02/19/12 8:36 PM EST
Sveum welcomes spring with open arms
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
"It seems like I got hired two years ago," the new Cubs manager said after the first session at Fitch Park in Mesa, Ariz. "You're just waiting for this day to come to finally get on the field, and it took until late afternoon to get out there.
"When you do this for so many years, the most comfortable spot you're in is when you're on the grass and Spring Training and when the balls are being hit and caught and thrown and to be able to talk to everybody. It's officially baseball season, finally, and that's when we're all most comfortable."
What is Sveum looking for on the first day for pitchers and catchers?
"Coming in like this, new, all I've done is seen guys on video besides the Garzas and Dempsters and these guys," he said. "The young guys, you want to see how the ball comes out of their hand, you want to see their poise on the mound, especially the first day. Some guys come in and they try to impress and get a little out of whack. Today I was impressed by a lot of the young guys and guys I haven't seen. We have a lot of good arms in camp."
The only non-participant was lefty John Gaub, sidelined because of back spasms, which started earlier this week. Fifteen pitchers threw side sessions on Sunday, including Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Carlos Marmol, Jeff Samardzija and Trey McNutt.
Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio are trying to sort out who will make the rotation but also define roles for some pitchers like Samardzija, who was used in relief last season but has expressed a desire to start.
"We just want to look at him and see how he reacts to multiple innings and see what happens by the end of Spring Training to make that decision," Sveum said as to whether Samardzija will start or pitch in relief. "We haven't promised anybody anything. The fact of the matter is to see what we've got there. He might wow us -- you never know. That's a power arm and a power body that is obviously built to start."
Garza opines on Big Z, contract and spring eats
MESA, Ariz. -- Matt Garza predicts Carlos Zambrano will be in the Cy Young race this year, that the Cubs will be eating better, and his contract situation won't be a distraction.
Garza said he wished Zambrano good luck with the Marlins.
"I'd love to be compared to Zambrano on the field," Garza said Sunday of the right-hander, who was dealt to the Marlins on Jan. 5 for Chris Volstad. "That guy, I'll tell you what, he's going to have one hell of a year, I kid you not. He's going to go down to Miami and surprise a lot of people. His stuff is so electric, and it still bottoms out -- every pitch does.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the Cy Young race this year, I kid you not. He's got that good of stuff. Just playing with Ozzie [Guillen] and being in his own comfort zone, I think he'll have a hell of a season. I wish nothing but the best for that guy."
Asked if he'd noticed any significant changes now that Theo Epstein was in charge as president of baseball operations, Garza said the menu has improved.
"We've got better cooks," he said. "The food was good last year, but they brought in a complete overhaul of the kitchen.
"You see changes there, you see a lot more young faces," Garza said of the clubhouse, not the kitchen. "I've only been here for a year, and that's all I've seen so far. I'm waiting like everybody else to get out there and see what we've got."
Garza posted a 7-4 record in 19 games against the Red Sox when Epstein was in charge there. His impressions of Epstein's teams?
"[I know] I was able to [whip] them every year, year in, year out for three seasons, that's what I learned," Garza said, smiling. "The ballclubs he built were always good."
In January, Garza avoided arbitration and agreed to a one-year contract, but general manager Jed Hoyer said Saturday they may discuss a multi-year deal. Garza doesn't intend on setting a deadline.
"Right now, my agent knows where I'm at and where I want to be at, and that's all there is to it," Garza said. "When stuff comes across, we'll all know about it and we'll talk about it. If something gets done, you guys will know. If nothing gets done, we'll all know. You won't hear a peep from me. My job is to get ready April 5 and get to the postseason."
Garza was the subject of trade rumors this offseason. Cubs manager Dale Sveum cringed each time he heard them.
"When you've got an arm and a competitor like that and a guy who works that hard and the character he brings to the ballclub, that's the kind of guy a manager wants to see somebody give a long-term contract to, not trade," Sveum said.
The right-hander is one of the Cubs' biggest cheerleaders on days he's not starting.
"Watching him over the years in Tampa Bay, to see him compete in the playoffs and World Series, to see what he did there, you knew there was something special with the stuff and that inner cockiness that he has," Sveum said. "Then watching him from the other side of the dugout, you see a guy who's involved the other four days he doesn't pitch. He reminds me a little bit of David Cone. When David Cone didn't pitch those four days, he was the first guy to maybe yell at the other team and irritate the other team a little bit.
"[Garza] has that wound-up personality that he can't sit still. He wants to win, even the four days he's not pitching, which is a huge asset."
Randy Wells said he never got a good feel for his sinker when he came off the disabled list last season. The problem wasn't that the Cubs pitcher wasn't healthy.
"I'm not making excuses," Wells said Sunday. "A lot of the bad stuff that happened last year was basically being bull-headed and not making adjustments and forcing things. When you learn how to get out of adversity and get out of stuff, that carries into the next year. Hopefully this year, if something bad happens, I'm prepared for it."
Sunday was the first day of pitchers' fielding practice, but it definitely won't be the last as Cubs manager Dale Sveum plans on emphasizing good fundamentals. The Cubs will run more drills on the road when they have night games as well, Sveum said.
Former Cubs pitcher Rick Sutcliffe is in camp as a Spring Training instructor.
Position players report on Thursday, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Friday at Fitch Park.
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.