Preparation big difference with these Cubs

CHICAGO -- The difference between the Mike Quade-run Chicago Cubs and Dale Sveum’s group might be in preparation.

This season’s team got used to extra fielding and hitting practice after Cactus League games early in March.

“This manager and coaching staff made us work much harder this spring,” outfielder Alfonso Soriano said Wednesday during a workout at Wrigley Field before the Cubs open the season against the Washington Nationals on Thursday. “They are very honest with you and treat each player with a lot of respect, I really like that style.“

Sveum and his staff knew that they were short on talent going into the spring schedule and decided the only way to win is to out-work the other clubs.

“We were one of the few teams, if not the only team, to run out 99.9 percent of the balls in spring training,” Sveum said. “As the spring kept going on the preparation of the defensive work was exceptional. I think we led the league in turning double plays during the spring. Just that constant effort and the preparation is what you want to see on a daily basis.”

While Sveum was with the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs were known as a team that played hard only when things went well on the field. That philosophy has changed through the coaching staff’s proactive and aggressive style.

“They are very tough and at the same time very fair,” Soriano said. “They tell you to your face what they expect. You don’t hear it from someone else. The very first day of spring training the manager and coaches met with each player by themselves, very respectfully telling what they expected from us.”

Sveum has his hands full competing in a NL Central that has three outstanding teams ahead of his group as far as talent goes.

”Some of our guys are still trying to prove themselves. Others are trying to rebound from sub-par seasons, so you are always trying to make sure that everyone is on the same page,” Sveum said. “The effort is what you are looking for.”