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Despite 101-loss season, Cubs' Sveum anxious to climb back in the saddle

2012-10-12T20:00:00Z 2012-10-13T16:16:07Z Despite 101-loss season, Cubs' Sveum anxious to climb back in the saddleAl Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com, (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
October 12, 2012 8:00 pm  • 

CHICAGO | It's been 10 days since the Cubs season ended at 61-101, and Dale Sveum can't wait for spring training.

You heard right.

That's the passion team officials expected from their first-year manager.

"It's nice to go home and regroup a little bit, but, at the same time, it doesn't take too long before you want to get right back in the saddle and get back in the dugout and the clubhouse with the guys," Sveum said.

The Cubs lost 100 games for only the third time in franchise history, were shut out 16 times, lost 27 games by a single run and struggled in all facets of the game with what amounted to a no-name roster the final months of the season.

They drew 2.8 million fans, the first time they did not reach 3 million since 2003.

Sveum and team president Theo Epstein had reasons to be encouraged, however.

"We had our lapses," Epstein said. "We had plenty of bonehead plays on the bases and things that shouldn't happen, but on a whole, it was more of a winning atmosphere than you typically see around losing clubs.

"That's something we can build on. That's something we're going to expect. That's going to be the standard that we can continue to build off of."

Though he hates losing, Sveum said he learned something new about himself: He has great patience.

"What I was most proud of is our players showed up on a daily basis; they played hard, and their preparation was really good," Sveum said. "I was really proud of how each and every one handled a tough situation.

"As for most disappointing? Our record, obviously, but you're not gonna sit here and point fingers. We didn't score enough runs. We walked too many guys. We played average defense."

Sveum said there is certain to be turnover. The Cubs need starting pitching, bullpen help, a third baseman and some "power" bats.

"These are your Christmas lists," he added.

Bryan LaHair's game-winning ninth-inning single against Houston in the season finale was redemption for him after having his playing time cut the second half of the season. He credited Sveum for a needed morale boost.

"Dale and I had several conversations in his office about the future, continuing to work hard and accepting your role," LaHair said. "He told me I have a bright future, and he sees me doing well in this game."

Darwin Barney said the team atmosphere was good despite the mounting losses and player frustration.

"How can it not try your patience when you're in Chicago and not winning as many ballgames as you want to?" Barney said. "But we have a plan here, and we're gonna stick to that.

"We're all gonna work very hard to be a part of that plan."

Epstein already is a big fan of his field boss.

"Players want to play for certain managers," Epstein said. "I guarantee you, throughout the whole winter, players will be talking about how great it is to play for Dale Sveum and be part of this clubhouse we have here."

Sveum has already had his exit meetings with most of the Cubs players and sent the same message to all.

"I told them to be prepared (next season). It's 24-7 now. It's their job," he said. "There's an opportunity of a lifetime in this organization, and they've got to take advantage of it."

Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, Javier Baez and Barney will become faces of the organization one day, but their full development will take time.

"Our goal is to be in the playoffs every year, but it ain't gonna happen overnight," Sveum said, adding next season could test fans' patience once again.

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