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Sveum: Youth not an excuse for Cubs next year

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 10:13 a.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 1)

(MCT) — NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The roster is far from set, but Dale Sveum believes the Cubs will be better in 2013.

“When you lose 100 games, you better go into it with a little more optimism,” Sveum said with a laugh.

Actually, the Cubs lost 101 games in 2012, but who’s counting?

Speaking Tuesday at the winter meetings, Sveum said Carlos Marmol is still his closer, the additions of Scott Baker and Scott Feldman should improve the rotation, and Welington Castillo will be his everyday catcher with a chance to start 70 percent of the games.

Sveum also confirmed the return of the spring training bunting tournament, which provided few results once the regular season began.

Will it actually work next season?

“The second half it did,” he insisted. “The first half I was like, ‘Wow, that didn’t go over too good.'”

Sveum’s patience was sorely tested last year with a team that couldn’t score runs, made several head-scratching base-running gaffes and had some of the worst pitching in the game.  With a year under his belt, Sveum is expecting better things from a team that will be hard-pressed to finish .500, much less contend.

“We’re all in this to get to the big dance and obviously to get to the World Series,” Sveum said. “Putting a team together is Theo (Epstein) and (Jed Hoyer’s)  job, and it’s my job to do the best I can with the players I have. There are always (spots) to be filled and to get better.

“Patience? It is what it is, but you can only use youth as an excuse for so long. We’ve got some guys coming, but patience is what it is. A lot of times you understand, and then sometimes things do try your patience.”

The Cubs have agreed to terms with Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, who is likely to push Marmol as the team’s closer. Sveum said he’s watched video of Fujikawa, but declined to talk about him until the deal is official.

Perhaps Sveum’s biggest mistake last year was yanking Marmol as his closer in late April and inserting untested rookie Rafael Dolis in the role.

“At the beginning of the year especially, you learned a lot about the bullpen, when things don't go right in the bullpen like they didn't my first month,” he said, laughing. “So I think those are things that you move forward, you're going to be better at understanding that these things work, sometimes you do have to make changes and see what happens. And sometimes some changes are unfortunate; they don't work out."

Sveum said Baker will be ready to start the season after rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, and Matt Garza is also expected to be fine after missing the last two months with elbow issues.

Overall, Sveum said the young players have to understand “the importance of wearing that ‘C’ on your shirt has got to get to a (higher) level” in 2013.

“That's where we're changing the culture ... to get (them) to understand when you put on the Yankees pinstripe, it's different than some things, and when you put on a Cubs uniform, you want that to be different,” he said.

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