Results tagged ‘ In the Dugout ’
The following Q&A appears in the April edition of Vine Line magazine.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria has certainly paid his dues. After 30 years in professional baseball, he’ll feel like a rookie again this season as he takes the managerial reins for the first time. Though the 51-year-old is unfailingly positive, he’s also tough, and he hopes to bring a new attitude to a Cubs franchise that is brimming with young talent. We sat down with Renteria during Spring Training to ask about running his first big league team and his expectations for the season.
Vine Line: You’ve had a long coaching career, but you’re a first-time major league manager. What was your opening message to the team?
RR: That we should place high expectations upon ourselves to compete and to win. We shouldn’t be afraid to raise the bar and expect ourselves to attain that bar. If we go about doing our business with the fear that we won’t attain it—and thereby not set expectations—what’s the goal? We need to have goals, and I think they’re going about their business a certain way right now. I’m very excited about the club.
VL: Is it nice to finally get your eyes on some of the top prospects like Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Kris Bryant?
RR: It’s extremely exciting to see all the young guys that are in camp, with Almora, Baez and all the guys that are here. It’s important that we put our eyes on them to see where they end up ultimately fitting into the scheme of things. I think the skill sets are very high. Experience has to continue to play into it while they’re developing and playing in the minor leagues, so we make sure that once they get here, it’s not overwhelming.
Some guys may not make the splash that everybody expects, but that’s OK. You can work through those things. Some guys will make a big splash, and that’s great. But the reality is you’ve got to stay even keel, and that’s where we as a coaching staff and as an organization have to make sure these guys feel comfortable.
VL: You were aggressive with stealing bases, bunts, etc. in the spring. Is that an indication of how you expect the team to play?
RR: I think every skill set the players bring has to be taken into account when you’re determining what you’re going to do with them. But we do expect these guys to be able to do many things—to be able to steal a base, be able to hit and run, be able to sac bunt, be able to squeeze. If we lay the foundation right now in the spring that those are the expectations we have for them, anything is possible.
Once the season starts, the bell rings, you’ve got 40,000 people in the stands, and the lights are on, we expect that the transition to the regular season shouldn’t be as hard for us because we’re expecting to do a lot of things, and we’re doing them from Day One.
VL: You’ve talked about your coaching staff and the players sharing a family feeling. Why is that important?
RR: I think being a family-like team is extremely important. You feel like you have each other’s back. You’re willing to go out and fight for your teammate. You’re willing to defend anything that they do. You may be in the clubhouse, and you may be getting on each other, but nobody else can come in and say the same thing that you can as a teammate. That’s the family feel, you know? I grew up in a large family of nine, and maybe we could get on each other, but if somebody else came in from the outside and wanted to do the same thing, “Hey, not going to happen.”
VL: A lot of people are saying this team can’t compete this year. What do you say to that?
RR: We can compete this year. I think we have the ability to go out there and play the game. Anybody can do whatever it is they choose to do. The question is: Who do we choose to believe we are? Do we choose to believe what everybody else says—the naysayers, the doubters, whatever the case might be? Do they have a reason? Sure, but that’s not our reason. Our reason to go out here is to perform, to do well and expect to do well.
VL: There’s a new wrinkle this year with expanded instant replay. Do you have a system in place for how you’ll handle that?
RR: If my eyes tell me I should challenge something, I’m going to challenge. It’s not necessarily like I’m going to take every opportunity to go ahead and challenge every single play just because I can. … I don’t want to do it just for the sake of doing it. I think there should be a purpose. I should develop my skill set, and the bench coach and all of us on the bench should develop our skill sets.
Click image to play “In the Dugout with Mike Quade.”
No other publication boasts as much in-depth coverage of the Cubs as Vine Line, and our long-running In the Dugout feature is back for 2011 with new manager Mike Quade. And now you can watch Quade talk about everything from his first Opening Day at the helm, to the the team’s leaders, to his picks as a gourmet. Vine Line subscribers can look forward to the second installment of In the Dugout in the June issue, arriving in mailboxes in a couple weeks.
Keep coming back this week for more exclusive video from the Vine Line team.
I just sat down with Lou Piniella for our “In the Dugout” Q&A, a first-half wrap-up to appear in the next issue of Vine Line. With one game remaining here before the All-Star break, Lou talked about the whole gamut: the Cubs’ injuries, depth, hitting struggles, success in the rotation, training staff and more.
One interesting note from our sit-down is Lou’s self-identification as a managerial “pragmatist.” He brought that up when discussing the recent success of Alfonso Soriano batting third, fifth and sixth in the order. Lou has seen a difference in Soriano’s at-bats — a patience and selectivity that wasn’t there before — and it sounds like Lou will go with what works. He didn’t necessarily expect the change to affect Soriano’s plate discipline, but Lou has been encouraged by the result.
Certainly it’s been a season that has demanded pragmatism, considering the litany of injuries that have struck the Cubs. It’s a situation Lou calls “almost comical” in a half-joking, half-disbelieving sense. He pointed out the really impressive work by Jake Fox as one of the things he looks forward to seeing continue in the second half.
For more, I’d encourage you to pick up the August issue of Vine Line. You can subscribe online or by calling 1-800-248-9467.
Fox won’t be starting tonight — at third base or behind the plate — as regulars Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez man the corners.
Right-hander Adam Wainwright (9-5, 3.09 ERA) pitches for the Cardinals.
And we have a late addition to the lineup: Punk rock band Green Day will be singing the seventh-inning stretch.
– Sean Ahmed
Our cover this month was the subject of a lot of discussion — After all the off-season work done by general manager Jim Hendry and his staff, what is left on Lou Piniella’s plate now that games are starting? What best represents some of the open opportunities on this year’s team?
These are the decisions that Lou will be batting around through the spring and into the season, and we tried to convey some of the lineup’s open questions on our March cover. Writing out the lineup is something I specifically got to talk to Lou about last season, in our “In the Dugout” one-on-one sessions. Last September, he spoke about his thought process as he was filling out his card … the combinations (think 2-3-4 instead of 1 through 9), anticipating late-inning switches and how to counter the opponents.
The last one reflects Lou’s willingness to play with his lineup — he said he considers how quick the pitcher is to the plate and how the catcher is throwing, how the wind might affect the game and the typical platoon advantages. The best lineup on a given day isn’t always the fastest, most powerful, most balanced lineup the team could possibly trot out. After this winter, it sounds like Lou is excited to have even more flexibility and balance this season. Check out Vine Line for more on the specific battles going on this spring.
– Sean Ahmed
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