Ryan Theriot has made himself invaluable to the Chicago Cubs with his ability to play multiple infield positions and move up and down the lineup. Theriot, nicknamed "The Riot," has sparked the Cubs' lineup as a semi-regular at both shortstop and second base. The Louisiana State University alum made his Major League debut in 2005 and hit .328 in 53 games with the Cubs last season.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You've become a fan favorite in Chicago with your hustling style of play and your grasp on the fundamentals. Have you been able to enjoy your strong start?
Theriot: Getting an opportunity to come out here and help this team on a pretty-much regular basis is one thing you look forward to. Just getting that chance to do it and affect your team in a positive manner has been great. Obviously with the fans on your side, it's better. The fans appreciate hard work and they appreciate hard play. These fans in Chicago know what they're talking about.
MLBPLAYERS.com: The Cubs have a lot of hitters who are putting up good numbers, but it's not turning into a good record. Are you surprised how the team has struggled a little bit, or do you think this slow start is setting the table for a big season?
Theriot: I think we've got a lot of guys who are doing exactly what we expected them to do offensively. D-Lee (Derrek Lee) is having a great start, as well as Aramis (Ramirez). Sorie's (Alfonso Soriano) is doing well, too. So our big guns offensively are getting the job done. I feel like the rest of us, we're scoring some runs, too. It's just one or two little breaks, man. And that's just the way this game goes, whether it's offensively or defensively. That's why we play so many games and that's why you don't ever see one team run away with it from the beginning. There are almost always close division races. So we'll see what happens.
MLBPLAYERS.com: It's your first year making the Majors out of Spring Training. What's been your biggest surprise as an everyday player?
Theriot: I guess it's how the book gets out on you real fast. The advance scouts for each team do a great job seeing what a hitter's doing well at a certain time. You have to be able to adjust to the pitchers, while at the same time, they're adjusting on how to pitch to you. That's one thing where you can't just focus in one approach you have to a certain pitcher.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Does it amaze you how good the left-handed pitchers are up here?
Theriot: Traditionally, I've always hit lefties pretty good. But they figure out what it is you're having problems with, and that's how they attack you. We've run into some good ones who can control their offspeed pitches and throw a lot of strikes.
MLBPLAYERS.com: The Cubs have seemingly always been knocked for not developing position players in their farm system, but now there's you, Felix Pie, Matt Murton and Angel Pagan. You guys could become a nice core for this team. How nice is it to come up through the system with a group of guys?
Theriot: It's fun. We always knew this was coming. When we were together in low A, it was Felix, myself and Rich Hill, who is a pitcher, and once we went up to Daytona Beach, it was the same group of guys. We consistently moved up together. I think Jim Hendry, our general manager, and Oneri Fleita (director of player development/Latin American operations) did a great job keeping us all together. There was one year, 2005, when Rich and I got called up, but that was about it. We kept thinking one of us should go up to Chicago, but I think it helped us out because we learned how to play together.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Before this year, the Cubs signed Mark DeRosa to play second, where you had been playing. And they traded for shortstop Cesar Izturis last year. Were you discouraged or did that just motivate you?
Theriot: I always have confidence in my ability. I know what I can do. When you get a guy like Mark, it can only help. He's a versatile player who plays a ton of positions. He's a proven ballplayer who has been around the game for a long time. He's a leader and a guy I can go to if I have any problems or questions. Initially, I was a little disappointed, as anyone would be, but after I started to think about it, I was excited and I was right. It's been a blessing to have him around; it's been great.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You played for a legendary manager at LSU in Skip Bertman and now you're playing for Lou Piniella. How are they different or similar?
Theriot: Skip was a master motivator. He was a guy who could trick you into thinking you could run through a brick wall. He wasn't as hands-on with the game. He let his assistant coaches do most of the baseball stuff. Not that he didn't know, but he just didn't mess with it.
Lou is very, very skilled in every facet of the game. He knows about everything. He's the type of guy where if I have a problem catching ground balls, he can fix it for me. Hitting as well. He's pulled me and other guys aside and told us, "Hey, try this" or "Do that." It's pretty refreshing to have a manager who knows so much.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What's it like having a legendary shortstop like Alan Trammell around as your infield and bench coach?
Theriot: It's amazing, he was one of the greatest hitting infielders ever. Watching him play growing up, and having a guy of his status in the dugout, we're very lucky to have him as a coach. And it's not just him. Our hitting coach Gerald Perry has been tremendous, and throw in Mike Quade at third base -- he was our manager at Triple-A, so most of us young guys are comfortable with him.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Are you going to trademark, "The Riot," as a nickname and sell merchandise?
Theriot: Nah. That nickname has probably been around forever. It's funny because (Cubs TV broadcasters) Len (Kasper) and Bob (Brenly) like to try and take credit for the nickname, but they didn't come up with it.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.