Cubs

Shane Victorino joins Cubs with thoughts of a championship on his mind

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Shane Victorino joins Cubs with thoughts of a championship on his mind

MESA, Ariz. - Shane Victorino just got to Cubs camp Friday morning, but he's already pulling in the same direction as the rest of the organization.

Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein and the rest of the Cubs have all portrayed a unified message since arriving in spring training - World Series or bust in 2016.

[RELATED - Cubs add Shane Victorino to the outfield mix]

That's no problem for Victorino who, at age 35, is placing a premium on winning over money or his role.

"I'm just grateful for the opportunity to be a part of something hopefully that's going to be special," he said. "I've been blessed in my career to be a part of a couple special championships in special cities.

"Being a fan of the game, when there's a 100-plus year championship drought, you always want to be the first. That's the goal.

"At the end of the day, it's not about playing time. It's not about where things are. It's about winning. For me, I gotta win my job on the team and from there, whatever role I am, I gotta be the best player I can be to help the Cubs win the championship."

Victorino has played 60 postseason games in his career, making it to three World Series. He won it all with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008 (beating Joe Maddon's Tampa Bay Rays team) and with the Boston Red Sox in 2013 (alongside current Cubs Jon Lester, John Lackey and David Ross).

Victorino said he's always respected Maddon from afar, admiring the way the manager has gotten the most out of his teams.

He's excited to get the band back together with Lester, Lackey and Ross and Victorino also trains in the offseason with Kris Bryant in Las Vegas.

This year, Dexter Fowler - who just signed with the Cubs Thursday - joined Bryant and Victorino taking some swings in Vegas.

Victorino has been talking to the Cubs for a while before agreeing on the minor-league deal with the invite to big-league camp this spring. The Cubs currently have four outfielders - Fowler, Jorge Soler, Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward - in place, so Victorino wouldn't figure to get a ton of playing time if he were to make the team.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Victorino said he doesn't want to start the season in the minor leagues - "I don't know if I'm at that point in my career" - but admitted he's not sure how things are going to play out in the next five weeks.

Victorino has plenty of connections to the Cubs beyond the guys in the clubhouse, too. Back in 2009, he was part of that infamous moment when a Cubs fan dumped a beer of his head in the bleachers while Victorino was trying to catch a fly ball.

"I understand the passion of Cubs fans," Victorino said. "My brother was childhood Cubs fan; [Ryne] Sandberg was one of his favorite players. Andre Dawson, guys like that.

"I've seen the Cubs logo since I was a child. To be able to put it on now, even if the situation is the way it is, I'm very excited for the opportunity in spring training."

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Andre Dawson talks about his Cubs reunion

Carmen DeFalco (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Bernfield join Kap on the panel. Anthony Rizzo returns to the Cubs after an emotional weekend home while Tom Ricketts expects another World Series parade. Plus Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joins Kap to talk about his Cubs reunion and how the current crop unsigned free agents compares to his experiences with collusion.