Results tagged ‘ Dale Sveum ’

Day two of the bunting competition

Bunting

(Photo by Stephen Green)

The first round of the bunting competition continued Tuesday, and the crowd was a little bigger than normal because new reliever Kyuji Fujikawa was on the docket. Fujikawa has about a dozen members of the Japanese media following his every move in the early days of camp.

Unfortunately, his stay in the tourney was short-lived. He struggled to keep the ball in the scoring zones and was eliminated by pitcher Blake Parker.

Manager Dale Sveum, who has been doing the majority of the pitching during the competition, added a little excitement to the proceedings when he buzzed a few batters up and in. As the tourney progressed, his delivery and location became more erratic, which prompted a few catcalls from the players. He was eventually relieved on the mound by Franklin Font.

“I’ve got a pretty good blister, and I just wasn’t even feeling the ball too much,” Sveum said. “I threw a little bit too much to the front office the other day, and my finger is a little bit raw.”

In other Tuesday first-round matchups:

Jeff Samardzija defeated Rafael Dolis

Michael Brenly defeated Dioner Navarro

Jaye Chapman defeated Carlos Villanueva

Brent Lillibridge defeated Brad Nelson

Darnell McDonald defeated Josh Vitters

Brett Jackson defeated Welington Castillo

Alberto Cabrera defeated Cory Wade by default (Wade was a no-show)

Now Playing: Mesa Cubscast with the 2013 coaching staff

On Monday morning, Vine Line was on hand for the Cubs annual photo day in Mesa, Ariz., where we got a chance to talk to Cubs manager Dale Sveum, pitching coach Chris Bosio, hitting coach James Rowson and first-base coach Dave McKay about their expectations for the 2013 season.

Vine Line will be posting videos and content from Fitch Park and HoHoKam Stadium all week long, so keep an eye on the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.

Cactus Notes: Quotes from spring camp

Today was the second full day of Cubs camp in Mesa, Ariz., and the team definitely stayed busy. Outfielder Tony Campana was traded to the Diamondbacks, it was photo day, the bunting competition got underway, and Dale Sveum and Jed Hoyer addressed the media. Though GM Hoyer said the team is not overly concerned about Matt Garza’a lat injury, the team will schedule an MRI for the right-hander in the next 24-48 hours. Here are some select quotes from Monday’s session.

Hoyer on Garza’s Lat Injury

“The good news is his arm felt really strong and he was throwing really well. It’s unfortunate for sure, and it’s going to set him back a little bit. But we’re still really confident. Our concern, obviously, was with the elbow injury that shut him down last year.”

“It wasn’t the most fun live BP session to watch. He looked great and free and easy where you feel really good about what you’re watching, and the next thing you know, you see a guy stretching his side. Right away, when you see a guy like that stretching, you think the worst. It was a bummer but I’m glad his arm feels good, and Matt is in real good spirits because of that. It’s the kind of injury that you’re thankful happened in the first live BP. When these injuries happen in the last start of Spring Training it really hurts you in the season.”

Sveum on Kyuji Fujikawa

“I’ve probably seen him throw a good four bullpens. I missed him yesterday. I was on another field when he threw. But everybody said his split was really nasty, and that’s his out pitch. … When you have a split finger like that and you throw strikes and you can get ahead of hitters, it’s a pretty devastating pitch. So I think he’s going to do fine. He’s a great athlete, so I think he can make things happen. Even on the days he doesn’t have his split, he knows how to elevate, pitch inside, pitch down and away, use his two-seamer.”

Sveum on Alfonso Soriano

“I had never met him at all in my life until the first day of camp last year. We have a great relationship. I consider him a friend now as much as somebody I manage.”

“Seeing him on the other side of the fence, I was completely blown away by the kind of person he is and the work ethic he puts in. I rank him in the top five people I’ve ever been around in the game as far as work ethic, people and everything.”

