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Little reason to expect Cubs’ tough times to end

The Cubs hope Rick Renteria’s much-touted ability work with young players will make him success his first year as big-league

The Cubs hope Rick Renteria’s much-touted ability to work with young players will make him a success in his first year as a big-league manager. | Sun-Times Media

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KEY DATES

Thursday: Pitchers and catchers report.

Friday: First workout of spring.

Feb. 18: Position players report.

Feb. 19: First full-squad workout.

Feb. 27: Spring opener (vs. Arizona Diamondbacks) at new state-of-the-art facility.

March 2: First spring meeting against Kansas City Royals and former Cubs manager Dale Sveum, now a coach on the Royals’ staff.

March 15-16: Split-squad games against the New York Mets in Las Vegas.

March 21, 27: Cubs face White Sox in only spring meetings.

March 31: Opening Day (at Pittsburgh Pirates).

April 4: Home opener (aganist manager Ryne Sandberg and the Philadelphia Phillies).

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Updated: March 10, 2014 6:43AM



The Cubs open spring training this week looking for small victories as they continue a lengthy, expansion-like rebuilding process that promises a fifth consecutive losing season. That would be their longest such streak in more than 30 years.

IN WITH THE NEW . . .

Three new faces

1. Rick Renteria, the first-year big-league manager touted for his ability to work with young players.

2. Clark the Cub, the already-maligned mascot.

3. Jason Hammel, the right-hander signed to a one-year, $6 million deal after the Cubs’ six-year, $120 million bid for coveted Japanese free agent Masahiro Tanaka fell a year and $35 million short of the New York Yankees.

. . . OUT WITH THE OLD

Three departures

1. Dale Sveum, the manager fired after two seasons amid criticism of his handling of young players.

2. Old Style, the iconic beer of Wrigley Field for more than six decades, replaced this year by a universally common macro-brew that provides a bigger sponsorship deal, including the right-field sign that’s part of the latest rooftop conflict.

3. Alfonso Soriano, who remains the Cubs’ highest-paid player (they’re paying $13 million of his $18 million salary) as a member of the New York Yankees’ outfield.

WORTH WATCHING

1. Kiddie core: Get a look at the Cubs’ biggest marquee players while you can because they’re all headed to the minors by the end of camp. Until then, all of the so-called ‘‘Big Four’’ prospects the Cubs are banking on for their rebuilt core — infielder Javy Baez, outfielder Albert Almora, third baseman Kris Bryant and outfielder Jorge Soler — will be in big-league camp together for the first time. Baez is expected to be the only one who makes his big-league debut during the 2014 season, but he won’t open the season in the majors. Cubs officials already have him slotted into the Opening Day lineup for Class AAA Iowa.

2. Field of dreams: At least the ballpark the Cubs will use in March will have a championship-caliber look. They’ll open their $84 million, state-of-the-art spring facility paid for by the city of Mesa and located near the interchange of state routes 101 and 202 near Tempe. It keeps all of the Cubs’ players on one site throughout spring training for the first time in decades and offers across-the-board upgrades in amenities and easier access to popular commercial attractions in Tempe and Scottsdale.

3. Now you see him: Right-hander Jeff Samardzija has been on the trading block all winter and, barring a long-shot end to differences over terms on a potential multiyear contract extension, is expected to be dealt by the trade deadline this summer. After a 200-inning, 200-strikeout season in 2013, is he poised for the dominant season he and many in the organization expect? And what would a strong start do for his chances of staying with the club — or his trade value? Get a good, long look this spring.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub

BY THE NUMBERS

$85M — Cubs’ projected 2014 payroll, which would be their l owest since 2003 ($79.9 million).

4— Managers Cubs have had in five seasons (Piniella, Quade, Sveum, Renteria).



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