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La Russa ready to assert influence with D-backs

Chief baseball officer to participate in instructional league next month

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WASHINGTON -- Next month, when the D-backs begin reporting for instructional league, you can expect chief baseball officer Tony La Russa to begin to assert his influence on how the organization plays the game.

La Russa, who was hired to the newly created position in May, has spent his first three months on the job observing and evaluating. He's visited the organization's Minor League affiliates, sat in on First-Year Player Draft preparations and played a role in the deliberations when it came to making decisions at the Trade Deadline.

Starting with the instructional league next month, La Russa said he will begin to have more of an impact.

Minor League players begin reporting for the instructional league on Sept. 12, and La Russa will have an opportunity to meet with the Minor League managers and field coordinators at that time. His plan is to share with them the many lessons that he has learned over his Hall of Fame career.

"For my purposes, it's important to get a head start on the instruction part," La Russa said. "Laying the framework. When you get to 2015, you're working from a base of ideas. It's not going to be all that dramatic."

La Russa is in charge of the entire baseball operations department, and managing general partner Ken Kendrick and CEO Derrick Hall made it clear when La Russa was hired that he would be the one making the ultimate call on whether to retain general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson.

La Russa was asked when he planned on making the final determination on the pair.

"I don't think the timing for each of those has to coincide," La Russa said. "I just think that at this point, we're at Aug. 18, I've been around three months, I've observed a lot, talked to and met with a lot of people in the organization. I have a much better idea. I just think the official comment is, we're at Aug. 18, the season is a month and 10 days from being over. So it won't be long until you have to trot out your plan officially. The instructional league and the part about how you play the game, I think we can start getting at that."

La Russa also plans to be involved in the planning of Spring Training next year, though, he hasn't decided whether or not he will be in uniform during the early days of drills.

"I expect that I'm going to have some significant suggestions," La Russa said. "I also think there will be some tweaks and minor adjustments. They all add up. I'm going to be heavily involved. That's one thing they hired me to do."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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