A New Vibe on the First Full-Squad Day of Cubs Camp

Cubs’ camp is in full swing after a long day Friday at Fitch Park. All of the players have reported and the Cubs’ workout Friday went late into the afternoon.

Tom Ricketts, Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Dale Sveum addressed the team before the first full squad workout. Tom Ricketts feels a new energy and a new vibe this spring and thinks he has a good team and it is going to be a good year.

Dale Sveum also met with each player Friday before leading his first full practice as manager of the Chicago Cubs.

It is good to have baseball back. The first pitch of the spring is eight days away.

Here is the update from day six of Cubs camp …

Ricketts Annual Address
Tom Ricketts addressed the team prior to Friday’s full squad workout, here are the highlights:

  • The team is going to be working a little harder this year than in the past. The team is focusing on different fundamentals.
  • Ricketts said the upcoming season is not about patience and he expects the team to compete in the NL Central.
  • From the Tribune: “We’ve got a good team and we’re going to have a good year.”
  • There are no plans for the Cubs to play at U.S. Cellular Field next year while repairs to Wrigley Field are being made … right now there are not any renovations planned, other than the patio deck in right field.
  • Ricketts is enthusiastic about the team’s new manual … ‘The Cubs Way
  • There is not a date set for breaking ground on the Cubs new spring training facility but it is still expected to open in 2014.

Blake DeWitt
Blake DeWitt reported to camp Thursday after driving to Mesa from his home in Missouri. DeWitt discussed his “weird” month with the media.

DeWitt avoided arbitration with the Cubs and agreed on a $1.1 million contract just before he was DFA’d to make room on the 40-man roster for Adrian Cardenas. DeWitt will have a shot to earn his way back on the Cubs’ 25-man roster this spring but if he’s unable to make the Opening Day roster, DeWitt will still be paid the $1.1 million contract he agreed to in January. If DeWitt would have chosen to become a free agent and left the organization he would not have been paid the $1.1 million.

DeWitt did not receive a call from the Cubs after he was designated for assignment.

Starlin Castro
Starlin Castro spoke publically for the first time since he was questioned by Chicago police in mid-January about allegations of sexual assault last September.

Castro said he cooperated with the police and is ready to play baseball.

The Cubs’ shortstop realizes he has to work on his defense and his baserunning … and said he would like to hit third in the lineup.

David DeJesus and Bryan LaHair
Dale Sveum has started talking about possible lineups. David DeJesus appears to be in line to get the first crack at the leadoff spot … and not only would DeJesus be at the top of the lineup but Bryan LaHair would be hitting cleanup.

The Cubs are going to be patient with Bryan LaHair and give him every opportunity, even if he starts out slow. Dale Sveum diffused the notion Thursday that there could be a competition at first base this spring between LaHair and Anthony Rizzo.

Sveum also said that LaHair would not be seeing any time in the outfield this spring. According to a report from ESPN Chicago, LaHair is the Cubs’ first baseman … but “if anything was to happen somewhere along the line” the Cubs will cross that bridge then.

Alfonso Soriano
Alfonso Soriano is also a candidate to hit fourth in the lineup when the spring games begin.

Dale Sveum knows Soriano’s reputation and heard about it from Cubs’ fans over and over again during the convention. Sveum said Thursday that he would be giving Soriano days off to stay fresh.

Sveum pointed out how hard Soriano works and acknowledged he understands why the fans have lost faith in Soriano … it’s because of the things he does. Sveum is going to stay on Soriano but said Soriano standing at the plate admiring long fly balls is a habit some Major League players have. Sveum indicated that happens but it is important “to be able to run balls out to the left side of the field” and “to be able to stretch singles into doubles, take hard turns, run the bases really hard.”

Alfonso Soriano talked to the media on his first day of camp. Soriano said it is time for the Cubs to move on from the past and pointed out they will not miss Carlos Zambrano. Soriano said he likes the moves that were made this off-season.

The Bunting Tournament
The Cubs’ bunting tournament kicked off Thursday with Rule 5 pick Lendy Castillo posting the highest score of the day (540 points).

Casey Coleman, Jeff Beliveau, Lendy Castillo, Trey McNutt, Rafael Dolis, Dae-Eun Rhee, Chris Rusin and Scott Maine were first round winners while Alberto Cabrera, Casey Weathers, Marco Carrillo, Jay Jackson, John Gaub, Tim Buss, Blake Parker and Marcos Mateo were eliminated.

Each player is allowed eight bunts over three innings … and a position player will square off against a pitcher for the bunt-off championship.

The Cubs’ bunting tournament took a break Friday.

