Results tagged ‘ Rick Renteria ’

3/21 Starlin Castro update

Starlin Castro is running out of time if he is going to be ready by Opening Day. The Cubs shortstop did run the bases on Thursday and is making good progress, Rick Renteria said on Friday. This Sunday will be the three-week mark since Castro suffered a strained right hamstring. There’s no time set for when Castro can get into a Cactus League game or even a Minor League game to get at-bats.

“We’re trying to get him some at-bats, possibly in the Minor Leagues first, leading off, things of that nature, and trying to get him in baseball shape,” Renteria said Friday. “He’s been doing a lot of activity but getting him out there, standing, playing five, six innings is important to us. We’re going to try to progress him as quickly as possible.”

Do the Cubs have a backup plan?

“Not even a consideration at this point,” Renteria said. “He’s doing well.”

However, the Cubs have had Darwin Barney play shortstop and also have Emilio Bonifacio and Donnie Murphy as options there.

“Right now, it’s Friday, and [Castro] went through everything extremely well, and I have nine days left,” Renteria said. “I’ve got to set up a schedule for him to participate before we can determine [if he'll be ready].”

Castro is coming off a disappointing season in which he batted .245, and has said he wants to get back to being the player who was named to the All-Star team and led the league in hits.

“He’s a guy who we all know physically we have to get in a particular type of shape,” Renteria said. “Mentally, if he’s in a good state of mind, anybody who has a sense of confidence and focus and determination, you have the ability to do a lot of things. Hopefully that will play into his ability to overcome this little setback that’s occurred this spring.”

Renteria called it a “little setback” but last spring, Castro strained his left hamstring, and only missed two weeks. He’s been out nearly three this year.

“I know he wants to play,” Renteria said. “It affected him, he hated this setback this spring, obviously. He wants to show everybody and have a comeback type season. He looks like he’s ready to get back out there on the field.”

– Carrie Muskat

3/12 Instant replay

Cubs manager Rick Renteria took advantage of the new instant replay rules and challenged a call in the fourth inning Wednesday night. With one out in the inning, and the game tied at 2, Ryan Kalish chopped the ball to Mariners shortstop Brad Miller, who threw to first. Kalish was called out on the close play. Renteria went out to first base umpire Dan Bellino and challenged the call. After Bellino and umpire Hal Gibson conferred on headsets with someone in New York who reviewed the play, the call was upheld.

Wednesday was the third Cubs game in which instant replay was available. Renteria did not challenge a call in the first game, and he was not at the second game because it was a split squad game in Tempe, and bench coach Brandon Hyde was acting manager. Instant replay also will be in effect March 16 and March 19.

– Carrie Muskat

3/7 Just like riding a bike …

Darwin Barney wasn’t sure how it would feel being back at shortstop, and the Indians didn’t waste any time testing him on Thursday. Cleveland leadoff man Michael Bourn hit a slow roller to Barney to start the game, and he cleanly fielded it and threw the runner out. And that was the last ball hit to him. A Gold Glove second baseman in 2012, Barney started at short while the Cubs wait for Starlin Castro to heal from a mild hamstring strain.

“There was a time when going back to shortstop felt more comfortable than playing second base and that was probably the first two years when I moved,” said Barney, who was a shortstop before switching to second full time in 2011. “Over time, that feeling goes away. Now I felt like I had to really focus on certain things.

“After a few innings, I felt really comfortable and you find out how much you miss that position,” he said. “It’s part of the game. I found out I’m a really good second baseman and I’m happy there, too.”

What’s next? Manager Rick Renteria says he’ll continue to rotate the infielders. Barney expects he’ll be back at second base but Renteria is getting to know the roster and what the players can and can’t do.

“As we continue to go through our workouts, he’ll remember,” Renteria said of Barney at short. “I think a lot of his movements are natural. He was over there a long time.”

On Friday, Barney was the designated hitter in one of the Cubs’ split squad games, which was a chance for more at-bats. He wouldn’t mind more playing time at short.

“I think I have value [at shortstop],” he said. “I’m pretty good over there and I like it over there, too.”

– Carrie Muskat

3/6 Baez OK after foul ball

Cubs manager Rick Renteria wasn’t surprised that Javier Baez’s left ankle hurt when he fouled a ball off it.

“I was saying to him, ‘If the ball came off the bat like a normal human being’s ball comes off the bat, you would’ve been OK,’” Renteria said Thursday, “‘But since yours comes off like a bullet train, I would’ve gone down, too.’”

