Cardinals add McGwire as hitting coach

Updated: October 26, 2009, 5:44 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ST. LOUIS -- Tony La Russa is returning to the St. Louis Cardinals as manager on a one-year contract, but there will be one change to his coaching staff.

Mark McGwire, the former Cardinals slugger, will replace Hal McRae, who was fired as hitting coach, La Russa said Monday.

"I don't know how many years I have left to manage, and I wanted to take this opportunity to invite a guy who I think has a very special talent," La Russa said of McGwire.

La Russa's new contract is for one year -- his 15th with the Cardinals -- plus a mutual option for 2011, meaning he or the Cardinals can walk away after next year, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney.

La Russa managed McGwire on both the Athletics and Cardinals.

McGwire did not attend Monday's news conference to announce the moves. The Cardinals said they wanted to treat the situation like they would with any other new hitting coach.

"We are going to make Mark available," general manager John Mozeliak said. "How he is going to answer questions is up to him."

McGwire hit 70 home runs in 1998 to break Roger Maris' 37-year-old record, a mark since topped by Barry Bonds, and retired after the 2001 season.

McGwire has largely been out of the public eye since.

He attended congressional hearings on steroid abuse but said little in testimony, saying "I'm not here to talk about the past," and has fallen far short in balloting for the Hall of Fame despite hitting 583 homers.

The 65-year-old La Russa had been mulling his future since the NL Central champion Cardinals were swept in the division series by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Oct. 10.

His two-year, $8.5 million contract was set to expire at the end of the month. He's led the Cardinals to eight postseason appearances and a 2006 World Series title, and he's third on the career victories list, trailing only Connie Mack and John McGraw.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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