Renteria: 'Future is now' for youthful Cubs
In chat with MLB Network, new manager discusses family mentality, optimism
CHICAGO -- New Cubs manager Rick Renteria got to work right away on Thursday, calling players to introduce himself.
"I had some responses, and they were extremely positive," Renteria told MLB Network on Friday. "I'm looking forward to working with all of these guys.
"Hopefully, I'm not the one drawing the attention, and it will be the players. If they genuinely believe we believe in them, we have a chance of putting together something special."
Among the players Renteria spoke to was Starlin Castro, who posted back-to-back .300 seasons in 2010 and '11, but struggled to hit .245 this year.
"I know a lot has been made about some of the lapses he's had and his play," Renteria said of the shortstop. "This guy is a really good player, and he's a special player."
Renteria, 51, said if he has to be firm with a player, he will be. But he didn't think that was necessary with Castro.
"It seems like he has a lot of energy," Renteria said. "He was ready to do whatever it takes. ... I think everybody moves more confidently with positive information and positive reinforcement than you do with a heavy hand. That being said, I can bark and bark and bark just like a dog. In the end, players just shut you out. I think you have to build a relationship with players and have them understand when you raise the tone, when things are serious, that it's for real."
He recalled a conversation with a priest about raising children, and said he applies that approach. The priest's message was that you should always love your children, but you don't always have to like them.
"I think I take that approach on a daily basis," Renteria said.
He also learned how to be calm, but firm, with players from Padres manager Bud Black. Again, the new Cubs manager said he will treat the players like family. Renteria has four children, ranging in ages from 35 to 18. He's got experience with the youth movement.
The Cubs are coming off three consecutive seasons in which they lost more than 90 games, but Renteria, who was given a three-year deal with two club option years, is optimistic.
"We feel the players who are coming and the players we have on the Major League roster now are the wave of the future," Renteria said. "I say the future is now -- me, personally. Obviously, the ability to go out and get players is going to happen as the club continues to move forward, but those are things that will be taken care of down the road. They are very confident in the ability of the players we have now.
"In that vein, I have to take [the front office's] vision, make it my vision and put it forward between the lines. We see a club that will go out there, hopefully, and fight and scratch and claw their way through everything. I might be naive, and people think I might be nuts about me believing this club can go out and do certain things, but I feel that way, and I truly believe it, and we're going to find out. In having some of the conversations I had with some of these kids yesterday, it might be a pretty fun season for us."
Renteria was known as "Rich" early in his career. What happened? Renteria said when he came back from an injury (he was with the Marlins), someone wrote a column about his return. The writer asked Renteria what he was called at home, and he said his family called him "Rickie." The writer ended the story by saying, "Let's be 'Rickie' people; let's be like family," Renteria said.
The next day, Renteria was introduced to pinch-hit, and fans shouted, "Rickie."
"When people would call me 'Rickie' from the stands, I knew it was somebody I knew," Renteria said. "I went to hit that day after the column came out, and as I stood out there warming up, I heard, 'C'mon, Rickie.'"
He's been Rick ever since.
Renteria was introduced to Chicago media via a conference call on Thursday. He can't travel after undergoing right hip replacement surgery. The Cubs are expected to introduce Renteria at Wrigley Field when he's given the go-ahead to travel.
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.