2/20 Extra bases

* Jason Hammel is feeling right at home in Cubs camp, even though he’s only been with the team for one week. The right-hander, who signed a free agent contract with the Cubs on Feb. 13, threw about 65 pitches in his first live batting practice session on Thursday.

“His live BP was pretty impressive the time I was over there,” said Cubs manager Rick Renteria, who watched a little of Hammel’s workout. “He was obviously hitting the mitt and his command of the zone was down. He was very composed on the hill. He’s been around a while. He’s looking pretty good.”

Hammel, who was the Orioles’ Opening Day starter last year, said he was able to throw all of his pitches. Pitching coach Chris Bosio helped, too.

“[Bosio] gave me great tips today, giving me some things to work on,” Hammel said. “George Kottaras was my catcher today and we were right on the same page. Overall, the first few days, the week, it’s been great and good so far.”

* For Cubs third base prospect Mike Olt, his first few swings on Wednesday were perfect. Olt had struggled with vision problems, and finally got to face a pitcher instead of a coach throwing batting practice or a machine spewing balls.

“For my first at-bats in a long time, it’s the best I’ve ever felt in Spring Training,” said Olt, who faced right-hander Neil Ramirez. “I’m not even counting last year, but the year before that. I saw the ball really well.”

Acquired from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal, Olt batted .213 at Triple-A Round Rock last season but the Cubs feel they’ve corrected his vision issues. He’s now taking allergy medication, which has helped clear things up for him. Wednesday was his first test against a pitcher.

“I got in the box and I wasn’t sure if I was going to swing or not but I got in there and felt comfortable and saw the ball really well, took a couple swings and I feel like I’m ahead of schedule,” he said.

* Renteria has yet to name his Opening Day starter. Jeff Samardzija got the assignment last year.

* Jake Arrieta, slowed this spring after feeling some tightness in his right shoulder, still has yet to throw off a mound in Cubs camp. The right-hander was projected as the fourth starter but most likely will not be ready by Opening Day.

* Renteria isn’t wasting any time. Infielders, including first baseman Anthony Rizzo and second baseman Darwin Barney, were on the field early Thursday for extra work.

* If fans see extra players at the Cubs facility this week, it’s because there are about some Minor League players taking part in a mini-camp. Among those participating are top prospects third baseman Jeimer Candelario and outfielder Eloy Jimenez.

— Carrie Muskat


I saw a remark from Renteria telling his team they can win it all this season………………..why start out on your new job telling lies to the people who you just met?….did anyone give Renteria a drug test after that remark?……….I know it is Rah Rah pep talk, but we need to be serious of how this team will perform…..we are years away from being in a World Series……the good young pitchers will be signed and never hit the free agent market…..so I would say the best way to build your club up instead telling allot of B.S. talk is telling the young players that hard times & mistakes will come first before we start clicking as a team………we are at the “Learning Stage” with this club….work hard, learn from your mistakes, listen to your coaches and always hustle……….need to accept the worst before the better years come upon us.

Why do people freak out so much when a player or a coach says something to the effect of “we could be good this year?” It’s not like them saying that makes you legally bound to bet your life savings on the team winning. Plus it’s not exactly their job to give a fair an accurate assessment. They’re just there to play and coach. If anything, saying that is a motivational tool, especially this early in the season. I mean, how motivating would it be if Renteria’s first speech to the team was “hey guys, we are going to be terrible this year, a lot of you probably won’t make it to Opening Day, much less the end of the year, and I’ll probably end up benching a lot of you for poor play at some point… now, LET’S GO PLAY SOME BALL!!!!!!”
Renteria is not lying to anyone. The players know the situation they are in. And why does any fan even care what the coach’s first day pep talk is to begin with? Unless he drops his pants like Mike Singletary, who freaking cares! Let’s at least let them take the field before we start freaking out about ever minor detail, please!

Doug, not only good to hear from you, but it was nice that you replied to the above. As always you put it in perspective. I could not bring myself to comment, it was just to darn funny.

Thanks. The funny thing is, you kind of want your manager to be the one who thinks the team is better than anyone thought. At the end of each season, there are always a few teams that end up with winning records who were projected to have losing records at the beginning of the season. Most of the time when this happens, credit goes to the manager for doing such a great job of getting the most out of a team that wasn’t projected to be very good. So yes, I do want the manager to think that he can get the most out of his players. After all, if the manager tells the players what the realistic expectations are and tells them to play to those expectations and no higher, then he’s not doing a very good job as manager (unless the realistic expectations are World Series winner, but that’s clearly not where the Cubs are at the moment).

If it was me i would have told them they had no chance in ****,accept who you are,and be comfortable losing. Jeez,give the guy a break!

Man Olt is the wild card to this team. If he can put up 230-250 ave with 15-25hr (which pre injury was a given) then we got a solid 3B with good defense. That could really jump start the building of a good team. Bryant then goes to OF (in the future)…. Baez plays SS/2B with Castro who comes back to form with his 200 hits and 300+ ave… Rizzo steps up to be the guy the FO thinks he is. Man it could be a decent lineup and I am usually pretty pessimistic

Yes petrey10, I usually rely on you for a pessimistic post, now I am in shock.
If Bonifacio or Coghlan make the team, there is a little bit of speed. Bullpen has to be much better.
If Vizcaino is ready, do they give Grimm a shot at the rotation?
We do have to keep in mind, we only hear the positive. Keeping your expectations in first gear, could keep you from being disappointed.
Then again, if Renteria really knows how to shift those gears, we might all be a little surprised.

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