Baez lay on the ground for a few seconds, but stayed in the game. In his next at-bat, he hit an opposite field home run. Guess he was feeling OK.

“That was a great at-bat,” Renteria said of the home run in the Cubs’ loss to the Rockies. “Once he got to two strikes, the approach is significantly important. Most times, guys like Javy still want to drive the ball, but he’s capable of driving the ball to any part of the ballpark.”

It’s all part of the development process for Baez, who will open the 2014 season at shortstop for Triple-A Iowa. He’s been working at second and third as well in early sessions with coach Gary Jones, and Renteria said they will start Baez in a game at one of those positions soon.

The Cubs’ top prosect, Baez has been the center of attention this spring.

“It’s great, great for Javy, great for the Cubs,” Renteria said. “He’s an exciting player, as you guys all have seen. it’s not like you can hide it.”

And he does hit the ball hard, which is why Renteria cringed a little when he saw Baez on the ground after the foul ball.

“When he went down, I didn’t know if it was his foot, or shin,” Renteria said. “I just know the ball comes off his bat hot and it must have hurt wherever it hit.”

– Carrie Muskat

3/3 Instant replay

Monday’s game between the Cubs and Brewers will be the first to use Major League Baseball’s expanded instant-replay review system, which allows managers the right to challenge at least one call. The game, which is being played in Maryvale, can be seen on MLB.TV.

Cubs manager Rick Renteria won’t have a flag in his pocket to throw on the field if he wants to challenge a call.

“I think the protocol will be if you want to challenge, you have to go out and talk to the umpire and either invoke it or he may ask me to invoke it depending on how long you stand out there conversing with him,” Renteria said.

Renteria said the umpires will try to resolve the disagreement first.

“I would imagine that if my gut is telling me immediately that I saw it completely different [he'll challenge] — but you don’t want to waste it if you don’t have to,” Renteria said. “There’s going to be some availability as it’s set up to get the information that tells you if [the call] is good or not.”

– Carrie Muskat

3/3 Castro out 7-10 days

Starlin Castro will be sidelined seven to 10 days because of a mild right hamstring strain that should not hinder the shortstop from being ready for the regular season, Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Monday.

“From what we gathered, it’s similar to what happened to him last year at this time,” Renteria said of Castro’s injury, suffered in the first inning Sunday when he tried to steal second. “It’s seven to 10 days and we’re just being cautious with him. It shouldn’t set him back for the regular season.”

Castro was sidelined for two weeks last spring with a sore left hamstring. After Sunday’s game, he said the injury suffered on Sunday was “not too bad like last year” and that the team removed him as a precautionary measure. A year ago, Castro could barely walk after he was hurt.

“This doesn’t seem to be anything like last year to the degree that it was,” Renteria said. “He’s walking around pretty good now.”

The Cubs will give Emilio Bonifacio and Darwin Barney more starts at shortstop while Castro heals and also look at top prospect Javier Baez. They also have infielders Arismendy Alcantara and Jeudy Valdez in camp.

“What it allows us to do is see other guys at that position and recognize if Barney can go over there and [Bonifacio],” Renteria said. “It’ll give guys playing time.”

Castro spent more time this offseason on conditioning and reported to camp in good shape. The Cubs sent strength coach Tim Buss to the Dominican Republic for three weeks to work with the shortstop, who also spent four weeks at a training facility in Bradenton, Fla. Castro is coming off a season in which he batted a career-low .245.

– Carrie Muskat

2/28 Extra bases

* Darwin Barney has been working a lot with Cubs hitting coach Bill Mueller and on Friday, the second baseman went 2-for-2 in his first spring game, hitting a solo home run in the fourth.

“I feel I can repeat what I’m doing up there and that’s the goal,” said Barney, who batted .208 last season. “It’s Day One and it’s a long spring ahead and a lot of work to be done.”

Barney isn’t being counted on to hit home runs — he matched his career high last season with seven.

“I’m trying to stay short and hit line drives,” he said. “My swing allowed me to do that and I’m happy about that. It’s early, it’s just one pitch. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

* Mike Olt, slowed this spring because of tenderness in his right shoulder, has yet to play third base and Cubs manager Rick Renteria said the team is taking a precautionary approach.

“He’s throwing fine and he’s been working at all the positions getting himself ready,” Renteria said Friday of Olt, who has been limited to designated hitter so far.

Olt, who battled vision problems last season, was scheduled to start at DH on Saturday night against the Diamondbacks.

