<
>

Ozzie Smith backs Ryne Sandberg

Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said he will solicit advice from various sources as he searches for manager Lou Piniella's replacement, but one former rival didn't wait to provide his endorsement.

St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith said the choice is obvious: Ryne Sandberg.

"To me, there's one guy," Smith told the Quad City Times. "He has paid his dues. He has been a stand-up citizen. He is a Hall of Famer. I don't know exactly what it is they are looking for, but I think it should be a no-brainer."

Hendry already said Sandberg, who manages the Cubs' Triple-A team in Iowa and has spent four years managing in the minors, will get an interview.

ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine reported Hendry will interview more than 15 candidates, including Nationals third base coach Pat Listach, former Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez and Yankees manager Joe Girardi, if he becomes a free agent, according to a league source. Cubs broadcaster Bob Brenly, ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine and San Diego Padres bench coach Ted Simmons also have been mentioned as potential candidates.

"Wouldn't it be great if [Sandberg] were to come back and get that franchise into prominence and, who knows, win a world championship?" Smith told the paper. "Wouldn't that be a great story?"

Smith added he's never had the "bug" to manage.