PITTSBURGH -- On the morning of his first game as a big league manager, Rick Renteria wasn't wide awake at 3 a.m. like a kid waiting for Christmas Day. Instead, he woke up when one of his coaches, Juan Castro, called to say it was time to go to the ballpark for Opening Day.
"I feel calm -- I don't know why, but I do," Renteria said. "For me, it's another baseball game."
It's Renteria's first of the regular season as the Cubs' 53rd manager, and he will lead a ballclub that isn't expected to contend in the National League Central. Don't tell Renteria that. His message to the players Monday was that he believes in them. His goal? To reach for the stars.
"For any team to reach for the stars is to win the World Series," Renteria said. "I don't think you can attain that unless you talk about it and are working through what you need to do to get there. I'm not afraid to talk about it. That's what we want to do -- the Cubs want to win a World Series. Everybody talks about how we haven't, and that's fine, but I want to win a World Series, and [the players] want to win a World Series.
"There's no team that comes out in April that doesn't think it has a chance to come out and get to the World Series and possibly win it," he said. "If you don't feel that and don't think that, then you shouldn't be playing. We're here to win and we're going to give it our best shot."
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is just as optimistic.
"I think our goal is to surprise some people," Epstein said. "I don't think expectations are that high externally, and we have a tough schedule early so we can certainly turn the narrative on its head by going out and having a good first month of the season."
Playing the Pirates is appropriate for Renteria. He started his career as a player with the team in 1986.
"It's kind of surreal, I guess," Renteria said. "All in all, it's just baseball."
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.