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La Russa signs new contract

ST. LOUIS — Tony La Russa will return for his 13th season as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, agreeing to a two-year contract after a difficult season in which his team failed to play .500 ball.

"I'm real pleased it worked out," La Russa said at a news conference Monday. "I'm thrilled to be back."

Speculation that La Russa would leave heightened when the Cardinals fired general manager Walt Jocketty this month. Jocketty and La Russa have been close since both were with Oakland. The Cardinals have yet to replace Jocketty.

Team chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. expects to hire a new general manager by the end of the World Series. The candidates are all currently assistant GMs, including former Jocketty top aide John Mozeliak.

"The sooner the better, ideally," DeWitt said.

La Russa called the GM vacancy "uncomfortable" but said feedback from management and players encouraged him to return.

La Russa's name had surfaced as a possible replacement for Joe Torre, who left the Yankees after 12 seasons, though La Russa denied interest in the Yankees job. La Russa took over the Cardinals after Torre was fired midway through the 1995 season.

La Russa has led St. Louis to seven playoff appearances, six NL Central championships, two pennants and the 2006 World Series win over Detroit. His A's team won the 1989 World Series.

YANKS INTERVIEW GIRARDI: The Yankees began the interview process Monday, with former Florida Marlins manager Joe Girardi spending about an hour at Legends Field. Yankees bench coach Don Mattingly was due in Tuesday and New York first base coach Tony Pena on Wednesday.

"There's a slight favorite, not a heavy favorite," Hank Steinbrenner, a son of owner George Steinbrenner, said Monday.

That favorite is presumed to be Mattingly, who spent this season as bench coach following three years as hitting coach under Joe Torre, who left last week after 12 seasons as manager.

Girardi, who drove in and out with general manager Brian Cashman, did not speak with reporters.

BRAVES GM WREN HIRES ASSISTANT: Cardinals executive Bruce Manno was hired as assistant general manager of the Atlanta Braves on Monday in Frank Wren's first move as GM since taking over after John Schuerholz stepped aside.

Manno spent the last six years in St. Louis, where he was senior director of pro scouting and a special assistant to general manager Walk Jocketty.

ALCS RATINGS: Sunday night's Game 7 drew an 11.7 rating, which was 8 percent better than the 10.8 earned by last year's NLCS Game 7 between the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets. It was the highest-rated LCS game since 2004.