Renteria willing to learn a little Japanese to woo star pitcher
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Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are about as tight-lipped as it gets when talking -- or not talking -- about free agents.
Not only can't you get this dynamic duo to discuss targets on the market, you probably couldn't get them to acknowledge that such players even exist.
But new Cubs field manager Rick Renteria provided a morsel of insight Thursday into the team's pursuit of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
Renteria led a Cubs caravan contingent into the Pablo Casals School of Excellence on Chicago's Northwest Side as he and team members and office staff helped students there paint a mural in the gymnasium.
The Cubs, like many teams, are very interested in the 25-year-old Tanaka, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last year for Rakuten of the Japanese Pacific League.
On Thursday, Renteria revealed he was part of the Cubs' delegation that met recently with Tanaka in Los Angeles. Tanaka has until Jan. 24 to decide on a major-league team.
"I think I still defer to the front office in any moves that they make," Renteria said. "Obviously, we have had conversations with Tanaka. I'm not sure exactly where we're at in that process. Once again, Jed and Theo, if something were to happen with him, I'm sure they'll let me know."
Renteria added a touch of humor to his role in the Tanaka talks.
"We were there, and we had had a conversations," he said. "A very good conversation. Obviously, we had an interpreter. I actually ordered Rosetta Stone, Japanese version. I'm going to be prepared if it does (happen). I'm going to try to learn a little Japanese. If it happens, good for us. If not, there are a lot of Japanese players that are quality players that maybe come through here at some point in time, and I hope I'm able to say hello and good night."
Renteria was asked what the selling points of the Cubs would be.
"The points to him were that we're a club that's on the upside," he said. "We're a club that has a lot of talent besides the guys that we have here presently. But the organization has the quality of player coming up that's going to significantly impact the organization."
Renteria is a first-year manager replacing Dale Sveum, who was fired at the end of last season, in part for a lack of communication with players. From an information standpoint, here's hoping that Epstein and Hoyer don't take a dim view of Renteria being so voluble with the media.
Spring training is less than a month away, and I had a chance to ask Renteria what kind of tone he would set in Mesa, Ariz., at the Cubs' sparkling new facility.
"We're looking for everyone to come in there and work as hard as they possibly can, but to execute, to truly do everything with a purpose," he said. "I can have everybody out there for hours and hours and hours, and if they're doing it with no real significant effort to try to get something done the right way, it accomplishes nothing.
"If I get them out for 15 or 20 minutes in a particular drill, and if they're really into the drill, I get a lot more out of that, and we as a club will get a lot more out of it. And I'll repeat: If we can't perform in drill during practice in spring training, what makes you think you're going to perform in front of 40,000 people in a ballgame? It doesn't change."
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