ATLANTA — Bobby Cox strolled into the Braves clubhouse around lunchtime Tuesday with that familiar waddle, only this time he was wearing his new uniform: A blue golf shirt and slacks.
The duds of retirement.
"Are y'all still here?" he jokingly yelled toward the handful of players who had returned to clean out their lockers, not even 24 hours removed from a season-ending loss in the NL division series.
On the first day of the rest of his life, Cox, 69, had plenty of loose ends to tie up. First was a meeting with general manager Frank Wren, probably to start graphing out his new consulting role with the organization. At some point, he'll have to pack up his office to make room for the next guy.
That apparently will be Fredi Gonzalez. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the former Marlins manager will be introduced at a news conference Thursday.
As strange as it seems, someone besides old No. 6 will be occupying that spot next season.
"It's still hard to believe he's not going to be the manager come spring training," Chipper Jones said of Cox.
Wren has made it clear he had a timeframe in mind to name Cox's successor. Gonzalez has seemed the obvious choice since he was fired by the Marlins in June after 3½ years as their manager.
Gonzalez, 46, was a minor-league manager in the Braves organization and did an apprenticeship as Cox's third-base coach from 2003-06. Gonzalez still lives in suburban Atlanta, remains tight with Cox and frequently turned up at Turner Field after being fired.
The Braves had no comment on the reports of Gonzalez's imminent hiring.
Pitcher Jair Jurrjens said he hopes the next manager is in the same mold as Cox, who didn't ask much of his players beyond working hard and showing up on time. If they followed those rules (and abided by a couple of other minor pet peeves: No loud music or using cell phones in the clubhouse), they knew Cox had their back.
"When you come in here now, you know what kind of rules you have," Jurrjens said. "You hope it's not going to be different, just the same type of guy, someone who lets us do our thing and have fun. I don't want a sergeant to come in here with a bunch of rules."
Cox's successor will inherit a team that has one of baseball's best pitching staffs.
The rotation is in good hands with 17-game winner Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson and Jurrjens. Though closer Billy Wagner is retiring, three promising rookies emerged this season: Jonny Venters (1.95 ERA, 93 strikeouts in 83 innings), Craig Kimbrel (0.44 ERA, 40 Ks in 202/3 innings) and Mike Dunn (1.89 ERA). Throw in ground-ball specialist Peter Moylan and the bullpen looks in good hands.
"It's been the strength of our club," Wren said. "Pitching is the hardest thing to get, and we have it."
Other than hiring a new manager, the top priority for the offseason is clear: The Braves desperately need a power-hitting outfielder — preferably right-handed — to bolster a lineup that was shaky at best and had no chance after season-ending injuries to Jones and All-Star infielder Martin Prado.
FELLER IMPROVING: Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller returned home after surgery to have a pacemaker implanted. Feller, 91, was released from the Cleveland Clinic this month and had been staying at a rehab facility before returning to his home in Gates Mills, Ohio, the Associated Press reported. The longtime Indians ace will continue to receive outpatient treatment at the hospital, according to AP.
PLAQUE FIXED: Four years after he was posthumously inducted into National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, former Negro Leagues star John Preston "Pete" Hill was honored with a new plaque that corrects his proper name and place of birth (Buena, Va.). It was the culmination of an effort by historian Zann Nelson and Ron Hill, a great nephew of the former slugger. Hill's plaque originally read Joseph Preston Hill with the nickname "Pete" and cited his place of birth as Pittsburgh.
METS GM HUNT: White Sox assistant general manager Rick Hahn interviewed for New York's general manager job. Former Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes is set to meet with the Mets today, and longtime baseball executive Sandy Alderson will later this week.
PIRATES SEARCH: Former Brewers and Athletics manager Ken Macha and long-time organizational member Jeff Banister interviewed for Pittsburgh's managerial job.