12/4 Sveum on Jackson, Castro & more
Cubs manager Dale Sveum met with the media on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. Here are some highlights from his session:
* Brett Jackson spent time with Sveum and the Cubs hitting coaches in Mesa. Jackson apparently made “huge, huge strides” and has completely overhauled his swing. Sveum said the young outfielder could be in the mix in 2013.
“I think he’s got a good base to work with going into the rest of the winter and going into Spring Training to understand the art of hitting, so to speak,” Sveum said. “Sometimes it gets lost and taught the wrong way.”
* Darwin Barney also spent time with Sveum in Mesa. The second baseman didn’t have to make huge, drastic swing changes, but the coaches did emphasize driving the ball.
“I think his on-base percentage will gradually get better with experience,” Sveum said. “We all know the glove he has but we have to get that OPS up and he knows that.”
* Sveum was happy Bryan LaHair signed with a Japanese team.
“He had a nice first half for us and it was kind of a unique situation that doesn’t happen every year that a guy makes the All-Star team and basically doesn’t play much the second half of the season, especially after [Anthony] Rizzo got there,” Sveum said. “It wasn’t going to be a super good fit in the outfield because of the speed factor. We want to be more athletic in the outfield. obviously, you’ll miss that kind of bat. I think he made some adjustments the last month of the season to where it’s going to help him. I’m glad he’s going over there, get some money and play, and hopefully has a nice career.”
* Starlin Castro still has work to do.
“The biggest thing with him is we know the talent, we know the ability, the 200 hits,” Sveum said. “We saw huge strides defensively. … What I want to see out of him is keep progressing mentally and understand the process of becoming a winning player and not a hit seeker. [We want him to become] more of a winning hitter, situations, drive runs in, understand the situations. Defensively, I think he came a long way but still has to concentrate more. I think we got him, just throwing a number out there, [concentrating] probably 80 to 85 percent of the time. We’ve got to get that to that 95 percent. I don’t think anybody ever focuses 100 percent — I think you’d be lying if you said that. He took a lot of pride in that and got much better for a 22-year-old kid.”
* The Cubs were happy to add Dioner Navarro as a backup catcher. Said Sveum: “He’s still a young catcher. He switch hits, gives you good at-bats. He’s probably the best backup catcher available out there.”
* Matt Garza, sidelined after 18 starts with a right elbow injury, is on his regular offseason schedule, and should be ready to go in Spring Training. He was expected to start throwing by Christmas.
* Does Sveum expect the team to have a better record in 2013?
“When you lose 100 games, you better go into it with a little more optimism,” he said.
— Carrie Muskat