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Chicago — Cubs manager Rick Renteria says he's focusing on his job and not the possibility that he might be replaced by former Rays skipper Joe Maddon.

Renteria acknowledges in a statement released through his agent on Monday that he's aware of speculation about his job. He says he will "continue to focus my offseason preparation on achieving the goal we established from the start: bringing a championship to Chicago."

Renteria led the Cubs to a 73-89 record in his first season, but the vibe around the team is changing.

Highly touted prospects such as Jorge Soler and Javier Baez arrived in the majors. Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo had bounce-back seasons, and the long-awaited renovation to Wrigley Field just got underway.

The Cubs believe they are ready to turn the corner after five straight losing seasons. And when Maddon opted out of his contract with the Rays last week, there was much speculation that he might wind up in Chicago. Maddon has a history of developing young players and led the Rays to the playoffs four times in nine seasons, with a trip to the World Series in 2008.

Cardinals in mourning

Mike Matheny needed some time to figure out what to say. Like the rest of the Cardinals, the manager was leveled by the sudden death of Oscar Taveras.

The Cardinals are grieving the loss of an active player for the third time in 12 years after the 22-year-old Taveras died Sunday in a car crash in the Dominican Republic. Matheny, GM John Mozeliak and pitcher Carlos Martinez were part of a group from the organization with plans to attend a private burial service Tuesday in Taveras' country.

"I was asked last night to give some words regarding the tragic death of Oscar Taveras, but I just simply couldn't," Matheny said Monday in a statement. "To say this is a horrible loss of a life ended too soon would be an understatement."

Taveras was driving a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro at the time of the accident on a highway between the beaches of Sosua and Cabarete in Puerto Plata, about 215 miles north of the capital of Santo Domingo. Edilia Arvelo, Taveras' 18-year-old girlfriend, also died in the crash.

A funeral for Arvelo was held Monday in her hometown of Moca.

Braves hire Seitzer

New Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said he'll bring an up-the-middle philosophy to a team which flopped at the plate this season. The Braves hired Seitzer from the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday to replace Greg Walker. Atlanta also named Jose Castro as assistant hitting coach.

Seitzer said one of his most important lessons will be convincing hitters they make themselves vulnerable by attempting to pull balls with a "turn-and-burn" approach.

"It's not impossible, and I kind of feel like that's one of my big strengths, the expertise of being able to show guys how to hit the ball the other way," Seitzer said in a telephone interview.

Seitzer, 52, was the hitting coach for Arizona during part of the 2007 season, for Kansas City from 2009-12 and for the Blue Jays this past season. The Blue Jays ranked fourth in the American League in runs scored and third in home runs.

Singer apologizes for anthem messup

Aaron Lewis has apologized for botching the lyrics of "The Star-Spangled Banner" during his performance before Game 5 of the World Series.

The lead singer of the metal band Staind turned country singer reached out to baseball fans with a note on his website Monday after stumbling during his rendition of the national anthem the night before in San Francisco.

He says: "All I can say is I'm sorry and ask for the Nation's forgiveness. My nerves got the best of me and I am completely torn up about what happened."

After starting with "O say can you see by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hailed," Lewis diverted from the lyrics. Instead of singing "at the twilight's last gleaming" he sang "were so gallantly streaming," words that appear later in the song.

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