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La Russa: Arizona Diamondbacks have contacted several GM candidates

The Arizona Diamondbacks are not wasting any time in searching for a new general manager after firing five-year GM Kevin Towers on Friday.

Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa said in a conference call Friday that the team has already begun contacting candidates and will begin interviews soon.

La Russa said he would like to hire someone who has played the game, rather than someone whose only experience in baseball is on the business side.

“I don’t want to disrespect what you get academically, but I definitely want to respect the education you get in the game from watching the type of players that help contribute to a champion and the way championship baseball is played,” said La Russa, who won three World Series championships as a manager from 1979-2011.

“That’s why I think it’s smart for us to have an open mind. Each candidate comes in with a list of talents, and then you make an assessment of who fits the best. But in the end, we want to have a team that has a stronger metric and analytical contribution than we currently have.”

La Russa said the Diamondbacks would like to fill the vacant GM position by the end of the season.

“The sooner that our front-office team is together, the better off our decision-making is going to be as we go forward,” he said, noting that being on the outside of the National League playoff race will allow the D-backs to place a greater focus on finding a replacement for Towers.

La Russa said the team has already reached out to New York Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler, former Toronto Blue Jays assistant GM Dave Stewart, St. Louis Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque and Los Angeles Angels director of professional scouting Hal Morris, as well as Diamondbacks scouting director Ray Montgomery, about the open position.

Stewart, who won 168 games in his 16 years as a Major League pitcher, was managed by La Russa as a member of the A’s from 1986-92.

“I’ve always admired the fact that Dave has had a love of the game and a willingness to work at it,” La Russa said. “I heard from the Toronto folks several times while he was there what a good job he was doing and how relentless he would be about going wherever…

“And then, I’ve just watched him. He worked in San Diego for Kevin. He showed his business side. He’s been a successful agent, so that’s a good background, and I know he knows the game. He’s one of the guys I thought about that would be a good fit.”

Not among those contacted about the vacancy is Cincinnati Reds general manager and president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty.

“I’m very confident saying that Walt is entirely committed to the Cincinnati Reds,” La Russa said. “His total interest is about what it takes to make them a champion.”

La Russa said Towers has been offered another position within the Diamondbacks’ organization, adding that professional scouting is an area in which he believes Towers can help the team.

“If you look at Kevin’s background, whether it’s as a player, a player developer, a scout, general manager, he’s got a great background. He would have several responsibilities, but that’s one that would be a strong responsibility.”

Arizona Sports’ Shane Dale contributed to this report