Pete Mackanin bats, talks leadoff

BOSTON -- Whenever a team parts ways with a manager, especially when the team has underperformed, the knee-jerk reaction is that the new manager will have a different look from his predecessor.

That is certainly the case with Pete Mackanin, the first candidate the Boston Red Sox interviewed to replace Terry Francona, his all-day audition ending with a 25-minute media session at Fenway Park on Friday afternoon.

The biggest difference? Mackanin has a full head of perfectly coiffed salt-and-pepper hair.

"All I hear all summer is, 'What great hair -- I'm tired of it,'" Mackanin joked when someone mentioned Francona would have killed to have his 'do.

What Francona had that Mackanin doesn't, at age 60 and after 42 years in the game, is a turn at managing a major league club on something other than an interim basis, despite an extensive résumé that includes playing, coaching and scouting on the big league level and years of managing in the minor leagues.

Why is that?

"I don't know," Mackanin said. "I can't answer that."

Asked if he thought he could handle the pressure of managing in Boston, Mackanin said, "Yeah. Nobody likes the pressure, but I think I can handle it."

Mackanin, who has been bench coach for Charlie Manuel's Philadelphia Phillies the past three seasons, was the first of what new Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said he expects will be "at least five or six" candidates interviewed for the Sox managing job.

Mackanin will be followed by Dale Sveum, the Milwaukee Brewers' hitting coach, on Wednesday. Beyond that, Cherington would not commit, other than to say he has yet to ask permission from clubs to interview other candidates. He made no promise that the Sox would interview one of the holdover coaches from Francona's staff, such as bench coach DeMarlo Hale or perhaps Tim Bogar, though that possibility has not been "ruled out."

Cherington said he expected that finalists for the job would go through a second round of interviews, and that he'd like to finish the process by Thanksgiving, just more than three weeks away, though he stressed that the club is not imposing a deadline on the process.

Mackanin, who at the time was the Cincinnati Reds' advance scout, became interim manager for the Reds in 2007, taking a team that had the worst record in the league and guiding it to a 41-39 mark. Nonetheless, he was not retained, the Reds instead hiring Dusty Baker after Baker left the Chicago Cubs.

Mackanin also spent three weeks as interim manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2005, but again, the Pirates went in a different direction after the season, hiring Jim Tracy after he left the Los Angeles Dodgers. In both cases, Mackanin believes, he was passed over for a bigger name.

A native of Chicago, Mackanin played for a who's who of managers during his nine-year career as a utility infielder (.231 lifetime batting average): Whitey Herzog, Billy Martin, Bobby Cox, Gene Mauch, Dallas Green, among others. The manager in his first big league camp? Ted Williams, with Texas in 1972.

"He was my favorite manager," Mackanin said, playing to his audience, before amending his answer to Mauch.

He also was third-base coach on the Montreal Expos' staff of highly respected Felipe Alou.

Mackanin offered few details about Monday's interview process. "I can't divulge the laboratory tests by the Boston Red Sox," he said, noting only that he was faced with a few "interesting" in-game scenarios that he was asked to navigate.

Similarly, he did not opine on the September collapse of the Red Sox ("I don't even want to go there") or the newly popular topic of beer in the clubhouse.

But he said he "loved" statistical analysis, a tool he said he used extensively as a scout, and when asked if he considered himself a "players' manager" or a "disciplinarian," the stock descriptions thrown out about a job too complicated to define by such broad terms, he answered, "Both."

Mackanin has no obvious connections to the current Red Sox front office or coaching staff.

"He's got a really broad set of experiences that appeals to us," Cherington said. "He can see the game from different perspectives, which I think is a benefit. He's got, as you saw, a good way about him, a good sense of humor, mature, and a good reputation from every clubhouse that he has been a part of.

"So we wanted to get a chance to get to know him better, and this was a good opportunity to do it."

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.