CLEVELAND -- Manny Acta led off the second round of interviews to be Cleveland's next manager. The heavy hitters are coming up.
Acta, fired by the Washington Nationals in July after 2 1/2 rebuilding seasons, spent nearly eight hours meeting with Indians owners Larry and Paul Dolan, general manager Mark Shapiro and others on Tuesday at Progressive Field as the team searches for Eric Wedge's successor.
Acta was the first candidate to get a face-to-face interview with the Indians, who plan to meet with former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine and Los Angeles Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly. Torey Lovullo, Cleveland's Triple-A manager in Columbus, interviews on Friday.
Shapiro said the team, which conducted phone interviews with as many as 10 candidates last week during meetings in Goodyear, Ariz., is considering two other finalists he declined to identify. Shapiro wasn't sure when Valentine, who took the Mets to the World Series in 2000, would come to Cleveland. The team is trying to work around his obligations as an ESPN analyst.
Shapiro also did not disclose Mattingly as one of his candidates, but the former Yankees All-Star first baseman confirmed he spoke with the Indians last week and will talk to them again. Mattingly, who has no managing experience, said he also has been approached by Washington about their opening.
"I've wanted to manage for a long time," Mattingly said as the Dodgers, trailing 3-1 in the NLCS to Philadelphia, prepared for Game 4 on Wednesday. "When the opportunity knocks, you kick the door down. I'm flattered there are organizations that are interested. I've been through what it takes to get from one place to another."
Shapiro also said he spoke with both former Indians manager Mike Hargrove and former third baseman Travis Fryman, and although either would be a popular hire with Cleveland fans, neither are finalists.
"Mike is a guy I have immense respect for and appreciation of," Shapiro said. "I made the decision that at this time it just wasn't the right fit for a variety of reasons."
The 59-year-old Valentine has spent the past six seasons managing the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan. They would not renew Valentine's contract of at $4 million per season, prompting a protest by the team's fans, and Valentine has said he wants to get back into major league baseball. He had a 1,117-1,072 record with Texas and the Mets.
Acta was confident and relaxed during a 20-minute meeting with reporters. He spoke candidly about his time in Washington, where his won-loss record carried the ugly blemishes of rebuilding.
The club went only 158-252 under Acta, but the Nationals lacked the talent to compete and were regarded as baseball's worst team.
Acta said his time in the nation's capital prepared him for other jobs in similar-sized baseball markets. It was a job he could not afford to turn down.
"Let's be realistic," he said. "Everybody in this town and every town in America would want a top-notch guy, a Joe Torre, a Tony La Russa, one of those guys to walk in and manage your club. The reality is, those guys don't go for those jobs. Every one of them already paid their dues and those type of jobs go to guys like me at the beginning."
Acta, 40, said he has no regrets about his time with the Nationals, who fired him after a 21-61 start last season.
"I knew what I was getting into," he said. "I knew rebuilding is tough. It's grueling and you are going to suffer in Ws and Ls and people earn their right to judge you on that. But I'm thankful that baseball people count more the Ws than the Ls when you are going through the rebuilding process."
Last week, Acta interviewed for Houston's opening. He was drafted by the Astros as a 17-year-old and played and managed in their system until 2001. When he was 22, the Astros told him he could not play in the majors, so he turned to coaching as a way to make baseball his life.
Acta, who prides himself on his communication skills, was prepared for his interview with the Indians. He spent countless hours watching them on TV last season, knowing they might be changing managers. He rattled off the names of Indians players, from stars to part-timers, and said the rebuilding project in Cleveland is far different from the one he left in Washington.
"This is far and away advanced," he said. "The Indians have a lot of pieces in place."
Acta was born in the Dominican Republic and his ability to communicate with Cleveland's Latino players is a plus.
"I can communicate with them without anything getting lost in translation," he said. "It's on my side but I hope I'm not getting the job just because I'm bilingual."