Renteria ready for Castro, Cubs

CHICAGO -- Donning a Chicago Cubs jersey for the first time, new manager Rick Renteria is excited about the opportunity to lead the Cubs, including embattled shortstop Starlin Castro.

Castro is coming off his worst season as a professional -- hitting just .245 -- but the positive-minded Renteria is ready to go to work on him -- and the rest of the team.

“I have to get to know him as a person and I have to figure what it is that moves him,” Renteria said at a Wrigley Field luncheon with media on Thursday. “Sometimes we (as people) don’t have conversations, thinking we don’t want to have a confrontation or maybe we don’t like the answer we’re going to get. But the reality is we have to have dialogue and the only way you can improve things is to converse and try to put a plan or an idea on how they can move forward. That’s one of the things we have to do as teachers.”

Former manager Dale Sveum wasn’t one to shy away from a tough conversation, but the key difference with the new coaching staff might come down to that one word: teaching.

Team President Theo Epstein was asked what the major goal was in recent hirings, including former batting champion Bill Mueller as hitting coach and newly retired player Eric Hinske as first base coach.

“To find as many coaches as we can that can impact players,” he responded. “It takes a special personality as well as experience to actually reach the modern player. To dig deep and engage ... and find out what makes them tick.”

That might be Renteria’s strength. His positive attitude became an attribute early in his career. At Class-A ball in 1982 he had his best year as a professional, hitting .331 with 14 home runs and 100 runs batted in. His manager was former infielder for the Detroit Tigers, Johnny Lippon.

“(He was the) most positive individual I had ever seen,” Renteria said. “His demeanor was one that kept you moving forward. That stayed with me, it resonated with me.”

The even-keeled Renteria is hoping to impart that kind of attitude around a Cubs clubhouse which has endured several rough years while the club goes through a rebuilding process. Next season isn’t expected to be much better.

“If we maintain a consistent and positive message then we’ll be able to have some of these players do what they’re capable of doing,” Renteria said.

That’s the goal for the team and Castro in particular. It doesn’t take a baseball expert to see he wasn’t reaching his potential for most of 2013. Renteria reached out to Castro as one of his first phone calls when he got his new job.

“He’s willing to do anything we ask him to do,” Renteria said.

That’s never been the issue with Castro. He’s as amenable as they come. Maybe that’s where the even-keeled demeanor of his manager might disappear for a while.

“I can get hot,” Renteria said. “Any competitor can get hot. You have to pick your spots. ... Will I do it for the sake of people watching me do it? No.”

Renteria is starting at the same place that many before him have. He may be the most positive of the group, so as he undoubtedly faces some long days they won’t wear on him as much. He likened the Cubs' future to that of a player at the plate who grinds out his at-bat after a bad call on strike one.

“I’m moving forward,” he said. “I’m going to keep grinding it out. I can’t think about the past, have to remain even-keeled and you have to forget.”

Cubs fans know all too well about forgetting the past.