PHILADELPHIA -- Ryne Sandberg is back in the big leagues.
The Philadelphia Phillies promoted the Hall of Fame second baseman to their coaching staff as third-base coach and infield instructor.
Sandberg had spent the past two seasons managing Philadelphia's Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The Phillies also promoted Steve Henderson to hitting coach and Rod Nichols to bullpen coach.
The moves came a day after the Phillies fired first-base coach Sam Perlozzo, hitting coach Greg Gross and bench coach Pete Mackanin. Gross is a York County native and a graduate of Red Land High School.With Sandberg already in the dugout and Charlie Manuel entering the final season of his contract, the natural assumption is that the Phillies have already lined up their next manager.
"The fact of the matter is he's not the heir apparent. We made no promises to Ryne Sandberg," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Thursday. "Ryne Sandberg is part of this coaching staff and we're happy to have him. I think Ryne is going to get an opportunity to be a major league manager at some point, whether it's with the Phillies or with another club, we don't know.
"I have told Ryne this would not preclude him from getting an opportunity if someone calls and asks for his services to be a manager. We're just happy to have him on our staff and think he's a great addition to our staff."
Manuel led the Phillies to five straight NL East titles and the 2008 World Series title before a slew of injuries contributed to an 81-81 finish that snapped Philadelphia's string of winning seasons at nine.
Manuel isn't worried about having Sandberg on the staff despite the public perception that he's the manager-in-waiting.
"That doesn't put any pressure on me," Manuel said. "Since I've gotten to know him, I absolutely like everything about him. I get along real well with him. I'm looking forward to working with him. In the dugout, he'll be our defensive guy. He'll work with our infielders and he'll move the defense. His responsibility will be a lot more than coaching third base. Also, we'll use his hitting expertise. He's a Hall of Fame hitter and he's got some really good ideas. He talks about hitting the way that I like. I think he's going to be very valuable to us."
Manuel, who turns 69 in January, isn't asking for a contract extension.
"I know how old I am," he said. "I have a favorite saying, 'Know thyself.' I know myself. I still have a lot of passion, I have a drive, I still love baseball, things like that. I think my contract is fine. I think at the end of the year, I'll be glad to sit down and not only take inventory of myself, but talk to the people and see where I'm at and see what I want to do. I'm not saying I'm going to retire or I'm going to quit or nothing like that. I've been in the game a long time and I love it.
"I'm looking forward to this year because I think it's a great challenge, a great challenge for me and a great challenge for our team."
Sandberg began his career with the Phillies, getting one hit in six at-bats in 1981. He then was traded to the Chicago Cubs when general manager Dallas Green, who managed the Phillies to the 1980 World Series title, convinced his former team to throw Sandberg into a trade along with shortstop Larry Bowa for shortstop Ivan DeJesus.
Sandberg was the 1984 NL MVP, made 10 All-Star teams and was enshrined in Cooperstown in 2005. He managed four seasons in Chicago's minor league system before coming back to the Phillies. Sandberg interviewed with the St. Louis Cardinals last winter and was rebuffed by the Cubs. He could get more opportunities this offseason, or he could just wait it out in Philadelphia.
The Phillies retained three other coaches. Pitching coach Rich Dubee will return. Mick Billmeyer goes from bullpen coach to catching coach. Juan Samuel, the former third-base coach, was offered the role of first-base coach and outfield and baserunning instructor.
Amaro said he'll begin interviewing for an assistant hitting coach to join Henderson, who had spent the past two seasons as the Phillies' minor league hitting coordinator. Henderson hit .280 in played 12 seasons in the majors and previously was Tampa Bay's hitting coach from 2006-09.
"Saying the same thing in a different way will help spark or create a situation where a hitter can get what we're trying to get across to him," Amaro said about adding an assistant. "This is a good way to do that. That's going to change that dynamic a little bit; it's something we wanted to address. It's something that's worked out for other clubs."