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With arbitration settled, Theriot ready to claim his role
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff

The Cubs won their arbitration case against shortstop Ryan Theriot on Saturday, and both sides say it will be easy to put the salary dispute behind them.

 

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Ryan Theriot

 

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Published: 2/20/2010 1:05 PM | Updated: 2/20/2010 4:48 PM

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MESA, Ariz. - Talk about "getting over it."

No sooner had Saturday's talk turned from the Cubs winning their salary-arbitration case over shortstop Ryan Theriot than moved on to what lies ahead for the baseball season.

"This is going to be a great year," an upbeat Theriot said as he reported for spring training. "It's really exciting. I've really worked on gaining some strength this off-season, gaining some weight for longevity. So there are some things I improved on some things that I worked on all off-season. I'm excited to see how that works out."

The arbitration process actually worked out well for both sides, even though Theriot "lost." After making $500,000 last year, he'll get $2.6 million this season instead of the $3.4 million he had sought.

All in all, there seemed to be no hard feelings on either side.

"No doubt about it," Theriot said. "I never feel like I'm owed anything. That's not why you play the game. You're not owed anything. This is a privilege to be able to come in here and do this every day. There's millions of people who would love to it.

"From that point of view, whatever you get is great. You're happy with it, and you go out and play. You stay hungry and you continue to improve and continue to do better and try to win. Everything else kind of falls in place."

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry had not been to a hearing since becoming GM in 2002. In fact, the Cubs had not been to arbitration since they won their case against Mark Grace in 1993.

Hendry, too, sounded a conciliatory tone after returning from Florida, where the hearing was held.

"It's a part of the business of major-league baseball now," Hendry said. "We certainly have never gone before since I've been here, and I think that speaks for itself. I don't think we've ever been accused of overpaying anybody (in pre-arbitration settlements), and I think the players always felt that we came to a fair number. I always assumed, sooner or later, as a general manager, we would be going. It's just part of the process."

Now Theriot can get down to the business of playing shortstop and likely batting leadoff.

The Cubs would like Theriot to put up 2008-like numbers instead of those similar to last year.

Even though Theriot led the team in at-bats (602) and established career bests in home runs (7) and RBI (54), some more important numbers took a tumble. His on-base percentage dropped from .387 in 2008 to .343 in 2009. His walks dropped from 73 to 51, and his strikeouts spiked from 58 to 93.

What does Theriot feel is important to accomplish this year?

"Hitting first, on-base percentage, obviously," he said. "Hit zero homers, that's great. Be on base. Score runs. Be productive at the top. In the leadoff spot, there's a niche for guys in this game who do that and do it well. Every good team has one of those guys.

"If that's the role that I'm in, then great. I would love to do that."

Then there's that little matter of shortstop phenom Starlin Castro coming to camp and possibly pushing Theriot to second base. The incumbent says he'd have no problem moving. He also flashed a little pride.

"If I remember, my first action was in right field," Theriot said. "That was an adventure. No, I don't (have a problem). But as it is now, I am the shortstop and I have been for three years. I feel like I've done a good job. He's going to have to come get it."

Theriot also said he'd be happy to tutor Castro.

"Of course," he said. "For me, it's exciting to know that there's somebody coming like that who can help this team win. If he comes out and does what he's supposed to do, does what everyone says he can do, I think everybody in this clubhouse is excited and happy for that."