By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) With their top young power hitters streaming to the big leagues, the Cubs have hired former slugger Manny Ramirez as hitting consultant for the major and minor leagues. Ramirez was a player-coach at Triple-A Iowa last season and helped the likes of Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant with the physical and mental side of hitting.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer both revere Ramirez as one of the top hitting minds in the game.
“He helped, along with our hitting coaches, to get Baez, Soler and others to improve,” Epstein said. “Those guys really like having him around. He will work well with our existing hitting coaches and infrastructure.”
Though the 43-year-old Ramirez hasn’t formally retired, it appears he is ready to move into the area of front office and coaching work.
The promotion of Ramirez also brought up the question of Sammy Sosa’s possible return to the Cubs organization, considering both Ramirez and Sosa were been linked to performance-enhancing drug use during their careers.
“I haven’t (dealt with that topic),” Epstein said of Sosa. “That one is being handled in other circles. Assuming things get worked out, I certainly would be open to having him around in some capacity and working with our young guys. I don’t know him personally, but I am sure he has things to offer.”
From the sounds of Epstein’s words, any rekindling of a relationship with Sosa will be handled from the Cubs’ ownership.
The Cubs and Sosa have had a nearly non-existent relationship since he had an ugly, early exit in his final game in 2004 with the organization and because of his link to PEDs.
Sosa wasn’t invited to the Cubs’ 100-year celebration of Wrigley Field last April, and it irked him.
“There is something that has to be resolved,” Sosa said then, according ESPN Deportes. “If there is something to clarify, we will sit down and clear it up. Time has given me the maturity to reflect upon many things, including knowing that one side doesn’t have to be right all the time.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.