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10/01/12 6:45 PM ET

White Sox in Cleveland with shoe on other foot

CLEVELAND -- Ozzie Guillen insisted it was only a joke, but Indians fans will never forget when the former White Sox manager put his hands to his throat, giving a choking sign at the end of Cleveland's collapse from contention in 2005.

Seven years later, Chicago is in Cleveland for a three-game set, but this time it is the White Sox experiencing a late-season fade. Reminded about Guillen's gesture, Indians interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. laughed.

"I respect Ozzie," Alomar said. "But I'm not going to do that. ... It has nothing to do with choking or an organizational rivalry or anything like that. We just play the game, respect the game and go out there and play baseball."

In 2005, the Indians were 1 1/2 games out of first place on Sept. 24 before losing six of their last seven games, including a three-game sweep at the hands of the White Sox to close it out. As a result, Cleveland missed out on the playoffs, which were dominated by a Chicago club that captured the World Series.

Entering Monday, the White Sox had dropped 10 of their past 12 games, sliding from two games ahead of the Tigers for the American League Central lead to three games behind Detroit with three games to play. One more loss or a Tigers win will eliminate Chicago from contention.

Alomar said he has been surprised to see the White Sox fall apart over the past few weeks.

"They have a pretty good offensive team," Alomar said. "I'm kind of surprised. I don't know if they got a little tired. They have a lot of young guys in the bullpen. I don't know if they got tired. But they've still done a tremendous job. I think that you have to tip your hat to them.

"They went from a team last year that was in the bottom of the division to, now, fighting for a playoff spot. I'll tell you what, [manager] Robin Ventura has done a great job. the whole organization -- [general manager] Kenny Williams and the front office -- has done a great job."

Francona linked to Friday interview with Tribe

CLEVELAND -- Sandy Alomar Jr. insists that he is only concentrating on the Indians' remaining games, but it is hard to believe that the interim manager has not been thinking a little about the possibility of earning the permanent job.

Alomar is indeed excited about that opportunity.

"It'd be great. It'd be awesome," Alomar said on Monday. "I played here many years. I'm very proud of this organization. They have treated me great. They brought me back. If it's the time, it's their choice. If it's the time, it's time. if not, there will be some other time."

As things currently stand, the only two publicized candidates have been Alomar, who was named former manager Manny Acta's replacement on Thursday, and former big league manager Terry Francona. According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Francona is tentatively scheduled to formally interview for Cleveland's managerial job on Friday.

Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said nothing was finalized, but noted that no interviews would take place until the conclusion of the regular season.

Francona, who is currently an analyst for ESPN, served as manager of the Red Sox from 2004-11 and the Phillies from 1997-2000. Francona worked in Cleveland's front office in 2001 and has maintained friendships with Indians president Mark Shapiro and Antonetti. Francona's father, Tito, played for the Indians from 1959-64.

Heading into Monday's matchup with the White Sox, the Indians had gone 2-1 with Alomar at the helm. Alomar has just three more games as interim manager, but Antonetti has made it clear that the former bench coach will also be strongly considered for the full-time job.

Alomar, who had never managed at any level before taking over for Acta, said he will understand if Cleveland goes in another direction.

"Whatever is best for the team. I'm humble about that," Alomar said. "I don't say, 'I'm supposed to be the guy. I've got to be the guy.' I'm not that kind of guy. I never have been in my career. I've never been selfish about that. Whatever is best for the organization."

Alomar notes Santana's progress behind plate

CLEVELAND -- Interim Indians manager Sandy Alomar Jr. has spent the past three seasons passing down his experience as an All-Star catcher to Carlos Santana. Cleveland's catcher still has plenty of room for improvement, but Alomar is pleased with his progress.

"The thing that improved the most this year was his throwing," Alomar said. "That's something that we worked hard on in Spring Training. Last year, he had a long release and long footwork. This year, he's much better with that.

"He just needs to stay more focused on his catching area. Other than that, he's making progress. Not super progress, but he's progressing. He has years of experience now -- four years of experience behind the plate."

This coming offseason, it is possible that the Indians will revisit the idea of shifting Santana to first base, which is a clear area of need. Given Santana's offensive potential, moving him to first base is a concept that has been debated -- mostly in the media -- while Cleveland has kept him behind the plate.

Asked if he felt Santana -- a converted infielder -- could stick at catcher long-term, Alomar deferred to the Indians' front office.

"That's not my call to say," Alomar said. "I'm not the general manager. I'm not in the front office here. ... I think that he's making a lot of progress behind the plate. Can he get better? Yes. I think he can get better than that. He needs to separate the offense a little bit from the defense.

"Carlos is still a young man. He's still maturing. Learning at the Major League level is not easy."

Alomar added that he feels Santana will continue to develop into a premiere offensive player. In the second half, the catcher has hit .287 with 13 home runs, 14 doubles, 46 RBIs and a .397 on-base percentage in 72 games for the Tribe. Santana is hitting .255 with 18 homers, 76 RBIs and a .368 OBP through 141 games this season.

"I think Carlos is so proud of his offense that he tried to prove to everybody his worth," Alomar said. "But I think he can give us more. I think he's much better offensively than what he's showing right now, even though his numbers are pretty decent. Carlos has huge potential with his bat."

Quote to note

"When that day comes, I'll be fine. I've done interviews before, so it's not like it's the first one where you kind of get anxious about it. I'm not anxious at all. I feel good about myself. I feel good about how I've handled interviews in the past and I feel confident. I'm not the one who's going to make the choice, but I feel confident."
-- Indians interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr., on interviewing for the full-time role

Smoke signals

• Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo is hitting .283 with 15 homers, 43 doubles, 66 RBIs and 21 stolen bases this season. Choo is only the third Indians player since 1918 to have at least 15 homers, 40 doubles, 60 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in a season. The others are Roberto Alomar (1999, 2000) and Grady Sizemore (2006).

• Indians center fielder Michael Brantley (left groin) returned to the starting lineup on Monday for the first time since Sept. 23. Brantley played seven innings in Saturday's 14-inning game, but was given a day off on Sunday.

• Since Sept. 16, the Indians have led the Majors with a .309 (157-for-508) average and a .395 on-base percentage, going 7-6 in those games. In that same span, Cleveland's offense was tied for first in walks (65), third in runs (84) and third in OPS (.820).

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.