Manny close to joining Triple-A squad

CHICAGO -- The Triple-A Iowa Cubs can expect Manny Ramirez to finally start his new position as player/coach "probably sometime next week," according to president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.

Ramirez was hired by the Cubs in late May but went to their spring training facility in Mesa, Arizona, to get in shape before joining Iowa, which was on a long road trip until a few days ago.

"Manny has been doing a great job in Mesa," Epstein said Friday. "He's the first one to the ballpark every day, he's been meeting with the young kids daily. Talking about hitting, talking about some of the mistakes he made off the field, really keeping them focused on working hard. I've gotten unsolicited emails and texts from a lot of our staff down there saying he's been a breath of fresh air. The best thing to happen to the kids down in Mesa. I'm really pleased with the impact he's making on the organization."

Ramirez will soon get the opportunity to impact two of the Cubs' most coveted prospects, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez.

Bryant was just promoted to Iowa after dominating Double-A pitching, while Baez has struggled some this season at Triple-A. Both are first-round draft picks.

"We have some exciting, young offensive prospects," Epstein said. "Manny knows as much about hitting as anybody, and I think he can enhance the hitting instruction we have in the minor leagues. Manny is one of the calmest right-handed hitters I've seen in the box, so if he can help teach that calmness to just one player in our system, it'll be worth it."

Epstein indicated that Ramirez is playing his way into baseball shape in Arizona, but he won't be a starting fixture at Triple-A Iowa when he gets there.

"We're not in a rush because he's making an impact with our young kids down there," he said.