Manny hired as Triple-A player/coach

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Manny Ramirez is coming back to baseball -- as a player-coach for the Chicago Cubs' Triple-A team.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein announced in a statement Sunday that Ramirez "is not and will not" be on the Cubs' major-league roster, stating that the once-feared slugger will serve as a mentor to Chicago's minor-league hitters in Des Moines, Iowa.

"While Manny is not and will not be a fit on the Cubs' major league roster, we do think at this stage of his life he's a nice fit as a mentor for some of the young talented hitters we have in the organization," Epstein said. "Manny will coach full-time and play part-time in a limited role that does not take at-bats away from our prospects.

"If he shows there is still some magic in his bat, perhaps he will find his way to the major leagues and help another team, but that is not why he is here. We are thrilled that he wants to work with our young hitters and make a difference."

The 41-year-old Ramirez will take at-bats in extended spring training games at the Cubs' facility in Mesa, Arizona before joining the Triple-A Iowa Cubs.

"I'm at the stage of my life and career where I really want to give something back to the game that I love -- the game that has meant so much to me and done so much for me and my family," Ramirez said in the release. "I know I am nearing the end of my playing days, but I have a lot of knowledge to pass on to the next generation -- both what to do and what not to do."

Ramirez has not played in the majors since a five-game stint with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011. The 12-time All-Star was suspended twice late in his career for testing positive for performance-enhancing substances, but Epstein thinks Ramirez will be a positive influence on the Cubs' prospects.

"Manny is not only one of the best hitters of all time, he is also a dedicated student of hitting and has proven to be a gifted teacher with younger teammates who have worked with him in the batting cage," Epstein said. "Behind the scenes he has always been a tireless worker who is very serious about the craft of hitting."

Ramirez was selected 13th overall by the Cleveland Indians in the 1991 amateur draft and rose quickly through the minor leagues, with a youthful exuberance and natural charisma that endeared him to just about everyone he met.

Ramirez led the American League with a .349 batting average in 2002, finished second the next year, and had an AL-best 43 home runs in 2004. But there was another side to Manny -- his lackadaisical play, particularly on defense and the basepaths, rubbed some managers and teammates the wrong way.

"Manny has made real mistakes in the past but he has owned up to them and moved his life in a positive direction the last couple of years," Epstein said. "He is in a really great place right now and wants to share the lessons he's learned along the way. We think he deserves another chance and that our young hitters will benefit from it."

Ramirez was a .312 hitter with 555 home runs, the 14th-highest total in baseball history, in 2,302 games covering 19 major league seasons.

Seven of those seasons were in Boston, where Epstein was the general manager of two Red Sox clubs that won World Series titles with Ramirez.

"The reality is he is a great, great hitter who can provide valuable insight and knowledge," Chicago manager Rick Renteria said before the game at San Diego.

With the Cubs, Ramirez will be tasked with coaching some of the top offensive prospects in baseball, including infielder Javier Baez, who is batting just .203 with Iowa. The Cubs also have top outfield prospects Kris Bryant and Albert Almora in their minor-league system.

"The Cubs have some very talented young hitters, and I would love nothing more than to make a positive impact on their careers," Ramirez said. "I am passionate about baseball and about hitting, and I have a lot to offer. While I would love to return to the major leagues, I leave that in God's hands. My focus will be on working with the young hitters, making sure they don't make the same mistakes I made, and helping the team any way I can."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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