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Ripken has itch to return to baseball, open to managing

The owner of one of baseball's most storied records might be looking to get back in the game.

Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., told NFL Network's Rich Eisen in an interview last week that he is "starting to get an itch" to return to Major League Baseball, perhaps as a manager. While Ripken didn't report any substantive interest from big league clubs, he said he is thinking about taking an opportunity if one comes along.

The former Orioles star, who once played 2,632 consecutive games, retired after the 2001 season and has spent much of the past 12 years running his company, Ripken Baseball Inc. But he has also worked as an analyst for TBS, both in the studio and the broadcast booth.

In helping call the National League Division Series matchup between the Dodgers and Braves, Ripken saw first-hand the success one of his former opponents has enjoyed in the dugout. Don Mattingly, in his third season managing Los Angeles, now has his club in the NL Championship Series. He and Ripken shared a recent conversation that may have sparked Ripken's interest in following that path.

"I have thought about how cool it would be to manage," Ripken said on Eisen's podcast. "And even Donny Mattingly got me thinking about this a little bit more. He said there's nothing like being a player, and coaching is pretty good, because you help other people do what it is that they do.

"But managing is the closest thing to being a player, and I've always thought that anyway, internally. Now I'm starting to think about that a little bit more. So far I've got nothing new to report, but that's been the consistency, that I've made those statements. And I am getting a feeling that maybe I'd like to get back in."

Four teams currently have managerial openings: the Cubs, Mariners, Nationals and Reds. Washington has been linked most closely to Ripken, as it seeks to replace the retired Davey Johnson.

Late this season, outfielder Jayson Werth told The Washington Post that Ripken "would be my No. 1 choice," to fill the position. On the other hand, internal candidates, such as bench coach Randy Knorr, figure to get strong consideration, and general manager Mike Rizzo told The Post that a decision on a manager isn't "a place for the players to dabble in."

Still, informed of Werth's comments, Ripken left the door open.

"I have said that, at some point, I'd like to come back to baseball," he said. "And most recently, I said that I'm starting to get an itch to do that. But I'd have to look hard at any opportunity, and so far, I haven't been asked to do anything."

Ripken would figure to command plenty of respect, considering his 21-year career included 19 All-Star selections, two American League Most Valuable Player Awards, more than 3,000 hits and 431 home runs.

In addition, other teams recently have plucked inexperienced managers with distinguished playing careers. Mike Matheny of the Cardinals, Robin Ventura of the White Sox and Walt Weiss of the Rockies are all recent former players who hadn't managed in the Minors or Majors before taking over their clubs.