Sandberg thrilled to be back in the big leagues

Ryne Sandberg led the IronPigs to the playoffs and the first winning season in team history last year. (File photo)

Ryne Sandberg found out his climb back to the big leagues was complete shortly after the Phillies returned to Philadelphia following their final series of the season in Washington.

“When the train got back from Washington D.C. after that last game of the year, I was told that (manager) Charlie (Manuel) and (general manager) Ruben (Amaro) wanted to meet with me in Charlie’s office,” Sandberg said Friday during a telephone interview. “Charlie told me he wanted me on his (coaching) staff next year and Ruben confirmed it. It was a great feeling because I had been working to get back to the major leagues.”

Manuel and Amaro informed the 53-year-old Sandberg that he would serve as the Phillies’ third-base coach and infield instructor in 2013. Sandberg made his big-league debut as a player with the Phillies in 1981 before being dealt to the Chicago Cubs, where he went on to become a Hall of Fame second baseman.

“We had a good talk," Sandberg said. "It was a short talk, but there are plenty of more conversations and meetings to come in the winter time. I will get together with Charlie and I am no stranger to him and he is no stranger to me. We’re very comfortable with each other.”

The two men did not know each other two years ago when they met at the winter meetings in Buena Vista, Fla., but they quickly developed a strong relationship after Sandberg was named the manager of the Phillies’ triple-A Lehigh Valley affiliate.

“I was at the winter meetings for a Hall of Fame event and we hit it off right away,” Sandberg said. “Like most former players, you go back to your experience as a player and you talk about the players you played with and against. I think we have a good open line of communication.

“The last two years he has bounced things off me and asked me to confirm what he’s looking at. He’s asked me about the hitting mechanics of players and whether I thought a guy was getting a good or bad read off balls in the field. We both enjoy talking about the game and that to me is the biggest thing right there.”

Sandberg said he will give zero thought to the idea of replacing Manuel as the next manager of Phillies.

“First of all, there are no guarantees in baseball,” Sandberg said. “I’m a guy who stays focused with my job. That’s always how I handled things as a player and as a minor-league manager. I know what my job is next year as a third-base coach and infield instructor and that’s what I will focus on. I’m real pleased about being in the capacity I’m in with the Phillies and I don’t look any further than that.”

You can read more about Sandberg’s role as third-base coach and infield instructor in Saturday’s Inquirer.