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Cubs manager Piniella will retire at end of season

CHICAGO - Cubs manager Lou Piniella announced yesterday that he will retire at the end of the season, ending a storied and colorful career that included 18 seasons in the majors as a player and 23 as a manager.

The 66-year-old Piniella made five trips to the World Series and won three championship rings, including two as an outfielder for the 1977 and 1978 Yankees. He said he was looking forward to spending more time with his family.

"It's been a wonderful experience," he said. "There's no way that I won't cherish the memories here." But, he added: "I've been away from home since 1962. That's about 50 years."

General manager Jim Hendry said Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, a minor-league manager in Des Moines, Iowa, will be a candidate for the job. He said Piniella's replacement won't be hired before the end of the season.

Announcing his retirement now, Piniella said, gives the team time to find a replacement. Cubs slugger Derrek Lee said he was surprised by the timing and that Piniella will be missed.

Entering last night, Piniella's record was 1,826-1,691 (.519), and he trails only Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre in wins among active managers.

His record with the Cubs is 307-271, and he is in the fourth and final year of his contract. After winning NL Central titles in 2007-08, Piniella and his team missed the playoffs last year and have struggled again this season.

After cameos in 1964 and 1968 with the Orioles and Indians, Piniella was AL Rookie of the Year in 1969 after batting .282 for the Royals. He was traded to the Yankees in 1973 and ended his career with them in 1984. His overall batting average was .291.

"For me, he's obviously a Hall of Fame manager and a great player," said the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, who played for Piniella from 1994-2000 in Seattle. "He is a rare breed, a guy who played and managed in New York, won a championship, and is proven and is tough . . .

"I just have a lot of love and admiration for Lou. Having a disciplinarian like him on a major-league team coming out of high school was exactly what I needed.''

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