KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -The Kansas City Royals asked Trey Hillman to be their next manager and might announce the hiring Friday, two people familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.
The team and Hillman were working out final contract details, said the two people, who requested anonymity because an announcement had not been made.
Hillman would replace Buddy Bell, who completed the year after saying in August he would step aside. The Royals finished 69-93, last in the AL Central for the fourth straight year.
The hiring would be the first major decision by Dayton Moore since he became general manager in June 2006.
The Kansas City Star first reported the development.
Hillman has spent the past five years managing in the Japanese Pacific League. He has never played or managed in the majors. He managed for 12 years in the New York Yankees' minor league system. He won three manager of the year awards while directing clubs to three first-place finishes.
The 44-year-old Texan, a former shortstop at the University of Texas-Arlington, interviewed for the Texas Rangers' managing job in 2002 and was appointed director of player development for the Rangers that year.
The following year he became manager of the Nippon Ham Fighters, who won their first Japan Series title in 2006 and advanced to the Japan World Series again this week.
Hillman inherits a Royals club that appeared last season to be making strides toward becoming respectable for the first time since the early 1990s. The Royals avoided 100 losses this season for the first time in three years and have not made a postseason appearance since winning the 1985 World Series.
The team's hope for a brighter future is founded on the development of a number of talented young players, including third baseman Alex Gordon and right-handers Zack Greinke and Brian Bannister.
Between a seven-game losing streak at the end of May and a seven-game losing streak at the beginning of September, the Royals were 43-40, their best stretch for an extended stretch since 2003.
In addition, right-hander Gil Meche signed a $55 million free agent contract with the Royals last year that appeared to signal a shift in owner David Glass's tightfisted ways. Meche finished 9-13 but with an ERA of 3.67. The Royals are expected to be active again this winter in the free-agent market.

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