MESA, Ariz. -- Alfonso Soriano will need to spend lots of time getting to know his new teammates on the Cubs, and he didn't appear to miss players like Aramis Ramirez or Carlos Zambrano.
"It feels a little different because those guys have been forever in a Cubs uniform," Soriano said Friday of the pair. "Now I don't see them and it feels we're missing something. We have a nice group of people, and we have to work with these guys because they have very good talent."
Ramirez left via free agency and signed a three-year contract with the Brewers, while Zambrano was traded to the Marlins in January.
"I think they made very good moves, trading 'Z,' because I don't know if he wasn't happy or what here, but the things he did here, nobody was happy," Soriano said. "I think the team is happy they were able to trade him and I think he's happy, too, that he's in Miami now. It worked great for both positions. We won't miss him."
It's time for the Cubs to move on, Soriano said.
"Now, I have to focus on my new team that I have here," he said. "I can't think about my old teammates, I want to think about my new teammates and be friendly with my new teammates."
Sveum believes Cubs can win this season
MESA, Ariz. -- In his first address to the full squad, manager Dale Sveum repeated his message that this is not a rebuilding year for the Cubs, and the goal is to win it all.
Sveum was one of the speakers before Friday's first full squad workout at Fitch Park. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, plus president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer also spoke to the players.
"I just let them know that, look, you've got a veteran catcher behind the plate, a guy who won the MVP in Triple-A playing first, a guy who did a nice job -- [Darwin] Barney -- at second base," Sveum said. "[We've got] a guy who had over 300 hits in his first two years in the big leagues [at short], a guy who hit 20 something-plus home runs a couple years ago in Colorado at third, an All-Star in center field, a guy with 340 home runs in left field and a really nice leadoff-type professional player playing right field.
"[Plus] obviously the pitching staff with [Ryan Dempster], [Matt] Garza, [Paul] Maholm, [Randy] Wells, [Travis] Wood and you go on and on with the bullpen and [Carlos] Marmol and [Kerry] Wood and [Jeff] Samardzija," Sveum said. "I just let them know that's a team that can compete and do really well. We're not here to rebuild, we're here to try to win the World Series this year."
If you aren't familiar with the Cubs' roster yet, the catcher is Geovany Soto, the first baseman is Bryan LaHair, the shortstop is Starlin Castro, the third baseman is Ian Stewart, the center fielder is Marlon Byrd, the left fielder is Alfonso Soriano, and David DeJesus is in right.
One of Sveum's hot topics this spring is baserunning, and he met with the players after the first time they ran the bases.
"Baserunning definitely gets lost, just because of the lack of paying attention to it over your careers, or maybe not being held accountable with baserunning, making turns on the bases," Sveum said. "A lot of these things you try to put in terms of every team is going to win 60 games and lose 60 games. Whatever happens in those other 42 games depends on how you run the bases, how you play fundamentally, how you catch the ball. All these things come into play in the last 42 games. The one-run ballgames are huge, and how are you going to win them? You're going to do it with those kind of things."
The position players found themselves at a disadvantage on the first day because they had to face pitchers in batting practice, and the hurlers have been in camp since Feb. 19.
"Any position players dreads that day, for the most part, hitting off live pitchers," Sveum said.
Brett Jackson's assignment? Marmol. What's even worse for Jackson is that this is the third straight spring in which he's had to face Marmol in his first live BP session.
"At least I fouled one off," Jackson said.
Dempster, Wood, Lendy Castillo, Jay Jackson, Jeff Beliveau and Trey McNutt also threw live BP.
Ricketts likes vibe of Cubs camp
MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said the team is at an "inflection point," and was enthused by the feeling he's gotten from the players and staff."There's a new energy, a new vibe, I think they'll be working a little harder than years past, focusing on fundamentals," Ricketts said Friday after addressing the team on the first day of the full squad workout. And his message to the Cubs? "We talked about, 'Let's make sure we use all 40 days as best we can,'" Ricketts said. "Communicate, too. One of the things I talk about is making sure if there's something we can be doing better, let us know. We want to be the best organization in baseball. If there's feedback, make sure it gets up to us so we can do what we can." Ricketts, whose family took over the Cubs in October 2009, heads into this season with a revamped front office led by Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, and new manager Dale Sveum. One theme in camp has been the creation of the Cubs way, which Ricketts was happy to hear about. "You do like to hear that 'Cubs way,'" he said. "What they're doing is putting everything down on paper and signing off on it." The baseball operations department is creating a scouting manual and player development manual, which Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer coordinated. Ricketts likes the idea. "Not only does it help you be more consistent in the way you treat players and train players," Ricketts said, "but everyone buys in and you're accountable and I think that's a big part of the Cubs way." An inflection point is defined as a moment of dramatic change, especially in the development of a company, industry or market. Ricketts used that term to describe this moment in Cubs history. "I feel this is really an inflection point for this organization," Ricketts said. "I think we've made some changes that will pay off in the short run with a great team on the field this year and in the long run with a team that will be competitive every single year. I feel great about it." As for recent rumors that the Cubs might have to play their home games in 2013 at U.S. Cellular Field to accommodate renovations at Wrigley Field, Ricketts tried to squelch the talk. "There's no plans for us to play anywhere else but Wrigley Field," Ricketts said. He also said there is no date set for groundbreaking for the Cubs' new Spring Training facility in Mesa. The design is being finalized and the plan is still to be ready for 2014. Season ticket renewals for 2012 were "off the charts," Ricketts said. "We know the one thing that sells tickets is winning and that's what we focus on," he said. The lineup may not be the most intimidating but Ricketts said fans are enthused about the 2012 Cubs. "People are very excited," he said. "Everyone sees this as a great positive for the organization and everyone is looking forward to letting Theo do his job and letting Dale do his job and moving us forward."