* After more than 50 days without rain in the Phoenix area, Saturday’s forecast calls for showers. The Cubs’ contingency plan is to use the batting cages at their complex to get work done.

“We’ll deal with it as it comes,” Renteria said.

* Jake Arrieta continues to throw off flat ground and is making progress. Arrieta has been slowed this spring by tightness in his right shoulder, which he felt in the offseason before reporting to Arizona.

* Cubs fans eager to see top prospects Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant might want to go to Saturday’s game against the Diamondbacks in Scottsdale. Both are scheduled to start. Bryant hit his first spring homer in his first at-bat on Friday.

– Carrie Muskat

2/27 Extra bases

* Eric Chavez hit the first home run at Cubs Park, a two-run shot in the fifth, and Paul Goldschmidt added a two-run single in the sixth to lift the Diamondbacks to a 5-2 win Thursday over the Cubs and spoil their Cactus League opener at their new stadium. The game drew a Cactus League record crowd of 14,486, breaking the old mark of 13,721 set last March 23 between the Dodgers and White Sox in Glendale.

This was not only the first game at Cubs Park, but Rick Renteria’s first as a Major League manager.

“It feels just like another game,” the Cubs’ new skipper said. “We’re getting ready for the season and today’s the first day of basically a test to see how everybody’s doing. We’re going to use [Spring Training] to see what aspects of the game we need to improve on and basically see where everybody’s at.”

So no butterflies?

“No,” Renteria said, smiling.

* Blake Parker, coming off a season in which he appeared in a career-high 49 games, was the only Cubs pitcher to retire all three batters he faced in his one inning on Thursday in the Cactus League opener. The right-hander came into camp knowing he’s starting fresh.

“Every year you’ve got something to prove,” Parker said. “If you’re getting paid or not, you want to show them you worked hard in the offseason to be ready to pitch at any time.”

Renteria is sorting out the options for the bullpen. Parker knows that.

“You want to show these guys that you’re ready to play, whether it’s these guys or somebody else watching in the stands,” Parker said. “It’s just imperative to get ready for the season.”

* Emilio Bonifacio did exactly what the Cubs want from a leadoff man in his first at-bat when he tripled in the first. Renteria said he considers Bonifacio to be similar to Chone Figgins, who can play second, third, short and the outfield.

“He’s a guy who puts it on the ground and if he gets it through someplace, he’s got a chance to go like he did there, all the way to third base,” Renteria said of Bonifacio. “Those are some of the things he brings to the table.”

Renteria said Darwin Barney is the starting second baseman but expect to see Bonifacio get some playing time there.

* Kyuji Fujikawa, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last June, threw 25 pitches off the mound for the second time this spring on Thursday, and is continuing to make progress. The Cubs hope the right-hander can pitch sometime this season.

* Catcher John Baker livened up Thursday’s team meeting by playing a song on his guitar that was a variation on Eddie Vedder’s “(Someday We’ll Go) All the Way.”

“I wrote a song about what it means to be a Cub,” said Baker, who got an assist on the lyrics from Barney, Kyle Hendricks, Eric Jokisch, Brett Jackson and strength coach Tim Buss.

“Ricky likes to have people do things that make it a little more fun,” Baker said of Renteria.

The lyrics were tweaked so that they were from a player’s perspective, and ended with “This year, we’ll go all the way.”

* Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo will host his second “Cook-Off for Cancer” on May 16 in Chicago. The event, which features celebrity chefs, will be held at Revel Downtown.

* Up next: Lefty Chris Rusin, who is competing for a spot in the rotation, faces the Angels and Jered Weaver in Tempe in the Cubs’ first road game this spring. Rusin was 2-6 in 13 starts last season with a 3.93 ERA. James McDonald is scheduled to follow Rusin in his first game action since Sept. 1. McDonald appeared in 16 games last season, six with the Pirates, as he struggled with shoulder problems. Top prospect Javier Baez will start at shortstop for Chicago. The game will be broadcast on WGN Radio and on Cubs.com.

– Carrie Muskat

2/25 Extra bases

* The Cubs will play a six-inning exhibition game at new Cubs Park on Wednesday, starting at 1 p.m. MT. Kyle Hendricks and Eric Jokisch are scheduled to start. The game is a tune-up for Thursday’s Cactus League opener, when the Cubs play host to the Diamondbacks.

One of the players eager for a game is third baseman Mike Olt, who batted .201 last season combined in the Minor Leagues, first with the Rangers and then the Cubs. So far, Olt, who struggled with vision problems, has passed all the tests in batting practice.

