New Cubs’ manager Dale Sveum has been in the news juuust a little bit over past 24 hours, so, to say he’s going to dominate these bullets is an understatement. Sveum spoke with the media in breakout sessions after his news conference yesterday, which sessions yielded a number of interesting bits. They’re all here, excepting discussions about Prince Fielder, which will get their own post soon. There’s also stuff on Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano…
- What the heck, after that setup, I’ll lead with the non-Sveum bits. Theo Epstein is making clear that he wants Kerry Wood back on the Cubs, so it’s going to happen. “I’ll leave the details of [a recent] meeting confidential,” Epstein said. “But I have no trouble going on the record saying that Kerry Wood is a very important part of the Chicago Cubs. We want him back. He makes us a better team because of what he brings to the bullpen. He also makes us a better organization …. That’s because of what he brings to the clubhouse as well as his leadership so I’d like to get him back in the fold and move forward with him.” I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Cubs wait to ink Wood until after the Rule 5 Draft, just in case they want some extra flexibility on the 40-man roster.
- Carlos Zambrano was hit in the face in his Venezuelan Winter League start last night, and was taken to the hospital as a precaution. He got stitches, but it doesn’t sound serious. Zambrano pitched excellently in the start, going five innings, striking out four, and giving up just two walks, two hits, and one unearned run.
- Speaking of Zambrano, and now unsubtly transitioning into the Sveum bits, the new manager says Zambrano is out of strikes. “We all know his nine [lives] are up,” Sveum said. “Talking to Theo, [Zambrano] realizes that and he knows it, and he knows he has to win back the respect of his players as well as management. At some point we’ll sit down and talk. You try to get a grip on the guy and try to understand where he’s coming from because he’s out of strikes.”
- Sveum said Carlos Marmol is his closer for now (“Right now … we don’t have another closer), and discussed Marmol’s problematic 2011. “One, [hitters] finally just decided all they have to do is sit there and look for a slider,” Sveum said. “They don’t have to worry about the fastball, because even if he throws it, it’s probably a ball. He has to get back to some kind of fastball command. When you have that kind of breaking ball, you have to use your fastball as a weapon as well. You’ve already established the breaking ball in so many hitters’ minds that now it’s a surprise attack to throw fastball strikes.” Good points. He’ll also want to check in on the velocity issues.
- Sveum said, last year, he’d rather have seen Aramis Ramirez at the plate than Starlin Castro, but acknowledges that some work is needed on his defense. “He needs a lot of polish there,” Sveum said. “Whoever I bring in as the infield coach will get started right away on that. There’s a lot of things we see just watching him. I’m an infield guy. I watch and see a lot of things that are broke down and why those mistakes are happening. There are things with his feet and positioning that will help him out a lot.”
- Loved, loved, loved this quote from Epstein on Sveum’s plans for managing and defensive alignment: “Everybody goes off spray charts,” said Epstein, referring to graphics that show where batters have hit balls over the last few years. “Dale got the spray charts, but then he would get video and watch where every hitter had hit his last 100 ground balls. He would use a different color to circle those balls and that’s what he would use to position our infield and outfield. He would do it before every series. That’s just his approach to the game …. You help a pitcher get an extra out or two, that could be huge.” Schwing.
- Epstein said the coaching staff will ultimately be Sveum’s call, but the front office will have some input. Sveum will soon speak to the three coaches under contract – hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, bench coach Pat Listach, and bullpen coach Lester Strode – to determine whether he wants them to return in 2012. He’ll also meet with the coaches whose contracts have expired, and line up a list of external coaches with whom he’d like to meet. Robin Yount to the Cubs’ bench – the subject of much speculation – is “not going to happen,” according to Sveum.
- Dale says he has a few names in mind who he’d like to interview for his top lieutenant’s spot (bench coach). And he offered his thoughts on the type of guy he’s looking for: “I think he needs to be very close to me personally,” Sveum said. “It has to be a very good friend of mine, somebody I respect, baseball knowledge-wise, somebody who can slow the game down, especially the National League game, and the ability to tell me to get my [stuff] together. At the same time, we have to yell at each other and still be friends. That has to be somebody really close to you who you have a lot of confidence in and are very good friends with.”
- Jon Greenberg offers a solid column on Sveum – one of many written over the last day.
- Brewers players are happy for Dale.
- Erstwhile Cubs’ managerial candidate Mike Maddux released a statement through the Rangers about the process and the decision: “I’d like to congratulate Dale Sveum and the Chicago Cubs on Dale’s appointment as manager. Dale is one of the best baseball people I know and will make a fine manager. His tireless work ethic, commitment, and communication skills give him the recipe to succeed. I would like to thank the Cubs for the flattery and opportunity to be considered a managerial candidate. Possibly in the future a managerial position may come to fruition for me. I am blessed to be with a quality organization, the Texas Rangers, and am looking forward to the 2012 season with high expectations. The DFW area is a great place to live and my family loves it here. Also, I would like to thank the fans whose support of the Rangers has made our jobs even more gratifying. P.S. To the fans I’ve met at the airport, grocery and home improvement stores, thanks for your support. It means a lot.”