CLEVELAND (AP) - Over more than two decades, Sandy Alomar Jr. has been an All-Star player, coach and interim manager for the Cleveland Indians.
On Thursday, he was something new: an applicant.
Alomar, who guided Cleveland in its final six games after Manny Acta was fired last week, interviewed to become the Indians' next full-time manager. Alomar spent most of the day in meetings with owner Paul Dolan, general manager Chris Antonetti and other front office members at Progressive Field, a place he knows well after playing 11 seasons with Cleveland.
Alomar and former Phillies and Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who will interview with the club on Friday, head the list of possible replacements for Acta.
Antonetti was impressed with the job Alomar did in his short stint replacing Acta, who was dismissed after Cleveland collapsed in the second half of the season.
``As expected, Sandy did a great job,'' Antonetti said. ``There was a lot to work through especially for someone who does not have that extensive managing experience so he was doing a lot of things for the first time. But he did an exceptional job in how he went about preparing for it, reaching out to coaches, how he communicated with players and putting himself and the team in a position to succeed.
``In a short time he did a good job.''
The Indians went 3-3 under Alomar, a six-time All-Star catcher with Cleveland who served as Acta's bench coach this season. Alomar has not managed at any level but previously interviewed with the Chicago Cubs, Boston and Toronto. Antonetti feels the 46-year-old Alomar has paid his dues and is prepared to lead a major league club.
``I fully expect that he's ready to do the job and be successful at it,'' Antonetti said.
Antonetti did not put a timeline on naming a new manager, and said the team would not rush into an important decision following a disappointing season which ended with a 68-94 record and fourth-place finish.
Antonetti said during the interview with Alomar there were discussions on his vision for the ballclub, ability to lead, communication skills and relationships on the club.
``What we are looking for is someone to lead this group of 25 guys,'' Antonetti said. ``We're looking for someone who has the ability to motivate a group of guys to achieve and perform at their best. A lot goes into that, a winning environment, a winning culture as well as helping players develop and reach their potential.''
Alomar would seem to be an ideal fit. He knows Cleveland's roster already and enjoyed a good rapport with many of the Indians' players. Antonetti said several players made it clear during their exit interviews that they would be happy to play for Alomar.
``I can tell you that Sandy is held in very high regard among our players,'' he said.
Before the season finale, pitcher Justin Masterson said Alomar would be a great choice to take over the Indians, who were within 3 1-2 games of first place on July 27 before losing 11 straight games and fading from contention.
``I like Sandy a lot,'' Masterson said. ``Everybody in this clubhouse respects him.''
Alomar also has the support of Cleveland fans, some of whom chanted ``San-dy, San-dy'' after he came out of the dugout to argue a call earlier this week.
Although Alomar would appear to be the frontrunner because of his close ties to the team, Antonetti said there isn't a favorite.
``I wouldn't give anyone a leg up in the process,'' he said. ``We feel good about the two initial candidates that we have identified.''
Not long after Acta was fired, Antonetti called Francona, who has spent the past year working as a TV analyst. Francona, who previously worked as an adviser in Cleveland's front office and has remained close with Antonetti and team president Mark Shapiro, told the Indians he was ``excited to get back on the field.''
Francona led Boston to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. He was fired after the 2011 season, when the Red Sox fell apart down the stretch.
Last week, Francona told the AP he would welcome the chance to work again with Antonetti and Shapiro.
``It's great to hear,'' Antonetti said. ``We have always had a great deal of respect for Terry. We had an opportunity to work together for a little over a year and stayed in close touch with him throughout the last decade. It was great to hear that he was interested, and I'm very confident with he and Sandy leading and starting this process that we will emerge from it with a great leader.''
Francona reportedly makes $1.7 million in his job with ESPN. Antonetti said economics would not impact any decision on hiring a new manager.
``We will go with the best person that we think fits best for the job,'' he said.
Antonetti touched upon a wide-range of topics during an informal one-hour meeting with reporters. Among the top items were:
- The Indians' August meltdown. Antonetti said the team is still trying to determine what went wrong during a 5-24 month, the worst in franchise history.
``I don't think there's any one sole reason,'' he said. ``We've asked a lot of people that question trying to get a lot of different feedback and a number of different perspectives on it. The one thing we all feel is that we have better talent than our record shows.''
- Antonetti met for more than an hour with outspoken closer Chris Perez, whose comments throughout the season angered opponents, fans and some of his teammates.
``It comes from a good place with Chris,'' Antonetti said. ``He's an extremely competitive guy that badly wants to be a contributor to a winning team. That's where it's coming from. I wish he would communicate his words differently and how he communicates those messages, but the root from where he's coming from is a deep-seated belief that he wants to be a part of a winning team.''
- Antonetti said it's possible outfielder Grady Sizemore and designated hitter Travis Hafner could return to the club ``but the level of investment would be very different than it was in the past.'' Sizemore missed all season with injuries and Hafner was limited to 66 games.
- No decisions have been made on club options for pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez or Roberto Hernandez.