hear what we do. . . . Three out of four years we’ve been [together], we’ve been to the postseason.’’

What seems certain is Martinez’s readiness for the next step. Maddon raves about his right-hand man and says of all the guys looking for their first shots, he doesn’t see anybody better.

‘‘Davey’s really well prepared. He understands the game very, very well,’’ said Maddon, who says he has been able to use Martinez’s uncommon communication skills and relationships with players to get what amounts to a second manager on his staff. ‘‘He’s been able to handle little sub meetings with players or other coaches, taking messages, making sure things get done. He’s made my job a lot easier, believe me. . . .

‘‘Being a manager, that’s just the next step for him. He’s pretty much ready for that right now.’’

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