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Blue Jays interview Rays bench coach Charlie Montoyo for manager opening

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays are interviewing Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Charlie Montoyo for their managerial vacancy, another finalist in the race to replace John Gibbons.

A former Montreal Expo, the 53-year-old Puerto Rican joins Houston Astros bench coach Joe Espada, who had in-person interview Monday, Rays major-league field co-ordinator Rocco Baldelli and Chicago Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde as other known finalists for the job.

David Bell, the former San Francisco Giants farm director who also interviewed with the Blue Jays, was named manager of the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.

News of Montoyo’s interview was first reported by Jon Heyman of Fancred and confirmed by Sporstnet.

The Blue Jays are one of four teams remaining still looking for a new manager, along with the Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles, and many of the same names are in play for other roles. It’s possible they make a decision before the World Series ends.

Montoyo, an infielder, appeared in four games for the Expos during the 1993 season, part of a 10-year pro career that started as a sixth-round pick by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1987 and included time at triple-A Ottawa during his final season as a player.

He joined the Rays immediately after and proceeded to manage at every level of the organization, including eight seasons at triple-A Durham, winning seven South Division titles in the International League.

The Rays added him to their big-league staff as third base coach in 2015 and he served three years in that role until his promotion to bench coach this season.

The Blue Jays seem to hold the Rays and Astros in particular high regard, with GM Ross Atkins saying during his season end availability that in terms of integrating information into their decision making, both clubs are “a little bit ahead of the curve.”

Montoyo is the second Rays coach known to have received an interview.

Baldelli, the immensely talented centre-fielder whose career was cut short by injuries, offers an intriguing blend of front office and coaching experience, having spent four years as a special assistant in baseball operations focused on scouting and player development before returning to uniform.

He took over as first base coach in 2015 before moving into the major-league field co-ordinator role this season.

From the Astros end, Espada, a native of Santurce, Puerto Rico, replaced Alex Cora as bench coach this year after the Boston Red Sox named Cora their manager. The 43-year-old spent the previous three seasons as the New York Yankees’ third base coach after serving as a pro scout for them in 2014.

A second-round pick of the Oakland Athletics in 1996 who topped out at triple-A, Espada cut his coaching teeth with the Marlins, starting out as a hitting coach at single-A Jupiter in 2006 before being promoted to minor-league infield co-ordinator in 2008.

Hyde, meanwhile, got into coaching after a four-year minor-league career, working five seasons in the Marlins system before being promoted to bench coach of the big-league club. He joined the Cubs in 2012 as minor-league field co-ordinator and was named manager Rick Renteria’s bench coach in 2014.

When Joe Maddon took over as Cubs manager in 2015, Hyde stayed on as first base coach, before being moved back to bench coach this year.

At season’s end, Atkins said “tough, smart and passionate,” would be three of the traits he’ll be looking for in the next Blue Jays manager. “Those are the overarching themes as I think about what it means to lead an environment in here to sustain championship-level expectations, understanding what it takes for communication to keep not just 25-man roster, but also the 40-man roster, the 200 minor-league players, the 100-plus scouts, the 100-plus coaches and medical staff people pulling in one direction and feeling connected. That person has to be an organizational leader and spokesperson, not just a leader of the 25-man clubhouse.&#34

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