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Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis hired by Chicago Cubs

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MESA, Ariz. (AP) Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis have been hired by Chicago Cubs' executive Theo Epstein, their old boss on the Boston Red Sox.

After serving as a player-coach for Triple-A Iowa during the second half of last season, Ramirez was announced Tuesday as the Cubs' hitting consultant.

''Manny got rave reviews from everybody he worked with, from the young hitters he helped influence to the coaches he spent a lot of time around,'' said Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations. ''He did a great job of fitting in and sharing his wisdom and experience while being a good influence.''

Suspended by Major League Baseball in 2009 and 2011 for performance-enhancing drugs, Ramirez made a positive impression with Epstein last summer.

''He was very open with the guys about what not to do in his past and lessons he learned along the way,'' Epstein said. ''He was a huge asset, and we were really hopeful about the possibility of bringing him back.''

Ramirez will work with hitters on the Cubs and at Triple-A.

''From the end of last season through the winter and all this month he has expressed an interest in working with our young players,'' Epstein said. ''It is a pretty substantial role. He is going to spend plenty of time in spring training and in Chicago and Des Moines.''

Ramirez played briefly for new Cubs manager Joe Maddon at Tampa Bay.

''He is a really smart hitter. He knows how to get his point across,'' Maddon said. ''He is going to be able help our staff and he is another resource to draw upon. He is a lot of fun to be around. He is going to bring some energy to camp. There are lot of people that maybe were one way when they were 20 and by the the time they are in their 40s all of sudden they change. Some of us change at later times than others and morph into different humans.''

Youkilis was given a part-time job as a scouting and player development consultant.

''Youk is just starting out,'' Epstein said. ''He just retired, and he is going to work part-time and see what he is good at. He is someone who definitely wants to work in baseball long-term.''

Epstein said he is open to Sammy Sosa returning to the Cubs. Chicago also made four hirings for a new mental skills program, including Dr. Ken Ravizza, who has worked with Maddon when he was with the Angels and Rays.

''I don't think it is that bold of move,'' Epstein said. ''It's just keeping up with the Joneses and trying to get an edge. Twenty-four years ago, or whenever I started, it was a real stigma if you approached a player about working with someone about the mental game. Players are more proactive and acknowledging that's an area they can get an edge.''

A 12-time All-Star who last appeared in the major leagues during the opening week of the 2011 season, the 42-year-old Ramirez played winter ball in the Dominican Republic for Aguilas Cibaenas and hit .409 with six homers and 28 RBIs in 147 at-bats.

''In Manny's case the real changes that he made in his life - his habits, his outlook, his behavior, taking more responsibility and accountability for the things he has done and how he wanted to present himself - made us interested in the first place,'' Epstein said. ''If he hadn't, we probably wouldn't have had interest in him joining the organization.''