Cubs: Rick Renteria knows all about proving people wrong

Cubs: Rick Renteria knows all about proving people wrong
February 7, 2014, 2:30 pm
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Tony Andracki

Of the many questions surrounding Rick Renteria, there's one that seems to draw the most interest: Will this Cubs job wear him down?

Renteria is relentlessly positive by nature, but he's not the first upbeat manager to come into Chicago hoping to make history at Wrigley Field.

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It officially begins next week, when pitchers and catchers report to the team’s new complex in Mesa, Ariz. But Renteria has already made an impression during his first couple months on the job. There’s a passion that stems from his playing career — and being told he would never reach the big leagues.

"It comes from wanting to prove everybody wrong," he said. "Every one of these guys is out to prove everybody wrong. I don't mind being the underdog. You may beat me up, but you're going to know you're in a fight. And one of these days, I'm going to win that fight."

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Renteria connected with the organization's top prospects during last month’s rookie-development program.

"After he was done speaking, I was amped up," Albert Almora said. "I was ready to go outside at that very moment and go play in the snow. I was fired up like it was Game 7 of the World Series."

Almora said Renteria has already started becoming a father figure for the young players. The former San Diego Padres bench coach came in with a reputation as a good teacher and communicator.

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"As a manager, you need to have a lot of energy. You need to be positive, especially in the situation we're in right now," pitcher Jeff Samardzija said. "As a team, we're kind of on the up-and-coming path. There are some lumps you have to fight through and it takes a very patient man.

"With our team, it's a great fit. It's not like in 2007 or '08, when we had a very veteran-laden team, so we brought in a veteran coach to handle all those personalities. I think now it's a little different situation where we need to teach more from the ground floor up and I think Rick is a great guy for that."

This will be Renteria's first managing gig in the majors. He coached six seasons in San Diego after managing minor-league affiliates for the Padres and Florida Marlins. He also managed Team Mexico in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

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Kris Bryant, the No. 2 overall pick in last summer's draft, sees Renteria's fluency in both Spanish and English as a huge boost to the organization, given the large group of Latin players coming up through the system.

Bryant said he has formed a friendship with Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler, even though the two don't speak the same language. Renteria can act as a go-between for players and coaches at the big-league level, while also speaking to guys like Soler and Starlin Castro in their native tongue.

Regardless of the language, the message will still be the same from Renteria -- positive and upbeat.

"Baseball players need a positive influence," second baseman Darwin Barney said. "Everything is negative. Everything is 'This is what you did wrong' or 'You can do better at this.' One-for-4 is still only .250 — it's not exactly what you want.

"But somebody that's positive in your ear all day is someone that you can rally behind, because you'll want to treat your teammates well to be more like him. I think he's the right guy for the job."