MESA, Ariz. – Cubs manager Dale Sveum has no intention of rehashing last season or even mentioning the 101 losses.
When Sveum does finally meet with the entire team at spring training – pitchers and catchers officially reported Sunday to Fitch Park, with position players due to officially arrive Saturday – he wants to focus on a clean slate. But finishing the 2013 season at .500, while it looks nice on paper, won’t lead any in the Cubs organization to declare the year a success.
“The only way to always dictate a season is if you get to the playoffs,” Sveum said. “Everything’s put on numbers, how many wins, playing .500. … When you start putting prices on numbers – oh well, .500 would be a good year this year. Well, .500, we’ll be going home just like we did last year.”
Sveum, general manager Jed Hoyer and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein met with the media ahead of today’s informal workouts and each continued to emphasize the necessary stages during rebuilding.
“I think we’re being open and transparent with our fans about what we’re trying to accomplish, that we’re not going to take any shortcuts,” Epstein said. “We’re going to try and build this the right way. It’s a bit of a covenant where we ask for their patience and ask them to get behind the young players who come up to the big leagues. ... In return, we promise to work our tails off, the entire organization from top to bottom, so that we can build something truly special.”
The Cubs finally have built decent roster depth, particularly with starting pitchers. Sveum said seven pitchers will be competing for five spots in the starting rotation. However, realistically, four – Scott Feldman, Scott Baker, Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva – will be battling for the Nos. 4 and 5 spots.
Combined with the continued improvement from Starlin Castro, who Epstein expects to have a breakout year offensively soon, and a full year with Anthony Rizzo in the lineup, the Cubs are hopeful there will be notable improvement on the field.
A healthy Ian Stewart is going to get every opportunity to win the third base job, Epstein said, and production is what will determine if he gets to start. The Cubs are confident they also addressed creating a more balanced lineup. They plan to use a platoon in the outfield to get as many lefties in the lineup as possible.
“Losses are very difficult, but our goal is something much bigger, and sometimes you know that there’s going to be a little bit of short-term pain to have a long-term perspective,” Hoyer said. “ …We want to reverse that record completely. It can be hard. It can wear on you.”
• Meghan Montemurro covers the White Sox and Cubs for Shaw Media. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @M_Montemurro.