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A lot of interest in Little

There are major league managing jobs open in Philadelphia, Arizona, New York (the Mets), and Seattle. Don't be surprised if Grady Little winds up with one of them. You tend to get serious consideration when you've averaged 94 wins a year in your previous go-round as a manager, as Little did in his two years with the Red Sox.

Little already has an interview lined up with the Phillies, who if the past is any indicator would welcome a manager who is the polar opposite in

temperament of the tightly wrapped Larry Bowa. He also has been mentioned as a candidate for the Mariners, who might prefer a more experienced hand after first-time manager Bob Melvin flamed out with a bad ball club. Little did not return a phone message; the 617 area code on his caller ID might send up red flags for a man who is justified in feeling the bashing he received at the end of his tenure here exceeded the bounds of reason and taste. But he did tell Larry Stone of the Seattle Times he would welcome a return to the dugout after spending the past season as a scouting consultant to Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. He was recently in New York, advancing the Yankees, before the Cubs flamed out in their drive for a playoff spot.

Little, still young at 54, told Stone he "has interest in one day getting another opportunity to manage in the major leagues, yes. Any time you get an opportunity to manage at the major league level, it's a good opportunity."

In Philadelphia, Little may have an ally in Mike Arbuckle, the team's assistant GM in scouting and player development. Arbuckle was in Atlanta when Little was managing winning teams in the Braves system.

Little's most formidable challenger in Philadelphia could be Charlie Manuel, a close friend and former manager of the Indians who employed Little as his bench coach until the Sox hired him away. Manuel is already in the Phillies organization, a special assistant to GM Ed Wade.

Gary Hughes, a special assistant to Hendry, spent more time with Little this summer than anyone in the Cubs organization, as they made a number of scouting trips together. He thought Little's chances of resuming his managerial career were very good.

"I called him to wish him well," Hughes said. "Obviously, we'd love to have him back, but there are a lot of good jobs out there, and I'm hearing his name mentioned a lot.

"He is probably as deserving as anyone out there right now. There wasn't a day when I was with him that somebody didn't come up to him and state that he sure didn't screw things up in Boston. These were good baseball people, a lot of whom aren't prone to stepping out and saying anything, but in this case they did."

Another former Sox manager has been mentioned as a possibility in Seattle -- Jimy Williams, who after his firing in Houston was hired by Mariners GM Bill Bavasi to evaluate the team's Double A farm club in San Antonio. Williams, of course, has longstanding ties with Pat Gillick, the longtime Mariners GM who remains with the club as a consultant. Gillick hired and fired Williams in Toronto, Jimy's first managing job, and long has been a Williams admirer. But given the way the Astros went on to the best record in baseball from Aug. 15 on, within weeks of Williams's firing, he might be a tough PR sell in Seattle.

Joe Maddon, the Angels bench coach who was so impressive in his interview with the Red Sox last winter before Terry Francona was hired, figures to be on a few lists, too. Bavasi, having worked for the Angels before going to Seattle, knows him well, though it remains to be seen whether he'd hire another first-time manager after Melvin washed out. Sox bench coach Brad Mills, who managed in Triple A for the Dodgers when Bavasi was there, also could be in line for an interview, and deservedly so. Mills, 47, has maintained a low-key presence with the Sox, but he is highly respected in the clubhouse and the front office, and has over a dozen years of experience managing in the minor leagues.

DeMarlo Hale, the former Sox minor league manager and Rangers first base coach who interviewed for the Sox job last winter, is being interviewed by the Diamondbacks, who are also interviewing former first baseman and team broadcaster Mark Grace, Melvin, minor league manager Wally Backman, Rockies coach Jamie Quirk, Maddon, and Al Pedrique, the beleaguered interim manager of a team that lost 111 games this season.

New Mets GM Omar Minaya already has interviewed former Jays manager Carlos Tosca, but the leading candidate there may be Rudy Jaramillo, who is revered as a hitting coach for his work in Texas and has longstanding ties with Minaya. Jim Fregosi, who didn't get a call from the Sox last winter, also figures to be a strong candidate for the Mets, while Don Baylor, whose cancer is in remission, and Yankees bench coach Willie Randolph also are expected to make the interview circuit.

Chicago becomes a city of big questions

The Cubs will have organizational meetings in the next few days to address myriad issues, including how vigorously they will pursue free agent shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and what to do with Sammy Sosa, who alienated legions of fans by bailing out on the club last Sunday, leaving Wrigley Field 15 minutes after the game began, then lying about it, saying he left in the seventh inning (as if that were more acceptable).

Sosa dug himself in even deeper when he complained about manager Dusty Baker, saying he was tired of Baker blaming him for all the Cubs' ills. The Cubs fined Sosa $87,400, but trading him will be problematic; any deal triggers Sosa's option for 2006, which would leave a club on the hook for $35 million, a big nut for an aging slugger whose struggles prompted Baker to drop him to the No. 6 hole in the season's last month.

Whether the Cubs keep Garciaparra, whose groin injury they believe was probably related to his Achilles' problems, may depend in part on whether they can move Sosa, as well as how vigorously they intend to pursue center fielder Carlos Beltran, the prize of the free agent market.

Meanwhile, the feud between Baker and longtime team broadcaster Steve Stone remains unresolved, despite meetings between the Cubs brass and the two principals, whose falling out appears to be personal. Stone's contract is up for renewal Nov. 3 by superstation WGN, and despite his tremendous popularity in Chicago, it remains to be seen whether the two can coexist.