Notes from Cubs Camp
Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo were the lucky ones Friday that got to stand in against Carlos Marmol. Rizzo did not make contact and Jackson was able to foul a pitch off.

Ryan Dempster, Lendy Castillo, Travis Wood, Jay Jackson, Jeff Beliveau, Carlos Marmol and Trey McNutt threw live batting practice Friday.

Tim Sheridan pointed out that Dale Sveum “is really about business and moving things along so as to get the most out of workouts.” As Sheridan said, that is a good thing. Make sure to check out ‘Boys of Spring’ for a different view of what has been happening at Fitch Park.

Steve Clevenger showed some pop in batting practice Friday according to ESPN Chicago.

Dale Sveum threw batting practice to the catchers Friday and observed practice from the tower in the middle of the four fields at Fitch Park.

A Note and a Rumor
MLB players are being tested for HGH for the first time this spring … and they are not happy about it.

According to a report from ESPN Boston, the Red Sox are very interested in signing Jorge Soler. Soler is expected to establish residency in the Dominican Republic in the next two weeks, which is the first step in the process before he can negotiate and sign a contract with a Major League team.

Quotes of the Day
Dale Sveum from Cubs.com on what he said to his team prior to the first full squad workout: “I just let them know that, look, you’ve got a veteran catcher behind the plate, a guy who won the MVP in Triple-A playing first, a guy who did a nice job — [Darwin] Barney — at second base. [We’ve got] a guy who had over 300 hits in his first two years in the big leagues [at short], a guy who hit 20 something plus home runs a couple years ago in Colorado at third, an All-Star in center field, a guy with 340 home runs in left field and a really nice leadoff-type professional player playing right field. [Plus] obviously the pitching staff with [Ryan Dempster], [Matt] Garza, [Paul] Maholm, [Randy] Wells, [Travis] Wood and you go on and on with the bullpen and [Carlos] Marmol and [Kerry] Wood and [Jeff] Samardzija. I just let them know that’s a team that can compete and do really well. We’re not here to rebuild, we’re here to try to win the World Series this year.

Tom Ricketts from the Sun-Times: “We’re not preaching patience. We’re preaching have expectations. Expect these guys to play hard, expect them to compete every game, expect them to have a great season. It’s not about patience. We have a good team, and we’re going to have a good year.

Well, that’s the update … and the exhibition season is just around the corner.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO

Quote of the Day

"The riches of the game are in the thrills, not in the money." – Ernie Banks

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  • Agustinrexach

    ‘They seem pretty optimistic to me…maybe they Do want to fight!?’

    ‘Offer them the King’s terms’…
    The King’s terms??? Theyll nevever live up to them!
    ‘Offer them the King’s terms!
    Ok Ok


  • Tony_Hall

    Early insight into the rotation.

    Sveum said, Dempster, Garza, Maholm, Wells, Wood and stated a bullpen of Marmol, Wood, and Samardzija.

    That tells me who the favorites are in his eyes to make the rotation, and that it is Wells and Woods job to lose.

    It also tells me that they feel Samardzija is more valuable in the bullpen.

    • Dorasaga

      Tony, did you get my emails? It’s recruit time~!

      • Tony_Hall

        Yes I did, been busy.  Will work on it tomorrow!

        • Dorasaga

          Thanks. I successfully recruited a friend of a friend who’s serving the armed forces. Let’s hope to see more diversity joined in, before the Cubs meets the Friars at Hohokam!

  • Tony_Hall

    Early insight into the lineup from Sveum’s comments.

    With DeJesus leading off, and Lahair batting clean-up, and letting Castro decide where he wants to bat, you end up like this.

    1 DeJesus RF
    2 Barney 2B
    3 Castro SS
    4 Lahair 1B
    5 Soriano LF
    6 Byrd CF
    7 Stewart 3B
    8 Soto C

    I’m not sure I believe this is the best lineup, as I don’t think Barney can get on-base enough to justify batting 2nd, but you will get more out of him batting in front of Castro versus the pitcher.

    • Tno13

       I see your point on Barney, but I think he’s an intelligent kid who will take management’s emphasis on OBP and work it into his approach. Batting 8th encourages you to swing at marginal pitches and will compound his propensity to hack away rather than take a walk.
      I bat him second and if he fails to increase his walks and OBP
      move him to a utility role and try one of the new guys.

      • Zonk

        I agree with Tony.  Your are right that Barney is a heady player, but I believe that a batter ultimately can’t change their stripes.  Barney drew 112 BBs in over 1700 ABs in the minors; he is a hacker. He might draw a few more, but fundamentally, I don’t think that changes.

