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09/25/10 6:25 PM ET

Mariners' search for skipper set to heat up

ST. PETERSBURG -- The process of selecting a full-time manager intensifies next week at Safeco Field.

General manager Jack Zduriencik said on Saturday that he would return to Seattle following Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Rays and spend the final week of the regular season in his office, "getting prepared for what I plan to do."

There is no timetable for selecting the next manager, but it could be similar to the managerial search two years ago, when several candidates were interviewed in Seattle before Don Wakamatsu was hired on Nov. 19, 2008.

"As I get the list pared down and decide how to get all my ducks in a row then I think it will proceed," Zduriencik said. "But I expect it will be similar to what we did the last time. We are kind of laying the groundwork right now. We haven't started the interview process."

Several potential candidates have emerged via various media reports, including former big league managers Bobby Valentine, former Mariners second baseman Joey Cora, a semi-finalist two years ago, Spokane native Ryne Sandberg if he doesn't get the Cubs' managerial job, and possibly Dusty Baker.

The Reds manager has often expressed a desire to work in Seattle and his contract with Cincinnati expires at the end of this season.

And you can add interim manager Daren Brown to the list.

The Mariners went into Saturday night's game against the Rays with a 16-25 record since Brown took over the club from Wakamatsu on August 9.

"I think Daren has done a very admirable job under difficult circumstances," Zduriencik said. "It's tough any time you take over a club with not a lot of time [in the season] remaining."

Zduriencik cited injuries and other roster changes as challenges that have faced Brown.

"It has been a little bit of a juggling act," the GM said, "and I think the whole [staff] has done a nice job. The players are playing and we're getting an opportunity to see some young kids."

Regardless what happens on the managerial search, Brown should have the option of remaining with the organization.

"No doubt about that," Zduriencik said. "Daren has been here for a number of years. He has paid his dues, managed the Triple-A club in a very nice way. We all think a lot of Daren.

"I don't know where the search is going to go, I don't know where we are going to go, but we all appreciate what he has meant to the organization and how he has handled all this. I think it has been a positive."

Aardsma dealing with sore oblique

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Mariners have not had a save situation in almost a week, but even if they did, right-handed closer David Aardsma would not have been available to pitch.

Interim manager Daren Brown said Saturday that Aardsma has felt discomfort in his left oblique since notching his 31st save of the season on Sept. 19 against the Rangers at Safeco Field.

"After that game he said he felt a little sore," Brown said. "It's very mild and something we've been working on. He can play catch, but he'll need a few more days."

Right-hander Brandon League would handle the closing duties during Aardsma's absence and the only way hard-throwing rookie Dan Cortes would be used in a closing situation is if League had been used three consecutive games.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.