UPDATE: Mets complete first round of interviews for manager

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UPDATE: The Wally Backman campaign is still alive and kicking, for some reason. According to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, Backman has made it through to the second round of interviews for the Mets’ manager job.

The rest of the field played out as expected, as Terry Collins, Bob Melvin and Chip Hale are the other finalists, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Mets GM Sandy Alderson told reporters today that he hopes to name a manager by Thanksgiving.

Hey, at least Craig can still have some more fun with this whole process.

7:21 PM: It’s done. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson confirmed to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com just a short while ago that he has completed the first round of interviews for the team’s managerial vacancy.

“The first round is officially closed,” Alderson said. “We hope to bring back several candidates over the balance of this week. If everything goes as we hope, we could have the second round completed by the end of the week. There won’t need to be a Round 3. … I would say right now that it’s very possible we’d have a manager announced by Thanksgiving.”

Alderson did not acknowledge that a front-runner for the job existed, but Rubin expects that Terry Collins, Bob Melvin and Chip Hale will all likely receive second interviews. “Organizational sources” tell Rubin that Collins is the favorite, with Melvin as the most likely alternative.

Right on cue, Ken Davidoff of New York Newsday reports that the Mets have informed Hale that he is a finalist for the job. Hale just completed his first season as third base and infield coach with the club. He would likely stay with the organization if the Mets ultimately settle on Collins or Melvin.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.