MESA, Ariz. — Several Cubs players took advantage of their new spring training facility by working out Tuesday under sunny skies, three days ahead of the first scheduled workout for pitchers and catchers.
For infielder Donnie Murphy, there's more incentive to getting a head start on preparing for the season.
"Everything you read out there is we're one of the worst teams in baseball, and that's a lot of motivation," Murphy said. "Twenty-five of us don't think we're the worst team in baseball. We all look at it as a positive, and it makes us even hungrier (to) prove people wrong.
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Billy Williams Statue, West Addison Street, Chicago, IL 60613, USA
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Murphy, who made the most of his opportunity during the final two months of the Cubs' 96-loss season by hitting 11 home runs, is aware of the criticism dumped on his team this winter after it didn't make a significant acquisition.
He forecast rebound years for shortstop Starlin Castro, second baseman Darwin Barney and first baseman Anthony Rizzo — all of whom struggled at the plate after varying degrees of success in previous seasons.
"We have guys who can bounce back and make a decent run and hopefully get close or make the playoffs," Murphy said. "We all know we have those type of players in the clubhouse. We just have to put it together.
"Everyone rebuilds. People just (have) to be patient sometimes. Rebuilds don't take a year. I know Chicago. (The fans) haven't had that championship in a while. But sometimes the rewards are going to be greater in the end once they're patient."
The fans' restlessness has grown because of a five-year playoff drought and a commitment to a rebuilding program that has seen the Cubs lose 197 games over the last two seasons.
Murphy — who underwent arthroscopic surgery in October to repair his left meniscus that he said he tore in 2009 — finds himself as an overlooked contributor at third base, partly because of the hype surrounding megaprospect Kris Bryant. The No. 2 pick in last year's draft, Bryant might not reach the majors until 2015 and hasn't played above Class A Daytona.
"If you look over your shoulder, you might as well check yourself out of this game," said Murphy, who signed a one-year, $825,000 contract in December. "Everyone knows what kind of potential Kris Bryant has.
"At the same time, we have to go about ourselves too. He still (has) to develop a bit. When it's his time, it's his time. Hopefully the guys we have right now can put it together.''
Murphy doesn't mind being mentioned in passing among a group of third-base candidates that includes Luis Valbuena and Mike Olt, who hopes to recover from vision problems suffered in the Rangers organization.
"That's fine," Murphy said. "It means I'm under the radar."
New digs: Cubs executives, minor league staff members and scouts toured the new $84 million Mesa facilities before participating in organizational meetings.
"It's definitely a step up from HoHoKam," said Murphy, referring to the former facility the Cubs used for games after training at Fitch Park. "Twelve batting cages, the weight room is unreal. Who doesn't want to come here to work? It's like a college football workout place."