It’s a snow day for The Wife and The Kids, so the house is a bit more lively than usual on a weekday.
- Rick Renteria was officially introduced to the media yesterday as the manager of the Chicago Cubs, having been held up in traveling by his recovery from hip surgery. I’m sure it was nice to do the jersey thing, and the face-to-face thing, but there isn’t a ton of “manager” stuff in the various write-ups. There’s stuff about working with Starlin Castro and other hitters, but it’s most the generic, rah-rah stuff, rather than the Xs and Ox stuff. I guess that probably would have been a bit much to get into at the introductory press conference. Though I’d still like to know Renteria’s position on what kind of batter should bat second.
- You can see recaps of the Renteria press conference here, here, here, and here, among other places.
- For those wondering – or implicitly criticizing the front office – Theo Epstein said that Rick Renteria ultimately chose Brandon Hyde, the Cubs’ former Farm Director, to be his bench coach (Tribune). So it’s not like Hyde was forced on Renteria. Instead, I’d expect that the front office and Renteria both had input on the coaching staff, but the bench coach position was left largely up to Renteria.
- Among qualifiers, your league leading batter (average) in the Dominican Winter League? It’s Junior Lake, with a .357 mark and an overall .357/.396/.480 line over 104 plate appearances, which is fantastic for the very competitive league (4th highest OPS, just behind Gregory Polanco and just ahead of Jurickson Profar). I still have my doubts that Lake can project to a Major League regular at a corner outfield position, but the young man can certainly tear it up in the DWL. Lake has been playing mostly left field of late (in deference to Felix Pie in center), which is good practice for him. As I consider his offensive future, I’m suddenly filled with sadness that he couldn’t stick at shortstop or even third base, where his expected offensive production would have looked pretty darn valuable. If there remains even a sliver of a hope that he can play average center field defense, I hope that’s where the Cubs focus his efforts. In left field, the bat looks below average to me, even if he largely maxes out his ability. (If the Cubs are going to give a young guy a chance in left field in 2014, rather than try to bring in an established bat, I’d just as soon see them give Josh Vitters a shot, given his upside at the plate (which, I know, is hard for some to hear). Actually, shrug. Let the two of them fight it out, I guess. If the punt play is already in effect by then, what’s there to lose? Maybe one of them breaks out.)
- Epstein was asked yesterday about Kyle Hendricks’ chance to break camp with the big league club, and Epstein downplayed that possibility (Sahadev Sharma), indicating that Hendricks – who dominated AA and spent his last six starts at AAA last year – will start the year at AAA with some things left to work on. In terms of near MLB-ready pitching, Hendricks is as good as it gets for the Cubs, though most believe his ceiling is as a steady back-of-the rotation type, rather than a front-end guy.
- Farewell Zach Putnam – the White Sox signed the former Cubs reliever to a minor league deal. Putnam, who had relatively minor elbow surgery last year, was fantastic at AAA for the Cubs, and nearly the made the team in 2013 out of Spring Training. He must have liked his chances to crack the White Sox bullpen better than the Cubs, or maybe the Cubs were simply ready to move on.
- The Cubs lit their Christmas tree outside of Wrigley Field last night. In the future, that’s where the plaza will be.
- President Obama has named Cubs board member/owner Laura Ricketts to the board of trustees of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
- Over in the Bears’ world, there are sadly more injury bits to discuss, but also funny pictures!
- Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on February 13. Start the countdown clock: 69 days.
(Picture via Renteria’s welcome message to Cubs fans.)