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Cubs ink Manny Ramirez to minor league deal

<p>Former All-Star slugger Manny Ramirez will join the Chicago Cubs' organization as a player-coach for the team's Triple-A affiliate in Iowa, general manager Theo Epstein announced Sunday.</p>

San Diego, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Former All-Star slugger Manny Ramirez will join the Chicago Cubs' organization as a player-coach for the team's Triple-A affiliate in Iowa, general manager Theo Epstein announced Sunday.

Ramirez, who hasn't appeared in the major leagues since a brief five-game stint with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011, will work with Iowa's hitters while holding down a part-time role as a player.

"While Manny is not and will not be a fit on the Cubs major league roster, we do think at this stage of his life he's a nice fit as a mentor for some of the young talented hitters we have in the organization," said Epstein. "Manny will coach full-time and play part-time in a limited role that does not take at- bats away from our prospects.

If he shows there is still some magic in his bat, perhaps he will find his way to the major leagues and help another team, but that is not why he is here. We are thrilled that he wants to work with our young hitters and make a difference."

Ramirez will first take some at-bats at the Cubs' extended spring training facility in Mesa, Ariz. prior to joining the I-Cubs.

The controversial 41-year-old has spent the previous two seasons in Triple A with the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers' systems. Ramirez hit .259 with three home runs and 13 RBI in 30 games with the Round Rock Express before being released by the Rangers last August.

"I'm at the stage of my life and career where I really want to give something back to the game that I love -- the game that has meant so much to me and done so much for me and my family," Ramirez said. "I know I am nearing the end of my playing days, but I have a lot of knowledge to pass on to the next generation -- both what to do and what not to do. The Cubs have some very talented young hitters, and I would love nothing more than to make a positive impact on their careers."

One of the game's most feared hitters during his prime, Ramirez owns a .312 lifetime average with 555 home runs over 19 seasons in the big leagues. The 12-time All-Star won the 2002 American League batting title after hitting .349 with the Boston Red Sox that year.

Ramirez's career has had its low points as well. He was suspended 50 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance while with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2009, then abruptly retired two years later after failing another test shortly upon signing with the Rays.

Epstein was the GM for the majority of Ramirez's successful eight-year run with the Red Sox from 2001-08, which included a pair of World Series titles in 2004 and '07.

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