Sveum's Brewers ties take back seat to winning

Sveum's Brewers ties take back seat to winning

PHOENIX -- There were plenty of hugs and waves from coaches, players and Milwaukee staff for Dale Sveum on Saturday in his first trip to the Brewers' spring complex since taking the Cubs' manager job. There just wasn't much room in the visiting clubhouse.

"I forgot how small it was," Sveum said before the Cubs' 6-1 Cactus League victory. "We've got 30 guys in there and it's kind of jampacked."

The Cubs faced the Brewers for the first time in Cactus League action Saturday. They'll meet March 14 and April 3 before the regular season begins, and face off April 9-12 at Wrigley Field.

Sveum had been on Milwaukee's coaching staff since 2006, including the last three years as the hitting coach, before taking the Cubs job. He may not need to look at the Brewers' scouting report because of his history with their hitters but that won't matter during the game.

"There's no question you have knowledge of them," Sveum said. "Obviously, [the Cubs' pitchers] have to execute the pitches, that's the big thing. ... I have the ins and outs of the personalities and the weaknesses of the hitters and the strengths of them. You still have to execute, you still have to get ahead in the count to execute."

Sveum is still getting comfortable on the job. The effort is there and he said the players have been "phenomenal" in terms of effort.

In 2008, Sveum took over as the Brewers manager for Ned Yost with 12 games remaining, but after the season ended, Ken Macha was picked for the job in '09. Did Sveum consider leaving then?

"I was disappointed," Sveum said. "I wanted to manage, but it wasn't to the point that I wanted to leave. One, I know how precious these jobs are at the big league level. When I was notified they wanted me back in some capacity, I wasn't going to jump ship because I didn't get the managing job.

"I wanted to stay," he said. "At that time, the Milwaukee Brewers were the place I wanted to be. It was a good organization, and the organization is obviously getting to the point where it got last year. I didn't want to leave. I wanted to come in and manage, but I didn't want to go coach somewhere else."

He knows he's got a lot of work to do with the Cubs. Last year, they lost 91 games, led the Major Leagues in errors and the pitching staff compiled a 4.33 ERA.

"Just a few years ago, the Cubs won 96, 97 games," Sveum said of the 2008 team. "That was a pretty good team. They had a tough time last year. You can't make 130 errors and you can't have a 4.50 [sic] earned run average. That's just things you have to tidy up as a whole team as well as personnel and all those kind of things."

Still, won't it be hard to root against the Brewers? He played for them.

"No, not when it's your division and you're fighting with them to win the division and the Wild Card," Sveum said. "They have a nice team. They'll be in the thick of things as well."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.