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Manny debuts for Iowa, reaching out to youth

Manny debuts for Iowa, reaching out to youth

CHICAGO -- Manny Ramirez made his Triple-A Iowa Cubs debut on Thursday in Colorado Springs, starting in left field and going 0-for-4 in a 7-6 loss. But Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein didn't sign Ramirez to play. Epstein is hoping the players take advantage of the 42-year-old's expertise and experience.

"His goal is he wants to help young players," Epstein said Friday. "He wants to give back to the game -- in his words, to give back to the game that's done so much for him. I didn't believe it the first time I heard it, but after repeated conversations and talking to people who are around Manny day in and day out, he's definitely changed for the better."

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Ramirez, 42, spent nearly 20 years in the Major Leagues with the Indians, Red Sox, Dodgers, Rays and White Sox. He finished with 555 home runs, a .312 batting average, 2,574 hits and 1,831 RBIs.

The first thing Ramirez did when he reported to the Cubs' complex in Mesa, Ariz., was gather all the players and talk to them about following what he does on the field and learning from the mistakes he made off the field.

"We didn't ask him to do that -- he did it on his own," Epstein said.

A 12-time All-Star and nine-time Silver Slugger winner, Ramirez's career was tarnished by a 50-game suspension and a 100-game suspension -- after which he opted to retire -- for violating baseball's drug policy. 

"[Manny] definitely was a headache, and he admits it," Epstein said. "It's good to believe in redemption and second chances, and it's nice to see people change for the better."

So far, so good for Ramirez.

"They said everyone is already following him around like the Pied Piper," Epstein said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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