Ricketts is optimistic Cubs will take step forward

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs' offseason acquisitions weren't exactly breaking news and the team is coming off a 96-loss season, but chairman Tom Ricketts is optimistic about the 2014 campaign.

"I think we have a team right now that can go to the playoffs," said Ricketts, who told the players the same thing prior to the first full-squad workout on Wednesday.

"We have a good young nucleus," he said. "You have to build a championship team and we're doing that. We have good young guys on the team this year and we've got good guys coming, and every year we're going to keep getting better and better and better and we're going to be consistent contenders. If these guys step up and play to their potential, we'll be fine."

New Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Ricketts' message wasn't much different from what he told the players.

"I think we expect it," Renteria said about competing in the postseason. "We talked to the players about having high expectations. I don't know why we'd want to hold ourselves back from going out and playing the game a certain way and expecting if we do things right, we have a chance to win."

Renteria is aware of the Cubs' history, and the fact that the team has not played in the World Series since 1945 and not won a championship since 1908.

"I think they've been reminded enough," Renteria said of the players. "What I try to do is think about today and that was the focus -- that we're moving forward and every day we're moving past what has already occurred. It's all kind of relative."

How can Ricketts be so optimistic?

"Every few years it happens somewhere that there are teams that flip it around in one season," he said. "We have a good young nucleus of guys and if they get back on their career trajectories that we anticipate, they will, and we have a great new manager and we have a lot of positive energy coming through. We think it can happen. Everything will be fine and we'll have an exciting season."

Wrigley renovation project stalled, to start after season

Happy 100th birthday Wrigley Field

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs had hoped to begin Wrigley Field's renovation plans this offseason, but chairman Tom Ricketts said he hopes the work will get started after the 2014 regular season ends.

The $500 million renovation, which includes a new video scoreboard in left field and a see-through ad in right, has stalled because of opposition by rooftop owners.

"There's no real update," Ricketts said Wednesday. "Like I've always said, I think we have a lot of incentive to get it done. Everyone has incentive to get it done."

It took five years to get Mesa voters to approve the new Spring Training complex and build it. How long can Ricketts wait?

"It's our goal to get the [Wrigley Field] project started at the end of the season," Ricketts said. "I'm not sure if there's a hard date that goes with that."

The team has spent money on repairs and maintenance work this past offseason at Wrigley, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. The Cubs intend on having at least the see-through advertising sign installed in right by Opening Day, April 4.

The Cubs also are negotiating new radio and television contracts with WGN, and Ricketts said it was too early to predict what will happen with those.

The Cubs got the Spring Training complex done partly because there was the threat that they could move to Naples, Fla. What if the Cubs threatened to move from Wrigley?

"You can't go back and talk hypothetically about what did or didn't happen," Ricketts said. "You can't just pretend Wrigley Field is another ballpark like something built in some suburb somewhere 20 years ago that nobody cares about."

If the Cubs can't get an agreement and do the renovations, Ricketts said, "I don't know what's going to happen."

"The key is we're committed to renovating and improving the park and saving it for the next generation," he said. "Ultimately, you have to have control of your own field. We can't live for the next 100 years with this kind of situation. We have to know it's going to be over if we're going to invest in the park."

Schierholtz hoping to prove he can hit lefties

Outlook: Schierholtz should see at-bats with Cubs

MESA, Ariz. -- Wednesday was the Cubs' first full-squad workout, which meant it was the first day of live batting practice. Nate Schierholtz got to face exactly who he needed in lefty Travis Wood.

Schierholtz is hoping he can convince Cubs manager Rick Renteria to not platoon the outfielder against left-handed pitchers. Last year, Schierholtz batted .262 against right-handers and hit .170 against lefties, part of the reason he had to share right field.

"That's a huge goal of mine, to play every day and not necessarily platoon as much," Schierholtz said Wednesday. "That's one of my big goals this spring."

It seemed fitting that he had to face a southpaw on Day 1.

"These sessions right now are more for pitchers than hitters," Renteria said. "It's a difficult time for the hitters."

When Schierholtz was with the Giants, he recalls Barry Bonds having his own personal batting-practice pitcher who was left-handed. When Bonds stopped playing, that pitcher stayed with the Giants to help. The Cubs do need to find some lefties to throw batting practice to help Schierholtz, Anthony Rizzo and Ryan Sweeney.

"There weren't too many lefties who I had available here," Schierholtz said. "It'll be something I work on a lot this spring, [facing] left-handed throwers. That's the key. Rizzo and I talked about it a lot last year, how we didn't have anyone left-handed to throw to us ever. That's a big gap and hole we had to fill. At least in Spring Training, we can get more work that way."

Bonifacio wanted best chance to make big league roster

MESA, Ariz. -- Emilio Bonifacio received other offers from big league teams, but he said the Cubs gave him the best opportunity.

Bonifacio, 28, signed a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training on Saturday, and was in camp Wednesday. He split last season between the Blue Jays and Royals, batting .243 for the season.

The Cubs have told the versatile Bonifacio that he has a good chance of being on the Opening Day roster. That was all he needed to hear.

"I thought they had a pretty good team and young talent," he said. "The other teams, they were really set up and I thought it would be hard to make the cut."

Extra bases

• Renteria met with each player on Wednesday, and was impressed by shortstop Starlin Castro, who is coming off a tough year in which he batted a career-low .245.

"He's very excited," Renteria said of Castro. "We liked the way he looked in our meeting. He was very happy. We just told him to be himself, expand on his skills and improve his approach at the plate. He spoke a bit more than we did. He has an idea of what he wants to do."

• Even though Mike Olt's primary position is third base, he was working out at first on Wednesday on the first day of workouts. The Cubs don't have a backup first baseman, and top prospects Kris Bryant and Christian Villanueva were sharing third during the session.

Kyuji Fujikawa, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, had a long-toss session Wednesday, throwing from about 135 feet. He is making progress.

"As long as there is nothing that sets him back, he continues to move forward," Renteria said.

• Somehow, Blake Parker was aligned with lefties Wesley Wright, James Russell, Tommy Hottovy, Tsuyoshi Wada and Zac Rosscup. Parker is the only right-hander in that group. Did he have to adjust to the southpaws?

"No, I just took my glove off and we did a strictly right-handed shake," Wright said.