Cubs spring training news & notes: Feb. 23

First baseman Derrek Lee spent his first day in camp doing multiple interviews before and after the team’s first practice. The veteran Cub said he wasn’t interested in approaching the team about a contract extension.

Lee, a free agent after 2010, did say he’d be happy to listen to the Cubs if they did have any offers. He also said he’d prefer not to negotiate any contract during the season because he doesn’t want it to become a distraction to the team.

Manager Lou Piniella said that Lee, Ted Lilly and Ramirez, all potential free agents in 2011, are no concerns of his. The Cubs skipper said he had no worries that any of the three would be distractions due to pending free agency, calling them consummate pros.

  • Team owner Tom Ricketts and his family spent the morning talking to the team and coaching staff about the present and the future of the organization. Ricketts, along with sister, Laura, and brothers, Pete and Todd, spent the afternoon looking at possible future sites for the Cubs’ future spring training complex. According to sources, all the sites they looked at are in the East Mesa area, somewhere between eight and 10 miles from the current complex.

  • Utility man Kevin Millar continues to impress Chicago Cubs veterans and rookies alike with his uncanny ability to make people laugh and keep them loose. If Millar can beat out other candidates as the team’s 25th man, it will be a big positive in a clubhouse that sorely needs the type of fun and leadership Millar brings to the game.

  • Third baseman Aramis Ramirez arrived in camp and admitted the Cubs’ chemistry in 2009 was way off. Ramirez pointed to the offseason additions of Marlon Byrd and Xavier Nady as big improvements going into this season.

  • The team’s second base competition will be between Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker, according to Piniella. Fontenot will also get a look as a potential backup shortstop early in camp. The Cubs coaching staff wants to be able to determine if Fontenot is capable of playing shortstop well enough to back up starter Ryan Theriot. If the consensus is no, then either infielder Andres Blanco will get the job or the team will pursue a trade for a backup shortstop during Cactus League play

  • Nineteen-year-old prospect Starlin Castro made a strong impression on his new teammates and manager Piniella in his first day of camp. Piniella said Castro reminded him of a young Edgar Renteria.

  • Former Comcast producer and operations director Lissa Druss Christman was the point person for the Ricketts family’s trip to Mesa, doing all the PR. Druss recently left Comcast to join the PR firm headed by Dennis Culloton, who handles all the PR for the Ricketts family.

  • Cubs radio broadcaster Ron Santo told me that he feels great and looks forward to 2010. Santo said his wife is planning a big birthday bash for him on Feb. 25 as Santo celebrates his 70th birthday. The likable Santo said 15 friends are flying in from Chicago for the party.