PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The San Francisco Giants extended Felipe Alou’s contract through the 2006 season Wednesday, ending any speculation about whether the manager would return for a fourth season.

The 70-year-old Alou and the Giants have a mutual option for 2007. Alou, who took over the team from Dusty Baker after the 2002 season, is one of only three managers in franchise history to win at least 90 games in his first two years.

But San Francisco has struggled at the start this year with slugger Barry Bonds sidelined all season by a knee injury.

“Usually it doesn’t happen in a losing situation, but I appreciate the fact they have confidence in me,” Alou said.

General manager Brian Sabean said the timing of the extension was “appropriate.”

“It shows we have direction,” Sabean said.

Alou led the Giants to the NL West title in 2003 before finishing one game out of the wild-card race last season. Despite losing Bonds in spring training, San Francisco expected to compete for the division this season.

“The season so far has been disappointing and unexpected,” Giants owner Peter Magowan said. “In no way do we attribute these problems to Felipe. On the contrary, he’s done well with what he’s had to work with.”

Alou’s son, Moises, is an outfielder for the team who has a player option for the 2006 season and Felipe talked in spring training about wanting to stay with the team as long as his son did.

Magowan said he was hesitant to offer an extension in February because he wanted to make sure Alou’s hunger for managing didn’t wane once the season started.

“I had a conversation with Felipe recently and was absolutely convinced the desire was still there. That was a key factor,” Magowan said.

Last month, Alou became the 59th manager to reach 900 wins. The Dominican native’s 905 career wins are the most of any Latin manager in major league history.

Alou’s 191 wins in his first two seasons were the most for any Giants’ skipper and only Bill Terry (1933-34) and Herman Franks (1965-66) won at least 90 games in their first two seasons with the team.

Alou is an original member of the San Francisco Giants, playing the first six of his 17 major league seasons with the team.

“He’s the most intense and pure baseball man I’ve ever been around,” Sabean said. “He’s old-school. He’s all baseball. He’s very, very sharp. He’s into every single pitch of every single game.”

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