Ryne Sandberg spent 15 years as a player for the Chicago Cubs, making 10 All-Star Games, winning nine Gold Gloves as a second baseman and claiming the NL MVP award in 1984.
He had hoped to one day add manager of the Cubs to his resume, but was passed over for the position. On Friday Sandberg returns to Wrigley Field as the interim skipper of the Philadelphia Phillies for the opener of a three-game set against his former club.
Sandberg had his eye on Chicago's managing position following his playing days and, told he needed experience, began a stint coaching at the minor league level for the franchise. He worked his way up the system and seemed possibly in line for the Cubs job after Mike Quade was fired following the 2010 campaign.
However, new president Theo Epstein bypassed Sandberg in favor of current Chicago manager Dale Sveum, who will square off today against the Cub legend.
Sandberg departed the Cubs organization prior to the 2011 season and began managing in the minors for the Phillies, who had drafted the second baseman in 1978 before dealing him to the Cubs along with Larry Bowa on Jan. 27, 1982 for Ivan de Jesus. He was promoted to third base coach before this campaign and elevated to interim manager on Aug. 16 when Charlie Manuel was fired.
Now he finds himself again in the visiting dugout of Wrigley Field.
"I'm sure he'll get a standing ovation," Sveum told the Cubs' website. "This guy is in the Hall of Fame. He's arguably the best second baseman to play the game, and he did it all in Chicago. It'll be a nice moment for him to come back, after getting his first job, and a couple weeks after he gets it, he comes to Chicago for the first time."
Sandberg, whose Phillies have lost 15 of their past 18 on the road, will start Roy Halladay in this afternoon's opener. Because of an 18-inning game the night before, Halladay skipped a scheduled rehab start last Sunday and instead pitched for the Phillies that day versus Arizona.
It was Halladay's first Major League start since May 5 due to right shoulder surgery and he held the Diamondbacks to a pair of runs on four hits and two walks over six innings. He logged a 9-5 victory, his first win since April 19 and it moved him to 3-4 with a 7.81 earned run average in eight starts this season.
"I'm getting back to who I was," said the former Cy Young Award winner. "I feel like each time out I'm progressing back to where I was. There are going to be changes and you always change over your career, but I think my arm slot is back to where it used to be. The movement is back to where it used to be."
The 36-year-old has a 3.68 ERA in seven career meetings with the Cubs, but just a 2-5 record.
Chicago is returning home after losing two of three on the road to both San Diego and the Los Angeles Dodgers, and has lost seven of its past nine overall. The Cubs hope to get on track today behind Jeff Samardzija, who has posted a pair of lengthy victories in his past two starts.
Samardzija snapped a five-game winless slide with a one-run, complete-game effort versus Washington on Aug. 19. He followed up last Saturday by holding the Padres to a pair of runs on seven hits and two walks in eight innings. The righty fanned seven, improving to 8-11 with a 4.03 ERA in 27 starts this season.
"Like I said last outing, getting strike one for him is huge," said Sveum. "When he gets that, those are usually all his good games."
Samardzija, 28, was drilled the last time he faced the Phillies on Aug. 8. He lasted only 3 1/3 innings and was charged with nine runs and 11 hits in a loss.
Lifetime versus Philadelphia, he is just 1-3 with a 12.83 ERA in eight meetings (2 starts).
The Phillies have won 11 of their previous 15 meetings with the Cubs, taking two of three at home from Aug. 6-8.