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White Sox manager hunt now in fast lane

CHICAGO -- The end of the Tampa Bay Rays’ season means the pace should pick up on the White Sox’s manager search.

Rays bench coach Dave Martinez is believed to be one of the White Sox’s top manager candidates, if not the No. 1 guy in their search following the departure of Ozzie Guillen last week.

Martinez just completed his fourth season as the right-hand man to Rays manager Joe Maddon. Tampa Bay made the postseason in three of those four seasons. A member of the Rays’ inaugural club in 1998, Martinez played 16 seasons, including stints with the Cubs (1986-88, 2000) and White Sox (1995-97).

In his three seasons with the White Sox, Martinez batted .302 and had a career-best 19-game hitting streak in 1997.

Another top candidate is believed to be new Cleveland Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr., who had been the club’s first-base coach before a promotion last week that is set to go into effect in 2012.

The White Sox are also believed to have interest in former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, whose contract option was not picked up after his team’s September collapse prevented them from advancing to the postseason.

Other speculation has centered around the White Sox being interested in current St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who is a former White Sox manager and has a close relationship with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

But unlike Martinez and Alomar, Francona and La Russa are not of the up-and-coming manager mold the White Sox are believed to be looking for. The search could be modeled after the one Reinsdorf’s Bulls used to ultimately land first-year head man Tom Thibodeau.

Like the Bulls, the White Sox are believed to want their head man to grow quickly into the position with the potential of having a lengthy tenure with the club, not unlike what happened with Guillen.