Cubs Will Wait a Few Days to Tab Muser Replacement

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Byline: Barry Rozner Daily Herald Sports Writer

The simplest move the Cubs could make now that hitting coach Tony Muser has taken the managing job in Kansas City would be to switch bench coach Billy Williams back into his familiar role as hitting coach, and then promote Iowa (AAA) manager Tim Johnson to the majors as bench coach.

Johnson was a bench coach for Felipe Alou in Montreal (1993-94) and for Kevin Kennedy in Boston (1995-96) before the Cubs hired him, so that move's a natural.

The only question is whether it would cause more trouble than it's worth, because it wouldn't be long before speculation arises that Johnson is simply Jim Riggleman's replacement-in-training.

Truth is, Cubs GM Ed Lynch couldn't love Riggleman more if he were his own brother, and Lynch insists Riggleman will be around forever, but the media will be the media, and having Johnson around eventually would cause some friction.

"We're going to take our time, at least several days," Riggleman said. "But we have to replace Tony sooner or later and it'll probably be sooner."

Johnson, who managed in the Triple-A All-Star Game on Wednesday, said he hasn't been contacted by Cubs management.

"I haven't heard a thing," Johnson said. "It probably depends on what direction they go as far as whether they look for another hitting coach or not."

If the Cubs do decide on a hitting coach, they could pull minor-league instructor Gary Matthews from within their system and leave Williams as bench coach. But Johnson remains the logical choice.

"Tim would be terrific choice if that's the way the Cubs go," said minor-league director David Wilder. "But I'm not sure what will happen."

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Missing Muser: When the Cubs take on the Cardinals in an all-important four-game series beginning today, they'll be without one of their emotional leaders.

Regardless of who the manager was - and Muser coached for three in his 4 1/2 years here - the 49-year-old ex-Marine was fiercely loyal to the Cubs and to his skipper. …