The Cubs probably won't finalize a new coaching staff until after Thanksgiving, but they began the process Friday of putting together a staff for new manager Dale Sveum.
Team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have begun calling the incumbent coaches. Three coaches have contracts for next year: hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, bench coach Pat Listach and bullpen coach Lester Strode.
It's possible any or all of those three will be back, but the bosses want Sveum to be comfortable with his staff.
"It's ultimately Dale's call," Epstein said. "We're going to have good baseball discussions about the coaches. I think you're set up to fail if you force coaches onto yourself that the manager is not comfortable with.
"Dale's looking for coaches who are difference-makers, who are going to help us win games."
It's almost certain the Cubs will have a new pitching coach to replace Mark Riggins, who served one year under former manager Mike Quade.
Sveum said he'd like someone with whom he is close as his bench coach, but he all but ruled out his best friend, Brewers Hall of Famer Robin Yount.
"Experience is very huge, but he's got to be very close to me and is a friend," Sveum said of the bench coach. "If we do get into a little argument, we're still going to be best friends after we get into that argument about a decision I made or maybe something that he didn't catch."
The rest of the Cubs coaches from this year are Ivan DeJesus (third base), Bob Dernier (first base) and Dave Keller (special assistant).
Lots of talk:
Shortstop Starlin Castro was scheduled to come to Chicago from the Dominican Republic for a get-to-know-you meeting with the new Cubs regime.
Dale Sveum got an eyeful of Castro when the Cubs played his former team, the Brewers.
"He can flat-out hit," Sveum said of Castro, who led the National League in hits with 207. "We had a pretty good pitching staff, and he swung the bat pretty well against one of the better pitching staffs in the National League, consistently. I wasn't comfortable when he came up to the plate."
Castro made 29 errors in the field, and he's still a work in progress on defense.
"He needs a lot of polish," Sveum said. "I'm sure he knows that. Whoever I bring in as infield coach will get started right away on that because there's a lot of things I see just watching him."
Sveum said he hopes to speak with wayward pitcher Carlos Zambrano, who was sent home after walking out on the team in August. Theo Epstein said he will give Zambrano a chance to "earn" his way back to the Cubs.
"He knows he has to win back the respect of players as well as management," Sveum said. "At some point, we'll sit down and talk, whether it's over the phone or whether it's face to face ... He's out of strikes."
Maddux issues statement:
Mike Maddux, who interviewed for the Cubs' managerial job but did not wish to leave Texas because of family considerations, issued a statement thanking the Cubs. Maddux remains the pitching coach of the Texas Rangers.
"Dale is one of the best baseball people I know and will make a fine manager," Maddux said of Dale Sveum. "His tireless work ethic, commitment, and communication skills give him the recipe to succeed.
"I would like to thank the Cubs for the flattery and opportunity to be considered a managerial candidate. Possibly in the future a managerial position may come to fruition for me."
The Cubs picked up the contracts of four players and added them to the 40-man roster: left-handed pitcher Jeff Beliveau from Double-A Tennessee, infielders Junior Lake and Josh Vitters from Tennessee and outfielder Matt Szczur from Single-A Daytona.
The Cubs released right-handed pitchers Esmailin Caridad and Kyle Smit and outfielder Lou Montaņez off of the 40-man roster, bring their roster to 34 players.