4/2/2014 6:53 P.M. ET
Kalish calm ahead of first start since '12
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Ryan Kalish knew he would be starting on Wednesday, his first start in the big leagues since Sept. 11, 2012. And he slept great Tuesday night.
Kalish, who started in left field for the Cubs against the Pirates, missed all of last season after needing cervical fusion surgery, which involved the removal of a disc in his neck and the insertion of a metal plate. NFL quarterback Peyton Manning had the same surgery, and Kalish even had the same doctor, spinal specialist Robert Watkins. Kalish was injured in April 2011 after colliding with an outfield wall.
"I feel calm about it, in a good way," Kalish said prior to Wednesday's game. "I'm still excited, and nerves are a part of it for sure. I just feel like everything now is just a lot of gravy for me.
"I have big goals for my career and big goals for this team, but I don't know, maybe I'm getting older and learning to keep it a little more relaxed, because you see the best players in the game do things easy rather than too hard, or a lot of effort behind their swing, or whatever they're doing," he said.
Kalish was a non-roster invitee on the Cubs this spring and made the Opening Day roster for the first time in his career. He did appear in Monday's season opener against the Pirates, but that's not the same as starting.
"I'm happy to be in the lineup for sure and I'm proud of myself getting back to this point, but there's a lot of work to be done still," Kalish said. "It's not about just today. We're focused on today, but going forward, I want to continue to feel comfortable about playing in the Major Leagues again and just playing my game for this team."
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein knows Kalish well, having been with the Red Sox when they selected the outfielder in the ninth round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.
"He's a particularly good fit for us," Epstein said. "He's left-handed, has good at-bats, outstanding plate discipline, knows how to get on base; he's a well-rounded player, plays defense, can run and throw. He brings an energy and edge to the ballpark each day and understands the team concept. After what he's been through, you have to be thrilled for him."
Kalish needs at least 1 1/2 hours each day to do exercises to maintain his flexibility and core strength.
"I enjoy the warm up now because you learn about the physiology of the body," he said. "You know certain things you didn't know five years ago."
Kalish would like to someday talk to Manning and compare notes.
"It'd be interesting to hear what he had to say about his experience," Kalish said.
Renteria getting a feel for expanded instant replay
PITTSBURGH -- Rick Renteria was not aware he made history as the first manager to use Major League Baseball's expanded instant replay system until after the Cubs' game on Monday.
"It was interesting," said Renteria, who challenged a call at first base in the fifth inning when Jeff Samardzija was called out. The umpire's call was confirmed.
"[Replay] is kind of an organic, work in progress for everybody, getting a feel for its usage," Renteria said.
Does the Cubs' rookie manager like it?
"I think if it helps us clean up some plays, I think it's helpful," Renteria said. "I still think the umpires do a great job. They have a tough job to do and they don't want to screw it up, they want to get the calls right. We're emotionally vested in everything, and they're emotionally vested in doing a good job. We both have to grow a little thicker skin in dealing with each other the best way we possibly can."
It seems managers are walking deliberately from the dugout to talk to an umpire about a play, which gives the coaches and others in the clubhouse time to review the video before deciding whether to challenge a call or not.
"I think everybody's doing that," Renteria said. "I'm assuming they appreciate us doing that also, because they know it's getting reviewed. If there is a bad call or a close call, if it gets overturned, it gets overturned. They're allowing us to be able to do that.
"I think [the umpires] want to get the calls right," he said. "They've probably been living a pretty tough life with all the cameras around [and second-guessing]. They're human beings and they don't want to do things that affect the game. Maybe they're thankful about it."
• Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta will make a rehab start on Saturday for Double-A Tennessee in the Smokies' game against Pensacola. Arrieta was slowed this spring because of tightness in his right shoulder, and he threw a side session on Wednesday at PNC Park and said it went well.
There is no time table for his return. He will likely need at least two starts at Triple-A Iowa as well.
• Outfielder Justin Ruggiano, sidelined Monday to give a sore left ankle more time to heal, said Wednesday he was ready to go. Ruggiano was not in the starting lineup, but he may start Thursday against Pirates lefty Wandy Rodriguez.
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.