1000 Words: Sveum drafts a new player

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs manager Dale Sveum and the Cubs Caravan at the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine base, where Cubs players, coaches and front office staff served lunch to active duty military and veterans in partnership with the USO.

Cubs Convention kicks off next Friday

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Ready to get the 2013 baseball season started? The Cubs campaign kicks off next weekend, Jan. 18-20, at the 28th Annual Cubs Convention, held for the first time at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in downtown Chicago. The event will feature more than 75 current, past and future Cubs players and coaches, and will offer more than 100 photo and autograph opportunities.

The Opening Ceremony begins on Friday, Jan. 18, at 5 p.m., and will feature player and alumni introductions on a red carpet runway that will offer special VIP access to children 16 and under. Following the Opening Ceremony, guests will find some of their favorite Cubs throughout the hotel for an exciting Autograph Hunt Game. The evening will conclude with longtime Cubs Convention favorite Cubs Bingo, led by Wayne Messmer, as well as a live radio broadcast of WGN Sports Night.

Saturday’s program continues the gaming fun with the return of Cubs Jeopardy, which pits alumni pitchers Milt Pappas, Scott Sanderson, Lee Smith and Rick Sutcliffe against alumni position players Jose Cardenal, Jody Davis, Randy Hundley and Todd Walker. Cubs Family Feud makes its Cubs Convention debut Saturday afternoon, as Cubs alumni Bobby Dernier, Jon Lieber, Gary Matthews and Billy Williams take on current Cubs Michael Bowden, Shawn Camp, Brett Jackson and Ian Stewart.

Fans can meet many of the club’s offseason acquisitions—including pitchers Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Edwin Jackson; catcher Dioner Navarro; and outfielder Nate Schierholtz—at the Meet the New Cubs session hosted by new television analyst Jim Deshaies and play-by-play broadcaster Len Kasper.

Additional Saturday sessions include:

  • Ricketts Family Forum—Tom, Laura, Pete and Todd Ricketts speak with Len Kasper and fans about their experience as team owners over the past three years.
  • Meet Cubs Baseball Management—President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, Executive Vice President/General Manager Jed Hoyer, Assistant General Manager Randy Bush, Assistant General Manager Shiraz Rehman and manager Dale Sveum speak about the club’s recent moves and what lies ahead for the 2013 season.
  • From Draft Day to the Big Leagues—Cubs minor league prospects Dallas Beeler, Matt Szczur, Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych discuss what it’s like to get drafted by the Chicago Cubs and advance through the minor leagues.
  • Dale Sveum and the Coaching Staff—The Cubs manager, bench coach Jamie Quirk, hitting coach James Rowson, assistant hitting coach Rob Deer, bullpen boach Lester Strode, first base coach Dave McKay and third base coach David Bell speak with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies about what’s in store during the staff’s second year.
  • For Kids Only Press Conference, presented by Advocate Health Care—A unique Q&A session where kids ask the questions to Darwin Barney, David DeJesus, Brooks Raley, Anthony Rizzo and Chris Rusin.
  • Renew Wrigley Field—Cubs executives discuss ideas to preserve and renew iconic Wrigley Field based on input from Cubs fans, season ticket holders and the community.
  • Not for Women Only—Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, James Russell, and Travis Wood discuss their personal sides and lives off the field.
  • WGN Radio’s Sports Central—This live broadcast with WGN Radio’s Jim Memolo and Glen Kozlowski will feature segments with David DeJesus and Matt Garza; Darwin Barney and Jeff Samardzija; Tony Campana and Starlin Castro; and Brett Jackson, Edwin Jackson and Anthony Rizzo.

Sunday’s program features two panel sessions to close out the Convention:

  • Down on the Farm—Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod, Director of Pro Scouting Joe Bohringer and Director of Player Development Brandon Hyde will be joined by Cubs farmhands Chris Rusin and Josh Vitters to give a breakdown of the Cubs minor league teams from Iowa down to Mesa. Hosted by Vine Line editor Gary Cohen and broadcaster Dave Otto.
  • Stat Sundays—Broadcasters Jim Deshaies, Len Kasper and WGN’s Bob Vorwald offer insight into the statistics they analyze and feature during Stat Sundays throughout the season.

