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La Russa says he expects to return to Cardinals in '08

Tony La Russa says contract talks with Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. are progressing. Tony La Russa says contract talks with Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. are progressing. (ED BETZ/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa expects to return for a 13th season with St. Louis, and may commit to the team before it selects a new general manager.

La Russa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he'd be back barring complications in discussions with team chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. His three-year deal expired at the end of the season.

"The fact that we're talking pretty much daily and everything is progressing tells you where it's heading and where we'd like it to end up," La Russa said in a story that appeared in yesterday's editions. "Obviously, that's assuming nothing falls through the cracks."

La Russa left a message for the Associated Press yesterday saying he was only talking to the Post-Dispatch about his situation.

La Russa told the newspaper he has not delayed his decision to gauge possible interest from the Yankees, who parted ways with manager Joe Torre Thursday.

"I'm talking to Bill because that's where I want to be," La Russa, 63, said. "Frankly, I'm offended the question is even being asked."

La Russa said he may sign before a replacement is found for former GM Walt Jocketty because of concerns entering free agency. "If you wait until someone is hired, a player or two we have interest in could have headed down another road," La Russa said. "You take some of this on faith."

Trio on deck

According to Newsday, the Yankees will begin interviewing managerial candidates tomorrow.

The three men who have been asked to interview are bench coach Don Mattingly, first base coach Tony Pena, and ex-Yankee and former Marlins manager Joe Girardi. It's not clear which of the three will interview first.

"I'm just looking for the best person for the job," GM Brian Cashman said yesterday. "Those are the three candidates. I'm sure there will be more."

Many people believe Mattingly is the leader in the clubhouse, though he has no managerial experience.

Girardi was Marlins manager in 2006 and kept the team in the playoff race until late in the season despite a young roster. He was named the NL Manager of the Year, but his bickering with ownership led to his dismissal. Girardi works with Fox now. Pena managed the Royals to surprising success (83-79) in 2003 but the team declined in 2004 and he resigned early in the 2005 season.

Cook says he's ready

Aaron Cook pronounced himself fit to return to the Colorado Rockies rotation after pitching a simulated game yesterday. Whether the Rockies decide to add him to their World Series roster is still uncertain.

Cook hasn't pitched in a major league game since Aug. 10, sidelined by a strained muscle in his side, and had mixed results against the Rockies' regulars. He walked the first two batters he faced and surrendered a home run to Kaz Matsui. Cook faced 16 batters and allowed four hits in the simulated game.

Big Red admirers

The last time a team won its first seven games in the playoffs, a reputation was made.

The Cincinnati Reds drew acclaim as one of baseball's greatest teams when they swept through the 1976 playoffs without a loss, going 7 for 7 on their way to a World Series title. No one else had won its first seven games in the playoffs until the Colorado Rockies this postseason. Members of the Big Red Machine appreciate the Rockies' playoff perfection.

"In some ways, what they did is more impressive," second baseman Joe Morgan said. "I say that because in this day and age, most of the teams are equal. There's not any great teams; they're all really good teams. So every day they've played somebody equal. That makes it more difficult. Our team was head and shoulders above most of the teams."

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