Weekend Update … Camp Begins with The Cubs Way

Players continued filing into the Cubs’ facility at Fitch Park on the day pitchers and catchers officially reported to Spring Training. Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Dale Sveum met with the media Saturday and discussed several topics on the eve of the first official on field workout of the spring.

Theo Epstein explainedThe Cubs Way‘ and reiterated the fact it is not a slogan but a detailed manual with a few hundred pages that will not be made public.

The compensation issue was not resolved, as expected, but a report from Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston indicated the Red Sox are “hopeful of acquiring one quality minor league prospect from the Cubs.”

Here’s the update from day one of Cubs’ camp …

Notes from Day One of Cubs Camp

  • One of the reasons Reed Johnson re-signed with the Cubs is Dale Sveum’s “no-lollygagging mantra.” Johnson said that is really refreshing for players like him to hear no matter how much a player is making if he’s not playing the game hard, he’s not going to play.
  • Marlon Byrd reported to camp 20 pounds lighter than last season and with a new tattoo that took nine hours to complete. Byrd has an excerpt of President Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” speech from 1910 on his arm. Click here for the speech from President Roosevelt.
  • Marlon Byrd noticed a different feeling around Fitch Park.
  • The Cubs expect Starlin Castro to report to camp on time (February 23).
  • Dale Sveum said three spots in the starting rotation are locked up … the competition this spring will be for the fourth and fifth spots.

The Cubs Way
From the Tribune, here is how Theo Epstein described the Cubs new philosophies on the first day of camp …

“It’s going to be more than a couple sentences — it’s going to be a few hundred pages. We’ve got our scouting manual, that’s all written because the scouting season is underway. A player development manual, we’ve got a long, rough draft on, and then the organizational meetings, that was the time for everyone to contribute- speak then or forever hold your peace — so we could all get on the same page where we’re going to be teaching the game the exact same way.”

“Everything from what foot you hit the bag with when you’re making the turn to how we run bunt plays to what our overall organizational hitting philosophy is … Everything about the game, we’re going to approach the same way as an organization, from the Dominican Summer League through A-ball, Double-A, Triple-A right up to the big leagues. Playing hard is a big part of it, but playing the game the right way and teaching it consistently is important as well.”

Click Here for Video of Theo Epstein discussing ‘The Cubs Way

Compensation for Theo
The compensation for Theo Epstein, as well as Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, was expected to be announced before the start of camp … but once again, the announcements have been delayed.

According to Gordon Edes (ESPN Boston) sources, “the Sox are hopeful of acquiring one quality minor league prospect from the Cubs. They’re resigned to not getting a major leaguer from the Cubs, and acknowledge it probably won’t be one of the Cubs’ premium prospects, like a Brett Jackson or Josh Vitters. But the source says the Sox are insisting on acquiring a prospect with a legitimate chance of making it to the big leagues as a contributor.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe joined Todd Hollandsworth and Jeff Rickard on Hot Stove (MLB Network Radio/XM Radio) Saturday afternoon. Cafardo said the Sox expected a top 10 prospect from the Cubs but have apparently lowered their expectations. The Sox originally asked for Matt Garza, then Starlin Castro, before the Cubs promised “significant” compensation would be paid in order to let Theo Epstein out of his contract before the issue was resolved. The definition of “significant” is apparently different for both teams and is the holdup according to Cafardo.

Matt Garza and a Contract Extension
According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs are working on a five-year contract extension with Matt Garza that could be in the range of what John Danks recently signed with the White Sox (five years, $65 million)

According to a report from Bruce Levine, Garza and his agent are on top of the situation but there were not any updates on a possible extension as of Friday.

Unless Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer hand Garza a no-trade clause, which has not been their modus operandi, even if the right-hander signs an extension it does not mean they will not try to trade him … that is if a team comes to them with the right package of players.

Jeff Samardzija on Talkin’ Baseball
Jeff Samardzija joined Bruce Levine and Fred Huebner to kick off the second hour of Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000) Saturday morning. Samardzija sounded focused and excited for the start of Spring Training … and eager to show the new regime what he can do on the mound.

Samardzija left for Mesa and began preparing for Spring Training just after Thanksgiving. He said he “ate Turkey” then headed out to Arizona.

Samardzija discussed the conversation he had with Theo Epstein right after he took over baseball operations for the Cubs and confirmed he will be competing for a spot in the rotation this spring. The right-hander has been working on different things since he’s been in Mesa and trying to get into a routine as a starter.

Theo Epstein made a point about the Cubs needing to add pitching depth when he took over. Samardzija feels he can use his ability and athleticism to pitch deep into games and not only be effective but eat innings at the same time. Samardzija made sure that Epstein knew that he wanted to be a starting pitcher and that his heart is in being a starter. Epstein and Hoyer told him they think he has the ability to be a successful starter in the big leagues.

Samardzija feels he is a better and much different pitcher than he was the last time he tried his hand as a starter two years ago.

The lack of starting pitching in the system a year ago was apparent to Samardzija and he thinks starting pitching candidates were mishandled last spring. According to Samardzija, the guys were not stretched out enough last year and he feels that hurt not only the team but their development. Samardzija then chuckled and said, “I have a feeling there is a plan [this year] and they are going to execute it in Spring Training.”

The goal for Samardzija this spring is to continue working on his secondary pitches but most importantly to pound the zone … and to see how many innings he can complete in Spring Training. He’s felt good so far and feels he’s made good adjustments with his location and command, “The pitches are working good,” Samardzija said.

There is already a different vibe in camp. Everyone is there to work, everyone has their game face on and everyone has to be ready to compete. Samardzija described the change as a breath of fresh air.

Samardzija talked about the importance of a backup catcher and how he and Geovany Soto must be on the same page and pretty much interchangeable. Koyie Hill and Soto stayed on the same page and the Cubs need a pitcher-oriented backup according to Samardzija. He feels all three guys competing for the spot (Jason Jaramillo, Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger) can handle the job.

Jeff Samardzija has been waiting for camp to start for about a month and a half. His physical is done and he is ready to go.

News, Notes and Rumors
The Cubs have done their due diligence on Jorge Soler. Bruce Levine (Talkin’ Baseball/ESPN 1000) has heard that Soler could sign a four-six year deal in the mid to upper $20 million range. Levine thinks the Cubs still have a good shot at signing him … the thought is Jorge Soler could be a star in the Majors in two to three years. Theo Epstein confirmed Saturday that Soler has not been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball.

Cubs’ minor league pitcher Ricardo Estevez was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for two substances (metabolites of Stanozolol and Nandrolone) that are in violation of the minor league drug prevention and treatment program. The right-hander spent last summer in the Dominican Summer League. His suspension begins at the start of his season.

Blake DeWitt cleared waivers on February 16 and was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa. DeWitt was DFA’d on February 6 to make room for Adrian Cardenas. DeWitt received a non-roster invite to Spring Training and has until February 22 to accept the invitation. If DeWitt decides to become a free agent he will lose the $1.1 million deal he agreed to last month. DeWitt will still make $1.1 million if he is in the Cubs minor league system.

Carlos Marmol lost 12-14 pounds this off-season.

Bryan LaHair was named Baseball America’s 2012 Winter Player of the Year. After mashing 38 homers in the minor last year (an Iowa Cubs franchise record), LaHair led the Venezuelan Winter League with 15 longballs.

According to Bruce Levine (Talkin’ Baseball/ESPN 1000), at the end of the bidding for Yoenis Cespedes, the White Sox were closer to landing Cespedes than the Cubs.

Well, there’s the update … Spring Training has begun.

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Quote of the Day

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