ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have hired Los Angeles Angels bench coach Joe Maddon as manager, six weeks after beginning their search to replace Lou Piniella.

The team confirmed Maddon’s hiring Monday. The St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune reported in Monday editions that the team selected Maddon over incumbent Devil Rays bench coach John McLaren the day before.

“I’m very happy, excited, eager, all those things,” Maddon told the Times. “It’s a great situation and I’m really looking forward to it.”

The Devil Rays scheduled a news conference for Tuesday. Maddon did not immediately return phone messages left by The Associated Press.

Maddon, 51, inherits a team with a promising nucleus of young talent that made the job attractive.

“I’d like to congratulate Joe Maddon,” McLaren told the Tribune. “He’s been in the trenches a long time as I have, and he’s very deserving.”

Andrew Friedman, Tampa Bay’s new executive vice president of baseball operations, interviewed nine candidates and also had discussions with former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine.

Valentine was a finalist even though he was thought to be a longshot because the salary he would have commanded after leading the Chiba Lotte Marines to this year’s Japan League championship.

The selection of Maddon over McLaren brings yet another fresh face to the Devil Rays, who have undergone a massive overhaul in the front office in the past six weeks.

He has been was been a coach with the Angels for the past 12 seasons, with much of that time spent as manager Mike Scioscia’s right-hand man.

McLaren, meanwhile, offered the prospect of retaining some continuity after serving as Piniella’s bench coach. Three others from within the organization – coaches Billy Hatcher and Tom Foley, and minor league manager Bill Evers – were interviewed during the first week of the search.

The other candidates were Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, former Detroit manager Alan Trammell and Atlanta batting coach Terry Pendleton.

Former New York Yankees bench coach Joe Girardi also interviewed with Tampa Bay before the Florida Marlins hired him as their manager.

AP-ES-11-14-05 1909EST

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