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Cubs inform Ryne Sandberg he’s not a candidate, but he’ll interview with the Cardinals

CLEARWATER FL - FEBRUARY 19:  Spring instructor Ryne Sandberg #23 PhiladelphiPhillies throws hitters during spring training workout February 19

CLEARWATER, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Spring instructor Ryne Sandberg #23 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws to hitters during a spring training workout February 19, 2011 the Carpenter Complex at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Ryne Sandberg

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Updated: November 2, 2011 11:47PM

Ryne Sandberg might be in Wrigley Field again next season, but it might be in the visitors’ dugout.

Perhaps with the reigning world champion and division rival St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cubs Hall of Famer, who managed in the Cubs’ farm system for four seasons before being turned away for the major-league manager’s job last season, was turned away again Wednesday by team president Theo Epstein.

Sandberg, 52, was contacted almost immediately by the Cardinals after manager Tony La Russa announced his retirement Monday. The Cardinals sought permission to interview him and were granted it by the Philadelphia Phillies, who hired Sandberg to manage their Class AAA team last fall after former Cubs general manager Jim Hendry let him go.

“I’ll be interviewing with the Cardinals,” Sandberg said Wednesday. “It’s on the calendar in the near future, so that’s the next thing for me. As of right now, that’s been the only call.”

Sandberg did get a courtesy call from Epstein shortly after the Cubs announced Quade was being let go before the final year of his contract.

“Moments after the release went out, Theo called me just to let me know I wouldn’t be considered for the major-league job,’’ Sandberg said. “That was classy of him. I wished him well and said the Cubs were in good hands with him.”

The two originally met last fall when Epstein was general manager of the Boston Red Sox and he and his then-director of player development, Ben Cherington, interviewed and offered Sandberg the manager’s job of their Class AAA team. Sandberg opted to return to the Phillies, who originally drafted him in 1978 before trading him to the Cubs in 1982. He went on to play 15 seasons with the Cubs, winning nine Gold Gloves at second base, becoming a 10-time All-Star and earning the MVP award in 1984. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.

Sandberg said Epstein did not bring up possibilities of being added to the major-league coaching staff.

“He just talked about the manager job,” Sandberg said.

Asked if he was disappointed, Sandberg said, “I’ve always said I hoped to manage in the big leagues. It’s baseball. I’m still hopeful of another opportunity. I don’t know what else I need to do, but I still hope there will be opportunities.”

Sandberg’s name had been raised often in the days since Epstein’s hiring became known and Quade’s future was put in doubt. Team owner Tom Ricketts had said publicly he would welcome Sandberg’s return to the organization.

New general manager Jed Hoyer was asked about Sandberg again Tuesday at his introductory news conference but deferred commenting because Quade had not yet been told of his firing.

Asked if Sandberg might fit on a new Cubs coaching staff, Hoyer said, “That’s an issue I haven’t really spent a lot of time getting to the bottom of. But I know locally that’s something that’s exceptionally important. And it should be. He was a legend here, but I probably don’t have enough information to comment accurately on that.’’

Sandberg’s success as a minor-league manager, more than his Hall of Fame career, is what put his name in the mix in St. Louis. He started at Class A Peoria for the Cubs in 2007 after telling Hendry he wanted to become a manager. He had a winning season and returned to Peoria in 2008 before being promoted to Class AA Tennessee in 2009. That team reached the Southern League finals.

Sandberg was named manager at Class AAA Iowa in 2010 and won the Pacific Coast League manager of the year award after the team finished first in its division.

Last season, he managed the Phillies’ Lehigh Valley team to its first winning season in years. It swept the Red Sox’ Class AAA Pawtucket team in the best-of-five opening round of the International League playoffs.

If he is not selected as the Cardinals’ next manager, other doors could open for Sandberg with the Phillies. Their bench coach, Pete Mackanin, interviewed to be the Red Sox’ manager. If Mackanin is hired, Sandberg might be promoted to Phillies manager Charlie Manuel’s staff.

“I’m with the Phillies now, but I’m still hopeful there will be opportunities,” he said. “I’ll be interviewed by the Cardinals and see it that’s the opportunity, or I’m still with the Phillies and that’s a comfortable place now, too.”

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