Cubs

Can Sveum break Sorianos bad habits?

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Can Sveum break Sorianos bad habits?

MESA, Ariz. Theres a wide gap between the perception of Alfonso Soriano from afar and how hes viewed inside the Cubs clubhouse.

Teammates love Sorianos energy, the way he yells out Hey babe! as he walks around the room. Fans hate how hell stand at home plate, admiring a ball that bounces off the wall.

Sorianos far from the only modern player who poses like that, but hes the 136 million lightning rod. The Cubs will live with it, because hes owed 18 million annually through 2014. Theyll need him, because this roster is filled guys who are coming off down years or have never done it before.

For all his flaws as a player, Soriano generated 26 homers and 88 RBIs last season. Manager Dale Sveum says this could be your cleanup hitter.

You need that kind of bat in your lineup, Sveum said. The guy works his butt off all the time. Theres no doubt that the fans lost a little faith in him (because of) some things he does. But I think the fans have to understand that hes probably the hardest-working guy in the clubhouse, so thats always refreshing, and players love him to death.

Hes the most prolific guy in our lineup. (Hes) done it before. Hes a big part of this lineup that has to produce.

Soriano, Starlin Castro and Junior Lake hadnt reported to the complex by Thursday, but all three players from the Dominican Republic are expected at Fitch Park for Fridays first full-squad workout.

This front office hired Sveum, in part, because he was able to stand up to players as a Red Sox coach within Bostons superstar culture.

Sveum has promised to hold every player accountable, no matter how much money hes making. Sveum has vowed that no player who jogs down the line will be able to walk back into the dugout without hearing something from the manager.

The diehards at the Cubs Convention loved it when Sveum answered one fan question by saying that you might have to bench guys who embarrass the organization.

Sveum seems to have a more realistic view of Soriano. Sveum remembers Bill Hall watching a few balls that didnt go out with the Milwaukee Brewers.

It wasnt that (Hall) didnt play hard, Sveum said. They feel bad (afterward). Thats a natural major-league habit. Its very hard to hit fly balls that are almost home runs, or you think might be a home run, and sprint to first base.

Sure, you want that to happen, but some of those things (are) actually hard to break in the heat of a battle. Its the other things: We want to be able to run balls out to the left side of the field. We want to be able to stretch singles into doubles, take hard turns (and) run the bases really hard.

I know the fans dont like that, but sometimes they have to understand thats a habit.

So the Cubs are going to be aggressive, but can you break the habit? Well, thats like just about everything else in building Theo Epsteins foundation for sustained success.

Yeah, you talk about it and make sure that hopefully in that spur of the moment he thinks about maybe something I said, Sveum answered before letting out a small laugh. But thats not always the case. A lot of things are tougher than just talking about it.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Takeaways from Cubs Convention and players primed for a 2018 breakout

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Takeaways from Cubs Convention and players primed for a 2018 breakout

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jon Graff, Matt Buckman and Scott Changnon rattle off their main takeaways from the weekend’s Cubs Convention, including the funniest moments and how the players engaged with fans and each other throughout the three days at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.

Plus, which players — besides Kyle Schwarber — made the most of the offseason and are primed for a breakout in 2018? The crew gives its take, with options including Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ and Jason Heyward.

Take a listen below:

Why Kyle Hendricks is excited to have Tyler Chatwood in the Cubs' starting rotation

Why Kyle Hendricks is excited to have Tyler Chatwood in the Cubs' starting rotation

Everyone wants to know when the Cubs are going to add another starting pitcher. Fewer folks want to talk about the one they've already signed this offseason.

Kyle Hendricks, though, is happy to talk about Tyler Chatwood.

Chatwood might not be a big name like Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb, and the former Colorado Rockie wasn't brought on to fill the Arrieta-sized hole in the Cubs' rotation, instead projected to slide behind the current top three of Jon Lester, Hendricks and Jose Quintana.

But whether he's the fourth starter or the fifth starter — depending on what kind of starting pitcher the Cubs add to the roster before spring training — how Chatwood performs could go a long way in determining what kind of season it is for the Cubs.

Hendricks, talking Friday during the Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago, thinks Chatwood will thrive on the North Side.

"Chatwood, I think, is going to be really big for us," Hendricks said. "We grew up in the same area, so I played summer baseball with him senior year, and he wasn't even pitching then, he was a shortstop, great hitter. But he's just a baseball guy, baseball mind, and that's kind of what this team's about. It's a bunch of guys who love playing the game, love being together. I think he's going to fit in great, personality-wise.

"And the stuff he has, I know it's going to play really well. He's only had a couple starts at Wrigley, but he's obviously pitched well there. That's going to bode well for him in the future. And being able to pick guys' brains, like Lester and these older guys that have been around. I think they're going to help him like they've helped me."

Depending on how much they trust Hendricks' scouting eye, that might ease the concerns of Cubs fans nervous about the prospect of replacing Arrieta and John Lackey with Chatwood and Mike Montgomery in the starting rotation. Last season, Chatwood's 15 losses were the most in the National League, and he finished the season with a 4.69 ERA. But the numbers were dramatically different thanks to Coors Field being his home ballpark. In Denver, his ERA was 6.01. On the road, it was a far more respectable 3.49.

"It's not easy. I'll leave it at that, it's not easy," Chatwood said Friday of pitching in the Mile High City. "I enjoyed my time there, but I'm excited to be here."

As Hendricks mentioned, Chatwood's transition to Wrigley seems promising. Chatwood has started a pair of games on the North Side and fared really well, surrendering just one run with 11 strikeouts in his 13 innings of work.

The Cubs have made it to three straight NL Championship Series — and won that curse-smashing World Series championship in 2016 — thanks to elite starting pitching. Arrieta was the Cy Young winner in 2015. Lester and Hendricks were Cy Young finalists in 2016. And Quintana has extraordinary promise if he can replicate what he did on the South Side in a Cubs uniform. If Arrieta lands anywhere but the North Side by the time this slow-moving offseason finally wraps up, Chatwood will be leaned on to help keep the Cubs' starting staff among the most formidable in the game. If he does, then 2018 could end like 2016 did. And that's what Chatwood wants.

"Obviously it's a great organization and a great team that I want to be a part of. I want to be on a winning team, so it was a pretty easy decision," Chatwood said. "I want to win one of those and be a part of that parade they had two years ago. I'm excited and hoping we've got a chance to do that."