DENVER -- Pat Gillick may know Bobby Cox better than anybody else within the baseball world. They initially crossed paths nearly 40 years ago and have since remained friends, who talk at least two or three times per month.

Still, Gillick counted himself among the many who were somewhat surprised on Sept. 23, when Cox announced that the 2010 season would be the final one of his storied managerial career.

"I was surprised, but I've talked to him since then, and it seems like he's pretty comfortable," said Gillick, who retired as Phillies general manager after guiding them to the 2008 World Series title.

Gillick now keeps himself active in the game as a senior advisor for the Phillies. The Braves will provide Cox with a similar role if he is indeed capable of pushing himself away from the temptations to continue managing beyond the 2010 season.

"I think he'll walk away comfortably, depending on who takes his place," Gillick said. "These are my own feelings, not his. I think he wants to make sure that whoever takes over is a baseball guy and that he carries on how the Braves have been handled for 20-some years."

Over the course of the next year, there will be a lot of speculation about who could serve as Cox's successor. A top candidate could be Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose candidacy would have been much stronger had the Marlins actually opted to part ways with him last week.

Gonzalez is currently under contract with the Marlins through the end of the 2011 season. If he's not available, another candidate could be Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez, who has made it known that he would welcome the opportunity to fill the challenge of being Cox's successor.

There was some thought that the Indians might at least interview Perez for their vacant managerial position. But they still haven't asked the Braves permission to talk to the former catcher.

"I'm sure that he'll have a big hand in who the successor might be," Gillick said.

The bond shared by Gillick and Cox strengthened during their days together in Toronto. They had previously worked together in the Yankees organization during the 1974 season.

Per Gillick's suggestion, the Blue Jays hired Cox as their manager before the start of the 1982 season.

After leading the club to within one win of the 1985 World Series, Cox chose to become the Braves general manager. During his five seasons in that role, he rebuilt the Minor League system with sound Draft selections and trades, like the one in 1987 that brought John Smoltz to Atlanta.

Cox returned to the managerial role midway through the 1990 season and one year later, he led the Braves to the first of their unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles.

"It's pretty remarkable what he has done, and that's really all you can say about that," Gillick said.