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11/11/09 11:35 PM EST

Riggleman hired as Nationals manager

Team showed improvement under interim skipper in '09

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have selected Jim Riggleman as their manager, according to a baseball source. The news comes five months after Riggleman was named the interim skipper, replacing Manny Acta.

A news conference is scheduled for Thursday at Nationals Park.

Riggleman, who was not available for comment on Wednesday, became interim manager after the All-Star break. The change sparked improvement, and the team was 33-42 under Riggleman.

General manager Mike Rizzo praised Riggleman for the job he did during the second half of the season.

"Like I said in the past, we have a terrific in-house candidate in Jim Riggleman, who has as good a chance as anybody to becoming the manager for the Washington Nationals," Rizzo said recently.

After they restructured their front office in mid-October, the Nationals went through a long process to find the right manager.

MLB.com has learned from a baseball source that the Nationals talked to at least six other candidates, including Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, Bo Porter, Tim Foli, Bob Melvin, Dave Duncan and Bobby Valentine.

The Nationals had asked the Dodgers for permission to talk to hitting coach Don Mattingly, but he took himself out of the running.

Of the other candidates, La Russa, Foli and Valentine were the most intriguing. According to the source, La Russa was honored to be considered, but told the Nationals he would retire if he didn't manage the Cardinals.

Foli has managed in the Nationals' Minor League system since 2005, working with prospects such as outfielder Roger Bernadina and shortstop Ian Desmond. The Nationals rewarded Foli this past season by making him an extra bench coach in September.

There is a strong possibility that Foli could be a big league coach for the team. If not, he is expected to be a Minor League adviser.

Valentine joined Riggleman as the finalist for the managerial job. Valentine's tenure in Japan ended at the conclusion of the 2009 season, and he joined ESPN as an analyst with an out clause from that position if he's able to procure a managerial job. Valentine, the former skipper of the Rangers and Mets, managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan's Pacific League for six seasons.

He led the Mets to a pennant in 2000 and had a .510 winning percentage (1,117-1,072) in 15 total seasons. For Chiba Lotte, Valentine also enjoyed wild success, winning the 2005 Japan Series, a first for the Marines in 31 years.

Valentine was informed that Riggleman will be the Nationals skipper on Wednesday.

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