- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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The naming of Ryne Sandberg as interim manager of the Philadelphia Phillies was not much of a surprise to some of the Chicago Cubs players he managed in the minor leagues.
Sandberg spent five years in the Cubs' system, managing at all levels before moving to the Philadelphia organization in 2011. The only area lacking on his résumé was big league coaching experience. Sandberg coached third base for Charlie Manuel for the first 119 games in 2013 before replacing the veteran manager Friday.
If you listen to the young players whose careers were affected by the Hall of fame second baseman, the Phillies should be solid in the dugout and clubhouse for years to come. "To me, he is a players' guy," Cubs catcher Welington Castillo said. "He worked hard to have a strong relationship with the players. I am happy for him, and I think he will do a really good job and stay with them a really long time.”
Castillo played for Sandberg at Class A Peoria of the Midwest League in 2007. "I was lucky to play for a Hall of Famer,” he said. "All the players told me to listen to the guy and play hard for him. He told me right away to 'play hard, give me 100 percent and we will win together.' He had no other rules."
"He was not afraid to take control,” shortstop Starlin Castro said. “Every time one of our guys got hit, he would say something [retaliate]. He was a pretty good manager, he was strong. He respected everybody. I am very happy for him.” Castro was asked about Sandberg’s ability to handle veterans and young players alike. "I think he can do it. He knows what to do and how to talk to players."
Sandberg had previously interviewed for the Cubs, Mariners and Cardinals jobs over the past three seasons.
“I am really happy for him," Darwin Barney said. "He has done the work every step of the way to get there. He did not cut any corners and didn’t hop on with a buddy at the big league level. He really wanted to learn how to be a manager. He wanted to manage in the minor leagues, and watching his growth every year was kind of fun to watch develop."
Barney played for Sandberg at the Double-A and Triple-A levels. He saw the determination shown as a manager as a strong suit for Sandberg. "The main thing I picked up on was his competitive nature,” Barney said. "The way he prepared for every game even as a manager. He didn’t say too much; when things needed to be said, you definitely listened. His comments were very timely and to the point. He became a players' manager really quick. He was the kind of guy you really wanted to go to battle with. He made you feel that way."