Marlins pitching coach Larry Rothschild and Indians scout Ted Simmons stated their cases Friday as the Devil Rays appeared to conclude the first stage of their managerial search process.
The two could be back for more talks in the next few days. General manager Chuck LaMar plans to meet with his staff through the weekend, decide whether to bring in any additional candidates and by Monday cut the field of 10 to two to four.
"Things have gone extremely well and I think the interview process has been fair to all parties involved," LaMar said. "I've been impressed with the candidates we've brought in and feel very comfortable selecting someone from this group, or anyone else we bring in to this process."
The finalists will return to St. Petersburg next week for interviews that, for the first time, will include managing general partner Vince Naimoli.
"I think my time has come," Naimoli said. "I'm excited from what I've read in the newspaper about these guys."
Simmons said he was "very much excited" about the possibility of being the team's first manager.
Simmons, 48, had a 21-year playing career and was known as an All-Star performer and a free spirit. He then was farm director of the Cardinals and general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. A heart attack led to his 1993 resignation, but he quickly recovered and has been a major-league scout for the Indians.
Simmons, who said he was surprised and flattered the Devil Rays called, has never managed, but he said it wasn't for lack of interest.
"I've thought about it the last 25 or 30 years," he said. "When I retired as a player you look at the opportunities and this was the way things evolved. I reached a fork in the road and that fork led to the administrative end and not the field. The farm directorship leads to general manager. That end had a new and exciting appeal to me. When this thing came up, it took me back to that fork I looked at 10 years ago. If things work out, I can go back to that fork and go the other direction."
Simmons said the Tampa Bay job probably is the only one he would be interested in at this point. "You find yourself dealing with younger players and in a teaching role on an expansion team and that's very, very appealing," he said.
Rothschild, 43, was more of a known commodity to LaMar. The two have been acquainted since the late 1980s, when both were in the Reds organization.
"I've never worked with anyone any more dedicated to his job and any more of a quality person off the field than Larry," LaMar said. "I think he's a leader of men and if given the opportunity will be a very good major-league manager."
After an 11-year pitching career, mostly in the minors,Rothschild coached for 12 seasons. He won a World Series ring as bullpen coach with the 1990 Reds and another Sunday.
Rothschild has never managed but said his time with managers Lou Piniella, Rene Lachemann, John Boles and Jim Leyland leaves him well-prepared.
"I don't know that there's any exact conventional way to go through a program to be a major-league manager," he said. "The tutelage I had under those managers was as good as any teaching experience I could ever get. I think that that's important."
Rothschild said there are two components to being a successful manager, managing game situations and managing people. He figures a strong bench coach can help with the former ("How much that will hurt me I don't know, but I'm not worried about that," he said), and he is confident he can handle the latter.
"It's important to put players in positions where they can succeed," Rothschild said. "You'll hear that said a lot."
Final payment made
The Rays made a significant off-field transaction Friday, wiring the final $33-million payment of their $130-million expansion fee.
"It was just routine," Naimoli said. "It was just programed for so long. The money has been there. We posted an irrevocable letter of credit. It's simply a matter of something that the time came."
_ Staff writer John Romano contributed to this report.