2/18/2014 3:40 P.M. ET
Rizzo knows the pitfalls of high expectations
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- Anthony Rizzo knows all about the great expectations people place on young players. He went through that when he was first called up to the Padres in 2011.
Now, the Cubs' top prospects -- Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and others -- are dealing with the hype. Rizzo will try to ease some of the pressure.
"[The media] is going to crown them the next Babe Ruth," Rizzo said Tuesday. "People did for me, and it's part of the game, and they're going to have to deal with that so-called pressure of coming up. They're going to have fun, and we'll make sure we have fun."
Did all the attention affect the Cubs' first baseman?
"I put my own expectations for what I do on myself," Rizzo said. "What other people say doesn't affect me."
The Cubs have been adamant that Baez, MLB.com's No. 7 prospect, will open the 2014 season at Triple-A Iowa. Fans are giddy at seeing the young potential impact players now.
"You say you don't want to rush them too fast and make sure they can get the right amount of at-bats, but they've shown they can handle every level," Rizzo said. "The biggest learning process is up here [in the Major Leagues] -- that's where you learn the most. Adding that third deck of the stadium is huge. You can't prepare for that."
Rizzo's transition wasn't smooth. He was promoted to the Padres in June 2011, and batted .143 in his first 35 games before getting sent back to Triple-A. Called up again in September that year, he hit .133 in 14 games.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria was on the Padres' coaching staff at that time and made a point of talking to Rizzo when he was sent down.
"I wanted to make sure he understood at that particular time it wasn't indicative of what he would ultimately be as a Major Leaguer," Renteria said. "That being said, you have to continue to work extremely hard at your craft ,and everybody obviously believes in the ability he had and this was just a little blip. Just keep your head up and keep grinding and keep playing."
That's the advice Renteria will give to the prospects as well.
Renteria hopes to change fortunes from Day 1
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs expect everyone, including newly acquired infielder Emilio Bonifacio, to be present on Wednesday for the first full-squad workout under manager Rick Renteria.
Renteria addressed the pitchers and catchers when they reported last week, and he will give the same message to the full squad prior to its workout. It won't be the last time players get this pep talk.
"Many of the things I'll say, I'll say over and over during the course of the spring, over the course of the season," Renteria said Tuesday. "It'll be redundant, but what we're trying to do is change the way we think and view things. We're trying to change the mentality and to understand you shouldn't fear having expectations, high expectations."
The Cubs have had four straight losing seasons, and not much success in the postseason, and Renteria is well aware of that.
"It'd be nice over the next however number of years for the Cubs to constantly be in the playoff hunt," Renteria said. "That's my mentality. That's my mentality today, it was my mentality when I took the job. I'm not afraid to say it.
"My only challenge is quite frankly just getting to know everybody so I can do the best I can with all the individuals here before me."
Which means developing a level of trust with the players.
"I just got here," Renteria said. "I can understand that I need to know and understand the past. I need to formulate my approach and foundation for which I'm going to lay my relationship with each player."
Bonifacio, a free agent who signed a Minor League contract on Saturday with the Cubs, and Starlin Castro appeared to be the only position players who have yet to check in at the new complex.
Valbuena 'ready for anything' at third base
MESA, Ariz. -- Rick Renteria has not committed to who will be his regular third baseman yet, but Luis Valbuena hopes the new Cubs manager picks him.
Valbuena prepared this winter the same way he did last offseason, playing in Venezuela for Cardenales de Lara. In 34 games, he batted .311 with four home runs, seven doubles and 16 RBIs.
"I played my game," Valbuena said.
A left-handed hitter, Valbuena may find himself sharing third base with right-handed-hitting Donnie Murphy. Valbuena batted .350 against right-handed pitchers in Venezuela, .238 against lefties. At Triple-A Iowa, Murphy batted .297 against lefties and .251 against right-handers.
"I'm ready for anything," Valbuena said. "I want to do the best job. I can't make the decision. [Renteria] will make it. Every time I get an opportunity to play, I'll do my job."
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.