Wizards

Phillies add Ryne Sandberg to coaching staff

Phillies add Ryne Sandberg to coaching staff

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Ryne Sandberg is back in the big leagues.

The Philadelphia Phillies promoted the Hall of Fame second baseman to their coaching staff as third-base coach and infield instructor.

Sandberg had spent the past two seasons managing Philadelphia's Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The Phillies also promoted Steve Henderson to hitting coach and Rod Nichols to bullpen coach.

The moves came a day after the Phillies fired first-base coach Sam Perlozzo, hitting coach Greg Gross and bench coach Pete Mackanin.

With Sandberg already in the dugout and Charlie Manuel entering the final season of his contract, the natural assumption is that the Phillies have already lined up their next manager.

Wrong.

``The fact of the matter is he's not the heir apparent. We made no promises to Ryne Sandberg,'' general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Thursday. ``Ryne Sandberg is part of this coaching staff and we're happy to have him. I think Ryne is going to get an opportunity to be a major league manager at some point, whether it's with the Phillies or with another club, we don't know.

``I have told Ryne this would not preclude him from getting an opportunity if someone calls and asks for his services to be a manager. We're just happy to have him on our staff and think he's a great addition to our staff.''

Manuel led the Phillies to five straight NL East titles and the 2008 World Series title before a slew of injuries contributed to an 81-81 finish that snapped Philadelphia's string of winning seasons at nine.

Manuel isn't worried about having Sandberg on the staff despite the public perception that he's the manager-in-waiting.

``That doesn't put any pressure on me,'' Manuel said. ``Since I've gotten to know him, I absolutely like everything about him. I get along real well with him. I'm looking forward to working with him. In the dugout, he'll be our defensive guy. He'll work with our infielders and he'll move the defense. His responsibility will be a lot more than coaching third base. Also, we'll use his hitting expertise. He's a Hall of Fame hitter and he's got some really good ideas. He talks about hitting the way that I like. I think he's going to be very valuable to us.''

Manuel, who turns 69 in January, isn't asking for a contract extension.

``I know how old I am,'' he said. ``I have a favorite saying, `Know thyself.' I know myself. I still have a lot of passion, I have a drive, I still love baseball, things like that. I think my contract is fine. I think at the end of the year, I'll be glad to sit down and not only take inventory of myself, but talk to the people and see where I'm at and see what I want to do. I'm not saying I'm going to retire or I'm going to quit or nothing like that. I've been in the game a long time and I love it.

``I'm looking forward to this year because I think it's a great challenge, a great challenge for me and a great challenge for our team.''

Sandberg began his career with the Phillies, getting one hit in six at-bats in 1981. He then was traded to the Chicago Cubs when general manager Dallas Green, who managed the Phillies to the 1980 World Series title, convinced his former team to throw Sandberg into a trade along with shortstop Larry Bowa for shortstop Ivan DeJesus.

Sandberg was the 1984 NL MVP, made 10 All-Star teams and was enshrined in Cooperstown in 2005. He managed four seasons in Chicago's minor league system before coming back to the Phillies. Sandberg interviewed with the St. Louis Cardinals last winter and was rebuffed by the Cubs. He could get more opportunities this offseason, or he could just wait it out in Philadelphia.

The Phillies retained three other coaches. Pitching coach Rich Dubee will return. Mick Billmeyer goes from bullpen coach to catching coach. Juan Samuel, the former third-base coach, was offered the role of first-base coach and outfield and baserunning instructor.

Amaro said he'll begin interviewing for an assistant hitting coach to join Henderson, who had spent the past two seasons as the Phillies' minor league hitting coordinator. Henderson hit .280 in played 12 seasons in the majors and previously was Tampa Bay's hitting coach from 2006-09.

``Saying the same thing in a different way will help spark or create a situation where a hitter can get what we're trying to get across to him,'' Amaro said about adding an assistant. ``This is a good way to do that. That's going to change that dynamic a little bit; it's something we wanted to address. It's something that's worked out for other clubs.''

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 

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