Eric Wedge returned to a Cubs organization that must have looked completely different three years later.
Wedge interviewed with Cubs executives on Tuesday in Chicago, sources said, making his face-to-face pitch after some in-depth phone conversations. Wedge could have talked about the homegrown core he helped develop with the Cleveland Indians, and explained why he walked away from the Seattle Mariners last month.
By March 31, 2014, the Cubs will be on their fourth Opening Day manager in five seasons. Wedge – who got along well with former general manager Jim Hendry – interviewed for the job that went to Mike Quade after Lou Piniella retired in 2010.
In terms of relationships, the new executive team at Clark and Addison – Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod – used to work for the San Diego Padres. The Cubs have targeted three candidates from the Padres organization to replace Dale Sveum.
Bench coach Rick Renteria and assistant GM A.J. Hinch have already interviewed at length and are said to still be in the loop.
Sources have identified Brad Ausmus as an X-factor in the search process. As Padres GM, Hoyer hired Ausmus to be a special assistant when his playing career ended in 2010.
The Cubs could see Ausmus as another Mike Matheny (St. Louis Cardinals) or Robin Ventura (White Sox), ex-players hired for their leadership and presence despite limited coaching experience.
Ausmus, 44, is not that far removed from his playing days, which could give him instant respect in the clubhouse. He has already met with the Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals this month and interviewed with the Boston Red Sox last year. His only managing experience was with Team Israel in a qualifying tournament for the World Baseball Classic.
Educated at Dartmouth College, Ausmus lasted 18 seasons in the big leagues, playing in the 1999 All-Star Game, winning three Gold Gloves and helping the Houston Astros reach the 2005 World Series won by the White Sox.
The Cubs are also waiting for this World Series to end so they can speak with Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, the guy standing in the dugout next to John Farrell during all those reaction shots on Fox.
The Red Sox could finish off the Cardinals by winning Game 6 on Wednesday night at Fenway Park. Lovullo – who worked for Epstein while managing Boston’s Triple-A affiliate in 2010 – might have to make time after the duck-boat parade.
Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Dave Martinez and ESPN analyst Manny Acta have interviewed with the Cubs, but it’s harder to see either one getting the job. This time around, Wedge also doesn’t have much history with the front office.
Wedge, who grew up in Fort Wayne, Ind., had known Hendry from their days together in the Missouri Valley Conference. Hendry coached at Creighton University when Wedge emerged as an All-American catcher on the Wichita State University team that won the 1989 College World Series.
Wedge, 45, already has 10 seasons as a big-league manager on his resume. He worked with CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta and Grady Sizemore in Cleveland.
A small-market franchise went in cycles between 2003 and 2009, with Wedge’s teams winning 68, 80, 93, 78, 96, 81 and 65 games before the manager got fired.
Wedge has told reporters he’s recovered from the stroke that sidelined him this summer for a month. There was said to be a growing disconnect between Wedge and the Seattle front office as the Mariners lost 273 games across the past three seasons.
Wedge stepped down and again became a change-of-scenery candidate with the Cubs.