Theo, Cubs thrilled with early returns on Manny Ramirez

Theo, Cubs thrilled with early returns on Manny Ramirez
June 27, 2014, 8:15 pm
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Tony Andracki

Small sample sizes in baseball are dangerous.

You can get into trouble focusing on a player's week-long hot stretch or a turnaround from a guy in mid-April.

So it's too early to determine if the Manny Ramirez Experiment will work out or not for the Cubs.

But so far, so good.

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Ramirez debuted with Triple-A Iowa Thursday night, serving as the designated hitter and reaching on an error in an 0-for-4 performance at the plate.

"On the field, he'll probably take time to feel comfortable," Cubs president Theo Epstein said Friday at Wrigley Field. "But we got an email unsolicited from one of our coaches down there just about how Manny is already setting a great example.

"They've been preaching work ethic to our young guys about just how much work it takes to get ready for a game to be able to succeed not just at Triple-A, but up here in the big leagues. For them to see Manny be the first one at the field and take the most swings and do the most pregame preparation is invaluable. It just reinforces the lessons they're trying to teach."

Epstein said the younger players at Iowa are following Ramirez around like "a pied piper" and said the 42-year-old is a totally different guy than the one that created headaches in the Boston Red Sox locker room in the mid-2000s when Epstein was the GM in Boston.

"Look, I think Manny was overly villified. He was sort of a little apocryphal, with some of those stories," Epstein said. "He definitely was a headache; he admits it. It's good to believe in redemption and second chances and it's nice to see people change for the better."

Ramirez has been tasked with filling a player-coach role in Triple-A, helping to nurture along the Cubs' top prospects like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Arismendy Alcantara.

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But what does he get out of it?

"He wants to help young players," Epstein said. "He wants to give back to the game that, in his words, 'has done so much for him.'

"I didn't believe it the first time I heard it. But the repeated conversations, talking to people who are around Manny day in and day out, he definitely changed for the better."

With Ramirez embracing a coaching role and understanding he's in the twilight of a very illustrious career, a natural question would be to wonder if a big-league coaching job awaits.

Epstein and the Cubs want to pump the brakes on that kind of talk right now, though.

"I don't think he's thinking that far ahead," Epstein said. "We're taking it one day at a time. First thing he did when he got down to Mesa is gather all the players who were there for extended and give them a talk about following what he does on the field and learning from the mistakes he made off the field.

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"We didn't ask him to do that. He did that on his own. He's in a great place right now."

It's way too soon to call this experiment a success, but Epstein and the Cubs believe things are moving on the right path.

For now, the Manny Show is in Des Moines, Iowa.