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No O's, no Rays for Johnson

Davey Johnson is looking for work, but he is not going to find it with the Devil Rays.

Johnson, who won the American League Manager of the Year award and lost his job as manager of the Orioles on a wacky Wednesday, will not be interviewed for the Tampa Bay job.

"Davey Johnson is one of the most successful major-league managers in recent years," Rays general manager Chuck LaMar said in a statement. "But because we are extremely pleased with both our interviewing process and the quality of our five finalists, he will not be considered for our manager's position."

Basically, managing general partner Vince Naimoli said, the Rays prefer the possibilities presented by their five finalists: Orioles hitting coach Rick Down, Marlins bench coach Jerry Manuel, Tigers bench coach Larry Parrish, Marlins pitching coach Larry Rothschild and Indians scout Ted Simmons.

Manuel, who had been in California for his father's funeral, will meet with Naimoli and LaMar tonight, concluding the second round of interviews. Team officials will meet Friday morning and an announcement is expected late Friday or Saturday.

"We had 10 outstanding candidates, and we whittled that down to five outstanding candidates," Naimoli said from New York. "And when you look at the candidates they all have common characteristics. In my opinion at this point we have five excellent candidates, and unless lightning strikes we're certainly going to pick from one of those five.

"Davey Johnson has been very, very successful but we just at this point don't think it would be fair to start from scratch talking to him."

Johnson, the winningest active manager (799-589, .576), said earlier Wednesday he was interested in talking to the Rays. "I'm unemployed so if they have an interest, I'd love to talk to them," he said.

But Johnson, an Orlando native, acknowledged the Rays were far along in their process and indicated a more likely option may be the Blue Jays, who quickly said they were interested. "I think anyone with that track record you have to want to talk to," Toronto general manager Gord Ash said.

"That's good news to me," Johnson said. "The Blue Jays have a fine young team. I'd like to talk to them."

The Chicago White Sox also are seeking a manager.

Johnson, 54, resigned Wednesday in an exchange of caustic faxed letters with owner Peter Angelos, the culmination of a controversial two-year relationship in which the Orioles went to the playoffs twice.

"I thought I needed to do this," Johnson said. "There have been some strained relationships. It's been a great two years for me."

There was speculation during the season _ fueled some by Johnson _ that he would lose his job if the Orioles, who had the best record in the AL (98-64), did not win the World Series. Shortly after the O's were eliminated by Cleveland in the AL Championship Series, Johnson's agent requested a contract extension or a buyout of the third and final year of the contract.

Angelos then made a major issue out of Johnson's decision to fine Roberto Alomar for missing a July exhibition game and directing the second baseman to pay the $10,500 to a charity that employs Johnson's wife as a fund-raiser. Angelos said the dispersal of fines should be at the owner's discretion and said Johnson's job was "under review," setting off weeks of sniping.

Johnson, who stood to make $750,000, decided Wednesday morning he had heard enough.

"I felt we had just had two good years and I didn't like the idea of being "under review.' I didn't even know what "under review' was," Johnson said. "I wanted him to endorse me or support me or go ahead and make a change and let me know. So he let me know."

Johnson sent a letter to Angelos asking for a decision on his fate by the end of the day. Angelos, apparently, could not wait to accommodate him. He faxed back a letter of acceptance and, basically, told Johnson he got what he deserved. "Your own actions and conduct _ not mine _ have produced the fulfillment of your prophecy," he wrote.

This on the same day Johnson was named the league's top manager, receiving 10 of the 14 first-place votes, and finishing 38 points ahead of Detroit's Buddy Bell.

"Nothing can ruin this day. It's a big honor for me," said Johnson, who finished second three times in NL voting. "To have somebody else recognize that I did a good job is very important to me."

Would he have liked his boss to recognize that? "That would have been nice," he said.

Johnson has a reputation for winning, usually with a talented veteran team. His clubs have finished first or second in all of the 10 full seasons he has managed. But he was fired by the Mets during the 1990 season and fired by Cincinnati after the 1995 season.

Angelos, meanwhile, will be looking for his fourth manager in five years. Pitching coach Ray Miller and Down are considered strong candidates.

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