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Notes: Barrett keeping focus on season

Notes: Barrett keeping focus on season

MESA, Ariz. -- As much as Michael Barrett enjoyed playing in the World Baseball Classic last year, the catcher is very happy to focus on the Cubs this spring. He could be even happier when the season is over.

"Compared to last year, I feel like I'm way ahead of schedule as to where this pitching staff needs to go, which is a good feeling," Barrett said Sunday.

He'll have to wait to see if the Cubs make him feel even better at the end of the 2007 campaign. Barrett will be a free agent after this season.

"I don't know what's going to happen," he said. "Right now, I feel like I have a lot of work in front of me. I've been really focused on what I have to do to help this team win.

"Somebody asked me about this the other day, and I said, 'If I'm catching and we win a World Series, it will all work itself out,'" he said. "That's the mentality I'm taking with this."

Barrett still pinches himself when he puts on his Cubs uniform. He's heading into his fourth season in Chicago. When acquired, Barrett was coming off a .208 season with the Montreal Expos.

"I feel indebted to this organization for what it has done for me," he said. "It believed in me at a time when a lot of people gave up on me. A lot of people have faith in me, and when you have that faith and feel that grace extended to you, it's easy to come to the yard and be appreciative. That's how I feel right now."

He will not set a deadline for a new deal.

"This is a very good atmosphere to be in," Barrett said. "I want to be a part of this place more than ever. I will not let anything get in the way of that."

Clear skies: Arizona may be a wonderful place to be when the weather is cold in Chicago, but it's not very nice for outfielders. Balls can disappear in the bright blue sky.

"I'll tell you what, if you can play center field here, you can play anywhere," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.

That's the plan for Alfonso Soriano, who is doing everything he can to learn center field. During batting practice, Soriano is stationed in center to get a feel for the position.

"Today was beautiful -- [the sky] was not all blue," Soriano said of the wispy clouds. "Today, I had a very good day working on defense. I'm working hard. I'm getting better every day. If something happens, I have to be ready."

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Hut, hut: The Cubs have the makings of a pretty good football team. Mark DeRosa was the starting quarterback at the University of Pennsylvania from 1993-95, and he can't wait to throw to Notre Dame wide receiver Jeff Samardzija.

"He dominated at major-college football," DeRosa said of Samardzija. "That was one of my dreams as a kid playing quarterback. I just want to see. I want to see what it looks like."

The Cubs' fifth-round pick last year, Samardzija has hung up his shoulder pads and made the commitment to baseball. He's expected to make his Spring Training debut Saturday, pitching in relief. Told that Samardzija's football days are over, DeRosa grinned.

"A tiger doesn't change his stripes," DeRosa said. "I'm sure he could still catch a pass. I'm going to ask [clubhouse manager Tom Hellman] to get us a football."

DeRosa played both baseball and football for three years at Pennsylvania. He knew he was headed toward a career on the diamond, not the gridiron, citing his size and what he called "limited mobility."

How tough was it to play both?

"In college, I was out of a college baseball game at 3 o'clock, and the football team would schedule practices so I could be there," he said. "We'd practice at 7 o'clock at night. I'd go to the baseball game, shower, eat, then football practice."

Did he ever study?

"Very rarely," he said, laughing. "I was a crammer."

Fast start: One of the things Piniella wants to do is check the stats to see who gets off to a good start and who doesn't, and see if they can help the guys who struggle in April. One option is to give players extra at-bats in the Minor Leagues. Piniella did that in Seattle with Edgar Martinez.

One candidate might be Aramis Ramirez, who hit .197 last April. Soriano, on the other hand, is a career .313 hitter in the first month.

"I have a slow start in Spring Training," Soriano said. "The last two weeks, I get ready for the season. It's more important for me now to get ready on defense."

Piniella was eager to get the games started.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "It will give me an opportunity to familiarize myself with players' strengths and how to utilize them. It's more fun for me because then the evaluation process starts. It's something to look forward to every day, whether it's this guy pitching, or this guy hitting.

"Plus, I haven't managed in a year and a half," he said. "I need to hone my skills, too."

Extra bases: Ryan Theriot was a little sleepy after his wife Johnnah gave birth to the couple's second child, daughter Macey, early Saturday. "Everything's good," Theriot said. Macey checked in at 6 pounds, 13 ounces. ... The Cubs did base-sliding drills on Sunday. Remaining on the list of things to do are cutoff and relay throws, and signs. ... Monday is photo day, and the Cubs workout will start a little later than the usual 9:30 a.m. MT start.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }