La Russa: ‘Closer’ to decision; McGwire next?

By R.B. Fallstrom, AP Sports

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Cardinals manager Tony La Russa took a flight from his West Coast home to St. Louis on Sunday for further talks about his future. There was a report, too, Mark McGwire might join him as a coach.

La Russa told the Associated Press in a telephone interview before boarding a plane that discussions were ongoing, and that he was planning to attend a Bruce Springsteen concert later that evening.

The Cardinals scheduled a news conference for Monday morning but did specify why.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on its Web site that the news conference would announce that La Russa had agreed to a 15th season. The newspaper also said the manager was negotiating with McGwire to be the team’s batting coach.

The Post-Dispatch said Cardinals notified current hitting coach, Hal McRae, last week that it would not renew his contract after five seasons.

McGwire’s father-in-law, Robert Slemer of suburban Glen Carbon, Ill., told the Associated Press he was unaware of any talks and added, “It’s news to me.”

La Russa managed McGwire on both the Athletics and Cardinals. 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 then. 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.

La Russa and general manager John Mozeliak did not immediately return phone messages Sunday night from the AP.

The 65-year-old La Russa has 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 expires at the end of the month.

“We’re getting closer,” said La Russa, who has managed the team for 14 years. “But nothing has been decided. I can’t tell you anything yet.”

Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and Mozeliak have both said they’d like La Russa to return. 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.

Received 10/25/09 09:43 pm ET