Cubs' Renteria understands his job
Rick Renteria met the Chicago media in person for the first time Thursday.
After donning a jersey with the No. 16 (his high-school number) on the back, Renteria talked again as his role of teacher, something he stressed when the Cubs announced his hiring almost a month ago.
Hip-replacement surgery prohibited Renteria from traveling initially, but he looked spry enough Thursday during an informal lunch session with the media. He'll need the agility to chase around all of the young players the Cubs will have in spring training.
The subject came up initially in terms of how Renteria could reach young shortstop Starlin Castro, who fell back statistically this past season and suffered from more mental lapses on the field.
"People ask me about Starlin; I watched him from the other side and I go, 'Gosh, what a tremendously gifted athlete,'" Renteria said. "I think, first of all, I've got to get to know him as a person, and I've got to figure out what it is that moves him.
"He's a wonderful kid. I was able to speak to him at length. He was one of the first guys that I called. He's willing to do anything we ask him to do."
Renteria went on to say that dialogue is the key to reaching Castro as well as the rest of the players.
"The only way to improve things is to converse and to try to put at least a plan or an idea of how they can move forward," he said. "That's one of the things we're going to have to do as teachers. The whole coaching staff is going to have to approach this as being teachers, expecting to do well and try to move forward."
The Cubs this week completed their coaching staff by hiring Eric Hinske, a former Cubs draft pick, to be the first-base coach. Pitching coach Rick Bosio and bullpen coach Lester Strode remained from the previous staff, and the Cubs hired Bill Mueller as hitting coach and Gary Jones as third-base coach. They also moved Brandon Hyde from the front office to bench coach.
"I think that anytime you put a coaching staff together, in speaking to all of them, their attitudes are extremely positive," Renteria said. "I think they're going to bring in the idea of wanting to continue to teach. I think sometimes we forget that players still want to learn. I think we have to present a consistent message."
Team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer both attended Thursday's meeting, and Epstein said he was so confident in Renteria's media presentation that he spent most of his time fiddling with his phone rather than worrying about what the new guy might say.
Compiling the coaching staff was a collaborative effort between Renteria and the front office, which certainly has a stake in getting its message across to the players.
"Just find as many coaches as we can that actually impact players," Epstein said. "It sounds obvious -- that's the coaches' job -- but I think it takes a special personality as well as experience and having the technical knowledge. It takes a special personality to be able to actually reach the modern player and to dig deep and engage and relate to them -- not to relate to a player on a perfunctory level -- but to really get in deep and find out what makes them tick and impact them on and off the field in positive way.
"That's what we were looking for. That one hire some may call unconventional is Eric Hinske, who is just off the field as a player, but this is a guy who has been a coach for many years as a player and can really reach players and reach young players. We wanted to work with Rick and try to provide him with as many weapons as possible so he can impact all 25 guys."
The Wright stuff:
The Cubs didn't have official comment on reports they have signed left-handed reliever Wesley Wright, but it appears only formalities, such as a physical, stand in the way of an announcement.
Wright was with Houston from 2008 until being purchased by Tampa Bay in August of this year. The Rays did not tender him a contract, making him a free agent. The Cubs need a second lefty to take some of the load off James Russell, who has been overworked the past two seasons. Wright has held left-handed batters to a .231 batting average over his career.