November 2013

11/30 Cubs holiday ticket packages

You can give the gift of Cubs baseball for the holidays. Cubs Holiday Ticket Packs are available now, starting at $98 for two seats to four games. You can select from three different four-game packages in both the seating bowl and Budweiser Bleachers. Packages can be customized to include as few as two tickets per game or as many as 10 tickets per game in each package. Fans requesting quantities over 10 tickets per game should contact the Cubs Ticket Office at (773) 404-4242. All other ticket orders may be completed at Total package prices will vary based on location and the number of tickets purchased.

Game selections for each Cubs Holiday Ticket Pack follow:

* Holiday Pack A
Tue., Apr. 8, 7:05 p.m., Cubs vs. Pirates
Wed., July 30, 7:05 p.m., Cubs vs. Rockies
Wed., Sept. 17, 7:05 p.m., Cubs vs. Reds
Tue., Sept. 23, 7:05 p.m., Cubs vs. Cardinals

* Holiday Pack B
Sat., Apr. 5, TBD, Cubs vs. Phillies
Tue., Apr. 22, 7:05 p.m., Cubs vs. Diamondbacks
Wed., Aug. 13, 7:05 p.m., Cubs vs. Brewers
Tue., Sept. 16, 7:05 p.m., Cubs vs. Reds

* Holiday Pack C
Wed., Apr. 9, 7:05 p.m., Cubs vs. Pirates
Mon., Apr. 21, 7:05 p.m., Cubs vs. Diamondbacks
Wed., Aug. 20, 7:05 p.m., Cubs vs. Giants
Wed., Sept. 24, 7:05 p.m., Cubs vs. Cardinals

The Holiday Gift Packs must be ordered by Monday, Dec. 9, for U.S. Postal Service delivery or Monday, Dec. 16, for FedEx delivery before Christmas Day. Advanced ordering is recommended, as these mail delivery dates cannot be guaranteed.

11/26 Cubs acquire Kottaras

Dioner Navarro posted career numbers last season as the Cubs backup catcher, but he is now a free agent and the team decided to go a different direction, and acquired George Kottaras from the Royals for a cash consideration on Tuesday. Kottaras, 30, was the Royals’ backup catcher last season after he was claimed off waivers from the Athletics in January. He started 29 games and hit .180 with four doubles, five home runs and 12 RBIs. Kottaras’ .349 on-base percentage was sixth-highest among American League catchers.

Navarro batted .300 in 89 games with the Cubs, hitting a career-high 13 home runs and driving in 23 runs, as a backup to Welington Castillo, who will be the team’s starter again in 2014.

Kottaras, a left-handed hitter, was designated for assignment by the Royals on Friday. He has batted .214 with 40 doubles, three triples, 29 home runs and 96 RBIs in 295 Major League games with the Red Sox (2008-09), Brewers (2010-12), Athletics (2012) and Royals (2013). In 2012, Kottaras tied his career mark with nine home runs between the Brewers and Athletics, including six in 27 games for the Athletics following a July 29 trade. In his final full season with Milwaukee in 2011, he hit for the cycle, Sept. 3 at Houston, becoming the third catcher to do so in the live ball era.

— Carrie Muskat

11/26 Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all. It’s a time to give thanks, and take stock. It’s also a time for many to eat.

Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney’s favorite dish? His mother’s homemade stuffing. He wasn’t sure what the secret ingredient was but said she doesn’t use a stuffing mix and breaks the bread apart by hand.

“My mom makes it from scratch and it’s the only thing I look forward to about Thanksgiving,” Barney said. “They usually give me the easy job of corn or cranberry sauce.”

Barney also clarified that his mother’s stuffing isn’t the only good thing about the holiday. The second baseman, who lives in Beaverton, Ore., in the offseason, also enjoys getting together with family at this time of year. He does love the food.

“Her stuffing is my favorite thing about Thanksgiving,” he said.

Cubs TV analyst Jim Deshaies said they celebrate with a very traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

“I’m a big fan of turnips while the rest of the clan leans more toward the squash,” he said. “My wife is convinced that there is nothing better than squash and cranberries mixed together. Gravy is my favorite food group, so anything slathered in gravy gets the job done for me.”

Safe travels to all.

— Carrie Muskat

11/26 Winter league updates

* On Sunday, Luis Valbuena hit a three-run home run in the ninth to secure an 8-3 win for Lara over Magallanes in Venezuela. Valbuena was batting .275, and this was his second home run of the winter league season.

* On Monday, Junior Lake was 2-for-4 with a RBI double in the ninth in Estrellas’ 7-2 loss to Gigantes in the Dominican Republic. Lake was batting .361.

* Rubi Silva was 3-for-4 with a RBI double in the fifth Monday for Leones de Ponce in Puerto Rico. The outfielder, who batted .284 with 30 doubles, nine triples and 15 home runs for Double-A Tennessee last season, was batting .385 this winter.

11/26 Cubs’ spring park needs name

The Cubs are hoping to find someone willing to buy naming rights for the new Spring Training stadium in Mesa, Ariz. For now, the ballpark will be called Cubs Park. Justin Piper, the GM for business operations in Mesa, said the name could change. The Cubs will play their first game at the new stadium Feb. 27 against the Diamondbacks. On Jan. 25, the city of Mesa will hold a public grand opening for the stadium and the surrounding park. In 2010, Mesa voters approved a $99 million outlay of public money for the stadium complex, located at what was Riverview Golf Course in west Mesa.

