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updated: 3/29/2014 9:00 PM

Cubs' Renteria upbeat ... and thankful

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  • Cubs manager Rick Renteria doesn't care about low expectations for 2014 from outside the organization. "I think you should reach for the stars," Renteria said.

      Cubs manager Rick Renteria doesn't care about low expectations for 2014 from outside the organization. "I think you should reach for the stars," Renteria said.
    Associated Press

 
 

PHOENIX -- Even in the last days of spring training, when everybody's dying to break camp and get baseball going for real, Cubs manager Rick Renteria still had it going on.

It's a pat on the butt for Anthony Rizzo here or a word of encouragement for somebody else over there.

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Things get real enough for the Cubs beginning Monday, when they open the regular season at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

Renteria says he'll be the same guy.

"That's me," he said. "I chirp a lot. I don't think that will change."

This will be a big week for the 52-year-old Renteria, who goes by "Ricky." He'll make his big-league managerial debut after a long career as a utility player, major-league coach and minor-league manager.

The moment -- or the two moments -- won't be lost on him when he takes part in the pregame ceremonies Monday and again Friday at the Cubs' home opener.

"I will be extremely grateful, probably for the rest of my life, for everything that's occurred to this point," he said Saturday before the Cubs played their final exhibition game of the spring, against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.

"I'm extremely thankful to my parents, my family. I'll have time to reflect on all of that when it's all said and done, because right now when you're in the moment, you're more concerned about the job you have to do. That's what I'm focused on."

It has been a fairly uneventful camp for the Cubs, save for shortstop Starlin Castro missing most of it with a hamstring injury.

As upbeat as Renteria is, he said during the winter that he could bark or even bite if it became necessary. He said Saturday it wasn't necessary during the spring.

"Not really," he said. "I think most of the conversations have been pretty good. Once again, I think those emotions and those reactions one has as a coach or a manager or teacher, they have to be well-guarded and they have to be used in the appropriate place as much as the appropriate time."

Renteria takes over for Dale Sveum, who was fired at the end of last season. Part of the issues with Sveum, according to Cubs management, were problems communicating with young players such as Castro and Rizzo.

So far, the vibe seems to be positive with the players.

"It's been great," said Jeff Samardzija, the Cubs' opening-day starting pitcher. "Ricky's a high-energy guy. That's what you need, especially going into the season with a new team. You constantly need to be uplifted and keep going.

"He does that. He's a great motivator, and he demands you play baseball the right way, which is the most important thing."

Renteria showed just a little bite Saturday when a reporter talked of the Cubs having low expectations attached to them after losing a combined 197 games the last two years.

Realistically, not much is expected from the Cubs again this season. But don't tell that to Renteria.

"I think we have a lot of expectations for ourselves," he shot back. "I don't concern myself with the external expectations one way or the other.

"If we were a club that everybody talked about with high expectations from the outside, I'd say good. If they say there are no high expectations, I say that doesn't change the way we're going to try to approach our season. I don't know that it is any less pressure or more pressure.

"That's my expectation for our club. I think they have expectation for themselves to have success. Quite frankly, if you don't set goals for yourself, there's nothing to shoot for. It's kind of hard to drive yourself. I think you should reach for the stars.

"I want to win a World Series. Absolutely. Why not?"

• Follow Bruce's Cubs and baseball reports via Twitter@BruceMiles2112.

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