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updated: 3/10/2013 6:33 PM

Soriano's results inspire confidence in Cubs coaches

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  • Alfonso Soriano acknowledges the cheering crowd in the left field bleachers as he takes his position during a game against Arizona in 2010. Soriano's outfield play improved greatly in 2012 once he began to respect the Cubs' new coaching staff.

      Alfonso Soriano acknowledges the cheering crowd in the left field bleachers as he takes his position during a game against Arizona in 2010. Soriano's outfield play improved greatly in 2012 once he began to respect the Cubs' new coaching staff.
    Associated Press

  • Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano lunges to make a catch on a fly ball hit by Chicago White Sox batter Omar Visquel in the second inning of an MLB spring training baseball game Saturday, March 6, 2010, in Mesa, Ariz.

      Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano lunges to make a catch on a fly ball hit by Chicago White Sox batter Omar Visquel in the second inning of an MLB spring training baseball game Saturday, March 6, 2010, in Mesa, Ariz.
    Associated Press

  • Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano, left, leaps in front of center fielder Marlon Byrd to catch a long fly ball by Florida Marlins' Ronny Paulino to end the top half of the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

      Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano, left, leaps in front of center fielder Marlon Byrd to catch a long fly ball by Florida Marlins' Ronny Paulino to end the top half of the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
    Associated Press

  • Brett Jackson struck out 59 times in 120 at-bats in 2012. Can the Cubs' coaching staff help the young player turn those numbers around this season?

      Brett Jackson struck out 59 times in 120 at-bats in 2012. Can the Cubs' coaching staff help the young player turn those numbers around this season?
    Associated Press

 
 

After Year 1 of the new regime, the Cubs made only minor changes to their coaching staff for 2013.

Third-base coach Pat Listach was fired on the last day of the 2012 season and eventually replaced by former big-leaguer David Bell.

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James Rowson, who took over during the season last year for the fired Rudy Jaramillo, had the "interim" tag removed from his title in the fall, and he's now the full-time hitting coach. He'll be assisted by former big-league slugger Rob Deer.

The coaching staff under manager Dale Sveum certainly showed it wasn't averse to hard work.

Often before games, first-base coach Dave McKay wheeled out a flyball machine that launched ball after ball to the outfielders.

The most celebrated and successful project under McKay's tutelage was left fielder Alfonso Soriano, who not only had a reputation as a poor fielder, but someone who was afraid of the wall and unwilling to work on his craft.

All of that was debunked -- well, Soriano still doesn't like that brick wall, and who could blame him? -- last year as Soriano committed just 1 error and tracked down balls no one thought he could reach.

"I'd seen him on the other side of the fence," Sveum told reporters in spring training. "I was completely blown away by the kind of person he is and the work ethic he puts in. I rank him as one of the top five people I've ever been around in the game."

Soriano said last year the new regime showed him "respect," and he seemed to take to McKay's teachings. McKay has a ton of credibility, having served manager Tony La Russa on world-championship teams in Oakland and St. Louis.

"I had Dave McKay, a very good outfield coach, working hard with me in spring training," Soriano told reporters. "I see the difference, everyone sees the difference last year. I'm very proud how I played with my defense last year."

The biggest project on the offensive side of the ball has been center fielder Brett Jackson, who struck out in 59 of 120 at-bats last year. Shortly after the season ended, Jackson worked with Sveum and Rowson. The biggest change, by all accounts, has been Jackson lowering his hands in his stance.

"I think it's going to benefit him a lot," Sveum told reporters. "A lot of these things, you're optimistic about change and making adjustments and stuff, and as a player, you really want the games to get going because it all feels great, but how's it going to work in a game? That's the final piece of the puzzle."

"Hitting is about keeping it simple," Jackson said to the media. "You find out what works for you and you try to become comfortable doing it."

Pitching coach Chris Bosio is back for his second year. There wasn't much for Bosio to work with last year, especially after the trades of Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm, the elbow injury to Matt Garza and the early shutdown of Jeff Samardzija for precautionary reasons.

Bosio and Sveum had to take the closer's role away from Carlos Marmol to get him to rely more on his fastball and not so much on the slider. Unlike longtime Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who wore a path to the mound during games, Bosio's approach has been one to stay in the dugout and let the pitcher and catcher work through issues during the game.

Bench coach Jamie Quirk also returns for a second year, and he figures to be instrumental in the development of catchers Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger.

Longtime organization man Lester Strode is back as bullpen coach. He also has gotten credit from Marmol for simplifying his approach on the mound.

The Cubs have a new head athletic trainer in PJ Mainville. Former trainer Mark O'Neal has the new title of director of medical administration.

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