In addition to the sessions highlighted above, the Convention includes many new and returning activities throughout the weekend for fans:

Rookie of the Year Movie Night, presented by the Cubs Kids Club, makes its Cubs Convention debut. Fans can eat popcorn and relax with family and friends Saturday evening while watching the popular film, Rookie of the Year.

Walgreens Field is a new miniature turf diamond that gives kids a fun place to take practice batting, play pick-up wiffle ball games or participate in professional instructional clinics as part of the Baseball Interactive Zone. Cubs players and coaches will pair up with Illinois Baseball Academy instructors to conduct a series of training opportunities for fans of all ages throughout the weekend.

Comcast SportsNet Chicago is giving fans the chance to test their play-by-play broadcasting skills in a custom-built fantasy broadcasting booth. Guests will call a pre-recorded play in the booth, then download a recorded copy of their work for keeps.

MLB Network’s Strike Zone allows fans to test their arm speed and win prizes at an inflatable speed pitch.

The Sony PlayStation Gaming Zone gives attendees a chance to take a break from the action to play MLB 12 The Show at one of several Sony PS3 kiosks.

The LEGOLAND® Discovery Center returns with an area dedicated for families to exercise their creativity with the small building blocks.

American Girl’s Activity Area features activities inspired by American Girl dolls and the chance to win a new doll and book.

The Chicago Sun-Times Photo Kiosk lets fans have their picture taken for the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times with customizable headlines that make for a memorable souvenir.

Fans can learn about or contribute to the history of the Cubs franchise in collaboration with team archivists. Historical pieces of memorabilia will be on hand for viewing, and guests can receive professional tips on how to preserve their own valuable keepsakes. Attendees are invited to share their personal stories with a video crew, and they may be used in future promotions or publications.

Limited individual weekend passes for the 2013 Cubs Convention are still available for $60 per pass plus convenience fees. Visit www.cubs.com/convention or call 1-800-THE-CUBS. A percentage of the proceeds from the Cubs Convention benefits Chicago Cubs Charities. To date, Cubs Convention has raised approximately $4 million for Chicago Cubs Charities.

From the Winter Meetings: Sveum on the bullpen [Part 2]

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Former Cubs reliever and MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac (center) joined Brian Kenny and Tom Verducci for on-site reporting from the Winter Meetings.

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Here are more Dale Sveum dispatches from the sprawling Gaylord Opryland Resort, where the halls have been buzzing on this last full day of the Winter Meetings.

• Sveum made it clear the bullpen is getting attention in the Cubs front office. The team already re-signed Shawn Camp, their lone free agent, and may look to add more.

“Upgrading the ‘pen is something we wanted to do. … Whatever happens from here on out—we’re talking to a lot of people, and hopefully things work out. But [Carlos] Marmol is our closer, and we’ve got to get better at the back end. We signed Shawn Camp back, James Russell, so that’s a start. But we have to get better in that seventh, eighth inning.”

Sveum wouldn’t directly comment on Japanese pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa, though the Cubs’ pursuit of the reliever attracted plenty of Japanese reporters to the manager’s press conference. Fujikawa, a free agent who saved 220 games over 12 years with the Hanshin Tigers, clearly intrigues Sveum.

“I think he can fill any kind of role. He’s got that kind of stuff. Those numbers and that ability to do things with three, four different pitches just doesn’t come around very often. So he can set up, he can close, do anything he wants with the baseball. He’s got four quality pitches and can add and subtract with his fastball. Yeah, I mean, he can pitch in the seventh, pitch in the eighth, pitch in the ninth, he can get left-handers out—so he can pitch in any kind of situation.”

