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Astros bench coach Espada on Blue Jays short list of manager candidates

HOUSTON – With the business of preparing for Game 3 of the ALCS his immediate priority on Tuesday, Astros bench coach Joe Espada didn’t have much time to talk.

Batting practice, some last-minute video work and the attention to detail that has made him a trusted assistant to manager A.J. Hinch were all on the docket as the Astros go about their work to repeat as World Series champs.

But Espada acknowledged that he has been interviewed by the Blue Jays for the managerial position that opened when John Gibbons was fired at the end of the season. And he believes the initial talks with general manager Ross Atkins and his team went well.

Whether he is the future big-league manager of Vlad Guerrero Jr. and the rest of the young Toronto prospects is in the hands of Atkins and his staff, but it is believed that Espada has moved onto the short list of candidates and is a possible frontrunner.

Sources also said that with the phone interview portion of the search concluded, Toronto management has narrowed its list down to somewhere near five candidates, each of which will be met in person.

As Espada joked, “they know what my schedule is.” With that in mind, it remains possible that Atkins and crew interview Espada in person sometime during the postseason – either here, in Boston or in Toronto during an off day.

The exact same scenario played out last season when current Red Sox manager Alex Cora was the Astros bench coach and wooed during the ALCS, essentially agreeing to a deal with Boston before the World Series began.

Prior to Tuesday’s game at Minute Maid Park, Astros owner Jim Crane acknowledged that the exposure Espada has had with the AL West division champs and working under Hinch has made the 43-year-old native of Puerto Rico a hot commodity. 

“Joe’s smart,” Crane told the Toronto Sun. “I know he’s always prepared, he’s got a great attitude and he knows baseball extremely well. He’s been a big asset for A.J. And being here has given him the poise and the ability to move forward.  Good luck to him.

“He’s got work to do here right now. He’s still busy.”

Crane certainly isn’t surprised that some of his personnel is being pursued given the Astros success in recent years and he isn’t about to stand in their way.

“If it means you’re hiring smart people and good people and certainly being around what we’ve been around the last few years is an experience that they may or may not have had whether they’ve played,” Crane said. “We always try to hire guys in line to move forward. If you have depth in your system you can absorb it.”

Meanwhile, as one of the six GMs currently looking to fill the manager position, Atkins is keeping his cards close to the vest as it relates to Espada – and for good reason. At least two other clubs are said to have contacted him. With that interest there may be an urgency for the Jays to move quickly.

“We have quality people here, we have a good thing going,” Hinch said on Tuesday. “People want to come and interview our guys.

“Joe Espada and others in our organization have bright futures. Obviously, Joe is getting a lot of attention for the manager positions around the league and rightfully so. He’s very good and I have no doubt in my mind he’s going to be an excellent manager whenever somebody hires him.”


Red Sox manager Alex Cora is well aware of what a late-season trade can do for a contender. As the Astros bench coach in 2018 he saw first-hand what the acquisition of stud starter Justin Verlander did for his team.

While the Red Sox haven’t had a blockbuster of that ilk this season, three near-deadline deals had an impact.

First baseman Steve Pearce, acquired from the Jays, has exceeded expectations at the plate, Ian Kinsler (from the Angels) has been solid at second and Tuesday’s starter Nathan Eovaldi (Tampa) added depth to the rotation.

All three were in the starting lineup for Game 3 here at Minute Maid Park.

“There’s trades that get all the headlines and there’s others that people don’t talk about,” Cora said. “And I do feel that our trades were great baseball trades.

“Pearce, where we were in the roster, we were looking for that right-handed bat that will come off the bench and platoon. And he’s been outstanding. Actually, he’s been great against lefties and righties and he’s really been great at first base.”

Cora called the Aug. 31 Verlander acquisition the previous summer “probably the biggest trade” in Astros history.

“What JV brought, not only stuff-wise and as a player, but what he brought into that clubhouse, it was needed at that point,” Cora said. “I think he gave the organization that boost that was needed for the Astros to win the World Series.”


A sigh of relief for the Red Sox arrived during player introductions on Tuesday when pitcher Chris Sale joined his team on the field.

Sale, of course, was hospitalized on Sunday with a stomach ailment but rejoined the team on Tuesday, a good sign for the rotation going forward.

“We talked to him,” fellow Red Sox starter Rick Porcello said.  “And now that we know that he’s okay, when the hell is he going to pitch?”

Porcello, who is likely to get the ball in Game 4 on Wednesday, was joking of course. But Cora hoped that Sale would get a chance to throw at some point during Monday’s game setting him up for a possible start in Game 5.

“First and foremost, we care about his health and how he’s doing,” Porcello said. “It’s crazy to say because these are some of the biggest baseball games of our lives, but somebody goes to the hospital, who really cares about what game he’s starting or anything like that.”

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