Results tagged ‘ Rick Renteria ’

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

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

2/19 Ricketts: “We can go to the playoffs”

The Cubs’ offseason acquisitions weren’t exactly breaking news and the team is coming off a 96-loss season but chairman Tom Ricketts is optimistic about the 2014 campaign.

“I think we have a team right now that can go to the playoffs,” said Ricketts, who told the players the same thing prior to the first full squad workout on Wednesday.

“We have a good young nucleus,” he said. “You have to build a championship team and we’re doing that. We have good young guys on the team this year and we’ve got good guys coming and every year we’re going to keep getting better and better and better and we’re going to be consistent contenders. If these guys step up and play to their potential, we’ll be fine.”

New Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Ricketts’ message wasn’t much different from what he told the players.

“I think we expect it,” Renteria said about competing in the postseason. “We talked to the players about having high expectations. I don’t know why we’d want to hold ourselves back from going out and playing the game a certain way and expecting if we do things right, we have a chance to win.”

Renteria is aware of the Cubs’ history, and the fact that the team has not played in the World Series since 1945 and not won a championship since 1908.

“I think they’ve been reminded enough,” Renteria said of the Cubs players. “What I try to do is think about today and that was the focus is that we’re moving forward and every day we’re moving past what has already occurred. It’s all kind of relative.”

– Carrie Muskat

2/19 First full squad workout

Wednesday is the day for the Cubs’ first full squad workout, which means it’s time for live batting practice, which is always entertaining. Among the pitchers scheduled to pitch are Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Villanueva, Justin Grimm, Neil Ramirez, Travis Wood, Chris Rusin, Kyle Hendricks, and Armando Rivero. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts was expected to address the media.

The players will be on the field later because manager Rick Renteria is scheduled to address them.

– Carrie Muskat

2/16 Extra bases: Leadoff, Arrieta and more

* The Cubs have yet to play a game under new manager Rick Renteria, but it appears Starlin Castro is the top candidate to be the leadoff man. Castro has a career .300 average batting first, but also has a career .322 on-base percentage, which would not put in him the top 25 in the National League.

“Starlin has had that role in the past and I think he did a pretty nice job,” Renteria said Sunday. “He’s not what you would consider a typical on-base guy. I think that as he continues to get more and more comfortable, hopefully, this year is a year he recovers some of his confidence and that little edge that he brought and that you guys all saw when he was coming up. he’s an individual that is looking to do well.”

Castro batted .300 in 2010, his rookie season, and followed that with a .307 average in ’11. But last season, he struggled to bat .245.

Renteria is still tinkering with his lineup.

“We have the whole spring to develop a scheme as to who might fall into that role,” he said.

* Jake Arrieta, slowed this spring because of tightness in his right shoulder, is taking part in the Cubs’ pitcher drills but has yet to throw off the mound. Arrieta has been able to play catch and so far, is making progress, manager Rick Renteria said Sunday.

* Renteria, who had hip replacement surgery in October, walked for nearly 45 minutes around the Cubs complex at 5 a.m. MT Sunday as part of his exercise. “The catchers are working early,” Renteria said. “I’m not asking them to be out and do anything I wouldn’t do. [My early work] kind of re-enforces that.”

* Besides Kris Bryant and Brett Jackson, Albert Almora and Josh Vitters also reported to Cubs camp on Sunday. The first full squad workout is Wednesday. “I’ve been pretty impressed with the fact that the numbers are kind of high,” Renteria said of the early birds. “It shows me a lot of interest. First of all, I’m sure they want to see the new facility. … No one is making them be here, they’ve chosen to be here. It’s nice to have them preparing for what will hopefully be a very good season.”

* Pitchers who threw their second side sessions on Sunday included Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Justin Grimm, Kyle Hendricks, Blake Parker, and James McDonald. Renteria said he likes what he’s seen so far.

“Their energy is high,” Renteria said. “I’m hoping the tone that is set now will continue when the [position] players come in.”

– Carrie Muskat

2/15 Extra bases

* One of the pitchers the Cubs are eager to see this spring is Arodys Vizcaino, who has been slow in coming back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. On Saturday, Vizcaino threw his first side session, and manager Rick Renteria was impressed.

“The ball came out of his hand pretty easy,” Renteria said of Vizcaino, acquired from the Braves in July 2012 in the Paul Maholm deal. “He stayed down in the zone pretty consistently in his pen today. He looked comfortable, very fit. I think he looked as good as we would want him to look at this point.”

The Cubs don’t want to put a timetable on his return, but Vizcaino is projected for the bullpen when ready.

“Obviously, it’s been a long road back,” Renteria said of the right-hander, who pitched in the big leagues in 2011 but had a setback last season.

* The Cubs will be careful with Welington Castillo, too. So far, he’s had no problems with his right knee, which needed arthroscopic surgery and forced him to end the 2013 season early.

“We’re going to monitor the innings he’s catching, just like anybody who comes off something, especially a catcher,” Renteria said Saturday. “He’s working hard. We were out there this morning, and he was moving fine. We’re aware of it and we’ll do what we can to make sure he stays healthy.”

Castillo admitted the knee bothered him well before he had the surgery.

“There was a time when it felt a little sore but what can I do?” Castillo said. “I’m here to play and will try to do all I can to win a game. I don’t worry about it. Sometimes you have to play with pain. You’re human. You need to prepare yourself before a game and do all you can do to win the game.”