Starlin happy to turn attention to helping Cubs
MESA, Ariz. -- Starlin Castro could focus on getting ready for the season Friday and not deal with the offseason allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman in Chicago."I'm ready to play baseball," Castro said Friday. The Cubs shortstop made his first comments since he was questioned by Chicago police in mid January after the accusations were made public. The incident allegedly took place on Sept. 29, the night after the Cubs' season ended. No criminal charges were filed against Castro, 21, and there have been no new developments since the shortstop spoke to the police. "In the beginning, it was tough," Castro said, "but I put it out of my mind to prepare to play baseball." The shortstop met with Cubs manager Dale Sveum on Friday and talked about the regular season, not the offseason. "I cooperated with the police," Castro said. "I don't have anything else to say about [the incident]. I'm ready to play baseball and practice hard and help this team win games." And what did he learn from the experience? "That you have to be careful because there are a lot of bad people in the world," he said.
Teammate Alfonso Soriano also talked to Castro, spending more than one month with the infielder at the Cubs' training facility in the Dominican Republic."He told me he didn't do anything wrong," Soriano said. "I'm happy he's here and can focus on just playing baseball." Soriano has tried to guide Castro in his first two years in the big leagues, which is what players did for the now 36-year-old outfielder when he made his Major League debut with the Yankees. "I told him, 'You have to be careful because you think people in the street are your friends, but they may be looking for something else,'" Soriano said of his advice to Castro. "You have to be careful. You have to believe in your family, believe in a couple guys you know for a long time but don't believe in those guys you know for one day or one night. You have to be careful because you are a professional player now and everybody knows you and maybe somebody wants something from you." Bernie Williams and Mariano Rivera helped Soriano. "When I was coming up, I had a lot of talent and a lot of people told me, 'Be careful, you're in New York and little things here are big news,'" Soriano said. "I tried to tell [Castro] before that happened, 'You have to be careful because this is a big city and you play for the Cubs and now everybody knows you and you're not the same guy. You have to be careful and focus on baseball and everything will come easy.'" Sveum didn't waste any time getting to work with Castro at short during the defensive drills. "One fundamental that a lot of young players have is just not gaining ground when the ball is hit," Sveum said. "I call it 'squatting' -- you see a ball hit so you stand in the same spot and let the ball get to you. It's not charging the ball, it's not the dreaded term, don't let the ball play you, because only God knows when it's going to take a bad hop. "It's just a matter of understanding when you gain ground on ground balls, you're going to throw the ball five yards less, your feet are going to be moving. It's a work in progress. There's a lot of things that I saw today that he definitely needs to work on." What Sveum also noticed was Castro seemed eager to get back to work. "Obviously, he's put that all behind him, and it's great to have him in camp," Sveum said. "He had a smile on his face all day today and going through the drills and swinging the bat. It was just nice to see him in person and talk to him as well as Junior Lake and Soriano, guys I really haven't had a chance to spend much time with." Sveum actually met Castro in November the day he was hired by the Cubs because the shortstop happened to be in town. "I'm not going to sit here and say I know him in and out," Sveum said. "I haven't been around him. "He shows you that on the field, the confidence that he has and confidence in his ability," Sveum said. "Now it's just to fine tune a lot of that ability." Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, said they have invited people from Sport in Society of Northeastern University to conduct seminars this spring for the players in hopes of helping them make the right decisions off the field. Sport in Society covers such topics as leadership, diversity and inclusion, violence prevention and community service. In his first full Major League season in 2011, Castro led the National League in hits and was named to his first All-Star team. What does he need to work on? "My defense," Castro said. "I've been working hard on my defense and running bases and trying to steal more bases and focus more."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.