Hoyer not worried about spring struggles

Bryan LaHair hit .331 with 38 home runs at Triple-A Iowa last year, which gives Jed Hoyer hope. Jennifer Hilderbrand/US Presswire

MESA, Ariz. -- With just over two weeks to go before the start of the season, general manager Jed Hoyer gave a sort of state-of-the-Cubs address, discussing subjects from Bryan LaHair's struggles to the concept that Anthony Rizzo's future numbers, good or bad, will forever be a reflection of his own talent-evaluation skills.

The Cubs entered the off day Wednesday having lost both of their split-squad contests Tuesday. They have lost nine of their last 11 games and are 8-13 this spring.

"Last year I thought the two teams in the Cactus League that struggled the most were Arizona and Cleveland," Hoyer said. "Arizona won what 96 games? And you look at how Cleveland got out of the gate they were 30-15 and they really struggled in spring training. So it just doesn't mean anything. I know that sounds awful. You want to win every game."

Hoyer and manager Dale Sveum agreed that spring training wins and losses will carry more weight over the last 10 days when most of the starters are playing and relievers are being used in their regular roles.

Sveum said Tuesday that he plans to have the Opening Day roster set with a week to go before the end of Cactus League play and Hoyer agrees with that idea to an extent.

"We have a good idea of what it's going to look like? Yeah, I agree with Dale on that part but a lot can happen in the last two weeks, and when you think about it last week we had all those infielders get banged up and if that happens again it's going to scuttle those plans pretty quickly," Hoyer said.

One roster decision that seems set is that LaHair, despite his struggles this spring, will be the starting first baseman for the Cubs while Rizzo will go to Triple-A Iowa despite playing better in Arizona thus far.

LaHair went 1-for-5 and struck out three times in a game against the Oakland A's on Tuesday. He is now batting .189 on the spring. That performance against the A's came one day after he batted nine times (once in each inning) in a controlled minor league game Monday. Hoyer said he had three extra-base hits in that game.

"The guy had such a great year last year there is no reason to think he won't snap out of it," Hoyer said of LaHair's season at Iowa when he batted .331 with 38 home runs and 109 RBIs. "Maybe he's having the worst two weeks of his year. Hopefully he is. But it's not something to worry about. Yesterday it let him clear his head and he hit every inning. That's one of the nice things about spring training is that you can do that stuff."

For now, Rizzo will be the first baseman in waiting, but if he keeps hitting and playing like he is this spring and he did last season when his numbers basically matched LaHair's while he was at Triple-A Tucson, the Cubs will have a decision to make.

It stands to reason that Rizzo will get his shot at some point. Hoyer has brought the power-hitter everywhere he has been. Rizzo was drafted by the Red Sox when Hoyer was in the front office there. When Hoyer left to the Padres he traded for Rizzo and when Hoyer moved to the Cubs he traded for him again.

For better or worse, right or wrong, Rizzo and Hoyer will always be connected. It's the one guy he seemed to insist on having. A single player shouldn't define a general manager, of course, but this connection is a natural.

"He has a great makeup, he's a hard worker and I think he will do everything he can to get the most out of his ability," Hoyer said. "I think (farm director) Jason (McLeod), Theo and I all believe he has the ability to be a middle of the order bat for a long time. He's 22-years old and I think we will get the best years out of Anthony. I really think he can sit in the middle of our lineup for a long time."

It's been a winter and spring of massive change for the Cubs from the new manager to the new front office to plenty of new faces on the team. There is also a new philosophy as they attempt to break down the roster and build it up again in a new vision.

But it has been old tried and true concepts this spring as the team gets set to embark on their new era in two weeks: Show up on time, work hard and be ready for Game 1.

"There are guys here who have been really good," Hoyer said. "Clearly not everyone has had a great camp but I feel that in general guys came in ready to go, guys came in in shape and I think Dale's run a really good camp so far.'