11/25 A toast to Ernie

Ernie Banks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom last week, and you can celebrate the honor with Mr. Cub at a reception and toast on Dec. 3 in Chicago. Banks will be honored at the East Bank Club’s River View Room, 500 N. Kingsbury Street, Chicago, from 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. CT next week. There will be music, food, cocktails and a champagne toast. Tickets are $300 each, and each purchase includes a bat autographed by the Hall of Famer. No tickets will be sold at the door, so you must purchase them in advance. There is VIP seating with a purchase of 10 tickets or more. To purchase a ticket for this celebration, go to, or call (312) 828-9711.

11/24 Samardzija rumors

Jeff Samardzija struck out 200 over 200 innings in his first full season as a starter, and has drawn interest from teams looking for a young pitcher, especially one who would be under team control for two more years. The Diamondbacks, Nationals and Blue Jays have reportedly inquired about Samardzija and on Sunday, there was a report that Toronto was putting together a package of young players for the Cubs right-hander.

During an interview on MLB Radio on Sunday, Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos was asked if there was any truth to the rumor about the Blue Jays pursuing Samardzija.

“You know what, I just saw that [rumor], too,” Anthropoulos told MLB Radio. “I’m in the office [Sunday] just going through some things. I’m going to try to be a little more candid than I may have been in the past. I won’t comment on specific rumors and things like that but I will say that we’re definitely exploring starters with teams. But also, just like a lot of stuff that’s out there that is false, we have not made an offer to anybody with respect to a starter. So if there is something out there that [says] we’ve actually made an offer to someone for a starter, that is not accurate. It doesn’t mean we’re not inquiring.”

MLB Radio host Jim Duquette asked if anything was imminent regarding either adding a free agent or making a trade.

“You know what, we’re talking to one club about a smaller trade and maybe it’ll move the next few days, or maybe it won’t happen,” Anthropoulos said. “But, no, I don’t think, not right now there isn’t anything imminent. We’re not necessarily waiting on someone to get back to us but, again, at any time that can change and I hope it does. I think, and you guys both went through it, before the Thanksgiving holiday sometimes there’s that last little push [when] teams want to get some things off their plate. So maybe things happen here in the next two or three days. If not, we’ll take it to the [Winter Meetings], I guess, at that point.”

The Cubs have approached Samardzija, 28, about a possible contract extension. The pitcher, who was the Opening Day starter this year, has not been in a hurry to something done.

“I have two more years of arbitration so there is a lot of time to get something done,” Samardzija said in early November.

As for all the rumors, GM Jed Hoyer said Samardzija had the right attitude because he doesn’t pay any attention to the reports.

Teams shopping for starting pitching may be comparing the cost of acquiring Samardzija with another 28-year-old, David Price, who also is under team control for two more years. However, Price has more innings and experience as a starter, and won the AL Cy Young in 2012 when he went 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA for the Rays. Price did miss time this season because of a left triceps strain. Samardzija, who ranked fifth in the National League in strikeouts per nine innings, has been healthy. Price was paid $10 million in 2013; Samardzija $2.6 million.

The Cubs don’t have that much depth pitching-wise, with Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Jake Arrieta set for the rotation in 2014.

— Carrie Muskat

11/24 Roster moves

* The Cubs have reportedly released outfielder Dave Sappelt. He was acquired with Travis Wood and infielder Ronald Torreyes from the Reds in the Sean Marshall deal. Sappelt, 26, has a .251/.301/.343 slash line in 274 plate appearances.

* The Cubs have reportedly signed outfielder Casper Wells to a Minor League contract. Wells, 29, batted .155/.211/.169 with one double over 76 plate appearances between the Athletics, White Sox and Phillies last season. He had vision problems and didn’t play after Aug. 25.

11/24 Winter ball update

Saturday’s games

* Hector Rondon struck out two, walked two and gave up one hit in one scoreless inning in relief for Leones del Caracas in Venezuela. So far, the right-hander has given up four runs on 12 hits over 9 1/3 innings in 10 games.

The Cubs also have reportedly signed outfielder Casper Wells to a Minor League contract, and he was currently playing for Leones. In 19 games, the right-handed hitting Wells was batting .178 with one home run.

* Luis Valbuena drew a walk and scored a run for Lara de Cardenales in Venezuela. He was batting .278 in nine games.

* Right-hander Marcus Hatley had a rough outing for Culiacan. He entered the game in the ninth and walked the first Mexicali batter he faced, then made a throwing error. The next batter smacked a RBI single to tie the game, and one out later, Hatley served up another RBI single. He escaped without further damage but took the loss. It was only the third time in the last 10 games teams have scored on Hatley. The right-hander has a 3.00 ERA in 16 games, giving up five earned runs on 15 hits and six wlaks over 15 innings.

11/23 Winter league update

Friday’s games

* Luis Valbuena was 1-for-3, hitting his first home run of the offseason, but it wasn’t enough as Lara lost 10-4 to Aragua in Venezuela. Valbuena is batting .303 this offseason, and has played strictly at second base.

* Junior Lake was 1-for-3 with one RBI in Estrellas’ 5-2 loss to Escogido in the Dominican Republic. Lake, who started in center, was batting .344.