Phillies Notes: Sandberg prepares for return to Chicago

Posted: August 31, 2013

NEW YORK - From his perch in the visitors' dugout at Wrigley Field this weekend, Ryne Sandberg can look right and see his No. 23 flapping in the Chicago wind. The Cubs hero and Phillies interim manager insists there are no hard feelings and no awkward energy surrounding his return. Nostalgia is unavoidable.

"The first thing is, I'll probably check out my flag out there on the right-field pole," Sandberg said. "I'm sure all the memories of all the games will come and I'll reflect on that. Then I'll put myself in that spot over there in the visitors' dugout, and once the game starts it will be business. I'll feel good about it."

Sandberg forged a Hall of Fame career in 16 seasons with the Cubs. He rose through their minor-league ranks as a manager only to be bypassed and told there was never a spot on the big-league coaching staff for him. That led Sandberg back to Philadelphia, where it all began - at Wrigley, coincidentally.

His last trip inside the opponents' clubhouse was 1981, when he was a 22-year-old September call-up for the Phillies. He smacked his first career hit in the second game of a Sept. 27 doubleheader. It was his only Phillies hit in six at-bats; he was traded to Chicago in January, 1982.

"I knew that my bats hadn't arrived yet from my order so I didn't have any bats," Sandberg said. "I was using a Marty Bystrom bat in batting practice and choking up on it a little bit. It was a big ol' bat to bunt with - a pitcher's bat - so I was choking up and taking BP with that.

"I asked Larry Bowa if he had any extra bats I could use in the game, so he loaned me a bat and I got my first hit with a Larry Bowa bat. Even today I still have the bat and the ball. It was a flare to right field slightly off the end of the bat, and the Rawlings writing on the ball came off on the bat. So I have the ball and the bat and there's no writing on the ball. It's all on the bat."

Sandberg remains a beloved figure in Chicago. Fans wanted him to become manager over Mike Quade in 2011. Quade lasted one full season. Sandberg was not interviewed in 2012, when the team hired Dale Sveum. He had to wait longer.

"That's where I had my career as a player," Sandberg, 53, said. "I'm not disappointed at all."

His career as a manager will be in Philadelphia, where he is all but certain to have the interim tag removed. He cited the opportunity to manage at triple-A Lehigh Valley for two seasons as a major development in his progress.

"That experience definitely goes a long way with what I'm doing now," Sandberg said. "I would say I wouldn't be prepared if I hadn't done that. To be put in this type of situation, I would've had no chance."

When Sandberg was a visitor at Wrigley in 1981, he dressed in a storage room with the other extra players. In 1994, when he retired for the first time, he sat in the bleachers for a game. Now, he will manage from the other side.

"It's a different vantage of things," Sandberg said. "That'll be different."

Extra bases

Third baseman Cody Asche still felt soreness in his strained right hamstring during Thursday morning tests, but the team believes he can play sometime this weekend. Asche suffered the injury Wednesday. . . . The left side of the Phillies' starting infield - Michael Young and John McDonald - was a combined 74 years old. . . . Phillies righthander Gustavo Armas, playing in the Venezuelan Summer League, was suspended 50 games after testing positive for a metabolite of Nandrolone.

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