Sources: Mets narrow manager search

NEW YORK -- Terry Collins, Clint Hurdle and Bob Melvin have emerged as leading candidates in the New York Mets' search for a manager, according to sources familiar with the process.

Each has previous major league managerial experience and is expected to be invited back for a second-round interview.

A potential fourth candidate for a callback is current third base coach Chip Hale.

St. Louis Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo is expected to round out first-round interviews when he meets with GM Sandy Alderson in Orlando, where the GM meetings open on Tuesday.

"Managing in the big leagues is something I hope to do," Oquendo told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "The opportunity to interview with the Mets is exciting."

Alderson hopes to have a manager hired by December 1.

Oquendo has spent the past 11 seasons as the St. Louis Cardinals' third base coach.

Alderson hired Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa as manager with the Oakland Athletics, and that relationship would serve as a natural bridge to Oquendo becoming a candidate.

Oquendo, 47, originally signed with the Mets in 1979, and was an infielder in the major leagues with the organization in 1983 and '84. He currently is in Puerto Rico, where he is running a youth academy with ex-Cardinal Eduardo Perez.

Alderson plans to be in San Juan on Saturday, for a trip that will include attending a fundraiser for Carlos Beltran's baseball academy, which is due to open in August 2011.

Alderson currently is in the Dominican Republic, where the itinerary included interviewing Triple-A Buffalo manager Ken Oberkfell, who is managing Escogido in that country's winter league.

The other candidates who already have had first-round interviews are bench coach Dave Jauss, former Seattle Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu, Boston Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale and Class A Brooklyn manager Wally Backman.

Collins, 61, joined the organization this past season as minor league field coordinator and is highly regarded by the Mets ownership group. He managed the Houston Astros from 1994 to 1996 and the then-Anaheim Angels from 1997 to 1999, compiling a combined 444-434 record.

Hurdle, 53, served as Texas Rangers hitting coach this season. He previously spent 15 seasons with the Colorado Rockies. He compiled a 534-625 record and captured one National League pennant while serving as manager from 2002 to 2009. Hurdle played parts of three seasons in the minors with the Mets' Triple-A Tidewater affiliate and also managed for six seasons in the minors with the organization.

Melvin, 49, managed the Seattle Mariners in 2003 and 2004 and the Diamondbacks from 2005 to 2009, posting a combined 493-508 record. He was NL Manager of the Year in 2007. He served as a scout for the Mets this past season, monitoring the AL East and West. Melvin has lived in Manhattan during the offseason in recent years, where his daughter Alexi attended the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute.

Chip Hale, 45, served as the Mets' third-base coach this past season after serving in the same role with the Diamondbacks the previous three years. He managed Arizona's Triple-A Tucson affiliate from 2004 to 2006, and won the Pacific Coast League and Triple-A championships in 2006 while going 91-53. He likely would remain in his current role as third-base coach if he is passed over for the managerial job.

On the Mets' "Hot Stove" show Thursday night, Alderson spoke about previous major league managerial experience being an asset.

"I think there's a value in having done it before," he said. "I don't think there's any question about that. But there's also a value in already being a part of the Mets organization and having a familiarity with players on our major league roster, having a relationship with members of the existing coaching staff, knowing some of our minor league coaches and managers and what have you, having been in New York -- either living in New York or experiencing the atmosphere here for a year or so. So there are other things that come into play that I think can counterbalance the lack of experience."

Alderson had been overseeing MLB's operations in Latin America, and the league announced Friday that he will remain involved in that program.

Jorge E. Pérez-Diaz, a partner in a Puerto Rican law firm, has been named the interim head to replace Alderson, who will be on an oversight committee with Larry Beinfest -- president of baseball operations for the Marlins -- and Bill Smith, senior vice president and general manager of the Twins.

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.