A brief accounting of the Sox for 2005

When you contemplate what changes the Red Sox may make this offseason, keep in mind they already have spent $81.2 million in guaranteed contracts for 2005. The state of the Sox roster: Signed for 2005 (12 players)Kevin Millar $3.5 million, David Ortiz $5.25 million, Doug Mientkiewicz $3.75 million, Manny Ramirez $18.067 million, Johnny Damon $8.25 million, Trot Nixon $6.5 million, Alan Embree $3 million, Keith Foulke $7 million, Byung Hyun Kim $6 million, Curt Schilling $12.5 million, Mike Timlin $2.75 million, and Tim Wakefield $4.67 million. Prospective free agents (16)Terry Adams, Ellis Burks, Orlando Cabrera, Ricky Gutierrez, Gabe Kapler, Curtis Leskanic ($1.25 million club option), Derek Lowe, Pedro Martinez, David McCarty, Ramiro Mendoza, Doug Mirabelli, Bill Mueller ($2.1 million club option), Mike Myers, Pokey Reese, Jason Varitek, and Scott Williamson. (Millar, Embree, and Timlin all had 2005 options that vested). Arbitration-eligible (3)Mark Bellhorn (2004 salary, $490,000), Bronson Arroyo ($332,500), and Dave Roberts ($975,000). Players with fewer than three years' service (2)Kevin Youkilis ($300,000), Lenny DiNardo ($300,000).

Etc.

McCourt's wife fights through ordeal

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his wife, Jamie, were in Boston for the series against the Red Sox in June when Jamie felt a scratching in her eye and went to a doctor to be checked. The initial diagnosis was a corneal abrasion, and she was instructed to come back to see the doctor the next morning. "That night," Frank said, "she lost sight in the eye. When she went back to the doctor, suddenly it was an emergency. She had a corneal ulcer." Twenty years ago, Jamie had had radial keratotomy surgery, a precursor to laser surgery, in which incisions were made in her cornea. "Think of spokes on a wheel," Frank said. "One had opened up and exposed her eye. Bacteria from tap water got into that opening, a bacteria that feeds on the enzymes in the cornea. For 24 hours, the bacteria ravaged one-quarter of her eye. If the infection perforated the corneal layer, she was going to lose her eye." Jamie was placed on a regimen of antibiotic eyedrops that had to be applied on an hourly basis, around the clock, for a week. It appeared that the infection was under control, but it flared up a second time. For one month, Frank said, his wife was in a doctor's office every day. "She said the pain was worse than having a baby," he said. Doctors were able to save the eye, and Jamie McCourt, who as vice chairman takes an active role in running the Dodgers, is back to a full schedule -- driving again and swimming, one of her favorite avocations. Her vision was tested at 20-200, Frank said, but with a contact lens it has tested at 20-40. Her vision, which is "wavy and not clearly focused," may improve even more; if not, Frank said, surgery will be needed. "She is an inspiration to me," he said. "She said to me, `This is not life-threatening; let's get through this.' You talk about a fighter."

Going places?

Anaheim and Seattle appear to be possible landing spots for Nomar Garciaparra, while the Dodgers and Mariners are being mentioned as possible suitors for Sox free agent catcher Jason Varitek . . . The Indians have indicated they'd love to have Lou Merloni back, assuming he recovers from the elbow injury that sidelined him at the end of the season.

Role reversal

ESPN's Dan Patrick to fired Phillies manager Larry Bowa: "Put yourself in the management position in Philadelphia; would you have fired you?" Bowa: "Probably. Because the expectations were high, and the payroll was high, and, you know, they wanted a playoff game. They wanted to get to the playoffs. So if I was the general manager, I guess I would."

Shortstop for hire

As well as Orlando Cabrera has played for the Sox, there are some in the Red Sox organization who retain keen interest in Cardinals free agent Edgar Renteria, 29, one of the best shortstops in the game. Renteria is expected to seek a deal in the $10 million range, and while the Cardinals are expected to make every effort to retain a player manager Tony La Russa calls the "total package," financial constraints may make that an issue.

Uncovering the Magglio mystery

It remains to be seen how eager teams will be to offer big bucks to Magglio Ordonez, who had surgery in Vienna on his left knee. The White Sox hold a $14 million option on Ordonez, 30, who would have come to the Red Sox last season for Garciaparra if the Alex Rodriguez/Manny Ramirez deal had gone down. Ordonez played just 52 games because of bone marrow edema in his knee, an injury that has been shrouded in some mystery. The White Sox didn't confirm until after it happened that Ordonez had gone overseas for the procedure.

Shopping list

In just over a month -- 15 days after the World Series ends -- the free agent filing period begins. Teams needing help at just about any position will have a lot to choose from. Some of the big names that may be out there:

Catcher -- Varitek, Boston.

First base -- Richie Sexson, Arizona.

Second base -- Bret Boone, Seattle.

Shortstop -- Garciaparra, Cubs; Renteria, St. Louis; Cabrera, Boston; Omar Vizquel, Cleveland.

Third base -- Troy Glaus, Anaheim; Adrian Beltre, Los Angeles.

Outfield -- J.D. Drew, Atlanta; Moises Alou, Cubs; Ordonez, White Sox; Carlos Beltran, Houston; Steve Finley, Los Angeles; Jermaine Dye, Oakland.

Starting pitchers: Russ Ortiz and Jaret Wright, Atlanta; Pedro Martinez, Boston; Matt Clement, Cubs; Carl Pavano, Florida; Roger Clemens, Houston; Odalis Perez, Los Angeles; Brad Radke, Minnesota; Kevin Millwood, Philadelphia; Matt Morris and Woody Williams, St. Louis.

Relief pitchers -- Troy Percival, Anaheim; Bob Wickman, Cleveland; Eddie Guardado, Seattle; Ugueth Urbina, Detroit; Armando Benitez, Florida. 

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