03/31/12 4:40 PM ET
Cubs hope video system helps RISP woes
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
"It was a problem last year with the Cubs and, so far, it's been a problem this spring, too," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said about hitting with runners in scoring position.
What he and the other coaches have tried to do is show the players what a pitcher's tendency is, using data from video.
"They're not going to pitch you the same when you came up in the second inning leading off with nobody on base," Sveum said. "That's the mindset you have to make younger hitters and people who may struggle in those situations understand what pitchers are doing."
For example, if history shows that a pitcher doesn't throw inside when runners are on base, don't look for a pitch inside.
"A lot of guys who hit [well] with guys in scoring position, it's because they're able to relax more and their anxiety level doesn't get up," Sveum said. "That's why some guys hit well with two strikes, because the anxiety level isn't as high as other guys and they don't feel like they have to do it."
Sveum has spent time in the video room with the players and said he'll do it during the regular season, too.
"I've got all the time in the world," Sveum said. "The game's three hours and I meet with [the media] for 10, 15 minutes a day and the rest of my job is when I see things or teaching factors of the game. That's just the way I am. I'm more hands-on, whether it's hitting fungoes, throwing batting practice. It's just something I do and have always done."
He said players are often unaware of the tendencies until they're shown the information.
"Many of the guys are like, 'Wow, I had no idea it was that blatant of a stat.' ... When you can look at a grid and Joe Blow, 90 percent of every ball he throws is away," Sveum said. "You put that into play in your head when you walk up to the box and you say, 'I just saw this, so I don't have to worry about anything inside.'"
The Cubs hit .232 with runners in scoring position last year.
Sveum to be cautious arguing with umpires
MESA, Ariz. -- When Lou Piniella was named Cubs manager in 2007, it was just a matter of time before his first confrontation with umpires. New Cubs skipper Dale Sveum, however, has been very even keel this spring.
"I'm one of those guys who's fairly calm," Sveum said Saturday. "I either lose it or I pretty much stay in one area. There's not that medium ground. I have to be careful with the umpires. In my managerial career, I need to do a little better when I go argue."
In the first game he managed in the big leagues, Sept. 16, 2008, which was at Wrigley Field when he replaced Ned Yost with the Brewers, Sveum got into an argument, but avoided getting tossed. The Brewers were upset when first-base umpire Joe West called Mike Cameron out at first base on a double play to end the fifth inning. Milwaukee first base coach Ed Sedar was ejected.
"I was completely wrong," Sveum said Saturday. "The whole bench was. We erupted on the play."
To his credit, Sveum watched the video, saw that Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee did have his foot on the bag long enough, and then apologized to West the next day.
"Even [umpire] Ed Rapuano, who was in the crew, said 'Hey, I don't blame you,'" Sveum said.
He's been tossed twice as a player and asked for one of those.
"One was a snowstorm in Triple-A," Sveum said. "They wouldn't call the game. We couldn't stand, our spikes were full of snow and it's like, 'what are we doing?' Nobody can play. [The umpire] said, 'One more word out of you,' and I said, 'I don't want to play, kick me out. I don't want to play in this, please.' So they threw me out."
There was one other incident as a player when Sveum was at shortstop. He made a sarcastic flip of his glove after a pitch was called a ball, which Sveum thought should have been a strike.
"I shouldn't have shown him up like that," he said of umpire Dave Phillips.
Sveum, who admits to losing his cool when he managed in the Minor Leagues, will try to keep his cool.
"You always put your team in jeopardy when you get thrown out of a game for stupid reasons, arguing strikes and balls and stuff like that," he said.
Players receptive to increased workload
MESA, Ariz. -- Second baseman Darwin Barney made a nifty defensive stop on a ball hit to his right on Friday. Some of the credit goes to bench coach Jamie Quirk, who had drilled Barney on such a play during batting practice.
The Cubs have definitely worked hard this spring, and that's something manager Dale Sveum has stressed. There are no shortcuts.
"One of my big pet peeves is when you're trying to get better at something, how can you get better with seven minutes worth of ground balls," Sveum said Saturday. "I don't think that can possibly happen when you take six to seven minutes of ground balls.
"It's implementing and getting guys to understand that if you're going to make yourself a better player and prepare yourself for the seventh game of the World Series, it's an everyday grind," he said. "You don't get wore out. I think that's a misconception that's happened over the last 15, 20 years is the everyday grind. People forget some of us were around when everybody took 15 to 30 minutes of ground balls every single day and still got your hitting in and all that.
"It's not a tiring game because we do stand around most of the time, believe it or not."
So far, there's been no resistance. The Cubs did lead the Major Leagues in errors last season, something Sveum and his staff are trying to correct.
"The guys have put in a great effort and everything's run smooth," he said. "I think we've got a ton of work in and made it fun for them at the same time. The key to Spring Training is somehow put a little bit of life into Spring Training and not just the monotonous day in and day out grind."
Starting pitchers set for final spring games
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs set their rotation for the final three Cactus League games and will go with Chris Rusin on Sunday, Jay Jackson on Monday and Travis Wood on Tuesday.
The five pitchers who will be in the rotation -- Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm -- will get their work in at Minor League camp. Maholm is making his last spring start Saturday against the Angels and will throw in Arizona on Wednesday before joining the team in Chicago for Opening Day festivities on Thursday.
The Cubs still have to finalize the bullpen, which Cubs manager Dale Sveum said may not be settled until Wednesday. Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood and James Russell are set. The team was expected to keep Rule 5 pick Lendy Castillo and hard-throwing right-hander Rafael Dolis. Rodrigo Lopez could be the long man.
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.