Cubs Winter Caravan stops at local school in Chicago

CHICAGO -- Manager Rick Renteria joined Anthony Rizzo and Edwin Jackson on Thursday to help members of the Cubs staff spruce up a Chicago school.

The Cubs made a winter caravan stop at Casals School of Excellence, where they painted murals on the walls of the gymnasium and cafeteria, decorated a computer room, built benches and cabinets for reading spaces and redesigned a room for tutoring.

Earlier in the day, the Cubs staff stopped at the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines to serve lunch to about 250 military service personnel.

The caravan tour is a lead-in to the Cubs Convention, which opens Friday at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. This will be Renteria's first convention.

"They've said it'll be something I've never experienced before in my life, and from a few conversations I've had with different people, it seems that will be the case," said Renteria, who will answer fans' questions in a Saturday afternoon session. "It is evident that the city of Chicago loves their Cubs and they want the Cubs to have success and we feel the same way."

The winter fan fest also is the first chance for some of the Cubs to meet their new manager. Jackson is coming off a season in which he led the Major Leagues in losses with 18. It wasn't how the right-hander wanted to start the first year of his four-year, $52 million deal with the Cubs. Renteria's message to Jackson? Learn from what happened and move forward.

"That's the only way we'll move the club in the direction we'd like it to go," Renteria said.

Jackson, who welcomed a new daughter in the offseason, was eager to take Renteria's advice.

"As an athlete, when you have a season like I had last year, if anything, it makes you more eager to start the next season up," Jackson said. "That edge comes a little quicker, and you're more ready and more excited to go out and perform the way you know you can perform."

What about Renteria?

"He seems like he's ready to go," Jackson said of his new skipper. "He's excited about being a manager of the team. He definitely sees the potential the team has and he understands what we're capable of doing."

Jackson said he had no clue Dale Sveum would be dismissed after the 2013 season ended. Maybe change is good?

"I hope so -- I've changed a lot of teams," said Jackson, who is playing for his eighth team. "I hope change can be good. Change doesn't hurt. We have a great team, we have a great manager who is eager to get out and be with the team and help the team learn and teach us different things. We're ready to go."

Renteria confirms Cubs have met with Tanaka

MLB.com on the Cubs' interest in Masahiro Tanaka

CHICAGO -- Rick Renteria is preparing himself in case Masahiro Tanaka picks the Cubs and said he ordered the Japanese version of the Rosetta Stone language learning tapes.

The Cubs manager said Thursday he was part of the team's contingent that met recently with Tanaka in California, joining president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.

"We've had conversations with Tanaka," Renteria said during a caravan stop at Casals School of Excellence in Chicago. "I'm not sure exactly where we're at in that process. I think Jed and Theo, if something were to happen with [Tanaka], I'm sure they'll let me know. Right now, I'm looking at the players we have and how we're going to move forward with them."

The Cubs, Yankees and Dodgers are among the teams believed to be involved with Tanaka, who has until Jan. 24 to make a decision on which Major League team he will pick.

Renteria called the Cubs' meeting with Tanaka "very good conversations," and added they had an interpreter.

"I actually ordered Rosetta Stone, the Japanese version," Renteria said.

The Cubs do have pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa on the roster, but is Renteria that confident the team will sign Tanaka that he's going to learn to speak Japanese?

"I'm going to be prepared if it does [happen]," Renteria said. "I'm going to try to learn a little Japanese. And if it happens, good for us, and if not, there are a lot of Japanese players who are quality players who could come through the organization at some point in time, and I hope I'm able to at least say 'Hello,' 'Good night,' and 'Can I do anything for you?'"

The Cubs are coming off a 96-loss season, and it appears the front office is targeting the 2015 season and beyond, not 2014. The Minor League system is loaded with highly-touted talent such as Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and C.J. Edwards. Tanaka, 25, was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 212 innings last season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, who posted the right-hander for a $20 million fee. The bidding for Tanaka will end at 4 p.m. CT on Jan. 24.

"The points to [Tanaka] were that we're a club on the upside," Renteria said. "We're a club that has a lot of talent besides the guys who we have here presently, and that the organization has quality players coming up who will significantly impact the organization.

"The question is, in the end, what are we trying to do with these players?" Renteria said. "Do we want them to believe they're going to come in here just to be here? No. We want them to come here and know they have to perform, that they have to execute, that they have to play to win a ballgame. It takes a lot of different pieces for us as an organization to come together."

This weekend, Renteria will be introduced at the Cubs Convention. The new manager is very upbeat and optimistic about the 2014 season even though the Cubs have signed more free agents to Minor League contracts than big league contracts. The list of offseason acquisitions includes outfielder Justin Ruggiano, closer Jose Veras, backup catcher George Kottaras and reliever Wesley Wright.

"My optimism is [because] I'm an optimistic person," Renteria said. "The players who are here, I believe, are good players. I think maybe they've had collectively a bad season. Some guys had some good performances last year, but the reality is we need to have them all come together and play as a team. My message isn't going to change. I want these guys to start feeling like a family and I want them to start feeling like they're playing for each other and playing for this city."

The Cubs may be picked to finish last again in the National League Central, but don't tell Renteria.

"I think no one should enter into any season thinking they're going to be the one that everybody is going to stomp on," Renteria said. "I don't take that attitude, I'm not going to take that attitude, my players are not going to take that attitude.

"When we go out there, we're going out there to win a ballgame," he said. "That means executing, that means being prepared, that means actually going in there and believing they can win a ballgame. That's the result. We have to go in there and take care of nine innings of baseball, and play the game the way it's supposed to be played, and at the end of the day, we'll figure out who will be on top."

Having Tanaka in the Cubs rotation will help get them there.

Worth noting

• Renteria is thinking about his lineup but said he has plenty of time before Opening Day, March 31. His plan is to have all the players be able to get on base, get 'em over, and get 'em in.

"The reality is if the guys do what they're supposed to do, it makes it a lot easier for me to set up the lineup," Renteria said.

Jeff Samardzija's name has been mentioned often in trade rumors, but Rizzo would like to see the right-hander stay with the Cubs.

"Jeff's a good friend of mine, so I don't want to see him get traded," Rizzo said. "You don't want that to happen, but it's part of the business."