<
>

Final three: Melvin, Acta and Backman

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Diamondbacks have narrowed their list
of managerial candidates to former Seattle manager Bob Melvin;
Manny Acta, who spent three years as Montreal's third-base coach;
and minor league manager Wally Backman.

Arizona general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said Friday he was
putting together a schedule in which the three finalists would
interview with higher team officials next week.

"We'd like to do that as soon as possible, and we'd certainly
like to accomplish that next week," Garagiola said. "We'll see
how everyone's schedule works out."

Garagiola also said he will meet Tuesday with Casey Close, the
agent for Richie Sexson, the slugging first baseman whose shoulder
injuries early in the season put an end to Sexson's first year with
the Diamondbacks. The loss of Sexson was the most costly in a
series of injuries that started Arizona skidding to a 51-111
record, the worst in franchise history.

The free agency filing period begins the day after the World
Series ends.

Garagiola acknowledged that most players would like to know who
would manage them.

"I think it would be a consideration for anyone considering the
Diamondbacks who's the manager, what's his staff like," Garagiola
said. "If we're talking a pitcher, who's the pitching coach would
be important, so this is an important order of business to take
care of, and we're pursuing it as diligently as we can."

The Diamondbacks fired manager Bob Brenly on July 2 and replaced
him with Al Pedrique, the former third base coach.

Pedrique was among eight managerial applicants interviewed in
the last two weeks.

Melvin and Backman have ties with the Diamondbacks.

Melvin was Arizona's bench coach before he left to manage the
Mariners, and Backman managed Arizona's Class A team in Lancaster,
Calif., this season.