When the Boston Red Sox fired Grady Little yesterday, the Orioles had another candidate to consider for their own managerial opening.

But for now, the Orioles don't seem interested.

Based on the latest internal discussions about Little, two club sources yesterday played down the chances that he will even interview for the Orioles' job.

Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie didn't rule out the possibility.

"Obviously, when you get someone who's had the success that he's had, you've got to consider and go through the pros and cons and talk to people," Beattie said. "But whether we would interview him or not, that's still up in the air."

The Orioles have interviewed four candidates with strong ties to the organization -- Eddie Murray, Sam Perlozzo, Rich Dauer and Rick Dempsey.

Their search will broaden today, when they interview Oakland Athletics bench coach Terry Francona, followed tomorrow by Tampa Bay Devil Rays third base coach Tom Foley.

The Orioles still hope to interview New York Yankees first base coach Lee Mazzilli by the end of the week, but as of last night, that hadn't been scheduled.

"After we go through these three interviews, there may be one or two others that we might want to touch on," Beattie said. "We might have a second round of interviews that we get through fairly quickly, and that could all take place next week."

The goal now is to have a manager in place by the time the free agency period opens on Nov. 11.

"Ideally, I'd like to finish it off next week," Beattie said. "But I don't know if that's going to be realistic, either."

Little, 53, has old ties to the Orioles' organization after managing in their minor league system from 1980 to 1984. He also interviewed for the team's most recent managerial opening, in 1999, before they hired Mike Hargrove.

But the Orioles fired Hargrove last month after four losing seasons, privately saying they wanted someone with more of a fiery personality. Little doesn't necessarily fit that mold, club sources said.

Boston went 93-69 under Little in 2002, and 95-67 this year before losing to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

He has received widespread criticism for his decision to leave starting pitcher Pedro Martinez in to protect an eighth-inning lead in Game 7, which the Yankees came back to win on Aaron Boone's 11th-inning home run.

But Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said: "The decision to make a change resulted from months of thought about that long-term direction [of the team]."

When the Orioles talk to Francona today, they will be speaking to a popular candidate. He interviewed with the Chicago White Sox for their managerial opening this month and already has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Little in Boston.

NOTES: The Orioles have until Saturday to decide whether to pick up the 2004 options for starting pitcher Pat Hentgen and catcher Brook Fordyce. Team officials have said the club will likely decline the $4 million option for Fordyce and exercise his $500,000 buyout. Hentgen's option is also for $4 million, with a $300,000 buyout, and the Orioles are trying to bring him back at a reduced price. The Orioles have until Nov. 15 to decide about the options for shortstop Deivi Cruz ($1.5 million) and reliever Kerry Ligtenberg ($1.2 million).