– Carrie Muskat

1/18 Cubs Convention notes

* According to Nikkan Sports, five teams made formal offers to Masahiro Tanaka, including the Cubs and White Sox. Also submitting bids were the Yankees, Dodgers and Diamondbacks. All of the bids were believed to be more than $100 million and over six years. Fans at the Cubs Convention asked Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer on Saturday for an update on talks with the Japanese pitcher, and Hoyer said they would not comment on negotiations. The Cubs did have a contingent meet with Tanaka and his representatives in Los Angeles, where they explained the vision of the team.

“There are lots of teams out there who have interest,” Epstein said. “We’ll just have to see how it plays out.”

Next Friday is the deadline for Tanaka to decide.

* The Cubs feel they can complete the Wrigley Field renovation plan in four offseasons, not five. However, the plans are still on hold until the Cubs receive assurances from the owners of the rooftops around the ballpark that they will not sue. The Cubs hope to begin this year. Crane Kenney, president of business operations, said the team had two meetings last week with most of the rooftop owners and the city of Chicago.

“There’s a lot of urgency to get this moving,” Kenney said.

Kenney said he did not regret the way the contract was set up with the rooftop owners, in which they give a percentage of their earnings to the team.

“You have to go back to the landmarking — that’s what I regret,” Kenney said. “This situation was created by the landmarking of the bleachers. We fought it to the end and we lost.”

He said the landmark status meant they could not put any signs in the outfield ever. What changed this summer was that the landmarking was amended. Now, the landmark commission recognizes that the outfield is not a historic feature and the team can add signage.

“That was the big win last summer, among many, and that’s what the rooftops would contest,” Kenney said. “Essentially their contest is, can you un-landmark a building. We think you can, and in fact, the city council did this summer. That’s what we want to make sure doesn’t delay the project.”

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said he expects the video scoreboard to be ready for the 2015 season.

Kenney said to complete the renovation project in four years will require more money but they will do some things more efficiently.

* The Cubs’ deals with WGN Radio and WGN TV both end after this season. Expect an announcement regarding the radio deal prior to Opening Day.

* Epstein said the team made a mistake in promoting Brett Jackson to the big leagues when the Cubs did. Jackson was called up because Dale Sveum wanted to prioritize his swing development, but Epstein said the outfielder may have been better served staying in the Minor Leagues. Epstein said they promoted Josh Vitters at the same time because they wanted to learn more about him as a player. Both will be in Spring Training camp.

* All of the position players who participated in the rookie development camp this past week are expected to be invited to big league Spring Training. Some of the starting pitchers may not be, but that’s because the Cubs want to make sure they get enough innings.

* During the seminar with the rookie development players, a fan asked how they would be different from other highly touted prospects who didn’t have success such as Corey Patterson and Felix Pie. Albert Almora’s response?

“The way we’ve been going, it’s like a family,” Almora said. “Maybe they didn’t have that back then is that family feeling.”

* The Cubs feel they have more flexibility in the bullpen with the addition of another lefty in Wesley Wright. Jose Veras will be the closer, Rick Renteria said.

* The Cubs’ new mascot was questioned by some fans but the team said Clark is here to stay.

– Carrie Muskat

1/16 Caravan stop, E-Jax & trade rumors

Manager Rick Renteria joined Anthony Rizzo and Edwin Jackson on Thursday to help Cubs staff spruce up a Chicago school. The Cubs made a winter caravan stop at Casals School of Excellence, where they painted murals on the walls of the gymnasium and cafeteria, decorated a computer room, built benches and cabinets for reading spaces, and re-designed a room for tutoring. Earlier in the day, the Cubs staff stopped at the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines to serve lunch to about 250 military service personnel.

The caravan tour is a lead in to the Cubs Convention, which opens Friday at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. This will be Renteria’s first convention.

“They’ve said it’ll be something I’ve never experienced before in my life and from a few conversations I’ve had with different people, it seems that will be the case,” said Renteria, who will answer fans questions in a Saturday afternoon session. “It is evident that the city of Chicago loves their Cubs and they want the Cubs to have success and we feel the same way.”

* The winter fan fest also is the first chance for some of the Cubs to meet their new manager. Jackson is coming off a season in which he led the Major Leagues in losses with 18. It wasn’t how the right-hander wanted to start the first year of his four-year, $52 million deal with the Cubs. Renteria’s message to Jackson? Learn from what happened and move forward.

“That’s the only way we’ll move the club in the direction we’d like it to go,” Renteria said.

Jackson, who welcomed a new daughter in the offseason, was eager to take Renteria’s advice.

“As an athlete, when you have a season like I had last year, if anything it makes you more eager to start the next season up,” Jackson said. “That edge comes a little quicker and you’re more ready and more excited to go out and perform the way you know you can perform.”

What about Renteria?

“He seems like he’s ready to go,” Jackson said of his new skipper. “He’s excited about being a manager of the team. He definitely sees the potential the team has and he understands what we’re capable of doing.”

Jackson said he had no clue Dale Sveum would be dismissed after the 2013 ended. Maybe change is good?

“I hope so — I’ve changed a lot of teams,” said Jackson, who is playing for his eighth team. “I hope change can be good. Change doesn’t hurt. We have a great team, we have a great manager who is eager to get out and be with the team and help the team learn and teach us different things. We’re ready to go.”

* Renteria is thinking about his lineup but said he has plenty of time before Opening Day, March 31. His plan is to have all the players be able to get on base, get ‘em over, and get ‘em in.

“The reality is if the guys do what they’re suposed to do, it makes it a lot easier for me to set up the lineup,” Renteria said.

* Jeff Samardzija’s name has been mentioned often in trade rumors but Rizzo would like to see the right-hander stay with the Cubs.

“Jeff’s a good friend of mine, so I don’t want to see him get traded,” Rizzo said. “You don’t want that to happen but it’s part of the business.”

– Carrie Muskat

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