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Ryne Sandberg rejoins Cubs at spring training

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon has made it clear to former Cubs players that they’re welcome at spring training. In fact, Maddon has made a point of reaching out to some of them. The latest to show up in uniform is Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg.

“It’s important to invite them,” Maddon said Monday. “It’s the most important thing we can do. Invite them. Now we’ll morph into a more comfortable role for him.”

Sandberg appeared earlier in camp, in street clothes, but Monday was the first time he was back in a Cubs uniform since he left in 2010 after coaching in the minors but being passed over for the major league manager job. After managing the Phillies from 2013-15 he has returned to the city which still adores him.

“He was eager to get back,” Maddon said. “He seems to be in a good place. More than anything I’d love for him to be talking to the middle infielders primarily.”

Sandberg joins fellow former Cubs Rick Sutcliffe, Kerry Wood, Ted Lilly and Kevin Youkilis as in-uniform spring instructors. All-time great Billy Williams is always around as well, often hanging out with the Cubs manager in spring training and during the regular season.

“He has a really contemporary sense,” Maddon said of Williams. “He doesn’t miss anything. I enjoy that. He sees things. Some of the former players are primarily about judging talent but he’s one of those guys that sees strategy and I like that.”

As for Sandberg, the Cubs aren’t too concerned with choosing a defined role. They just want him to help out where he feels he can contribute.

“I want him to be comfortable, relax and enjoy his moment,” Maddon said.