Torey Lovullo wants a chance to manage the Cleveland Indians after spending the last eight seasons working in the club’s farm system.
“I’m familiar with the setting,” Lovullo said Friday, after interviewing a second time with general manager Mark Shapiro. “This team is a lot further along than some might believe.”
Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly and Angels bench coach Ron Roenicke are expected to be brought in next week for interviews. Former managers Manny Acta and Bobby Valentine also have been interviewed, and Shapiro hopes to finish his search by the end of the World Series.
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Unlike Valentine, fresh from a six-year stint managing in Japan, Lovullo emphasized his desire to take the job if it’s offered to him.
“I have prepared for this and am ready,” he said, adding that playing for seven different managers in eight seasons, including Terry Francona, helped mold his managerial philosophies.
Francona guided the Boston Red Sox to World Series titles in 2004 and ’07.
“What you really learn is what not to do,” Lovullo said. “You learn from them all, but Terry’s ability to communicate and relate to players is special.”
Francona was a special assistant to Shapiro between jobs in Philadelphia and Boston.
Lovullo managed 35 players at Triple-A Columbus who played this year for Eric Wedge, who was fired with six games left in his seventh season as Cleveland manager.
The constant shuttle was caused by injuries and poor play by the Indians, who finished 65-97, their worst record in 18 years.
Some players sent down told Lovullo they had lost confidence after being yanked in and out of the lineup or moved from position to position.
“I like to get a lineup and try not to change it,” Lovullo said. “I’m big on team chemistry. I want players to know I have their back, that they can play relaxed and comfortable. … But I expect an effort every day. This team can look different, act different and play different.”
Better relief pitching would be a welcome change.
When Cleveland won the AL Central in 2007, Joe Borowski led the league with 45 saves and had a group of reliable relievers setting him up. Last winter, Shapiro signed Kerry Wood to a two-year, $20 million contract – and the new closer got only 26 save chances all season.
“The biggest challenge to an AL manager is knowing how to run a bullpen,” Lovullo said. “You try and put guys in a role in which they are comfortable.”
Lovullo thinks he can get the team to start better than the 11-21 record it had by mid-May.
“The last few days of spring training, you have to change the mindset and prepare as if it is already opening day,” Lovullo said. “I’d like to take the team on a three-day trip, like we were going on the road.”
Lovullo made his major-league debut with Detroit in 1987. He also played for the New York Yankees, Angels, Seattle, Oakland, Cleveland and Philadelphia, before one final season in Japan. In 303 big-league games, mostly as a utility infielder, he hit .225 with 15 homers and 60 RBIs.
He became an Indians minor-league instructor in 2001 and a year later guided Columbus (Ga.) to the second-half championship in the Class A South Atlantic League.
He was manager of the year in 2004 at Class A Kinston (N.C.) and again in 2005 at Double-A Akron, where he guided the Aeros to an 84-58 record and the Eastern League championship.