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Saturday, February 25, 2012
Cubs camp is 'new' to everyone this season

By Doug Padilla

MESA, Ariz. -- Being a new face in a new place might not be as difficult for the new additions to the Chicago Cubs roster this season.

New arrivals like Chris Volstad, Ian Stewart, David DeJesus, Travis Wood, Paul Maholm, Andy Sonnanstine and Trever Miller aren’t up against it to learn a new way of life as they might otherwise have been had they gone to a different team.

With a new front office and a new coaching staff, bonds are forming quickly as everybody is forced to learn the ways of Theo Epstein, the president of baseball operations, and Dale Sveum, the manager.

And it’s not like the new players have it easier by default just because everybody else is also in their shoes. Sveum is aware of the difficulties coaching staff transitions can bring, which is part of the reason he gathered the people that he did.

“I think we have a pretty laid-back coaching staff that won’t beat them up mentally so that helps a little bit,” Sveum said. “I think it makes a difference when you’re new and come into camp with a new staff.”

Spring training has barely started and already new third baseman Stewart is singing the praises of his new hitting coach, Rudy Jaramillo, a holdover from the previous coaching staff.

“Hitting is such a big part of the game that you want a hitting coach that can break it down into terms that are easy to understand and is easy to take into the cage and the game,” Stewart said. “He does that, and he’s by far the best at that that I have been around. That’s why I speak so highly of him to my former teammates and to other ballplayers as well.”

For Volstad, a Paul Beach Gardens, Fla., native and property of the Marlins up until this past offseason, his big move is to escape the creature comforts that came from always playing and having spring training near his home. Even when Volstad went away in the minor leagues he didn’t drift far, playing in Carolina and New Orleans.

Making the move to Arizona now and Chicago in April has him too preoccupied to think about fitting into a new team.

“There are a lot of guys in my same position also as far as players,” Volstad said. “Just being able to talk to them or go through it together is always good. You’re not the outsider going in solo. But the adjustment has been easy as far as I’m concerned. All the guys, the coaching staff, front office, everyone has been on the same page from Day 1 and it’s made it easy on us.”