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Red Sox search drags, but it could end soon

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / November 29, 2011
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Gene Lamont empathizes with you, Red Sox fans. He would like to see the team finally name its new manager, too.

“I’m a little antsy, to be honest with you,’’ Lamont said yesterday. “This has kind of dragged on.’’

There was only incremental movement in recent days as Blue Jays first base coach Torey Lovullo was officially eliminated from consideration, according to a team source. That leaves Lamont and Bobby Valentine as the two remaining candidates.

Indications were that a decision could come as soon as today.

No other candidate has emerged, and according to general manager Ben Cherington, the plan is to name a manager by the end of the week. Baseball’s winter meetings start Monday in Dallas, and it’s hard to imagine the Sox letting their decision drift that far and interfering with building a roster for 2012.

Then again, it’s 60 days and counting since Terry Francona left the organization and no candidate has been extended an offer.

As of last night, Lamont and Valentine had not heard from the Sox since last Wednesday. Lamont was in New York that day to meet with team chairman Tom Werner, a day after he sat down with John Henry at the owner’s home in Boca Raton, Fla.

“It went fine,’’ Lamont said via telephone from his home in Florida. “I don’t know too many interviews when it doesn’t go well. I felt comfortable and they seemed like nice guys. I’m anxious to hear back. I’m not sure what’s happening.’’

Valentine also spoke with team officials twice last week. He had an official interview at Fenway Park Nov. 21 and then a lengthy telephone conversation two days later.

Instead of waiting at home in Connecticut, Valentine flew to Japan for a charity event in Sendai, a city on the shores of the Pacific Ocean that was badly damaged by the tsunami in March. He later attended a charity event in Tokyo.

Valentine spent seven years of his career managing in Japan and has strong ties there.

Whether it’s Lamont or Valentine, the Sox will get an experienced manager. Lamont, who turns 65 next month, spent eight years as a manager with the White Sox and Pirates. But he has not managed since 2000.

Lamont spent the last six seasons as the third base coach under Jim Leyland in Detroit. “I’m excited,’’ Lamont said. “It’s just a matter of waiting. They’ll make the right decision and hopefully I’m the right guy to manage the Red Sox in 2012 and beyond.’’

Valentine, 61, spent parts of 15 seasons with the Rangers and Mets, then returned to Japan for six more seasons. But he has not managed in the majors since 2002. He has worked for ESPN as an analyst the last two seasons.

Were Valentine to leave for the Sox, Francona is likely to be among the candidates to replace him at ESPN.

Lamont and Valentine are of similar age and experience but share few other qualities. Lamont has much more of an understated personality when compared with the boisterous Valentine.

Lamont would be seen as a safer selection and much less likely to make waves. Going with Valentine would be more of a bold move and certainly send a message to a band of underachieving veteran players who have finished in third place two seasons in a row.

Valentine is considered an innovative manager deft at in-game tactics. But he left the Mets in 2002 amidst a feud with general manager Steve Phillips and several prominent players.

For Cherington, five weeks into his tenure as GM, learning to work cohesively with Valentine could be a challenge. But Valentine told friends after his interview that he was “deeply impressed’’ with Cherington and the baseball operations staff and eager to work with them.

Valentine still should be considered the favorite given that he has the backing of team president Larry Lucchino and the ownership. But Cherington’s voice will be heard when the decision is made.

The only question now is when that call is made.

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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