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Simmons is impressive even before interview

The first nine candidates for the Devil Rays managerial job had relatively similar resumes. Like Rick Down, who concluded his interview Wednesday morning, and Jerry Manuel, who began his Wednesday night, all are or were major-league coaches. Most managed in the minor leagues. One, Hal McRae, managed in the majors.

But the 10th man will be different. Ted Simmons has not had an on-field job since retiring as a player 10 years ago. He has been a general manager. He has never managed, and his name has not come up in connection with previous managerial openings.

To some, he may seem like a surprise candidate. Listen to Rays general manager Chuck LaMar and he sounds like an ideal candidate.

"I think Ted Simmons is one of the finest baseball men around," LaMar said Wednesday. "He has a tremendous pedigree, not only as a 21-year major-leaguer and an eight-time All-Star, but he understands scouting and player development because of his years as farm director of the St. Louis Cardinals, and he's been a successful general manager of a major-league club and has sat where I am sitting. I think he's an outstanding managerial candidate. His name was on our list from the first time."

Simmons, 48, a major-league scout for the Indians, was not available for comment, but several associates said he would be a good fit for an expansion team. Blue Jays general manager Gord Ash, who did not consider Simmons for his managerial opening, concurred.

"Ted Simmons is an excellent baseball man and someone I highly respect," Ash said. "He's probably a little more suited for an expansion club and a little more comfortable with that."

The Jays cut their candidates to a short list Wednesday. Two candidates for the Rays' job, Down and Detroit bench coach Larry Parrish, did not make it. One did _ Cubs Triple-A manager Tim Johnson. Toronto's other finalists include Larry Bowa, Paul Molitor (possibly as a player/manager) and broadcaster/former player Buck Martinez. Former Phillies manager Jim Fregosi may be interviewed again.

LaMar said Toronto's decision would not affect his timetable. He plans to talk with Marlins coach Larry Rothschild tonight and Simmons Friday, then decide whether he needs more candidates.

If there are none, a second round of interviews involving two, three or four finalists could begin Saturday. A decision is expected before Thursday, when LaMar is scheduled to leave for Arizona to begin final preparations for the Nov. 18 expansion draft.

"I've been thoroughly impressed with all the candidates we've brought in and feel extremely good about several of them," LaMar said.

The latest to complete the process was Down, the 46-year-old hitting coach for the Orioles. Down, who has been a college coach, successful minor-league manager and accomplished major-league coach, said he would embrace the challenge of managing the Rays. He interviewed with the Red Sox, Angels and Blue Jays.

"I feel right now I'm ready for it," Down said. "The background is there, and the resume is there. If the pieces fit, fine."

Down has some expansion experience. He was on the Arizona Diamondbacks' staff for five days, having followed Buck Showalter from New York, before deciding to join the Orioles because he didn't want to spend two years doing low profile work building a team.

"My aspiration, my goal is to be a big-league manager, and to spend two years (with Arizona), instead of being a Diamondback, I'd be in the outback," Down said. "I would have been lost or (other teams) would have lost me. Out of sight, out of mind."

Down said he would prefer to manage an expansion team. "I'm known for a little energy and a little enthusiasm, and some people don't like that," he said.

MARLINS: P Alex Fernandez had surgery to repair a partial thickness tear of the rotator cuff, and a glenoid labral tear. And although he will miss the 1998 season, he is expected to pitch again, Marlins spokesman Ron Colangelo said. A total tear likely would have ended the 28-year-old's career.

ANGELS: The team announced it will not offer Tony Phillips a contract for next season.

ROYALS: The team exercised its $2.8-million option on P Jeff Montgomery.

CARDINALS: The team exercised Todd Stottlemyre's $4.7-million option and also exercised Delino DeShields' $3-million option.

METS: C Todd Hundley may miss the '98 season after elbow surgery. A judge has dropped child abuse charges against OF Carl Everett and his wife.

FREE AGENTS: Indians P Orel Hershiser was among 14 players who filed for free agency, raising the total to 76. Also filing: Royals DH Chili Davis, Orioles DH Harold Baines, Yankees OF Tim Raines and Cards P Dennis Eckersley.

_ Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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