• Sveum spent about a week in Arizona to see Cubs prospects, including highly regarded shortstop Javier Baez, who just turned 20 last week. Many have compared Baez’s bat speed to Gary Sheffield’s.

“Incredible bad speed. Didn’t get to see any results, but the bat speed was pretty good. I didn’t go to his best games. But he had a heck of a minor league season—the combination of the home runs and everything. He was a bigger kid than I thought when I saw him in person. I saw him without a shirt on one day, and I was like, wow, he’s a pretty big kid. But a lot of tremendous, tremendous tools at that age. That kind of bat speed just doesn’t come around at 19 years old.”

From the Winter Meetings: Sveum talks accountability, Jackson and Barney [Part 1]

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NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Cubs manager Dale Sveum met with the media today at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and shared a number of interesting tidbits in his first full availability in several months. No topic—from starting pitching, to the back end of the bullpen, to offseason work, to offensive needs—was off limits. We’ll cover them all in a few posts this week.

• While Sveum said he appreciated the front office’s praise of the job he did this season, he also said his staff holds the entire clubhouse, including themselves, accountable. He echoed recent comments by Theo Epstein that clubhouse character and reputation matters around the league.

“We have to be better and do a better job. We knew going in we were changing the culture of an organization, changing the culture of the 25 guys on the baseball field every day. I think we accomplished a lot of things like that. To get the people that come to this organization, the kids that come up, very comfortable knowing that myself and my staff are guys that are going to hold guys accountable—and to get character-type, good players in the organization—it makes a big difference when free agents can find out that a manager and staff are doing the right things.”

• Brett Jackson and Darwin Barney were among the Cubs players who recently got targeted work with the coaching staff in Arizona.

“It’s obviously not a major league pitcher out there, but [Jackson] made huge strides in his batting practice. [He] completely overhauled his swing, changed a lot of things. It was a completely different swing. Using his hands much, much more, staying behind the ball—a lot of things that are definitely going to help going into the season. I think he has a good base to work with going the rest of winter into Spring Training to understand the art of hitting, so to speak, that sometimes gets lost or taught the wrong way.”

Sveum offered praise for Barney’s glove work and said the second baseman didn’t need to make any major swing changes.

“He didn’t have to make huge, drastic swing changes or anything like that. A few things we brought up—with him, it’s more about driving the ball. I think his on-base percentage is going to gradually get better just with experience. We all know the glove he has, the Gold Glove, but we have to get that OPS up, and he realizes that. He’s capable of both.”

Hot Off the Presses: Vine Line’s Year in Review

The end of 2012 marks the culmination of many firsts. It was baseball president Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer’s first year at the Cubs’ helm. It was Dale Sveum’s first full season as a major league manager. It was Anthony Rizzo’s first year in a Cubs uniform and Jeff Samardzija’s first real experience in the rotation. It was also the first time since 1966 the team lost 100 games in a single season.

In other words, I think everybody is looking forward to saying goodbye to 2012 and popping the proverbial cork on a new year of Cubs baseball.

Although a 61-101 record isn’t what anyone involved with the Cubs was hoping for, everybody knew there was work to be done at the outset of the season. As we look back at the year, there were certainly stretches of good play, breakout performances, walk-off wins and plenty to feel positive about. But no one—from fans to players to the front office—is happy with where the team is right now.

“I don’t think a celebration is in order,” said Epstein on his one-year anniversary with the Cubs. “I have a lot more gray hair now than I had a year ago. My wife reminds me of that all the time. But I do feel really energized by a lot of the things that are going on here.”

In the December issue of Vine Line, the Daily Herald’s Bruce Miles examines how the Cubs fared this year and what they did to strengthen their future prospects. It’s impossible to judge the 2012 calendar year by looking solely at the major league level. When Epstein, Hoyer and company came to Chicago, they talked of the need to restock the minor league system to provide a steady stream of homegrown talent to the big league club. And that’s exactly what the Cubs are doing. Respected hardball website Baseball Prospectus recently released a list of the top 10 prospects in the Cubs organization, and six of the 10 players were acquired or drafted in 2012.

