Detroit Tigers manager search: Al Avila gears up for second wave of interviews

Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Tigers won't hire a new manager until after the World Series, but that doesn't mean general manager Al Avila hasn't been busy with interviews.

He entered the search to replace retired manager Ron Gardenhire, whose contract was already set to expire after the 2020 season, with a lengthy list of candidates. Two weeks ago, the Tigers trimmed the initial list for the first round of interviews.

Now, they're chopping the candidates again for the second round of interviews.

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"They've all been on Zoom," Avila told the Free Press on Friday. "We're getting ready for the second round, guys that we're going to bring back for the second round. That's where we're at, so we're going to start eliminating some guys. It's going to definitely take us into after the World Series."

Tigers general manager Al Avila, pictured here with all the high-level prospects likely to be change teams at this year's deadline.
Tigers general manager Al Avila, pictured here with all the high-level prospects likely to be change teams at this year's deadline.

The number of candidates moving to the second round is unclear, but the Tigers have interviewed Los Angeles Dodgers first base coach George Lombard, New York Yankees hitting coach Marcus Thames, Pittsburgh Pirates bench coach Don Kelly, Kansas City Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol and Tigers interim manager Lloyd McClendon, among others.

At the beginning of the search, Avila was reportedly interested in Royals third-base coach (and ex-Tiger) Vance Wilson and Colorado Rockies bench coach (and ex-Florida Marlins manager) Mike Redmond, as well, according to MLB Network's Jon Morosi. Also, Baltimore Orioles bench coach Fredi Gonzalez was reported as a potential favorite by The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.

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The Tigers are expected to interview former Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch and former Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora — both involved in the 2017 Astros sign-stealing, trash can-banging scandal — once the World Series ends. If the series goes the full seven games, it will be completed Wednesday night.

FILE - In this Oct. 13, 2018, file photo, Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch, left, and Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora shake hands before Game 1 of a baseball American League Championship Series in Boston. Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila said Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, that Detroit is not ruling out the possibility of hiring A.J. Hinch or Alex Cora for its managerial vacancy. Hinch and Cora were suspended this season for their roles in the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 13, 2018, file photo, Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch, left, and Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora shake hands before Game 1 of a baseball American League Championship Series in Boston. Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila said Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, that Detroit is not ruling out the possibility of hiring A.J. Hinch or Alex Cora for its managerial vacancy. Hinch and Cora were suspended this season for their roles in the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

Because Hinch and Cora are serving one-year suspensions for their roles in Houston's cheating scandal, they can't be interviewed until the season ends. Cora was named a ringleader in the scandal along with the players, while Hinch was a bystander who didn't do enough to stop the illegal actions.

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"I can't say that I've eliminated anybody," Avila said in early October, adding Hinch and Cora are on his list of candidates. "Obviously, the cheating scandal is not a good thing. They're serving their suspensions. And once their suspensions are over, they'll be free to pursue their careers. We have not eliminated anybody from our list at this point."

The Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox, also with managerial openings after the firings of Ron Roenicke and Rick Renteria, respectively, are thought to be interested in the ex-Astros.

The Red Sox won the World Series in 2018 with Cora as their manager, and the White Sox seem most interested in Hinch and 76-year-old Hall of Famer Tony La Russa, who managed the ChiSox from 1979-86.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers waiting to interview A.J. Hinch, Alex Cora for manager