Star sluggers enticing, but Sveum keeping cool
Cubs manager praises Prince, Pujols, but not looking ahead
DALLAS -- Dale Sveum has heard the rumors about the Cubs being linked to free agents Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, but he's not penciling either in his early lineups.
"If they're at HoHoKam [Park] at the beginning of Spring Training, that's when you like to think more about that," Sveum said Tuesday. "It's obviously nice to be in an organization that can even mention their names to even think about them. They're two great players."
Sveum, taking his turn during the manager news conferences at the Hilton Anatole at the Winter Meetings, is in the process of finalizing his coaching staff. All that's missing is a first-base coach. So far, Rudy Jaramillo, Pat Listach and Lester Strode will return from the 2011 staff and be joined by pitching coach Chris Bosio and bench coach Jamie Quirk.
Also missing in the Cubs' lineup is a big slugger, as Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena are both gone via free agency. That's why the Cubs have been linked to Pujols and Fielder.
Sveum, who was the Brewers' hitting coach before getting the managing job, would give the Cubs an edge in recruiting Fielder.
"He's one of those special guys who comes around once in a while, once in a lifetime," Sveum said. "He should've played the game in the 1950s and '60s and '70s, when guys played every day, they played as hard as they possibly could every single day. They cared about winning, they cared about their teammates. Prince is all those things. He's one of those special guys."
Sveum has heard the rumors linking the Cubs to Fielder but said he's not aware of any conversations.
"We're not in any kind of process talking to him or anything like that," he said.
How much of a force is Fielder?
"He's an impact player who impacts the whole team," Sveum said.
As for Pujols, Sveum is hoping the free agent finds a new team outside of the National League Central.
"I had to witness over the last six years what he could do," Sveum said. "It's pretty impressive. He's definitely the best hitter in baseball right now. What he did in the playoffs and all that stuff speaks for itself. If he's not with us, you hope he's in another division."
Sveum isn't jotting down lineups, although he did say new right fielder David DeJesus is a "prototypical leadoff guy" with the way the Cubs' roster is now. The new Cubs manager has talked to Starlin Castro, Jeff Samardzija and Ryan Dempster and will try to talk to all the players before Christmas.
Among the players on Sveum's call list is Carlos Zambrano, whom the Cubs manager included when talking about the 2012 rotation.
"I don't think there's a message you send a guy," Sveum said of the volatile pitcher who has been told he needs to earn his way back. "He knows his track record. It's not something I have to mention to him. He knows what he's done in the past, and he knows he has to change that past.
"If you put [Zambrano, Matt Garza and Dempster] at the top of the rotation, you've got a chance of winning with the bullpen we have," Sveum said. "That's what you have to get [Zambrano] to understand about winning and coming out of the gate quickly."
Sveum will turn Zambrano over to Bosio, whom he called a "baseball rat" with a lot of passion for being a pitching coach.
"He's always been a good friend of mine," Sveum said of his Brewers teammate. "He was actually the first guy I saw in professional baseball when I first got to Rookie ball. We played football against each other in high school. The way he can communicate with Major League players, he can get his point across."
This is Sveum's first Winter Meetings, and he called it a "big baseball carnival." It's also interfering a little with his offseason. At least, that's what Hall of Famer Robin Yount tells him. The two have been trying to figure out when they can go hunting in Arizona for pig, quail or anything that moves.
"All this stuff is getting into my hunting time," Sveum said.
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.