Position Players Report Tuesday, Castro a Leadoff Candidate and News from Day Four of Cubs Camp

Position players do not have to be in Mesa until Tuesday. The first full squad workout of the spring is not until Wednesday and the forecast is looking good in Arizona for the entire spring roster getting on the field (81 degrees with a slight chance of rain).

CubsMesaLogo-pubMany of the position players are already in camp, including four former first round draft picks. Kris Bryant and Albert Almora reported Sunday along with Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson. And both Vitters and Jackson spoke with the beat writers.

It is good to know Josh Vitters has reported to camp early. Last year he was one of the last position players to report and while he was not late, many thought he should have reported early in order to get ready for what was viewed as an important season for him. Vitters did not get off on the right foot two years ago when he showed up late to the first meeting of the spring. So maybe with Vitters being in camp before he had to be this year that will lead to good things for him during the season.

There have been a lot of expectations placed on Josh Vitters since the Cubs selected him with the third overall pick in the 2007 draft. Vitters has hit at every level he’s played at except for the Major League level in 2012. Vitters does not turn 25 until the end of August and the Cubs are hoping the move to the outfield will get his career on track. Vitters said Sunday he received a call about the position switch this winter and tried to prepare as well as he could for the move.

Vitters addressed the expectations many have for him with Jesse Rogers. Vitters said, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to fill the void in everyone’s head of me because it’s obviously pretty big. But I think I can rejuvenate my career.”

According to ESPN Chicago, Vitters worked with the Cubs’ psychologist this winter. Vitters focused on learning how to “relax more” when he is playing so he’s “not jittery.”

Brett Jackson has “never been more excited to be back in Spring Training.” Jackson told Carrie Muskat he did not have fun last year, he was hurt and struggled. Jackson said, “I rediscovered that fun a little bit this off-season. I feel I’m in the best physical shape I’ve been in and the best mental state I’ve been in a long time.” Jackson added he is “excited to be part of this new regime.” And he is not going to talk about his strikeouts anymore.

In regards to the changes he made to his swing, Jackson said, “The changes I was trying to make last year had all the right intentions and all the right cues for me to become a better player. However, I was fighting my nature, I was fighting who I was as a natural athlete and I think that made my time at the plate a struggle.”

The Cubs gave Vitters and Jackson the winter off to ‘hit the reset button’ on their careers. Both players have a lot of talent that has yet to be seen on a Major League diamond and both former first round picks could help the Cubs moving forward.

Starlin Castro

Rick Renteria reiterated Sunday that he is thinking about hitting Starlin Castro at the top of his lineup. Castro is one possible option and one that would make sense for the Cubs and Castro.

For his career, Starlin Castro is a .300/.345/.431 hitter for his career leading off for the Chicago Cubs. Castro has nearly a full season of plate appearances under his belt hitting at the top of the lineup (114 games). To go along with a .777 OPS, Castro has hit 25 doubles, three triples and 11 home runs.

One spot down in the lineup, Castro has hit .291/.326/.416 with a .742 OPS in 245 games with 56 doubles, eight triples and 19 home runs. The days Emilio Bonifacio is in the lineup, if he makes the team, hitting Castro behind the speedster would work as well.

Pitchers Pitching and Practicing

Jeff Samardzija, Justin Grimm, Kyle Hendricks, James McDonald, Wesley Wright and Travis Wood were among the group of pitchers that completed their second bullpens of the spring on Sunday. Blake Parker threw again as well on Sunday, but this time it appears he stayed hydrated enough to keep from throwing up.

Jake Arrieta was also scheduled to throw but he isn’t ready to pitch off a mound yet. Arrieta took part in the other drills and played catch.

Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant reported to camp Sunday to reportedly “find his locker and get comfortable.” Bryant plans to ask questions and make the most of his first big league camp. Bryant took swings in the cage Sunday.

It is all baseball now for Kris Bryant, but according to the Tribune he plans on returning to the University of San Diego to finish his degree in financing.

As for a possible switch from third base to the outfield, Bryant told the Tribune he will play wherever the coaches tell him to play.

Ryan Dempster

Ryan Dempster announced Sunday he will not be pitching for the Red Sox during the upcoming season. And the speculation began that Dempster might have thrown his last pitch. Dempster cited personal and injury reasons as why he told the Red Sox he would not be able to pitch this year. Dempster has three children he would like to spend more time with.

Dempster will not spend the season on the DL in order to collect his $13.25 million salary for the 2014 campaign. Dempster said he could not do that and also pointed out he does not want to end his career on the disabled list. Dempster does not feel he would be able to pitch to the standards he’s set for himself. Dempster has been dealing with disc issues and a bone spur in his neck.

According to reports from the Boston beat writers, Dempster told the Red Sox front office within the last two weeks that it was a possibility he might not be able to pitch this year. Dempster made the announcement official on Sunday.

News and Notes

The Cubs signed Emilio Bonifacio to a minor league contract Saturday. Bonifacio is expected to be in camp at some point this week. Reports are unclear if he will be in Mesa in time for the first full squad workout Wednesday or not. It is not unusual for players that sign as late as Bonifacio did to report to camp a little late.

Rick Renteria would not commit to starting the season with either an 11-man or 12-man pitching staff on Sunday.

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