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Red Sox have permission to talk to Maddon

BOSTON -- The Red Sox plan to talk next week with Anaheim Angels
bench coach Joe Maddon about their manager opening.

Another possible candidate, Angels pitching coach Bud Black,
removed himself from consideration Friday.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein received permission Friday
from Angels GM Bill Stoneman to interview Maddon, who has been on
Anaheim's major league staff for 10 seasons. They're expected to
talk at the general managers' meetings beginning Monday in Phoenix.

The Red Sox already have interviewed Los Angeles third base
coach Glenn Hoffman and Oakland bench coach Terry Francona, but no
decision is expected for a while.

"We're just going to keep going until we have the right man,"
Epstein said during a conference call. "I'm sure it will continue
for the next couple of weeks."

Black, who has never managed, was believed to be reluctant to
leave the West Coast. He is a native of San Mateo, Calif.

The Red Sox announced on Oct. 27 that they would not pick up
manager Grady Little's option. He led the team to records of 93-69
and 95-67. The Red Sox reached the seventh game of the AL
championship series this year but lost to the New York Yankees, who
then were beaten in the World Series by Florida.

Epstein said that he expects a lot of player movement in the
offseason and that the Red Sox could be in the thick of it.

"It's safe to say that our payroll next year will be at least
as high as it was in 2003," he said, "and there's a chance that
it will be slightly higher."

Epstein wouldn't address the decision to place left fielder
Manny Ramirez on irrevocable waivers on Oct. 29 in an attempt to
unload a contract worth $101.5 million over the next five years.

Ramirez remained with Boston when no one claimed him by Oct. 31.
Afterward, his agent, Jeff Moorad, said Ramirez hoped to be traded
to the Yankees.

"There's a difference between Jeff saying it and Manny saying
it," said Epstein, who doesn't think Red Sox fans will hold the
remark against Ramirez. "Boston fans can be forgiving."

Unloading Ramirez's contract could help the Red Sox keep Pedro
Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Lowe, Jason Varitek and Trot
Nixon. All can become free agents after next season.

"I wouldn't say we were hamstrung" financially, Epstein said.
"We're not going to sit here and complain about our lot in life.
We have tremendous resources and have a payroll that's well over
$100 million.

"We have enough flexibility to acquire players that are going
to help us."

The Red Sox are unlikely to spend the money it probably would
take to keep second baseman Todd Walker, who hit five homers in the
playoffs and wants to return.

Walker made $3.9 million in 2003, his first year with Boston,
which seems unlikely to pay what he can get in arbitration. The Red
Sox have exclusive rights to sign him until Monday and must decide
by Dec. 7 whether to offer arbitration.

Epstein also said talks were going well to bring reliever Mike
Timlin back, but that he told starter John Burkett that he wants to
explore other options before making a final decision on keeping the
38-year-old right-hander.

If the Red Sox decide to offer Burkett a contract "it would be
very late in the offseason," Epstein said.