Spring Training blog. All Cubs looking for a fresh start.
The first day of pitchers and catchers reporting for duty was also Dale Sveum’s first day officially in a Cub uniform. And for him, it could not come soon enough.
“It seems like I got hired two years ago,” the new Cubs manager said after the first session at Fitch Park in Mesa. “You’re just waiting for this day to come to finally get on the field and it took until late afternoon to get out there. It’s officially baseball season finally and that’s when we’re all most comfortable.”
Sveum’s staff wasted no time in trying correct mistakes from last year starting with struggling closer Carlos Marmol’s mechanics.
"(Pitching coach) Chris Bosio talked to him about a few mechanical things about his shoulders and keeping [them] level," Sveum said. "He wants to lean back and crank velocity and create arm strength through his shoulders, and then he gets out of whack. I think that will help him tremendously.”
True to his “no-nonsense” reputation Sveum even joked about Marmol’s struggles saying he “needs to get rid of that cutter from last season. He’s a slider guy.”
Take it as a refreshing sign that Sveum and Bosio are already working on every detail…or maddening that it took this long to address one of Marmol’s issues. Either way Marmol says he’s motivated to prove last year was an anomaly.
And that mentality seems apparent through the entire Cubs locker room right now. Geo Soto also came in 20 pounds lighter like Marlon Byrd wanting to prove he’s an unquestioned everyday starter. Ace Matt Garza wants an extension too like Byrd. (Sveum said he wants his team to sign Garza. If the Cubs do, it would show they feel they can win sooner rather than later).
It still remains to be seen if the Cubs have the talent to compete. But their focus is honed like just like Ryan Dempster’s pitches off the mound into Soto’s glove today.
“Everybody’s hungry,” said a beaming Garza. “Everybody sees openings and everybody sees opportunities. It’s gonna be a lot of fun. A lot of young guys filling up the team. It’s gonna be a new year every night and that’s what our game’s gonna be—a scrappy ‘go get ‘em’ type of club.”
Is that the Cubs way, I asked?
“That’s gonna be our way,” Garza quipped. “Play hard. Play all nine. At the end of the day let the ball fall where it may. But we’re gonna play hard. We’re gonna make things happen. We’re not going to sit back and let them happen.”
Still not everyone is totally clear on the “Cubs way”, yet.
“I haven’t heard a whole lot about the new ‘Cubs Way’ but I’m looking forward to hearing about it,” said a smirking Kerry Wood, which got a laugh from us. “Change is good. Anytime you get a little stale in any aspect with anything, you’ve been doing it a certain way for so long. [I’m] excited to have the new group in and get underway here.”
Garza, Dempster and Paul Maholm seemed unquestioned starters. Competing for the other two spots are Andy Sonnanstine along with a motivated Randy Wells, Travis Wood, and Chris Volstad who are also looking to 2012 as a clean start.
“We brought in a lot of good guys,” said Wells who said he did plenty of hunting this offseason. “A lot of veteran guys, a lot of young guys and I think it’s just part of building a winning team. You’d always like to have a spot but that also makes you work harder and kind of brings out the best in you.”
Jeff Samardzija will also get a crack at the starting rotation.
“We just want to look at him and see how he reacts to multiple innings,” said Sveum of Samardzija. “We haven’t promised anybody anything. He might wow us. That’s a power body that’s built to start.”
Hopefully this mix is also a group that’s built to last.