Day Two of the 2013 Cubs Convention … Dale Sveum and the Coaching Staff

Dale Sveum and his coaching staff were next up on Saturday. Sveum was joined by Jamie Quirk, James Rowson, Dave McKay, Lester Strode and newcomers, third base coach David Bell and assistant hitting coach Rob Deer. Chris Bosio was not able to attend and left the convention early. Bosio is recovering from knee replacement surgery.

Sveum and his coaching staff discussed their first year with the Cubs, what challenges lay ahead for them in year two and what they have planned for Spring Training.

Sveum discussed the plans for the players’ new facilities at Wrigley and reiterated the fact that Carlos Villanueva will officially be a Chicago Cub in the near future.

Dale Sveum and the Coaching Staff

Len Kasper asked Dale Sveum at the top of the session if he wanted to talk about being shot by Robin Yount or stick to baseball and the Cubs’ manager said stick to baseball. Sveum acknowledged the fact that no other team has anything quite like the Cubs Convention and called it “one of a kind.”

Sveum likes the additions the Cubs made to the pitching staff in the off-season and thought that Carlos Villanueva’s deal could be finalized on Saturday. Sveum mentioned later in the session that the holdup was that the team needed to open a spot on the 40-man roster and that can be tricky. A team never wants to lose a player on waivers and it is best to trade the player than to receive nothing in return.

The biggest addition was Edwin Jackson and he helps solidify the rotation. Sveum explained that having a 1-2-3 of Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza and Edwin Jackson at the top of the rotation will be big for the Cubs in the upcoming season.

Sveum was very candid in his comments about last year’s bullpen. Sveum feels they have put together a pen for this season that will throw strikes and not walk anyone. It was very frustrating last year that the relievers could not throw strikes and it is important to have relievers that should not walk anyone.

Sveum explained that playing .500 ball does not work and it is necessary to win games, especially if they want to keep their jobs.

Newcomer David Bell was complimentary of the Cubs infield and likes the talent the Cubs have at first, second and shortstop. Sveum pointed out that he does not think there was a better shortstop in the game after the first six weeks of the season than Starlin Castro. He was very happy with the progress Castro made in the field last season.

Sveum admitted that one of the many areas this team must work on is baserunning and it is his fault they did not do a better job of running the bases last year. Sveum made incorrect assumptions that will not be made again this spring. Sveum has talked with Dave McKay and discussed ways to teach baserunning this spring but the key is how to figure out a way to make each player have better instincts on the bases … and that is hard to do.

Dave McKay received a lot of credit for the improvements Alfonso Soriano made in the field last season … and rightfully so. McKay explained how he went about helping Soriano and it started by him pulling up old video to see what Soriano was doing in the field. Soriano had five or six different ways of catching grounders and a habit of jogging for fly balls. McKay stressed to him that he had to run hard after fly balls because teams were automatically going for two bases every time a ball was hit in his direction. McKay told him to keep the ball in front of him and to throw through the ball when throwing to bases or the cutoff man. McKay acknowledged the fact he received all of the credit but Soriano was a pleasure to work with and he deserves the credit. Soriano worked his butt off according to McKay, bad knees and all. McKay explained that a lot of Soriano’s effectiveness in the field depends on how his knee is feeling.

McKay went on to say that if you take a close look at the defensive stats of the left fielders in the National League that Soriano had the best stats. McKay had his fingers crossed that Soriano would win a Gold Glove and he thinks his reputation is all that kept him from winning the award.

The word “rebuilding” has been linked to the Cubs over the past year. Sveum explained that the Cubs are building an organization from one that was not healthy both in the minors and with some bad contracts. He feels that the organization has come a long way in a year. The minor league system is better and the bad contracts are gone.

Dave McKay gave Dale Sveum a lot of credit for his first year with the Cubs. McKay said, “A lot came from Dale telling Dave what to do.”

There is no substation for big league experience and the Cubs are hoping that Brett Jackson can make similar adjustments to the ones Anthony Rizzo made a year ago. James Rowson thinks the taste that Jackson received last year will help him moving forward and that he now understands what he needs to do to play in the big leagues.

Dale Sveum is convinced that Brett Jackson has the ability to play in the Majors. Jackson is a good two-way player and it was Sveum’s idea to promote Jackson last season. Sveum and Rowson wanted to see firsthand, and not on video, what Jackson was doing at the plate so that they could work with him. Sveum is happy with the “major changes” that Jackson made this off-season and is looking forward to seeing the other adjustments that he’s made since November. One change that Jackson made was he lowered his hands similar to the way Rizzo did.

At the beginning of each series the Cubs receive reports from the advance scouts and they have meetings with the hitters and pitchers to go over those reports. Jamie Quirk explained that they will breakdown video with each player and that a video is looped in the locker room/clubhouse of the pitcher the Cubs will be facing that day. Quirk admitted that sometimes players can be to informed and sometimes you just have to play baseball.

Dave McKay said he spent 16 years in St. Louis and never has he seen a team as prepared as this one … and it almost scared him away.

Dale Sveum was asked about which stats he pays the most attention to for a hitter and a pitcher. Sveum likes OPS for a hitter and said a 800-plus OPS is okay and a 900-plus OPS is big time. The goal for middle infielders is to have around a 750 OPS. Sveum mentioned WHIP but said the bottom line is “if you don’t walk anyone and hit home runs you’re going to win ballgames.”

Rob Deer said he teaches to “do as I say, not as I did” as a player. Deer had a reputation as an all or nothing hitter but as Len Kasper pointed out, Deer took his walks and his career numbers are very similar to that of Adam Dunn. Deer is proud of his career and would not take anything back.

The Cubs are going to have a beautiful new batting cage at Wrigley Field beginning in 2014 … and Dale Sveum looked as if he could not wait to tell as many people as possible the news.

Sveum thinks he has done a good job assembling a coaching staff that can teach at the big league level as well as manage the players. The new coaching philosophy is “don’t think these guys know anything.”

Sveum was asked about Tony Campana and his future. Sveum said that Campana will be fighting for a job when camp begins. Sveum pointed out that David DeJesus did a great job in the leadoff spot last year and was one of few leadoff hitters in the game with at least a .350 OBP. Campana has to get better with getting on base in the majors. He has to learn how to take walks and pitches. Jamie Quirk added that Campana’s game is in his legs and they have been trying to add muscle so he can drive the ball better. When Campana steps to the plate, the outfield moves in and the infielders anticipate a bunt. The Cubs have not given up on him but right now they have three outfielders that are better than Campana but that doesn’t mean he cannot begin the year as the Cubs’ fourth or fifth outfielder.

The Cubs are very happy with the progress that Welington Castillo made last year. Jamie Quirk explained that Castillo is light years ahead from where he was a year ago. The last thing he needs to one on is his game calling, and that is usually the last tool that comes according to Sveum. Quirk added that Castillo has come a long, long way and they feel he has all of the physical tools to be the next Yadier Molina.


Whether you liked the job Dale Sveum and his coaching staff did in their first year with the Cubs or not, one thing is certain, there were improvements made in the way the Cubs’ played the game.

A recap with renderings from the Wrigley Field Restoration session will be posted soon.

2013 Cubs Convention Recaps

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