La Russa ignores Cubs speculation

CHICAGO -- St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa refused to comment Friday on speculation that he may be a candidate to replace Chicago Cubs skipper Lou Piniella, who is retiring at the end of the 2010 season.

"[I just] ignore it," La Russa said before the Cards opened a series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. "Ignore it."

La Russa did open up slightly when asked about the pressures associated with managing the Cubs, a position that's witnessed frequent turnover.

"I wouldn't even answer that question because I don't believe what you're asking is true," La Russa said. "There's nothing about Chicago that's harder than St. Louis.

"You got a job in the big leagues, there are 30 of them. They're all demanding and there isn't one that's tougher than the other."

Piniella may feel differently. His tenure in Chicago will end after four seasons that included division titles in 2007 and 2008. La Russa, who managed the Chicago White Sox from 1979-86, isn't entirely convinced Piniella is done for good.

"He's a very honest person, if that's what he's feeling," La Russa said. "I don't know if somebody could change his mind, probably could. I mean he loves the game. He's been in it this long and has as much success as he's had, it won't be easy to leave. But I know he means it right now."

The two managers are certainly familiar with one another considering their friendship dates back to their early years growing up in Tampa, Fla. Piniella and La Russa were teammates in Pony League and American Legion and almost attended the same high school.

"Tony is a wonderful manager," Piniella said. "He's had just a great career. We're friends. Tony moved away from Tampa a long time ago, so I really don't get a chance to see him during the winter.

"But look, he's a good friend and we grew up right there in West Tampa. If I hadn't gone to the Catholic school, I would have to gone to the same [high] school he did. I talk to him during the winter maybe once or twice, if that."

Piniella and La Russa have combined to win 4,433 major league games and three World Series titles.

Jeff Dickerson is a reporter for ESPNChicago.com.