Mariners could name a new GM soon

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Mariners are close to completing
their five-week search for a new general manager, and a successor
to Pat Gillick could be named by this weekend.

Team president Chuck Armstrong declined comment on the search
Thursday and refused to confirm potential candidates, but he
acknowledged there's an increasing need to wrap up the search.

Eligible players face a Sunday deadline to file for free agency,
and baseball's GM meetings begin Monday in Phoenix. Gillick
indicated this week that the team hoped to fill the job before the
meetings open.

"It's getting awfully close," Mariners chairman Howard Lincoln
told The Seattle Times.

The Mariners have identified only two internal candidates: Benny
Looper, vice president of player development, and assistant GM Lee

Gillick announced Sept. 30 he was stepping down after four
seasons in which the Mariners won 393 games -- more than any other
team in the majors.

The Mariners won 116 games in 2001, tying an AL record, but
missed the playoffs the past two seasons despite winning 93 games
each year. Gillick said it was time to let someone else try to
reach the World Series.

Among the outside candidates known to have interviewed were
Montreal Expos GM Omar Minaya; former Angels GM Mike Port,
currently Boston's vice president of baseball operations; Dodgers
director of player development Bill Bavasi; and Detroit assistant
GM Al Avila.

The Mariners asked for permission to interview New York Yankees
GM Brian Cashman and Oakland GM Billy Beane but were denied in both

The Times on Thursday identified Looper, Avila and Bavasi as
finalists. Armstrong wouldn't confirm or deny the report.