TORONTO - Torey Lovullo is heading into another offseason and hoping he has another chance to ride on the managerial carousel. The Blue Jays first base coach and Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer has interviewed in the past with the Dodgers and Indians and was one of the finalists last year for the Red Sox job that went to Bobby Valentine. He might be looking at a second-chance chat with a couple of those clubs.
The Indians fired Manny Acta on Thursday and named Sandy Alomar Jr. their interim skipper. Alomar and Terry Francona will be among the first interviews but Lovullo is likely to get a call again and he's certainly interested based on his eight years managing in the Tribe system and his three years as a star player with the Bisons. And the Boston Herald has already pinpointed him as a leading contender in Boston when Valentine gets his eventual, and merciful, sacking sometime this week.
"Managing is always something I've wanted to do, something I've always been open about," Lovullo, 47, told this corner last week in Rogers Centre. "Timing is everything and you need the right situation, the right people. Nothing is handed to you. There's only 30 big-league managers and it's always special to be considered. I'm not in any hurry to rush the process, not looking to say "thank you, Toronto" and move on. I'm here. I love it here. I want to be here as long as I can until a next step is taken.
"But it is a flattering thought to see my name is getting thrown around. That's something I've worked hard to get to but it's pure speculation. It's not anything I'm hanging my hat on. You just take it as a compliment that these are good baseball people making baseball decisions."
Lovullo has plenty of connections in the game, especially in those two organizations with the likes of Cleveland president Mark Shapiro and GM Chris Antonetti as well as Boston GM Ben Cherington and Red Sox front office types like Mike Hazen and Allard Baird. Hazen, the assistant GM, was in the Cleveland chain while Baird, the former Kansas City GM, is Boston's vice president of personnel.
"Torey is a manager in waiting," said Jays manager John Farrell, who was the Cleveland farm director for part of Lovullo's run as a Tribe skipper. "Very capable, knowledgeable in the game. He's a good communicator and a good leader. It's a matter of time before he has his own club. He's a tremendous asset here. . I would think a lot of teams would be interested in Torey Lovullo."
The Red Sox, remember, hired Valentine last year when team president Larry Lucchino intervened on Cherington's first managerial search. Valentine then interviewed just two candidates for his bench coach - incumbent Tim Bogar (whom he hired) and Lovullo. It's widely known Valentine and Bogar have clashed much of the season. Lovullo had a good chuckle when asked how he might have meshed with Valentine in the wake of this year's chaos.
"I sat there for 6-8 hours with Bobby in that interview and he flat-out told me, 'I'm hard on my bench coach. Be prepared for that,' " Lovullo said. "Not knowing what that meant, maybe it would have worked differently if I had been there but you don't know. I do know I'm thankful to be here. I work for a great organization and work for a great leader in John Farrell."
Support for Bisons
Lovullo and Farrell, who pitched for the Bisons in both War Memorial Stadium and then-Pilot Field, have both spent the better part of a year chirping in the ears of the Jays' front office about getting into Buffalo, so they were thrilled when the teams' long-rumored affiliation was finally made official.
"Everybody knew what a perfect fit it would be and when that final piece of the puzzle is put in and the contracts are signed, it's an exciting time here in Toronto," Lovullo said. "Especially knowing all those guys in Buffalo and getting a chance to talk to them, I know both sides very well, both how family-oriented they about taking care of the players and being professional."
Lovullo said when Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos would ask about Buffalo, it was an easy answer.
"We had this great wish list and John and I would go over it often thinking if we had the chance to go there," Lovullo said. "Sometimes Alex would ask you, 'What's life like in Buffalo?' We would fill him in on the thoughts we had about how spectacular and special a place it is from the front office on down. We didn't have to embellish anything for Alex. We spoke truthfully because that's what John and I believe about Buffalo."
From a managerial standpoint, Farrell pointed out how much easier it will be to evaluate prospects in Buffalo rather than in the thin air of Las Vegas and the Pacific Coast League. In addition, travel fatigue should no longer be a factor.
"When you call people up and they're your depth and they're going to have an impact on what potentially can be a playoff spot and you're going to ask a guy to go make a critical pitch when he's been up all night, there's a distinct advantage being in Buffalo than Las Vegas," Farrell said. "Just geographically. It's not only a natural fit but it's going to be a huge help."
A Toronto columnist in the manager's office then gave Farrell a dissenting view by pointing out that Vegas has better nightlife for players and coaches. Cracked Farrell, "That's why we came to Buffalo."
The Marlins are the game's biggest bust, the last-place team in the NL East in a year when they spent all kinds of money, brought in a big-name manager in Ozzie Guillen and opened a new ballpark. But at least they have a heart.
On Tuesday night against the Mets, they're expected to give 31-year-old outfielder Adam Greenberg his first at-bat in the big leagues since 2005. Greenberg had one at-bat that season for the Cubs in Miami - and his first and only time to the plate in MLB ended when he was drilled in the head by the first pitch. He is the only player in MLB history to have a career snuffed on the first pitch. Until Tuesday, that is.
Plagued by concussion issues, Greenberg never made it back to the bigs. His story became a cause celebre for Chicago filmmaker Matt Liston this summer and nearly 30,000 signatures on an online petition forged a case for Greenberg to get another chance. The Cubs passed but Greenberg got offered a one-day contract Thursday on NBC's Today Show by Marlins president David Samson.
Around the horn
* R.A. Dickey, 20-game winner. Who would have thought that two years ago when he showed up in Buffalo as the first cut out of Mets spring training as a 30-something with a trick pitch? What a story. Give him his Cy Young.
* Pretty easy to pinpoint the Indians' troubles that led to Acta's sacking. They traded back-to-back Cy Young winners (CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee) and got no star players in return, and their drafting has been terrible. SI.com pointed out last week that since 2005 the Tribe has taken Trevor Crowe over Jacoby Ellsbury, forfeited a pick to sign Paul Byrd, selected Beau Mills over Jason Heyward, Alex White over Mike Trout and Drew Pomeranz over Chris Sale. White and Pomeranz were sent to Colorado for Ubaldo Jimenez, who has been a bust. Ouch.
* Most eyebrow-raising moment of the terrific Chipper Jones tribute done Friday night by the Braves in Turner Field came in remarks from Atlanta president John Schuerholz. While introducing Hank Aaron, Schuerholz called Aaron "the true major league baseball home run champion." Hmmm. A bit of a take-that to No. 25 out in San Francisco.
* Chant overheard in Rogers Centre during the late stages of a Yankees romp: "Let's Go, Rap-tors." At this point in lockout land, no point in bringing out "Go Leafs, Go."