Red Sox Hire Indians Bench Coach Grady Little As Manager

By KEN MAGUIRE, Associated Press Writer

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) - Cleveland bench coach Grady Little was hired Monday as manager of the Boston Red Sox, joining a team with new owners eager to win the franchise's first World Series title since 1918.

Little replaced interim manager Mike Cubbage, who took over when Joe Kerrigan was fired March 5.

"I do consider myself a lucky man to be able to manage in the major leagues," Little said when introduced at a midday news conference.

Little, 52, managed 16 years in the minor leagues for Baltimore, Toronto and Atlanta and was selected manager of the year four times.

He reached the majors as a bench coach in 1996 with San Diego and was in his third year with Cleveland. He coached the Red Sox under former manager Jimy Williams from 1997 to 1999.

Team president Larry Lucchino confirmed Little's hiring about an hour after the new manager was introduced during a team meeting.

The applause of the players' could be heard outside.

"The reaction in the clubhouse was jubilant," Lucchino said. "It was in small part relief, but in large part attributable to Grady Little."

Players said Little introduced himself with a handshake.

"He greeted everybody. You could tell he was excited," said first baseman Brian Daubach, who also expressed relief that the wait for a manager was over. "All the uncertainty is gone. Now we can focus on April 1."

Lucchino said Little signed a two-year contract with options, but he wouldn't give financial details.

Little, who became the 43rd manager in Red Sox history, knows many of the current players from his days as bench coach under Williams. He was selected from a field of candidates that included Felipe Alou and Cubbage, who had been the third base coach.

As recently as Sunday, interim general manager Mike Port said they were trying to interview at least one other candidate. But after former Twins manager Tom Kelly declined Boston's request to interview, and with the team on the road for the next two days, they pulled the trigger on Little.

Little cited differences with former general manager Dan Duquette when he left after the 1999 season to join the Indians. He had requested a two-year contract, but Duquette offered him just one year.

Boston's new owners fired Duquette on Feb. 28, a day after taking over the team.

Little managed the Indians for 26 games during the past two seasons while manager Charlie Manuel was out with health problems.

"Hopefully, he won't make the Red Sox too good," Manuel said. "I'm pulling for him, but I don't want them to get too good."

Manuel said he and the Indians players have the highest respect for Little.

"This is recognition for an outstanding baseball man who has worked very hard to get the opportunity," Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said. "He deserves it."

Shapiro said the Indians would replace Little, who spent two seasons in Cleveland, with someone currently in their system.

Little knows the new Red Sox owners from his San Diego days in 1996. Lucchino was team president and Tom Werner, a member of Boston's new ownership group, was the Padres' controlling owner. That certainly helped in earning him the Boston job.

"Familiarity is certainly a factor -- not the factor, but an important factor," Lucchino said.

In 1992, Little's Double-A squad in the Braves system was 100-43, the first time in 30 years that a minor league team won 100 games. That team included future stars Chipper Jones and Javy Lopez.

Little reportedly had a good relationship with Manny Ramirez, who left Cleveland and joined the Red Sox before the 2001 season. Ramirez and Kerrigan had quarreled, though both denied they disliked each other.

With Little's hiring, the Red Sox have a full coaching staff in place. Port said he expects most if not all of the coaches to remain with the team.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)