Results tagged ‘ Rick Renteria ’

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

1/16 Renteria prepping for Tanaka

Rick Renteria is preparing himself in case Masahiro Tanaka picks the Cubs and said he ordered the Japanese version of the Rosetta Stone language learning tapes. The Cubs manager said Thursday he was part of the team’s contingent that met recently with Tanaka in California, joining Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

“We’ve had conversations with Tanaka,” Renteria said. “I’m not sure exactly where we’re at in that process. I think Jed and Theo, if something were to happen with [Tanaka], I’m sure they’ll let me know. Right now, I’m looking at the players we have and how we’re going to move forward with them.”

The Cubs, Yankees and Dodgers are among the teams believed to be involved with Tanaka, who has until Jan. 24 to make a decision on which Major League team he will pick.

Renteria called the Cubs’ meeting with Tanaka “very good conversations,” and added they had an interpreter.

“I actually ordered Rosetta Stone, the Japanese version,” Renteria said.

The Cubs do have pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa on the roster. Is Renteria that confident the team will sign Tanaka that he’s going to learn to speak Japanese?

“I’m going to be prepared if it does [happen],” Renteria said. “I’m going to try to learn a little Japanese and if it happens, good for us, and if not, there are a lot of Japanese players who are quality players who could come through the organization at some point in time and I hope I’m able to at least say ‘Hello,’ ‘Good night,’ and ‘Can I do anything for you?'”

The Cubs are coming off a 96-loss season and it appears the front office is targeting the 2015 season and beyond, not 2014. The Minor League system is loaded with highly touted talent such as Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and C.J. Edwards. Tanaka, 25, was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 212 innings last season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, who posted the right-hander for a $20 million fee. The bidding for Tanaka will end at 4 p.m. CT on Jan. 24.

“The points to [Tanaka] were that we’re a club on the upside,” Renteria said. “We’re a club that has a lot of talent besides the guys who we have here presently, and that the organization has quality players coming up who will significantly impact the organization.”

– Carrie Muskat

1/10 Cubs Convention

New Cubs manager Rick Renteria will introduce his coaching staff, fans can ask Theo Epstein questions and find out about the up and coming prospects, plus get a sneak peek at the film, “100 Years of Wrigley Field,” at the Cubs Convention, to be held next weekend. The three-day winter fan fest will be held at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, starting next Friday with opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. CT.

Friday will mark the premiere of MLB Productions’ “100 Years of Wrigley Field” movie. The film, which will be released to the public in February, celebrates the history of the ballpark, which marks its 100th anniversary this year.

The following current Cubs are scheduled to attend: Jake Arrieta, Darwin Barney, Welington Castillo, Starlin Castro, Kyuji Fujikawa, Justin Grimm, Edwin Jackson, George Kottaras, Junior Lake, Donnie Murphy, Blake Parker, Brooks Raley, Anthony Rizzo, Hector Rondon, Justin Ruggiano, Chris Rusin, James Russell, Jeff Samardzija, Nate Schierholtz, Pedro Strop, Ryan Sweeney, Luis Valbuena, Carlos Villanueva, Jose Veras, Travis Wood, and Wesley Wright.

Among the Minor League players expected at the convention will be Arismendy Alcantara, Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, C.J. Edwards, Kyle Hendricks, Pierce Johnson, Eric Jokisch, Mike Olt, Neil Ramirez, Armando Rivero, Rubi Silva, Jorge Soler, Christian Villanueva and Arodys Vizcaino.

2014 Cubs Convention Schedule of Events (all times CT)

Friday, Jan. 17

6-7 p.m., Opening ceremony: Fans can welcome their favorite Cubs of the past, present and future into the 2014 season.

7:15-8 p.m., Autograph Hunt Game: Study the map given out at the end of the Opening Ceremony and find the Cubs logos to start collecting. You never know who you’ll find, from favorite Cubs alumni to future Cubs stars.

8-10 p.m., Film Premiere, “100 Years of Wrigley Field:” Get a sneak peek at MLB Productions’ “100 Years of Wrigley Field.” The movie takes a look back at Wrigley’s history from 1914 to today through testimonials from former Cubs, celebrities and historians. This exclusive premiere will feature a memorable introduction.

