SEATTLE -- Seattle Mariners fans should know the name of the team's seventh manager in six years within a few days.
The team has already conducted final interviews with the majority of the five remaining finalists and wants an announcement no later than week's end. Onetime Pittsburgh Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon flew home to Chicago from Seattle on Monday after spending all day Sunday in his final interview.
McClendon, who serves as the Detroit Tigers' hitting coach, is still in the running, along with Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach, Padres bench coach Rick Renteria, Athletics bench coach Chip Hale and onetime Mariners infielder and longtime major-league coach Joey Cora.
"We met and had a nice baseball conversation," McClendon said Monday in a phone interview. "Obviously, the Mariners are a tremendously talented young ballclub and I think they're on the verge of taking a big step forward."
Hale, 47, was to have been interviewed by the Mariners in Seattle on Monday. He's spent the past two seasons as a bench coach for Bob Melvin's division-winning A's, having served under the manager in Arizona as well.
McClendon, 54, is the only remaining candidate with prior managerial experience, having guided the Pirates for five seasons from 2001 until midway through 2005. He applied for the Mariners' managerial vacancy in 2010 after Don Wakamatsu was fired.
The team went with Eric Wedge instead. Wedge informed the Mariners at season's end that he would not be looking to stay on as manager beyond his contract's expiration this year.
McClendon said his managing experience wasn't discussed much during his interviews. But his time as hitting coach with the Tigers since 2007 did come up.
"We had a tremendous run in Detroit, becoming the first team in Tigers history to make the ALCS three consecutive years," he said. "That's quite an accomplishment, and obviously if you understand what it takes to win, it's something other teams will be interested in."
Cora was interviewed by the Mariners on Wednesday and no additional sessions are planned, likely because the team's upper management knows him well from his days as a player. He also interviewed for the managerial job in 2008 when it was given to Wakamatsu.
Renteria is recovering from hip surgery at his California home and can't travel. The Mariners interviewed him in California last week and don't plan any further interviews.
That leaves just Wallach, though it isn't known when the Mariners plan to interview him again. The Mariners want their manager in place before next week's general managers and owners meetings in Orlando, Fla.
One man who wasn't considered for the manager's job was former Seattle bench coach Robby Thompson. He confirmed over the weekend that the team dismissed him from his job two weeks ago.
Thompson had been 13-15 as an interim manager in taking over for Wedge after Wedge's stroke in July. But Thompson decided not to apply for the Mariners position, he said, when the team made it clear he would not be considered.
"I'm not going to apply when I'm effectively told not to bother," he said. "I thought I handled the situation about as well as I could. I thought all the coaches did, given the lousy circumstances of the whole thing with what happened to Eric. But I guess somebody saw things differently."
It wasn't long after that conversation, he added, that the team told him he would not be returning at all on the coaching staff.
"I enjoyed my time in Seattle and I think they have a good, young core of players," Thompson said. "Beyond that, there's not much more I really want to say about it at this point."
In other news, the team, as expected, made a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer to slugger Kendrys Morales. Morales has seven days to accept or reject the offer.
If he rejects it and signs elsewhere, the Mariners would secure a compensatory draft pick. His agent, Scott Boras, suggested last week that Morales will likely turn the offer down and explore the free-agent market.
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