AP Sports Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Washington Nationals expect to hire a new manager within about two weeks, culminating a search that team president Stan Kasten sought to frame Friday as “orderly, methodical, professional.”

What Kasten and general manager Jim Bowden wouldn’t do during an informal, hour-long session with reporters in an RFK Stadium conference room was give any specifics about their look for Frank Robinson’s replacement – not names of candidates, not even a number of candidates.

That’s keeping with the general secrecy they’ve sought for the search, in part because, Kasten said, he doesn’t want other teams to know what the Nationals are up to.

“I have a belief that when you do business deals, they’re best done privately,” Kasten said.

Here’s about all he would offer: “This past week we have moved into a different phase. … We’re getting closer, even though we don’t have a timetable.”

Kasten did say it “shouldn’t be longer” than two more weeks.

Other teams have been more speedy or more forthcoming with information about their managerial searches this offseason. The Texas Rangers, for example, regularly tell reporters which candidates are coming in for interviews and when.

With the Nationals, information often has come from candidates themselves. Lou Piniella publicly said he wasn’t interested in taking the job in Washington, shortly before he was hired by the Chicago Cubs. Joe Girardi’s agent said he withdrew his name from consideration.

Trent Jewett, a former Pirates third-base coach who now manages Pittsburgh’s Triple-A Indianapolis affiliate, said he met with Bowden and Kasten last week.

“They’re very diligent in their approach. It’s a big responsibility and they’re doing it the right way,” Jewett said in a telephone interview. “The direction as far as where they want to be is something that’s intriguing, and at the same they are realistic and have a handle on where they are right now and how to bridge that gap.”

Where the Nationals are right now is a rebuilding team that’s finished last in the NL East the past three seasons.

“Let’s face it: We have a building job in front of us,” Kasten said.

To that end, Bowden did offer the closest thing to a job description for the new manager.

“It’s very important that whoever manages this team is well-equipped to handle a building team, a team that needs to be developed, and knows how to do it. That’s going to be very, very important in this position,” the GM said. “You’ve got to be able to handle young pitchers.”

Kasten indicated Friday’s session with reporters was prompted by what he termed a mistaken perception that the team’s managerial search has been a haphazard one.

“It’s an expansive search, cutting across all classes of experience – young, old, veterans, first-timers,” he said.

On other topics:

– First baseman Nick Johnson “had a little bit of a setback” in his recovery from a broken leg, Bowden said, and will have arthroscopic surgery to remove scar tissue, probably Monday. Bowden said Johnson has had “some mobility issues” but “he should still be ready to go by spring training.”

– Kasten said “there’s nothing really I can or am willing to tell you about (Alfonso) Soriano,” the left fielder who’s filed for free agency.

– The Nationals don’t plan to bid on Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, which isn’t surprising, given the team’s rebuilding state. Nor is going after big-name free agents this offseason “part of the game plan,” Kasten said.

AP-ES-11-03-06 1736EST

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