Cubs owner Tom Ricketts addressed a couple of hot-button topics Friday before his team went out and lost 6-3 to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field.
The first was the decision to eat $10 million of Carlos Silva's contract after releasing the pitcher last weekend. The other was why Ricketts feels confident in his team while the so-called experts seem to like the Cubs for third or fourth place in the National League Central.
On Silva, Ricketts said the size of the contract made no difference.
"One of the things we've talked about is that it doesn't matter what a guy makes when it comes to roster decisions," Ricketts said. "We knew it was a possibility that there might not be a spot for him, and that's just the way it is. You've got to have the best people on the field, and that's what counts."
The Cubs finished 75-87 last year and made few changes. The biggest change may be that manager Mike Quade is at the helm for the whole season after taking over for Lou Piniella last August.
"I think that a lot of what people are basing their predictions for this year on are some of the performance that we had last year, which was very disappointing," he said. "But this is not the same team. We don't have the same manager. We have a different type of energy this year. I think that the players are ready to go, and I think Mike will have them playing their best. We're going to have a great season."
This is Ricketts' second year as team owner. He said he spent Friday morning at some of the neighborhood bars -- drinking water, he said -- visiting with fans and doing radio shows.
"Obviously, I'm a lot more comfortable with everything going on around here. It's a pretty three-dimensional process, Day 1. There's a lot going on, and there's a lot to do. But in general, it's exciting. I know where to go and know what to do."
Carlos Pena had a mixed-bag day in his Cubs debut. He showed why he won a Gold Glove with Tampa Bay as he made two nice scoops on throws. At the plate, he walked, singled and drove in a run with a forceout. But Pena missed a chance -- and a sign -- in the sixth, when he popped up on a 3-0 pitch after Aramis Ramirez led with a single and the Cubs down 4-2.
"I thought I had the green light because I missed a sign," Pena admitted. "I felt pretty good. I got a good pitch to hit. I put a great swing on it but hit the bottom of the ball. Next thing you know, I popped it up."
Manager Mike Quade saw it this way: "The 3-0 pitch, I had the take (sign) on. Just a miscommunication. Carlos came over and said, 'I screwed that up.' He'll get a lot of 3-0 pitches to swing at, but that's not one of them."
Actor Robert Redford threw out a ceremonial first pitch before the game. He was surrounded by reporters and revealed something about his baseball movie, "The Natural." He said they wanted to film it at Wrigley Field.
"We couldn't because they didn't have lights yet," Redford said of the 1984 film. "We missed it by about five years…I feel honored to be here."