<
>

Devil Rays hire Hunsicker as No. 2 to Friedman

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Devil Rays hired Gerry Hunsicker as their No. 2 baseball man on Thursday, giving the team a proven front office executive to work with the club's young, inexperienced head of baseball operations.

Hunsicker, 55, spent nine seasons in Houston as the Astros'
general manager, helping assemble the team that went to the
National League championship series in 2004 and the World Series
this year.

With Tampa Bay, he'll be responsible for helping 28-year-old
Andrew Friedman turn around a franchise that's never won more than
70 games in a season and finished last in seven of its eight
seasons.

"I'm here to support what Andrew wants to do," Hunsicker said,
emphasizing that he has no problem with settling into a No. 2 role
after running the show from 1996 to 2004 in Houston, which went
701-595 and made the playoffs five times while he was GM.

Hunsicker takes on the title of senior vice president of
baseball operations. Andrew Friedman was promoted to executive vice
president of baseball operations after serving as director of
baseball development for the past two years.

Friedman and 29-year-old team president Matt Silverman have
assumed larger roles in the organization since new principal owner
Stuart Sternberg took over control of the team last month from
former managing general partner Vincent Naimoli.

The young executives have been conducting the search for a new
manager, interviewing 10 different candidates before paring the
list to three finalists: former New York Mets manager Bobby
Valentine, Los Angeles Angels bench coach Joe Maddon and incumbent Devil Rays bench coach John McLaren.

A second round of interviews are planned during next week's
general managers meeting in Indian Wells, Calif., and Hunsicker
will assist Friedman is making a decision on Lou Piniella's
successor in the next two weeks.

"I'm rejuvenated and re-energized," Hunsicker said, adding
that he been looking for the right opportunity to return to
baseball almost since the day he stepped down as Houston's GM.