Cubs brass looks forward and back as camp opens

Published: 2/13/2009 8:25 PM | Updated: 2/13/2009 8:35 PM

MESA, Ariz. - Nothing like the start of spring training to erase the memories of last fall's disappointment for the Cubs.

Well, not quite.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry and field boss Lou Piniella met with the media Friday, as pitchers and catchers reported for camp. There was the usual talk of optimism for the new year, with the Cubs again being the odds-on favorites to win the National League Central, something they downplay.

Although last year's three-and-out-playoff performance is now four months in the rearview mirror, everyone in the Cubs family is getting asked about it.

"I wasn't expecting what we got; I don't think anybody was," Piniella said as he and Hendry greeted reporters in the bright sunshine. "I felt like was run over by a Mack Truck, I'll be honest with you. Never once did I feel what happened to us would happen."

But it did happen. The Los Angeles Dodgers swept the Cubs in three games of the division series. Even after a 97-win regular season, the Cubs made a fairly large number of roster changes, and both Hendry and Piniella seemed happy with the winter of work.

"We like the club we are bringing to camp, we really do," Hendry said. "And I think Lou feels the same way, and we'll continue to do what we always do in spring training. If we have an injury or we find out something we've done isn't quite how we want, we'll be scouting other clubs heavily again, and we've shown in the past we're capable of picking up people if we have to, like Reed Johnson, in spring training.

"We feel like we're versatile and we have depth. It's hard to say you've got a perfect 25-man possibility. You got 12 pitchers, 13 position guys. You can't always have it perfect."

Piniella said he takes the blame for the division series sweeps in 2008 and 2007. During the Cubs convention, Piniella said he would read different books about motivating his club, citing former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. He said Friday he has read a book by former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy.

"I learned a lot," Piniella said. "I'm 0-6 in the postseason. There is room for improvement there for me. Jim has tinkered with our roster. He's done his job. Now I got to do mine, and the players have to do theirs."

The one area Piniella said he'd concentrate more on this year is resting his players, particularly with the heavy dose of day games at Wrigley Field.

"One of the things I've noticed a lot here in Chicago over the two years I've been here is the fact is you need to rest your team," the manager said. "With this roster we have here, I should be able to do that better than in the first two years. We've got enough versatility, we've got some left-handed hitting, some switch-hitting. We're going to be able to do that, and I think it will pay big dividends for us.

"In this business, you keep learning. My disposition is last year we had a darn good baseball team. We just need to figure out how to stay longer. I'm going to do things a little differently than I did last year as far as getting ourselves more prepared. The manager has a responsibility. I'm from the school if something doesn't work, I tend to blame myself and rightfully so."

Piniella also indicated that the law of averages is on the Cubs' side, but fans have talked about that for 100 years.

"(I) don't buy jinxes, don't buy any of those things," Piniella said. "You give yourselves enough chances, sooner or later, you break the barn door down and you get it done, and that's what we have to do. We didn't make the changes with this ballclub because we didn't have a good ballclub. We're just trying to get better."