        Given where the Cubs are, I am fine with Barney being our 2B, but he is not the answer.  He is the classic “Good bench player, bad starter”. 

  • Zonk

    Interesting post, reading between the lines.

    DeWitt isn’t long for the Cubs, and would’ve been cut if Oakland had waived Cardenas a little sooner.  That is my read on that one!  Cardenas profiles similar to Dewitt actually (line drive bat, poor defense), just cheaper and younger.  DeWitt will probably make club, only because we owe him regardless.

    Also interesting comments on LaHair in OF.  What scenario would move him out there?  Rizzo up in majors, and Soriano completely collapsing.

    One thing noone is saying;  Even if he hits .500 in camp Brett Jackson will and should start at Iowa.  By leaving him there through May, the Cubs will push his super-two status back a year, and Epstien and team are clearly thinking long-term. 

     I think ideally the Cubs move Byrd at the deadline, and promote Jackson from Iowa to replace him.

    • SuzyS

      Zonk, I agree with you re Byrd/Jackson…UNLESS…the Cubs are within striking distance AND Byrd is having a career year.
      (Which I really don’t expect!) Realistically, I see this season as one that will have a ton of player movement trying to settle who is going to rise to the occasion and secure a position for the season.
      If Soriano can’t be traded by the trade deadline…look for him to be DFA’d….OR have a season ending injury…I just don’t see him playing out the entire season.
      I also think Marmol will be traded IF he can get back on track….

      • Zonk

        I think the Cubs would trade Soriano in 2 seconds if they could find anyone that would take even a small portion of his salary.  Maybe they make another attempt at the deadline; let’s hope Soriano has a good first half, because if he struggles we’ll never be able to deal him.

        At this point, Soriano isn’t preventing anyone else from playing, so it’s not critical yet.  If the Cubs had a good, young left fielder, it would be a different story, but we don’t at this point, and I don’t foresee until Vitters at the earliest (if he moves from 3B), or maybe Szczur (or he plays CF and moves B-Jax left).  If Soriano went away tomorrow, who would we play out there; Sappelt? 

    • cubs1967

      are we the Chicago Rays??…….if the Braves started Heyward and the Phils started D Brown from day one; then BJax should too if he has a great spring.
      please…….after dropping payroll an est. $28M this year; 38M from it’s high point………let’s at least put the best of a crappy bunch of players on the field from day one; which should be BJax…….not Marlon “double-play” Byrd.

      • Zonk

        You are right, we shouldn’t be too cheap, but I still support waiting on B-Jax to push super-two back a year. 

        It should be noted that Heyward and Brown started day one, but they did start for contending teams that didn’t have a viable option for their spot (the Braves would have had to use Hinske more if Heyward failed, and when Brown failed, the Phillies traded for Hunter Pence).

        In the Cubs case, we have a player, Byrd, who is perfectly OK in the short-term, and we are definitely not contending this year.

        If we also hope to get anything for Byrd, we have to play him.  If he performs at last year’s level, there will be interest in him as a 4th OF’er or injury replacement on a contending team

        • Zonk

          Last point on B-Jax, and the scouts say this too:  If there is one concern, it’s the strikeouts.  He struck out 138 times last year in the minors; that’s very high for a player that isn’t a pure power hitter.  I would like to see him make a bit more contact at AAA before getting a promotion anyway.

          Ultimately, like I said before it’s tough to change a hitter’s stripes, so he will probably strike out too much in the majors.  Hopefully, he hits with enough contact and power to offset that.

      • http://twitter.com/Golfnut70Bob OttawaBob

        Unless the Cubs would be dealing with a young players fragile confidence, then it makes zero long term sense for Jackson to make the club out of ST.  I wish it didn’t cause I can’t stand Byrd.

        • cubs1967

          100 percent disagree!
          So this is JH all over again. Play the vets?
          Bryd, Koyie jamarillo, Trevor Grabow,geez….that’s not re building
          That’s crapbuilding!

      • Tony_Hall

        By waiting until sometime in June to bring up Brett Jackson, you gain 1 extra year of control, sorry but unless a team is competing this year, and having Brett  Jackson on the team from day one is the difference in making or not making the playoffs, you start the player in the minors until Super 2 status passes and you gain a whole extra year.  This is just common sense.

        Start from Day one, FA after 2017, arbitration eligible after 2014.

        Wait until June, FA after 2018, arbitration eligible after 2015.

        It’s not just about money, but controlled years…2 months adds 1 full season.

