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John Farrell, expected to be appointed as the new manager of the Blue Jays, could succeed at almost any job in the major leagues, says his former boss Terry Francona. ((Associated Press))

Boston manager Terry Francona knew his pitching coach was destined for bigger things.

He just didn't know what things.

Earlier this summer, Francona was asked about John Farrell by the Boston Herald newspaper, and he could not have been more effusive with praise.

"You spend any time around him, he can be good at whatever he wants," the manager said of Farrell, widely expected to be named early this week as the new bench boss of the Toronto Blue Jays.

"Manager, GM, pitching coach, running a minor league system, you name it. He's just a special talent."

Jays first-year general manager Alex Anthopoulos started his search for someone to replace the retiring Cito Gaston on Aug. 1, and since then he and his staff reportedly interviewed more than 30 people.

They wound up with a classic 48-year-old "baseball lifer" who began that journey as a pitcher and was finishing his third season as pitching coach for the Red Sox when the Jays made their first contact.

In between, Farrell worked for six seasons as director of player development for the Cleveland Indians.

He has never managed a game in pro baseball.

Hard-working career

Drafted out of Shore Regional High School in Monmouth Beach, N.J., by the Oakland A's in 1980, Farrell made his major league debut as a pitcher with the Cleveland Indians in 1987.

The right-hander's best statistical year came in 1988, when he started 30 games, going 14-10 with a 4.24 earned run average.

But like so many successful coaches, his career was mostly run-of-the-mill, taking Farrell through four years with the Indians, two with the California Angels, back to Cleveland for one season and then finishing up with Detroit in 1996.

Overall he was 36-46 with a 4.56 ERA in 116 appearances.

After five years coaching and recruiting at Oklahoma State University, Farrell went to the Indians as head of player development — a big jump. His farm system was named best in the big leagues by Baseball America in 2003.

Francona brought Farrell in as Red Sox pitching coach in 2006 and he won a World Series ring in 2007.

He is credited with helping to develop Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester into top-level pitchers.

"My whole path and journey so far has kind of been the up-and-down thing," Buchholz told the Herald earlier this year.

"[Farrell has] been one of the forces behind it, and regardless of how I was doing, he always let me know the things I was doing well, which build confidence in itself."

Farrell is the first pitching coach to be tagged as full-time manager of the Blue Jays, a team that won 85 games this past season, defying most prognostications that had them taking as few as 60.

Waiting for him will be an excellent young pitching staff that includes Shaun Marcum, Brett Cecil and Ricky Romero, a bullpen that needs some work and a hitting lineup that broke the team record for home runs but had a poor overall batting average.

Farrell was one of four final candidates, a list that included Red Sox bench coach Demarlo Hale, Indians first base coach Sandy Alomar, Jr., and the Jays' own third base coach, Brian Butterfield.

Among those backing Farrell is former Indians GM Joe Klein, who had the young pitcher as a rookie.

"He had a good mentor the last three years, working with Terry Francona," Klein told the Toronto Sun. "I think he'd be a good hire. I mean it's not like he's coming in from scratch.

"Boston plays Toronto 18 to 19 times a season. John is very well organized."

The Sox may be hit harder with losses, as Hale is thought to be in the running for at least two of the other managerial openings in Major League Baseball.

 Toronto Blue Jays managers (full time)

 Years  Record
 Roy Hartsfield  1977-79  163-309
 Bobby Mattick  1980-81  104-164
 Bobby Cox  1982-85  355-292
 Jimy Williams  1986-89  281-241
 Cito Gaston  1989-97  681-635
 Tim Johnson  1998  88-74
 Jim Fregosi  1999-00  167-157
 Buck Martinez  2001-02  99-113
 Carlos Tosca  2002-04  189-191
 John Gibbons  2004-08  305-305
 Cito Gaston  2008-10  211-201