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updated: 5/25/2014 3:03 PM

Shocker: Manny Ramirez joins Iowa Cubs as player/coach

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    Associated Press/file@Manny Ramirez, who was a star in Boston before playing for several other M

 
 

The Cubs have hired Manny Ramirez. Can and should a reconciliation with Sammy Sosa be far behind, or should it already have happened?

In a surprising announcement that came via a news release Sunday morning, the Cubs announced, with extensive quotes from team President Theo Epstein and Ramirez, that they have hired the former slugger to be a player-coach at Class AAA Iowa.

Epstein, in the release, made it clear that Ramirez was not a fit to be a player for the major-league team.

Ramirez, who turns 42 on May 30, was suspended twice for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy and has not played big-league ball since 2011.

There is a strong connection between Ramirez and Epstein. Ramirez played for the Boston Red Sox from 2001-08, and Epstein was GM of the Red Sox from 2002-11.

The Cubs say they have hired Ramirez to work with their young hitters, such as top prospect Javier Baez, at Iowa. Having Ramirez bat once in awhile probably will sell a few tickets in Des Moines, too.

"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 in the release. "Behind the scenes he has always been a tireless worker who is very serious about the craft of hitting.

"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. 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.

"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."

The Cubs say Ramirez will report to their spring facility in Mesa, Arizona, for at-bats in extended spring training before joining Iowa.

"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," he 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.

"The Cubs have some very talented young hitters, and I would love nothing more than to make a positive impact on their careers. 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."

Before going to the Red Sox, Ramirez starred with Cleveland. He also played for the Dodgers (hurting the Cubs in the 2008 division series). He spent a short time with the White Sox in 2010 and finished with the Rays in 2011, retiring rather than facing a 100-game suspension for his second drug violation. He later accepted a reduced suspension as he attempted to get back into the game. Ramirez wound up with 555 home runs in his career but likely won't make the Hall of Fame because of the drug taint. He also could be churlish and disrespectful around team personnel and the media.

Despite the negative baggage, Ramirez was one of the hardest workers in the game when it came to hitting.

In recent years in Chicago, some fans and media have called for the Cubs to reconcile with Sosa, who was suspended for a corked bat in 2003. Even though his name has been linked with steroid use, he never was suspended under the drug policy.

Sosa left the ballpark early in the final day of the 2004 season, prompting his trade to Baltimore before the next season.

The Cubs have changed ownership and baseball management since then, but the organization still has trouble coming to terms with Sosa's place in franchise history.

Sosa wound up with a hitting line of .273/.344/.534 with 609 career home runs, 545 with the Cubs.

Whether you want Sosa back or not in some way with the Cubs, the Ramirez hiring may take the discussion to a new level.

• Follow Bruce on Twitter@BruceMiles2112.

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