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Cubs manager Rick Renteria isn’t daunted by Central Division

MESA, Ariz. — In the two years of expanded playoff fields, the Cubs’ division is the only one to produce three playoff teams in one year.

And coming off a season in which the wild-card Pirates and Reds join the National League Central champion Cardinals, the Brewers are welcoming back a former MVP after adding a former 15-game-winner with World Series experience.

But first-year Cubs manager Rick Renteria isn’t intimidated by his division foes.

“I look at it as a very solid division, obviously, just by default, with what it’s done over the past couple of years,” he said. “But I don’t look at it from the past. I’m looking at it as what can we do and how can we change how we approach playing each game against each particular club and what can we do to make ourselves a little bit more effective against the particular clubs.

“Those are just the players on that particular team that impact, potentially, the outcome.”

Players such as the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen, the Brewers’ Ryan Braun and the Reds’ Joey Votto, three of the last four NL MVPs. And players such as former Cubs starter Matt Garza, who signed with the Brewers, and Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, who led the NL with 19 wins and finished second in the Cy Young voting last year.

“I’m more concerned about how we’re going to approach them individually and try to have some success against them,” Renteria said. “But I don’t see this as a daunting task.”

The Cubs are 46 games under .500 against those four teams in the last two years, and they haven’t had a winning record against any of them since 2010.

Renteria acknowledges the NL Central looks similar to the vaunted American League East.

“But you’ve had a lot of clubs that have tremendously gifted players and not put it together,” he said. “So my thing is, quite frankly, we have a body of players that we’re trying to help form into a team, and that if we can do certain things and take certain actions that we have just as good a chance of competing in our division as some of those teams in the [AL] East have done in the past.”

NOTES: Rick Renteria said he hasn’t talked to Edwin Jackson about his fastball-only start Friday. Renteria expects to chat before Jackson’s next start.

Arodys Vizcaino, who finally seems healthy after two elbow surgeries, won’t be pushed, even if it means holding him back from an opening-roster assignment. “We’re going to be extremely patient with how we move forward with him,” Renteria said.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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