ST. PETERSBURG — Agent Seth Levinson would joke with Raul Ibanez each of the past few offseasons whether he was ready to stop playing and — skipping coaching or other interim positions — go right to managing.
With that 22-year playing career now all but officially over, Ibanez, 42, is ready to make the unusual leap, Levinson said, with the Rays job "the absolutely perfect fit" for someone he describes as fiercely bright, confident and humble.
"It's a tribute and a testament to him … 12-14 teams have contacted me about positions within their organization," Levinson said. "But he feels — and this is who he is — that the greatest impact he can make is by managing. It's something he's always wanted to do. Always."
Rays officials kicked off their interview process in earnest Friday, talking by phone with Ibanez, Brewers special assistant Craig Counsell, and Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu, a former manager in Seattle.
Five other known candidates to be interviewed are former Nationals and Indians manager Manny Acta, Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez (who gets his shot today), Rays Triple-A manager Charlie Montoyo and Giants bench coach Ron Wotus.
Levinson said he is confident Ibanez's combination of strong personality and leadership skills — and overall rep as a tremendous person — should overshadow any concerns about a resume that includes only playing.
Besides, Levinson added, "he's managed every inning of every game he's ever played in 22 years in his head."
Meanwhile, Rays third baseman Evan Longoria told MLB Network he thinks Martinez is "kind of the obvious pick" based on the continuity he could provide but acknowledges "it'll be interesting to see" who gets chosen.
"Seeing that there's been so much change this offseason already, they might not want to bring in further change," Longoria said from Dodger Stadium, where he is prepping with the MLB team headed to Japan for games next week. "(Martinez) would be the guy that could kind of smooth things over and has a feel for what goes on in the clubhouse and how things are."
Kapler gig: Gabe Kapler, who might have been a candidate for the Rays job, instead was hired as farm director by the Dodgers, now run by former Tampa Bay boss Andrew Friedman.
Contact Marc Topkin at email@example.com.