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October 16. 2012 9:42PM

Pena latest to interview for Red Sox job

The Red Sox turned to the Yankees — and took a trip down memory lane — in their pursuit of a new manager by having bench coach Tony Pena come in for an interview Monday.

Pena, 55, believed his return to Fenway Park was a successful one.

“We had a very good conversation about baseball, and it all went very well,” Pena said to ESPNdeportes. “I don’t want to talk too much about it because right now the most important thing for me is the Yankees and the situation we’re in. I don’t want this to be a distraction to the Yankees, or anything like that, at this time.”

Pena and the Red Sox made the most of the scheduled off day in the American League Championship Series by having Pena come up to Boston after Game 2 in the Bronx. The series resumes tonight in Detroit, where the Yankees will attempt to climb out of an 0-2 hole. If the Yankees can’t dig out, Pena would be available for a potential second interview fairly soon.

The Sox’ managerial interviews are taking place at a rapid clip and far earlier than last fall, when they were looking to replace Terry Francona and wound up with Bobby Valentine in early December.

Two interviews are known to have taken place — Tim Wallach on Friday and Pena — and two more are set, with Brad Ausmus expected today and DeMarlo Hale scheduled for Thursday.

Another name that could still enter the mix is Toronto manager John Farrell, who is believed to sit high on the club’s wish list but whose candidacy is muddled by the fact that he has one year left on his contract. Each club has done a good job so far of keeping wraps on any talks between the clubs regarding permission and compensation.

The club confirmed Thursday’s interview with Hale, the current third base coach for the Orioles and a longtime member of the Red Sox’ big league coaching staff — his last job was as Francona’s bench coach in 2011 — as well as a minor league manager for the organization. He is well-respected within the current clubhouse, where most of the players have played for him.

Pena’s playing days with the Red Sox came two decades ago, from 1990-93, with the catcher winning a Gold Glove here in 1990.

He is the first and only known candidate this time around with big league managerial experience, a stint with the Royals that was as encouraging as it was confounding.

Named as the manager in May 2002, Pena turned around the perennially losing Royals the following year, his first full season as a big league manager. Pena was known for being an upbeat and enthusiastic leader, keen on inspirational signs around the clubhouse in spring training that were eventually embraced.

The Royals went on to post their first and only winning season since 1994, going 83-79. They missed the playoffs, finishing third, and Pena won AL Manager of the Year honors. He was credited with pushing the right buttons in terms of player relations, but when the club’s thin pitching became exposed in the second half of the season, he was unable to correct the slide.

In 2004, the team slid back again, posting a 58-104 mark. When the team got off to an 8-25 start in 2005, Pena abruptly resigned. The reason, he offered at the time, was that he could not get the job done.

“It’s tough to go to the ballpark and lose game after game,” Pena told the Kansas City Star. “I haven’t been eating. I haven’t been sleeping. I don’t want to get sick.”

The Royals GM who hired Pena and accepted his resignation was Allard Baird, now the vice president of player personnel for the Red Sox.

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