La Russa says “it's going to work” with Big Mac

Tony La Russa is confident Mark McGwire will do fine as the Cardinals' hitting coach. Among the reasons the St. Louis manager is certain: Big Mac has already started his new job.

“I think it's going to work,” La Russa asserted Tuesday at the baseball winter meetings.

A day earlier, former Cardinals manager and newly elected Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog said he thought McGwire might change his mind and back out. Herzog wondered whether McGwire would want to deal with questions about steroids.

“I know how seriously he considered it,” La Russa said. “I think he has demonstrated to some of us that he has a lot to offer as a hitting coach.”

La Russa said he's spoken regularly to McGwire and gets no sense the former slugger is having second thoughts. McGwire has been talking to St. Louis hitters and watching tape, La Russa said.

“I know the conversations I've had with him,” La Russa said. “We'll be lucky to have him.”

Shortly before the World Series started, La Russa announced he would return to the Cardinals' dugout for a 15th season. His announcement came with a surprise: He was reuniting with McGwire.

McGwire set a record by hitting 70 home runs for St. Louis in 1998. He retired after the 2001 season with 583 career homers and a .263 batting average.

McGwire refused to answer questions about steroid use during a Congressional hearing in 2005, insisting he wasn't going to talk about the past. His stance certainly hurt his chances for election to the Hall of Fame — he's drawn about 25 percent of the vote in three elections, far short of the 75 percent required.

La Russa said he expected McGwire to hold an introductory news conference in the next couple of weeks. McGwire hasn't done that yet, the manager said, because he didn't want to cause any distractions during the World Series or parade of postseason awards.

“He'll say whatever he has to say,” La Russa said. “Once we get to camp, it'll be about coaching.”

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