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Position players get a head start

Position players get a head start

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MESA, Ariz. -- Monday is the first day position players must report to Cubs camp, but the team is missing only five of the 57 players on the spring roster.

"It's unbelievable," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Sunday of the early birds, which included shortstop Cesar Izturis. "In all these years that I've been managing a baseball team or even playing, it's the first time we've had so many players here so quick. It's sort of different, but it's really good to see. They're coming in in pretty good shape, too."

Could the players be trying to impress the new manager?

"I don't think so," Piniella said. "I think it has to do with that they saw this organization went out and did some nice things and they're enthused. I don't think it has anything to do with me at all. They know we'll have a good team here and want to get ready and get started."

Izturis, acquired from the Dodgers at the trading deadline for Greg Maddux, needed a little help finding his way around the Fitch Park complex.

"This year, I'm excited to help the team win and I wanted to come in here early and win, that's a good sign," Izturis said. "We have a lot of veteran players here early. We want to win."

The position players needed four groups to give everyone a chance to hit. There's a good vibe so far in camp. It doesn't seem as if the Cubs are coming off a 96-loss season.

"I know it's Spring Training and we're just getting started, but there's a nice quiet confidence here," Piniella said. "The kids have a feeling a lot of good things can happen in Chicago this year. You've got to work and [they have to] prepare themselves. They are working. I've heard no complaining. Everybody is going about their business the right way."

The only players missing from the spring roster are Aramis Ramirez, Ronny Cedeno, Daryle Ward, Brian Dopirak and non-roster invitee Mike Kinkade.

Piniella didn't plan on delivering his pre-season pep talk on Monday or even Tuesday before the first full-squad workout at Fitch Park.

"We'll have a few things, but I'm not that much of a meetings manager," he said. "I'd rather go talk to the players individually. The talk you're alluding to will probably be better when we cut the roster down and get ready for the championship season. We have a lot of kids here. If you talk too long, it's hard to hold their attention."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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