Francona says Wallace is first choice

BOSTON -- Terry Francona once wanted Tony Cloninger to be
his pitching coach in Philadelphia. He may not make the same offer
now that he's the manager of the Boston Red Sox.

Cloninger said Monday that Francona told him that Dave Wallace,
who became interim pitching coach when Cloninger underwent cancer
treatments last season, was the front-runner for the job.

"I'm not counting out that I'm going to be the pitching
coach," Cloninger said in a telephone interview. He said he and
Francona spoke by phone for about 20 minutes on Sunday.

Francona said Monday that he hoped a decision would be made soon
and that he planned to meet Thursday in Boston with general manager
Theo Epstein and other team officials. Epstein is scheduled to
return Wednesday night after spending two days at the opening of
the Red Sox baseball academy in the Dominican Republic.

"I'm not going to comment on anything like that out of respect
for everybody," Francona said when asked whether Wallace was the

Cloninger became pitching coach when Grady Little took over as
manager before the 2002 season. The Red Sox let Little go after
last season.

"I came over when Grady did and then things changed,"
Cloninger said. "That may have something to do with it."

Francona and Cloninger spoke highly of each other.

"We offered him the job" in Philadelphia in 1997, Francona said. "I
enjoy Tony. He's a wonderful man."

Cloninger expressed interest but stayed with the New York Yankees as bullpen coach. Francona was fired after the 2000 season,
his fourth as Phillies manager.

Cloninger, 63, missed much of last season when he underwent
treatments for bladder cancer. He spent time at home in North
Carolina and returned to Boston later in the season where he helped
Wallace work with pitchers.

Cloninger said he's strong enough to reclaim his job.

"I hunted three or four nights in a row after my second
treatment," he said.

Epstein and others in the organization told him last season that
"I would be a Red Sox as long as I wanted to be. My understanding
was I would be on the field," he said.

And if he isn't the pitching coach?

"There's not any hard feelings," Cloninger said. "I'll be