Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum will help prepare his charges as spring training finally gets underway.
Pitchers and catchers have reported for the Chicago Cubs at their training facility in Mesa, AZ. In their second year under the Theo Epstein regime, the Cubs can only get better after suffering through a 101-loss season, their worst since 1966.
While expectations remain tempered, the hope is that the Cubs can gradually build a team ready to compete year after year. With that in mind, Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have been busy putting pieces in place to meet that goal.
We will take a look at the latest news concerning the Cubs as they embark upon a new campaign and continue working towards their goal of long-term success.
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza saw his 2012 season end prematurely after elbow pain shut him down in a start against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 21.
On Monday, Garza reported to camp ready to go and pain-free. He's still not quite sure where the pain came from.
"No clue, no clue," Garza told Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com. "Doctors were just like 'We need a rest, need a rest.' It was kind of baffling what caused it or led to it. So right now, it was get everything in tip-top shape. Every little muscle, toe muscle, finger muscle. Get it in tip-top shape and ready to go. I feel great, great state of mind, great shape."
Garza has been the subject of trade speculation for quite some time. He's ready to show the Cubs that he's worthy of a long-term commitment.
"My goal is to prove that I'm healthy enough and make them want me to stay," Garza said. "That's my job. Right now there's all the questions. 'How's he going to come back? How's he going to rebound?' Those are legitimate questions."
Questions that Garza hopes to start answering beginning on Monday.
Chicago Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol was nearly traded in early November, only to have the deal called off due to concerns regarding the health status of then-Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Dan Haren.
He then watched as the Cubs signed Japanese relief pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa. Fujikawa will compete with Marmol for the closer's role.
Now, Marmol is dealing with another issue.
Marmol was accused of domestic abuse stemming from an incident that occurred in late October.
While details are sketchy, Marmol claims that he gave a ride to a girl who later filed that accusation. Marmol was unaware of anything until he heard a report on the radio.
Via Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago:
"I gave a ride to this girl that I know and she said I tried to have sex with her," Marmol said. "I never did that.
"I am frustrated a lot. I didn't do anything. This is very frustrating. I gave her a ride to a party that is close to my house and that was all. I am very (ticked) off. My lawyers and I went to the police and we are trying to get her to go to jail."
The Cubs showed their support of Marmol, with Theo Epstein saying that the club performed due diligence in investigating the matter.
"It's the organization's responsibility to take all accusations like that very seriously," Epstein said. "It was our decision to look into it a little bit. We don't have all the information, but all the information we have been able to gather backs up Carlos' story that he is not guilty of any wrongdoing whatsoever.
"He may in fact be the victim here, if this case continues to be pursued like this, so all we can do is evaluate it on the merits. So far what we have seen backs Carlos' story, and we will continue to support him. We do expect that this matter will be behind him shortly based on the way it is proceeding in the Dominican courts."
Like Marmol didn't have enough to deal with already.
New Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa has already started adjusting to his new life in the major leagues.
Fujikawa saved 202 games over the past six seasons with the Hanshin Tigers in the Japan Central League, posting a miniscule 1.36 ERA along the way.
He will compete with closer Carlos Marmol for the same role with the Cubs. However, Fujikawa knows that nothing is a given.
"The decision is not up to me but the coaches," Fujikawa said. "My job is to get outs, and as I do that, I'll try to make it a tougher decision for the coaches to make."
Fujikawa has already thrown several bullpen sessions prior to the official report date for pitchers and catchers, getting off to a running start.
Marmol is in the final year of his contract, so the expectation is that Fujikawa can be the long-term answer at the back end of the bullpen.
Manager Dale Sveum hopes to see improvement in his second year.
Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum absolutely knew what he was getting into when he was named the skipper prior to the 2012 season.
Sveum guided his troops through a 101-loss season last year, suffering through growing pains in his first year.
Heading into the 2013 season, Sveum hopes to take the knowledge gained from last year and put it to good use.
"A lot of things come into play," Sveum said. "When things aren't going well you realize how important the clubhouse is to keep intact. To watch (everything) and keep people accountable was the biggest thing going into last season. Holding everybody accountable for what they had to do on a daily basis. You learn even when things don't go well. Keeping those things in mind were my goals and my coaching staff's goals. I think we reached those goals in some trying times any way."
Sveum does expect more, even though the Cubs aren't considered a playoff contender.
"The only way to dictate a season is if you get to the playoffs," Sveum said. "The numbers and how many wins are something you try to stay away from. As an organization you try to get to winning 90-plus games every year so you have a chance of making the playoffs. That is our goal as an organization."
That is the goal for the future—for now, Sveum will have to settle for progress.
Fans of the Chicago Cubs are facing a 105th season without a World Series title.
Unless an absolute miracle happens in 2013, that is.
As spring training kicks off in Mesa, AZ, fans are chiming in on Twitter about their beloved Cubbies.
One fan compared the recent resignation of the Pope to the long-suffering Cubs:
When the pope retired he became the first pope since 1415 to step down. Humm.. 1415 I'm pretty sure the Chicago Cubs didnt win then either.— Ted Nelkin (@HLTT) February 11, 2013
Another fan compared the beginning of the Cubs' season to a popular movie:
Pitchers and Catchers report. As a Cubs fan, it's like taking the first step down the Green Mile.— Brett Austin (@KBrettAustin) February 11, 2013
Austin followed up with this bold prediction as well:
That being said, I totally think this is the Cubs year to win it all. And I have absolutely no evidence to back that up.— Brett Austin (@KBrettAustin) February 11, 2013
Yet another fan referenced a popular holiday into his tweet:
Season starts on April Fools day which has to have Cubs fans excited. After 104 disappointing years they're in need of a joke #BaseballsBack— Andrew #⃣1⃣4⃣ (@fulknA) February 11, 2013
One thing you can't take away from Cubs fans—they have things in perspective.
When management of the Chicago Cubs met to address the media when pitchers and catchers first reported on Sunday, a wide variety of issues were discussed.
Even though third baseman Ian Stewart hasn't officially reported yet, he was a topic of conversation for manager Dale Sveum.
Sveum is clearly a fan of Stewart, yet he acknowledged that Stewart has to work hard to gain the upper edge over fellow competitor Luis Valbuena.
“We have to give (Stewart) every opportunity,” Sveum said. “He’s got the capabilities of being a two-way player. It’s going to come down to production. Ian has to prove it to us and swing the bat.”
Stewart underwent wrist surgery last July, ending his 2012 season with a .201 average and just five home runs in 55 games.
Stewart had suffered from wrist issues for several years, and the hope is that he can regain the form that saw him hit 43 home runs in two seasons with the Colorado Rockies in 2009 and 2010.
Valbuena hit .219 with four home runs and 28 RBI in 90 games for the Cubs last season.