It all started with the 2012 first-year player draft, where the Cubs picked up outfielder Albert Almora (No. 1 on Baseball Prospectus’ list) and right-handed pitchers Pierce Johnson (No. 7) and Duane Underwood (No. 8). But it also included free agent signings like outfielder Jorge Soler (No. 3) and making full use of the trade deadline to fill organizational holes with players like right-hander Arodys Vizcaino (No. 4) and third baseman Christian Villanueva (No. 9).

To say goodbye to 2012, Vine Line and Chicago Cubs photographer Stephen Green also look back at the best photos from the past season. Green, in his 30th year with the team, was there for every moment, from Bill Murray’s Opening Day hijinks to Bryan LaHair’s walk-off single to cap off the year.

We also have a preview of the Cubs Convention, a Q&A with outfielder Dave Sappelt and much more. For these stories, subscribe to Vine Line or pick up an issue at select Chicago-area retailers. We’ve also launched a Vine Line Twitter account at @cubsvineline to keep you posted on Cubs happenings up to the minute.

2013 Cubs Convention passes on sale now

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The MVP awards were handed out Thursday night, signifying the official end of the the 2012 baseball season. But just because Spring Training is still months away doesn’t mean Cubs fans can’t get their baseball fix.

From Jan. 18-20, Cubs faithful will have an opportunity to meet more than 50 current and former players, coaches and front office associates at the 28th annual Cubs Convention. For the first time in the event’s history, it will be held at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers at 301 E. North Water St., and it promises to deliver all the fun and excitement of previous years.

Some of the headliners expected to attend this year include Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams; current stars Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson and Jeff Samardzija; and front office personnel like Dale Sveum, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

Individual weekend passes for the event went on sale earlier this month, and there are still some available. Each pass is $60 plus convenience fees. To purchase your pass, visit cubs.com or call 1-800-THE-CUBS.

Guests can also still book rooms at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers by calling the hotel at 800-233-4100. Ask for the Cubs Convention rate of $179/night plus tax. Guests who book a two-night stay will receive a limited edition, authenticated, autographed photo of Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson.

The convention will run from 1-9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m-midnight Saturday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit cubs.com.

Barney’s defense is golden

The following is an excerpt from the November issue of Vine Line, on sale now at Chicago-area retailers.

Good as Gold

When Darwin Barney came to Spring Training in 2011, he was expected to be a utility player. By the end of 2012, he was a Gold Glove-winning second baseman and a cornerstone of the Cubs’ future.

April 18, 2012, was a rough day for the Cubs.

It was the second game of a three-game road trip to the Marlins’ ultra-modern, “only-in-Miami” new ballpark. Starter Matt Garza struggled through five innings, while his mound opponent and former Chicago compatriot Mark Buehrle cruised through eight, surrendering one run. The Cubs managed just six hits in a 9-1 loss … and starting second baseman Darwin Barney didn’t make an error.

It was an altogether forgettable evening of baseball, except for one thing. This game touched off one of the best defensive runs in baseball history.

It would be more than five months—141 games—before Barney made another miscue in the field. During that nearly season-long stretch, the diminutive second baseman made all the plays (including a surprising number of spectacular ones), piled up records, and bypassed former coach and Cubs legend—and perhaps the best second baseman of all time—Ryne Sandberg.

“I’ve been around a long time, and he’s been as good as I’ve ever seen,” said manager Dale Sveum. “[Barney] has put together arguably one of the best defensive second base years in the history of the game. I mean, he’s passed a lot of people. And when you’re basically passing one of the best—if not the best (Ryne Sandberg)—it’s one heck of an accomplishment you can hang your hat on for the rest of your life.”

There are more obvious kinds of excellence. Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown practically begs for plaudits and superlatives—it necessitates hits, home runs, fireworks and its own SportsCenter playlist. Barney’s is a low-key, under-the-radar, grind-it-out kind of excellence.

