La Russa meets with two GM candidates

Seven will have completed interviews by Friday; Eppler, Levine withdraw

La Russa meets with two GM candidates

PHOENIX -- D-backs chief baseball officer Tony La Russa met with general-manager candidates Dave Stewart and Allard Baird on Tuesday, while Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine withdrew his name from consideration.

By the end of this week, seven candidates are expected to have met with La Russa and D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall. They include: Baird, Larry Beinfest, Gary LaRocque, Ray Montgomery, Tim Purpura, Stewart and De Jon Watson.

Beinfest's meeting with Hall took place earlier this year.

Of the candidates made public by the team, three are not meeting with Hall, signifying they are no longer in the mix. They include Angels director of pro scouting Hal Morris, who formally interviewed with La Russa, and Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler and Levine, who both withdrew their names from consideration.

"I greatly appreciate the opportunity to have had meaningful conversations with two very impressive baseball men with bright futures and respect both of their decisions not to interview with us in order to remain with their current organizations," La Russa said about Eppler and Levine in a statement.

Stewart has been looked at as a front-runner of sorts given his history with La Russa and the tremendous amount of respect La Russa has expressed for Stewart and his varied background. In addition to an outstanding pitching career, Stewart has served as a pitching coach and an assistant general manager, and he is now a successful player agent.

Baird is a respected talent evaluator. He was the GM of the Royals from 2000-06, and after his dismissal there, he joined the Red Sox's front office as an assistant general manager. Baird's current title is vice president, player personnel.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.