Add Cubs president Theo Epstein to the list of those who had to be convinced about left fielder Alfonso Soriano before becoming a believer.
The much-maligned Soriano hit 32 home runs for the Cubs this year and drove in a career-high 108 runs. In the field, he garnered Gold Glove talk by committing just 1 error.
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"I thought he had an incredible season, both on the field and in the clubhouse," Epstein said Thursday. "That's one of those pleasant surprises. Dale (field manager Sveum) talked about it, and I agree.
"I don't think, at least I didn't, I don't think most people get an accurate picture of him watching from across the field.
"I think there was sort of too much emphasis placed on a couple of rare occasions in the past where he didn't run balls out or was embarrassed by a play in the outfield.
"I allowed that to color my impression of the player and person as a whole. Coming in here, I actually had a little trepidation about how we'd handle him and the contract and if his skills declined, how we would handle playing time.
"I'll be honest, it wasn't something I was really looking forward to. Those concerns proved to be completely baseless. What a pleasant surprise he turned out to be. He's as great a clubhouse guy, I think as good as there is in the game … So it was really refreshing an eye-opener for me."
Back to Iowa?
Third baseman Josh Vitters and center fielder Brett Jackson both are likely to open 2013 at Class AAA Iowa, according to Theo Epstein. Each struggled at the plate after their Aug. 5 call-ups.
"Vitters is going to play winter ball, but the presumption is that he goes back to Triple-A," Epstein said." He's got a lot of work to do. He knows that. He knows he's got a lot of work to do defensively as far as adjusting to the big-league level, pitch selection.
"Brett Jackson, we told him that, as well. The presumption for us, we have to build a team as if he's going back to Triple-A. We'd be very happy for them to knock the door down for us and make the adjustments this winter that they need to make going forward.
"It's hard to do, but sometimes you need to go through a whole winter and apply those things the next season."
Praise for Listach:
Theo Epstein also praised Pat Listach, fired Wednesday as third-base coach.
"I think Pat is a really good coach and is going to have a lot of success elsewhere," Epstein said. "As Dale (Sveum) said, we give him our strongest recommendation. When a new manager comes in, sometimes he has a certain way that he likes these jobs done.
"Occasionally, there can be differences in the approach to the job. It doesn't mean he's doing a bad job. It's just not quite the way the manager conceives of it.
"I think it was just one of those situations where it was just sort of subtle stylistic differences, nothing major, substantive. Dale has a few other folks in mind for that role."