A Full Squad, Starlin Castro, Live Batting Practice and News from Day Seven of Cubs Camp

The Cubs first full squad workout of the spring took place Wednesday after physicals and meetings pushed back the team’s normal start time. Tom Ricketts, Theo Epstein and Rick Renteria addressed the 66 players in big league camp.

CubsMesaLogo-pubJeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Carlos Villanueva, Neil Ramirez, Chris Rusin, Armando Rivero, Kyle Hendricks and Justin Grimm were among the pitchers that threw the first round of live batting practice Wednesday. And Starlin Castro, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Brett Jackson were among the hitters that took their first hacks of the spring. Video that surfaced from Wednesday’s practice proved the hitters are behind the pitchers, as expected, on the first day.

Starlin Castro

Starlin Castro met with the media prior to the first full squad workout. Castro likes the idea of hitting at the top of Rick Renteria’s lineup and does not feel the pressure from the players in the minors pushing their way to the big leagues.

Castro reportedly looks “stronger and leaner” than last spring and acknowledged the upcoming season is very important for him. Castro said he plans on forgetting about last year, but at the same time he has something to prove.

The soon-to-be 24-year old spent a month with Tim Buss in the Dominican getting in shape. For the last month, Castro has been working out at IMG Academy (an elite training center) in Bradenton, Fla. Castro said he’s “more focused entering camp this season” and “he plans to make that show both in the field and at the plate.”

Starlin Castro is not looking at Javier Baez as competition but rather as a teammate according to Bruce Levine. Castro said he is focused on playing the way he did the two years prior to last season.

Castro spoke with Alfonso Soriano over the winter according to the Sun-Times. Castro is “taking to heart the advice” he received. Soriano told Castro the pressure will be on him this season and it is important to report to Spring Training looking good and ready to play. Castro said he feels like he’s in the best shape of his career according to a report from ESPN Chicago. Bruce Levine reported Castro “has redefined his body and has replaced baby fat with muscle.”

Plus Castro told Bruce Levine he has a new prescription for his contacts and that has helped.

Carrie Muskat reported that Rick Renteria talked with Castro and told his shortstop to play hard every day and be himself.

Starlin Castro does not turn 24 years old until the end of March … and only four members of the 3000-hit club had more hits through their age 23-season than Castro. And their names were Cobb, Kaline, Yount and Aaron.

Rick Renteria is the fourth different manager Starlin Castro has played for since he made his Major League debut in Cincinnati on May 7, 2010.

News, Notes and Rumors

Jed Hoyer thinks Anthony Rizzo can lead the Cubs’ youth movement according to a report from Comcast SportsNet.

Emilio Bonifacio reported to camp and said Wednesday that he did not turn down any Major League deals to sign a minor league contract with the Cubs. Bonifacio was assured he “has a very good chance to make the Cubs” according to Patrick Mooney. Bonifacio told Jesse Rogers he feels his best position is second base “but he can play anywhere.” And while the reported Major League offers were not there, he feels the Cubs give him the best chance at a spot on a big league roster.

The Orioles announced the signing of Ubaldo Jimenez on Wednesday and in the process had to DFA former Cub-for-the-winter, Liam Hendriks to make room on the 40-man roster for Jimenez.

And speaking of big contracts for starting pitchers, the Reds and RHP Homer Bailey agreed to a six-year, $105 million contract Wednesday. The deal includes a mutual option for a seventh season and deferred money. The agents for Justin Masterson and Jeff Samardzija have to be thrilled about Bailey’s new contract.

According to Chris Cotillo, Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz “is likely to sign in the next two-three days” and according to Hardball Talk, the Cardinals are expected to extend an offer to the 23-year old in the next 24 hours.

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