  • paulcatanese

    Sveum, “we’re here to try to win the World Series this year”
    The way he describes the team sounds like they actually could do just that.
    It’s good to put a positive spin by him, however,
    unless the guys that were brought in and the returnees have a career year, it’s just not going to happen.
    Not trying to be negative, but when it’s going to take a miracle turn-around by almost the entire roster, it doesent look good.
    If they could survive the season at .500 or slightly above that mark,I
    would be pleased, at the least it would placate those of us who have not been happy so far with the additions.
    I hope it gets done.

    • cubtex

      Sveum is just saying the company line. I am sure he doesn’t believe that. How can anyone think they can compete with that batting lineup and pitching rotation?

      .500 would be a huge accomplishment this year. I am sure we will see a lot of different lineups and experiments. I would be shocked if Barney,Stewart and LaHair survive the entire year as a starter.

      • paulcatanese

        Agree, and there has been many years that I was hopeing for a .500 season.
        As I mentioned, it would take a tremdous turn around by too many people to make it happen.

        • cubs1967

          so how is JH saying we are 2 players away any different from Ricketts and Sveum saying we are “going to compete”??………
          compete to see who gets last maybe.
          just sayin.!

          • RynoTiger

            and I’ll just say that with such a renewed emphasis on fundamentals, playing the game the right way, a new attitude and focus on accountability, they might have more success than anyone thinks.

          • SuzyS

             Every year I can remember the managers always say they are going to stress fundamentals…and we’ve yet to see an impact that way….I hope this year is different…but I still reserve the right to say “Show Me”.

          • cubtex

            Exactly Suzy.

    • Brp921

      I like the fact that he is sending the message of confidence in his team to the players as well , Paul, and who knows (I promise I’m not drinking the blue koolaid) with the state of the division maybe they can compete. Stranger things have happened. I’m a Cub fan so I’m an optimist, but spring is almost here and I think I am getting close to hopping on the “Theo bandwagon”. I’m just happy to see the Cubs to be finally trying to rebuild with young guys with some potential, instead of paying to much for yesterdays stars.

  • paulcatanese

    Sveum observed all fields from an observation tower, must have seen a Bear Bryant movie.

    • John_CC

      The observation deck is just the covered roof-top of the concession/bathroom building in the center of the 4-diamond complex.  There are a couple folding chairs up there. The Fitch complex is really…intimate. Bob Brenly was standing right behind me trying to get a glimpse of his kid. I’ll be sad when the $80M “little Wrigley” complex takes them away from Fitch.

      I should be out there today, but I’m on family duty!

      • Calicub

        Well hearing that description of the tower really detracts from my panopticon theory but still…

        • John_CC

          Sorry that I ruined it for you…I like the idea. They should install mirrored glass on the “tower”

    • Calicub

      I was thinking more of Panoopticon, the all seeing eye.

      As foucault put it (in so many words), in heirarchical systems the existence of a Panopticon will force conformity to the expected behavior or actions as all under its scope feel the presence of the all seeing, all knowing eye. Its a concept originally envisioned for use in prisons to control inmates with a single guard; without knowing whether they are being watched each inmate remained in submissive and passive.

      Its a pretty brilliant tactic in my opinion. Especially when you are attempting to bring in the The Cubs Way. If each player, now conscience that this regime will not tolerate poor preformance, feels the pressure to play at this new level will continue to push themselves to surpass that level if they are unsure as to when they are being watched/evaluated…. if that makes sense.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    First round position player winners in the bunt tournament from Saturday: Szczur, Cardenas, B-Jackson, Lalli, Mota, LaHair, W.Castillo, Clevenger

    • cubtex

      Nice to see that BJax and Sczur can bunt. They can utilize their speed.

    • cubs1967

      Campana loses to a catcher!!!!!!!!!
      If he could actually bunt…….he’d hit .300 and get some at-bats.
      Otherwise, he’s a glorified pinch-runner and defensive replacement………come on Tony……a catcher???

      • John_CC

        He’s actually not even a great defender.

  • SuzyS

    Just finished a ton of reading…and have several rambling thoughts:
    Red Sox have a payroll upwards of 190 mil…and still are not considered to be favorites…(Theo…what did you do?)
    What if attendance takes huge hits??? Does Ricketts et al stay the course…or panic and abandon the so-called plan???
    Ricketts : “we’re going to have a good year”. What’s his definition of a good year???

    I love baseball…I’ve been nuts about the Cubs for a long time now….
    “We’re here to try to win the World Series THIS year”- T Ricketts
    I like Ricketts and the Cubs…but I think he just failed the Electric Cool-aid Acid Test.