Nats looking at Girardi, Piniella

Nats looking at Girardi, Piniella

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have a long list of managerial candidates, but Joe Girardi and Lou Piniella top the list, according to two sources, one of whom said that the interview process could start as early as next week.

General manager Jim Bowden was not available for comment.

The Nationals are looking to replace former manager Frank Robinson, who was not asked to return in 2007.

This past season, Girardi, 41, managed for the first time and did a remarkable job with the Marlins. With its $15 million payroll, Florida was expected to be one of the worst teams in the National League. But under Girardi's guidance, the Marlins finished with a surprising 78-84 record and were in the Wild Card race for most of the second half. Girardi is a strong candidate for the National League Manager of the Year Award.

But Girardi was relieved of his duties on Tuesday after disputes with the Marlins' front office. Calls were placed to agent Steve Mandell about Girardi's interest in managing the Nationals, but they were not returned.

In addition, published reports say that the Cubs, who dismissed skipper Dusty Baker on Monday, are also interested in Girardi's services. Girardi, an Illinois native, attended Northwestern University.

Girardi is best known for his playing days with the Cubs, Rockies and Yankees. A respected catcher, Girardi won three World Series titles with New York.

Piniella, 63, is considered one of the best managers to ever put on a baseball uniform. He has managed 2,939 games and is a combined 1,519-1,420 with four teams -- the Yankees, Reds, Mariners and Devil Rays.

Piniella's best work came in 1990 and 2001. In 1990 he guided the Reds to their last World Series title, a four-game sweep over the Athletics. Eleven years later, the Mariners went 116-46 under Piniella, but lost to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series in five games.

Piniella last managed in 2005, with the Devil Rays, and spent this past season as a color analyst for FOX Sports. Some in the Nationals organization wonder if Piniella is willing to go through a rebuilding phase with the Nationals. He went through a similar phase with the Rays and had a tough time, going 200-285.

Piniella is a good friend of Bowden's. The two worked together when both were with the Reds, and Bowden has often praised Piniella for teaching him the art of hitting. Piniella also managed Jose Rijo and Barry Larkin, who are now in the Nationals' front office.

Other managerial candidates for the Nationals job include Tony Pena and Manny Acta.

In other news: The Nationals have been quiet about their meeting with Alfonso Soriano, which was supposed to have taken place on Wednesday. Calls placed to Soriano, Bowden and agent Diego Bentz were not returned.

Soriano is expected to be a free agent after the World Series. It was revealed by two sources this summer that Soriano would like to make more money than Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal, who signed for three years and $39 million last December. Soriano is looking for something in the range of five years and $80 million. The sources believe that Soriano is willing to backload the contract, realizing that that the Nationals are looking to build for the long-term future of the franchise.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.