CHICAGO -- Manny Ramirez made his Triple-A Iowa Cubs debut on Thursday in Colorado Springs, starting in left field and going 0-for-4 in a 7-6 loss. But Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein didn't sign Ramirez to play. Epstein is hoping the players take advantage of the 42-year-old's expertise and experience.
"His goal is he wants to help young players," Epstein said Friday. "He wants to give back to the game -- in his words, to give back to the game that's done so much for him. I didn't believe it the first time I heard it, but after repeated conversations and talking to people who are around Manny day in and day out, he's definitely changed for the better."
Ramirez, 42, spent nearly 20 years in the Major Leagues with the Indians, Red Sox, Dodgers, Rays and White Sox. He finished with 555 home runs, a .312 batting average, 2,574 hits and 1,831 RBIs.
The first thing Ramirez did when he reported to the Cubs' complex in Mesa, Ariz., was gather all the players and talk to them about following what he does on the field and learning from the mistakes he made off the field.
"We didn't ask him to do that -- he did it on his own," Epstein said.
A 12-time All-Star and nine-time Silver Slugger winner, Ramirez's career was tarnished by a 50-game suspension and a 100-game suspension -- after which he opted to retire -- for violating baseball's drug policy.
"[Manny] definitely was a headache, and he admits it," Epstein said. "It's good to believe in redemption and second chances, and it's nice to see people change for the better."
So far, so good for Ramirez.
"They said everyone is already following him around like the Pied Piper," Epstein said.
Lake 'feeling good' after scary collision with wall
CHICAGO -- Fortunately for Junior Lake, he was able to laugh about his head-on collision with the outfield wall.
"I went too fast into the wall," Lake said Friday of his crash into the metal door in the second inning of Thursday night's 5-3 win over the Nationals. "When I looked again, I was too close to the wall, and when I dove, I hit the door. That's crazy. But I'm feeling good."
Lake came out of the game after the freak accident, suffering bruises on his head and left leg, although he did try to talk the medical staff, including team physician Dr. Stephen Adams, into letting him keep playing.
"[Adams] asked me, 'Do you know where you are?' And I said, 'Yeah,'" Lake said. "I said, 'I'm alive.' That's when I started laughing."
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said they may talk about whether or not to add padding to the metal doors in the outfield wall. The ivy does provide a little cushioning, but the outfielders know to slow up once they hit the warning track. It's brick behind the greenery.
"The ivy does provide a little bit of a buffer on the brick -- you're not going to put pads on the brick," Epstein said.
Lake was available to pinch-hit on Friday, said manager Rick Renteria, who was impressed by the outfielder's effort.
"For him, it could've been a sponge wall and the effort he gave was going to be the same," Renteria said. "I don't think guys think about the wall, to be honest."
Cubs: Rizzo deserves to be first-time All-Star
CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo has 14 home runs since April 30, the most in the National League in that stretch, and the Cubs are hoping it's enough to get the first baseman into the All-Star Game for the first time in his young career.
"He's been through a lot in his life -- he beat cancer at a young age, bounced back from that," said Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. "I'll never forget that he hit a double in his first at-bat back on the field against a rehabbing big leaguer [after cancer].
"He's been traded twice, went through a tough couple months in the big leagues, bounced back," Epstein said. "He's already overcome so much and deserves to be where he is. I hope he's rewarded for it."
On Thursday, Rizzo posted his sixth game of three or more hits this season. According to Elias, the only first basemen with more three-hit games this season are the Braves' Freddie Freeman (nine) and the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera (eight).
Rizzo could be joined at the July 15 All-Star Game in Minneapolis by Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, who has 21 RBIs in June, third most in the NL. Castro is the fourth Cubs shortstop to reach at least 21 RBIs in the month of June, joining Hall of Famer Ernie Banks (1959, '60), Roy Smalley ('50) and Shawon Dunston ('88).
"He's lucky -- he gets to hit behind me," Rizzo said, jokingly, about Castro, who has thrived in the No. 4 spot behind Rizzo since moving there April 25. "He's done a great job. He's not trying to hit home runs or anything. It's not about that, it's about getting on base and letting other guys do the job."
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday, July 3, at 10:59 p.m. CT. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on FOX.
Hammel joins Samardzija in drawing trade interest
CHICAGO -- The Cubs have traded two starting pitchers in each of the last two seasons, and Jason Hammel may be next to go by the Trade Deadline. The right-hander's name has been linked to several teams interested in adding a starting pitcher for the final two months of the season.
"It's the usual chatter this time of year," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Friday about calls he's had from teams. "There are talks, but probably not as much as you'd think sometimes by clicking on all the websites."
Hammel and Jeff Samardzija both have reportedly drawn interest from teams. The Cubs are still trying to stock the farm system with young talent, and in the last two years, they have acquired players such as Kyle Hendricks, Mike Olt, Neil Ramirez, Justin Grimm, Corey Black and C.J. Edwards in deals.
Hammel improved to 7-0 in his career against the Nationals in Friday's 7-2 win, allowing two runs on five hits, while striking out six, over 6 1/3 innings.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria said he's not thinking now about any roster changes after the July 31 Deadline.
"I'm not going to assume [there will be changes] and will continue to do what I do," Renteria said. "If change occurs, I'll deal with it."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.