Piniella: Sandberg would be 'in mix'

Piniella: Sandberg would be 'in mix'

CHICAGO -- Ryne Sandberg is expected to ride buses for at least another year before he has a chance to fulfill his ambition of succeeding Lou Piniella as manager of the Cubs.

Piniella, whose contract expires after the 2010 season, said managing in the Minor Leagues serves as helpful, but incomplete, preparation.

"One thing is, managing in the Minor Leagues gives you an insight into the game," Piniella said. "You don't really have six or seven coaches like you have up here. You've got to dwell in a lot of different areas, and at the same time, you get a chance to find out if you really like this or don't like it. But I'll tell you this: Handling young players at the Minor League level and handling players at the big league level, they're a little different."

Piniella started his managerial career with the Yankees in 1986 and said he had to learn as he went along. He had spent the previous two seasons as a coach with the team after retiring as a player in 1984.

Sandberg, a Hall of Fame second baseman who played 15 seasons with the Cubs, moved up from Class A Peoria to Double-A Tennessee this season. He led Tennessee to the Southern League finals, and general manager Jim Hendry said he expects Sandberg to be back there next season.

"I admire him for the way he's gone about his business," Hendry said. "Hard-working, good instructor who's done a very quality job with a team with a lot of good prospects that was the youngest team in the Southern League."

Sandberg, 50, has spoken about the importance of honing his craft in the Minors and working his way up, just as he did as a player. He said he felt more comfortable this year with two years of experience behind him.

Nothing is set in stone for 2011, especially with a new owner coming in, but Piniella acknowledged Sandberg likely will get consideration as the next Cubs skipper.

"Ryne had a Hall of Fame career here as a player," Piniella said. "I'm not the one who's going to be hiring the next manager here, but certainly, he'll be in the mix."

If he does take over, Sandberg not only will have to deal with a new group of players, but also with high expectations. For one thing, he is beloved by Cubs fans. For another, those fans have grown accustomed to winning during the tenures of Piniella and Dusty Baker.

"There are expectations here now," Piniella said. "And that's good. That's good for the organization."

Andrew Simon is an associate for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.