By MEGHAN MONTEMURRO
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CHICAGO — First-time manager Rick Renteria's challenge goes beyond merely trying to bring a winning team to Wrigley Field.
The development of young ballplayers has been labeled as one of his strengths. And with Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo needing help, Renteria has got lots of work ahead of him with the Chicago Cubs after being hired Thursday.
The 51-year-old Renteria, the former bench coach of the San Diego Padres, got a three-year contract with club options for 2017 and 2018.
Renteria is another unproven hired by team president Theo Epstein and the Cubs after the struggling organization was rebuffed by New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
The Cubs are relying on Renteria to improve on a 127-197 record during Dale Sveum's two years as manager. While boasting 30 years of professional baseball experience, Renteria is the latest manager hoping to bring the Cubs their first World Series title since 1908.
Renteria spent the last six seasons in San Diego, the last three as bench coach. Renteria also has coached in the Miami Marlins organization and in March managed Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.
The Cubs went 66-96 this season and finished in last place in the NL Central for the first time in seven years.
The team had targeted Girardi, a Peoria, Ill., native and Northwestern product who once played for the Cubs. But the former catcher signed a four-year contract worth up to $20 million to stay with New York through 2017.
Besides Renteria, the Cubs interviewed former Mariners and Indians manager Eric Wedge, Rays bench coach Dave Martinez, former Nationals and Indians manager Manny Acta, former Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch and Brad Ausmus, who was hired by the Tigers on Sunday.
The Cubs have dumped long-term contracts and traded most anyone of value in an effort to stock the farm system ever since Epstein was hired, hoping the payoff will be the sort of championship success he enjoyed in the front office in Boston.
Among Renteria's tasks will be getting the most out of Castro at shortstop and Rizzo at first base, two young players who have long-term contracts. Both were underwhelming last season and pitcher Jeff Samardzija had an up-and-down season.
With prospects Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora and Kris Bryant in the pipeline, the Cubs made it clear they want to provide the right environment for their young players to develop.
Renteria was a minor league manager in the minors for eight years with the Padres and Marlins. That followed a 13-year playing career as an infielder that included all or part of five seasons with the Pirates (1986), Mariners (1987-88) and Marlins (1993-94). The 1980 draft pick was a career .237 hitter with 20 doubles, four home runs and 41 RBIs in 184 major league games.