An errorless game is nothing to get excited about. Major league ballplayers aren’t supposed to make errors. But given the physical and mental grind of 162 games, they all know how difficult it is to put together an extended errorless streak.

“If I had a 20-game streak, I was pleased with myself,” said former Cubs third base and infield coach Pat Listach, who played six seasons in the majors and was integral to Barney’s defensive improvement over the last two years. “This guy has got over 100. Just knowing how hard it is to do every day, day in and day out, made it more impressive every day.”

Work Ethic

To a man, every player and coach immediately mentions Barney’s tireless work ethic and consuming drive to get better. He consistently receives the highest compliment a player can give to any other major leaguer: “He’s a baseball player.” And over the course of the 2012 season, Barney fashioned himself into perhaps the preeminent defensive second sacker in the game.

“His work ethic is off the charts,” Listach said. “He knows this is a game you can only play for a certain number of years, and he wants to be the best at it while he’s got that window open. He’s like the old-school baseball players. When us coaches leave after we’re done dissecting the game, he’s still there. He’s in the weight room, or he’s in the video room. He’s trying to make himself better every day.”

The Move

Given the way Barney handles the keystone, it would be easy to believe he’s spent his entire life mastering the position. But in reality, 2012 was only Barney’s second year at second base. He’d grown up and played his entire career as a shortstop, including at Oregon State University, where he said he really started to focus on his defensive play.

“We had a coach, Marty Lees, who’s now at Oklahoma State,” Barney said. “Every ground ball I took my freshman year, I felt like he had something to say. And I was so frustrated because [it was] every single ground ball. And we took a lot of ground balls.”

When Barney made his debut as the Cubs’ starting second baseman on Opening Day 2011, it was just the 24th game he had played the position as a professional. Although he thought the transition would be easy, he said he was often uncomfortable in the field, especially turning the double play. He ultimately finished the 2011 season with 12 errors and a .981 fielding percentage—a decent defensive season for a guy adjusting to a new position—but Barney was far from satisfied.

“I just took a lot of pride in the work that I did,” Barney said. “I was always conscious about my habits and my practice efforts and getting to work every single day. A lot of times when you’re tired, you take your defense off and take less ground balls. For me, I take less swings. I make sure I get my work in on defense and stay solid out there.”

Chasing Greatness

By almost any measure—advanced metrics, errors, fielding percentage or just the eye test—Barney’s 2012 was one of the best defensive seasons for a second baseman in the history of the game. In 156 games, Barney made only three errors—one of which came at shortstop—and amassed a .997 fielding percentage at second base. Baseball-Reference had Barney tied with Brendan Ryan of the Mariners for the best defensive wins above replacement (3.6) mark in the major leagues in 2012.

“This is my 11th full year doing big league games, and this is the best defensive year by an individual player I’ve witnessed,” said Cubs television broadcaster Len Kasper. “I think we’ve come a long way with defensive statistics and how to look at defense. The bottom line is: Forget about the errors and fielding percentage. It’s about balls hit in your area and turning them into outs. It’s been borne out in the statistics that every ball hit in his area turns into an out.”

Constant Improvement

But Barney is not spending the offseason resting on his defensive laurels. Despite his superlative campaign, he still wants to get better around the bag turning double plays. He plans to work on his speed and flexibility to improve his range. And he wants to continue to refine his routine so he’s ready to play every day. And for people who know Barney, none of this comes as a surprise.

“A lot of times, players have a tendency to work on the things they do well,” said Dave McKay, the Cubs’ first base and outfield coach. “Darwin works on everything. He works on his backhand, he works on his feeds, ground balls hit up the middle, ground balls hit to his left. He works on them all because he wants to be that guy—he wants to be the Gold Glove second baseman. I think once he gets it, he’s going to get it forever.”

—Gary Cohen

To read the entire article, pick up the November issue of Vine Line or subscribe to Vine Line today.

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