Ryne Sandberg, a Hall of Fame second baseman who spent the bulk of his career playing for the Cubs, and longtime Cardinals infielder and coach Jose Oquendo both met with the club's search committee on Wednesday. The meetings bring a close to this phase of the search for Tony La Russa's successor. The two former infielders played on opposite sides of one of baseball's best rivalries for nearly a decade.
No follow-up interviews are scheduled at this time, but that does not necessarily mean they couldn't still be added. The club does not expect to announce La Russa's replacement until next week at the earliest, though.
"I'm not going to rule [further interviews] out, but I think from what we gathered and our pre-interview vetting, I think we feel pretty good about it," general manager John Mozeliak said. "But questions may arise over the next couple days that could require a second round."
La Russa retired on Halloween, and the Cardinals moved quickly to begin interviews after that announcement. Sandberg and Oquendo are the fifth and sixth candidates to meet with the Cardinals, following Joe McEwing, Chris Maloney, Mike Matheny and Terry Francona.
Oquendo and Francona are the only candidates with Major League coaching or managing experience. Sandberg has spent the past five seasons as a Minor League manager, but has never been on a big league coaching staff. The six candidates bring a diverse set of backgrounds and strengths and weaknesses. On one end, Francona has 12 years managing in the Major Leagues and has won two World Series. On the other, Matheny has never been on a professional coaching staff.
"I think that was part of the original plan, was to bring in a group that was diverse," Mozeliak said. "As we looked to learn more about each person and understand how they would fit in in the organization and the philosophy of what we're trying to accomplish, that really became the exercise."
Four of the six candidates -- all but Sandberg and Francona -- have some sort of significant connection to the Cardinals organization. Oquendo, Maloney and Matheny are all currently in the organization in one capacity or another.
Sandberg, 52, played 16 Major League seasons, spending all but one of them in a Cubs uniform. He was a lifetime .285 hitter with a .344 on-base percentage, a .452 slugging percentage, 282 home runs and nine Gold Glove Awards. Sandberg was a 10-time selection as an All-Star.
He managed in the Cubs' and Phillies' organizations over the past five years, including the past three seasons in Triple-A. He is well regarded as a potential manager, and was one of the candidates for the Cubs' job last winter before Mike Quade was hired.
Oquendo, 48, has long been viewed in some quarters as La Russa's heir apparent, though no one in the Cardinals organization has publicly expressed that sentiment. He has been the club's third-base coach for 13 years and also serves as the infield coach.
The native of Puerto Rico, who now makes his home in the St. Louis area, is a beloved figure among many fans, known as the "secret weapon" during his playing days as a valuable utility man. Oquendo managed short-season Class A in the Cardinals organization in 1998 and has also managed in Puerto Rico. He played in 12 big league seasons, 10 of them with the Cardinals.
Among the previous candidates, Francona is by far the most experienced. He won two World Series titles at the helm of the Red Sox and has spent 12 years as a Major League manager. Maloney has spent nearly all of the past two decades as a Minor League manager, the vast majority of them in the Cardinals' system and the past five managing Triple-A Memphis.
Matheny, a four-time Gold Glove-winning catcher, has never coached or managed in professional baseball and is currently a special assistant to Mozeliak. He played five of his 13 Major League seasons in St. Louis. McEwing, who played for the Cardinals and Mets among other teams in a nine-season Major League career, has been coaching in the White Sox organization.
One of them will almost certainly be announced as the next Cardinals manager, sometime next week.
"We have spoken with six individuals, and at this point, we feel that it's a group where all of them are deserving of a managerial position at some point in their careers," Mozeliak said. "So we feel good about the group we interviewed. Now what we anticipate to happen will be, we'll work through the weekend, and then at some point next week look to bring this to conclusion."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.