"I'm anxious to get there," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "When you have a year that doesn't end in postseason play, it just kind of lingers with you all offseason no matter what you do or how you think you might have fixed this or fixed that. [That feeling] doesn't leave you until you get down there and get outside and guys are on the field."
School children from nearby Inter-American School brought letters for the players to be shipped on the truck to Spring Training. Plenty of the Cubs got a head start on camp. Hendry was in Arizona about 10 days ago and said nearly 20 players on the Major League roster were among those working out at Fitch Park, including pitcher Carlos Zambrano.
"They have a little bit of an edge to them after the way things ended last year," Hendry said of the team's second-place finish in the National League Central.
One matter still unresolved is shortstop Ryan Theriot's contract. He is the Cubs' only arbitration-eligible player unsigned, and the two sides are $800,000 apart. Theriot, 30, who made $500,000 last season, his third as the starting shortstop, is seeking $3.4 million. The Cubs offered $2.6 million.
The two sides can come to an agreement at any point before the actual hearing. The Cubs have not gone to arbitration since 1993, when Mark Grace filed for $4.1 million and the Cubs offered $3.1 million. The Cubs won that case.
"I haven't spoken to his people in a while," Hendry said of Theriot's representatives. "There's always a chance [it will be resolved] until it's final. I can't say I'm optimistic either. We've already settled with the other seven [arbitration-eligible players].
"It's a situation where if it ends up going to a hearing, then that's OK, too. Everybody has a right to feel how they do. It won't affect, obviously, how we feel about him or the way he plays."
The Cubs had expressed an interest in finding another right-handed reliever to complement lefty John Grabow in the 'pen and help set up closer Carlos Marmol. There are no deals on the horizon. Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 17.
"We'll keep our options open," Hendry said. "We have some ideas of people to scout in camp."
So far, the medical reports on players such as Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Ted Lilly are all positive. Soriano, who had arthroscopic knee surgery at the end of last season, is progressing well, and Ramirez has had no problems with his shoulder. Lilly underwent arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder in early November and Hendry said they will be patient with the lefty, who could miss the first month of regular-season games.
"If he's 95 percent on Opening Day or opening week, we'll wait until he's 100 [percent]," Hendry said.
This will be the first spring for the Cubs under the new owners, the Ricketts family, who took control in late October. Team chairman Tom Ricketts met with the Cubs' Minor League development staff and scouts during the organizational meetings in November.
"They gave our employees a real good feeling about what kind of people they are and how they plan on doing things the right way," Hendry said. "I've said this, they're going to own this club for a long time, and I think the people of Chicago will be thrilled that they do. I think everybody feels that.
"I think the players had a good feeling about them at the [Cubs] Convention, and why wouldn't they? [The Ricketts] are very genuine and caring people, and I think they'll do things in a first-class manner."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less