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Piniella sends message to players

Piniella pushes for better baseball from Cubs

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Lou Piniella gave the Cubs a little pep talk on Monday.

"I told our players what's important is not making the Major League team, it's that when you get there, you stay there and have success, and that was the message," said Piniella, whose club began the day 0-3-1 in Cactus League play.

Piniella's "stern but positive" message was delivered before the morning workout and prompted by play that hasn't exactly impressed the 63-year-old manager who returned to the game after a one-year hiatus. What was the message?

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"I talked to the players about some things today, based on what I've seen in games and what I expect in the rest of these exhibition games," Piniella said. "What would you expect? To play better baseball, execute better on the field, go out there and throw the ball the way you're capable of, those sort of things.

"We've got some work to do," he said. "This isn't a push-button operation. We'll get it done."

Piniella and the coaching staff met with some of the players one-on-one Monday as well, and he'll continue to do that to get things headed in the direction he wants.

"Let me tell you this, there's a job at hand," he said.

The Cubs lost 96 games last season, and posted the worst record in the National League. The team spent more than $300 million this offseason on free agents and re-signing players. Piniella wasn't sure what to expect in his return to managing.

"You come in as positive as you possibly can, and rightfully so, and then reality hits you in the face, and then you have to adjust accordingly," he said. "I'm very positive about our team. We're having some problems right now, but that's what Spring Training is for."

The Cubs entered Monday's game batting .241 as a team, and had a 7.05 ERA after four games.

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"Everybody's got to do their part," he said. "It starts with the manager, through the coaching staff and on to the players. I've got to work just as hard or harder than anybody else."

Piniella's last season with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays ended with four consecutive losses. He hasn't won a game since Sept. 28, 2005. But wins and losses wasn't on his mind Monday.

"I didn't talk about winning or losing," Piniella said. "I talked to them about things I'd like to see done when the umpire says, 'Play ball,' both from a pitching standpoint and a position player standpoint. We want some things done here. We want to see some things done the right way so we can start to get ready."

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

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