“Everyone’s going to be a little rusty but I feel I’m at a different stage than I was last year, heading into the first scrimmage,” Olt said. “I’m just excited to get back in the box and have that competitive edge. Even with live [batting practice], you don’t have the competitive dge that you would in a game.”

Other pitchers scheduled to throw on Wednesday include Arodys Vizcaino, Neil Ramirez, Tsuyoshi Wada, Brian Schlitter, Chang-Yong Lim, Marcus Hatley and Armando Rivero.

“It’s going to be good for me and for the staff to see the guys put themselves out there between the lines with a little more competitive aspect of the game,” manager Rick Renteria said. “They’ll be able to see where they’re as far as timing and pitchers will see where they’re at with the hitters and game-type situations, which is what we’re building up to do. It’ll be good to see them out there playing.”

* Kyuji Fujikawa threw 20-25 pitches in a side session on Monday, his first time off a mound since undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last June.

“It went very well,” Renteria said of the pitcher’s session. “He gave me a thumbs up.”

* The new rule adopted Monday by Major League Baseball in regards to plays at the plate will affect baserunners, not just catchers. The Cubs will work on sliding drills on Wednesday.

“We all understand the biggest key is to eliminate the possibility of a baserunner actually going after the catcher who’s not covering the plate, and eliminate injuries that come from that,” Renteria said.

* Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins addressed the players on Tuesday in the Cubs’ big league camp as well as the 50-plus taking part in the Minor League mini camp. Jenkins noted that when he was with the Cubs, they had 40 players sharing one field in Spring Training. Now, the Cubs have six fields plus a half field plus the stadium at the new facility.

* In case you missed it, I have a feature on top prospect Dan Vogelbach on Cubs.com and how he lost 30 pounds this offseason. Vogelbach wanted to quiet critics who felt he was too heavy to play first base. He hasn’t lost his powerful hitting stroke. Minor League hitting coach Desi Wilson says Vogelbach still has good bat speed and is better defensively.

“He hasn’t lost anything — he’s gained,” Wilson said of Vogelbach, ranked No. 10 on the Cubs’ top 20 prospects.

– Carrie Muskat

2/22 Extra bases

* When Arodys Vizcaino finished throwing his live batting practice session, one of the first people to shake his hand to congratulate him was Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. The Cubs have waited a long time for Vizcaino, 23, to show what he did on Saturday. The right-hander, acquired from the Braves in the Paul Maholm trade in 2012, was rehabbing at that time from Tommy John surgery on his elbow. He had a setback last season, but on Saturday, looked healthy.

“I would’ve never known [he was hurt] just from the way he looked today,” said catcher Eli Whiteside, who caught Vizcaino. “He looked really good.”

It’s early to say who will be the surprise of Spring Training but Vizcaino may be the leader so far.

“He looked very, very good,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of Vizcaino, who is projected to pitch out of the bullpen. “We’re very pleased with his session. Very sharp, live fastball, breaking ball, he was burying his pitches when he needed to. He’s progressing well. We’re happy to say there are no setbacks and we hope it continues that way.”

The last time the right-hander appeared in a game was 2011 with the Braves. The radar gun was hitting 97, 98 mph on Saturday.

“Everything felt good — my elbow, shoulder, everything,” Vizcaino said.

* Jake Arrieta, slowed by tightness in his right shoulder, threw off flat ground from about 90 feet on Saturday. The key will be how Arrieta feels on Sunday, manager Rick Renteria said, before they determine the next step. So far, Arrieta is making progress but whether he’ll be ready by Opening Day has not been determined. He has yet to throw off a mound.

* Renteria, 52, threw batting practice on Saturday and plans to continue to do so as long as the players let him. The problem, besides a few aches and pains, is location.

“I just have to throw strikes,” Renteria said, sounding like a pitcher.

He can tell if he’s doing well because there aren’t many balls in the cage after the batting practice session.

“I had a lot of balls back there,” Renteria said. “Usually I have one or two and today I had 10 or 11. That’s not good.”

* The Cubs have more than 50 Minor League players taking part in a mini-camp at the team’s new complex. One player who fans most likely won’t recognize is Daniel Vogelbach, who lost 30 pounds this offseason. Vogelbach is ranked No. 10 on MLB.com’s top 20 Cubs prospects.

* The best investment by Cubs players this spring? It’s goggles for the new hydrotherapy pool in the complex. Carlos Villanueva, who likes to incorporate swimming into his routine, spent $20 on a pair, and is encouraging others to do so.

– Carrie Muskat

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