Saturday, Jan. 18

9-10 a.m., Ricketts Family Forum: Tom, Laura, Pete and Todd Ricketts will discuss the future of Wrigley Field and the team. There will be a question/answer session.

10-11 a.m., Meet the Cubs Baseball Management: Epstein, Hoyer, assistant GM Randy Bush and assistant GM Shiraz Rehman will answer questions.

10:30-11:30 a.m., Jeopardy, “Wrigley Field 100:” Pat Hughes and Dave Otto will host the special edition. All clues will be based around the history of the balpark. Each team of players will choose a fan to participate with them.

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Scouting & Player Development: Cubs baseball executives Joe Bohringer, Matt Dorey, Jaron Madison and Jason McLeod will discuss the Minor League players.

12-1 p.m., Meet the Rookie Development Program: Fans can meet top prospects, who will discuss what they’re looking forward to this year.

12:45-1:45 p.m., For Kids Only Press Conference, presented by AdvocateHealth Care: Kids take charge and have the chance to ask Jake Arrieta, Darwin Barney, Anthony Rizzo, Nate Schierholtz and Travis Wood questions.

1:30-2:30 p.m., Cubs Business Operations Update: Investing in the long term success of Cubs baseball requires continued growth from all areas of the organization. Hear directly from Cubs management on initiatives underway to grow the amount of resources available for baseball operations, improve the fan experience, and support the Wrigleyville community. Fans will receive updates on the efforts to restore and improve Wrigley Field, the future of Cubs television and radio partnerships and new business opportunities.

2-3 p.m., Not for Women Only: WGN Radio’s Kathy O’Malley and Judy Markey join Russell, Samardzija, Strop and Sweeney in a question and answer session.

3-4 p.m., Welcome the New Skipper: Renteria introduces his coaching staff and answers questions from fans.

4:30-5:30 p.m., Cubs Family Feud: Back for its second year with an updated structure is a Cubs version of the hit game show. One fan will be selected to participate with each team.

6:30-7:30 p.m., Celebrating 100 Years of Wrigley Field: This season promises to be special as Cubs fans celebrate 100 years in Wrigley Field history. Public address announcer Andrew Belleson, scoreboard operator Rick Fuhs, historian Ed Hartig, radio play-by-play broadcaster Pat Hughes, television broadcaster Len Kasper and senior director of marketing Alison Miller will take part.

8-10 p.m., Cubs Bingo, presented by Budweiser: The game will include a 50/50 raffle, live auction, food and beverage options.

Sunday, Jan. 19

9-10 a.m., 30-year anniversary of the 1984 team: Several players from the ’84 team will revisit what it was like to play for the Cubs during that season.

10:30-11:30 a.m., Down on the farm: Jaron Madison, director of player development, and Jason McLeod, senior vice president of scouting and player development, will be joined by Justin Grimm and Blake Parker to talk about the Minor League system.

* Please note: The Cubs Convention will have a new autograph system to reduce the amount of time fans have spent waiting in lines. This year, an autograph voucher system will be in effect for all players at Stage A on Jan. 18-19. All other autograph stages will run on a first-come, first-served basis, as they have been in the past.

Every attendee will receive a pull tab at Cubs registration. A number of these pull tabs are redeemable for one autograph. The pull tab gives direction as to if and what each attendee has been awarded. If a fan receives access to an autograph on Stage A, they should show up at the time slot listed to be granted access to the line. Only those with the applicable vouchers will be permitted to enter the Stage A session.

Autograph opportunities on all stages are included in the price of admission. In fact, more total player autograph opportunities are available this year than any previous Cubs Convention.

* Also new this year will be chances for fans to have a more personal meet and greet with their favorite players for a donation of $125 for current players and $150 for alumni. The money will be donated to Cubs Charities. Fans will receive an authentic baseball to be signed, a photo opportunity with the player, and time to ask questions and interact. Spaces are limited and will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Those interested in receiving more information about this opportunity should visit the Cubs Charities room on the second level at the Sheraton when the convention opens.

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