Upbeat Renteria looks at positive side of things
New skipper enters first camp ready to face challenges of turning Cubs around
MESA, Ariz. -- Rick Renteria will officially take charge on the field on Friday when Cubs pitchers and catchers hold their first workout, and the players shouldn't misinterpret his upbeat personality, thinking they can take advantage of him. He expects 100 percent commitment.
"That's my biggest peeve about anything we do is, 'What am I committed to doing? What am I willing to do to make us better?'" Renteria said Thursday.
"The reality is, nobody in that [clubhouse] will misconstrue my calmness and my patience for not having fire," Renteria said. "I have plenty of fire in my belly. The only ones who need to understand it are those guys in there. I'm hoping that because they do, what you guys see will be something pretty exciting."
The Cubs have an uphill climb after finishing last in the National League Central last season. Renteria, 52, takes over for Dale Sveum, who was dismissed after two seasons and 197 losses, and opens camp with a positive attitude.
"You can't enter any season without truly having expectations, otherwise, what would be the purpose of being here?" Renteria said. "We're not trying to re-invent the wheel. We'll make sure everything we do has purpose, that everything we do does matter. We'll make sure our men understand that."
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said the goal is to win, and feels Renteria is the right person to lead the team.
"We really trust Ricky to connect with the players as human beings, to be on their side, to be consistent, to hold them to high standards and ultimately to get the most out of them," Epstein said. "He's a great baseball guy, a great communicator. He's fully invested in what we're doing here.
"He believes in young players, he believes he can win with young players. We believe he's the right guy to create an environment that we need at the big league level to establish a winning culture and allow our young players to continue to develop and become championship players."
Renteria will have his hands full. Starlin Castro is coming off a disappointing season in which the shortstop took a step back, batting .245, and Junior Lake has to avoid the sophomore slump that could come in his second season. Renteria says he needs to get the players to trust him and the staff, and that will produce the best results.
He likes the Cubs' rotation, which includes Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, and Edwin Jackson, and having Jose Veras as the closer with Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, Carlos Villanueva, James Russell and Wesley Wright in the bullpen.
In fact, it's hard to find anything Renteria isn't positive about.
"I think that's just my personality," Renteria said. "For anybody who knows me, it's pretty tough to keep me down. There's a lot of things that go into that. Maybe it's all the experiences I've had in my life, but in general I've always been a happy kid. My parents told me I was a happy baby."
Maybe that's because he was born on Christmas Day.
Renteria believes in finding the positive in anything. He's not saying the Cubs will go 162-0 this year, but he does believe they can win every game. There's a difference.
His new role as a big league manager after being on the Padres' coaching staff for six seasons will put him in the spotlight. He's ready.
"I can't say it feels any different," Renteria said. "Quite frankly, I don't know if it's normal or abnormal, but it's as peaceful as I've ever been as a person coming into any position. I don't have any anxiousness.
"I can say I am excited because it's a completely different role that I have," he said. "It comes at the cost of now being seen by everyone and [knowing] every single thing I do will be scrutinized. I'm excited I'm in the position I'm in simply because of the players who are going to be part of this. I think that's what's making it more exciting. Maybe that's why I'm a little more calm than people expected. I like where everything is going."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.