January 2014

1/31 Cubs and pitching

The Cubs appear to be stockpiling more pitching. FOX Sports and MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported the Cubs had signed free agent pitcher Jason Hammel to a one-year, $6 million contract, pending a physical. The Cubs also have reportedly signed free agent pitcher James McDonald to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to Spring Training. The Cubs would not confirm the reports.

In the last two seasons, the Cubs have signed free agent pitchers such as Paul Maholm and Scott Feldman, and then flipped them at the Trade Deadline for young prospects. They also dealt Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza the last two years, and were able to acquire young talent to the organization.

Hammel, 31, posted some of the best numbers of his career in 2012, going 8-6 with a 3.43 ERA in 118 innings over 20 starts for the Orioles. He took a step back in 2013, however, finishing 7-8 with a 4.97 ERA in 139 1/3 innings over 26 appearances (23 starts). Part of the problem may have been injury as Hammel was on the disabled list because of tenderness in his right forearm.

From 2009-11, Hammel proved to be a durable back-of-the-rotation starter with the Rockies, throwing at least 170 innings in each of those three seasons while posting a 27-30 record and 4.63 ERA, inflated by hitter-friendly Coors Field. Overall in parts of eight big-league seasons with the Rays, Rockies and Orioles, the right-hander has gone 49-59 with a 4.80 ERA in 989 1/3 innings.

McDonald, 29, was limited to six games last season with the Pirates because of shoulder issues, and posted a 2-2 record and 5.76 ERA. The right-hander was designated for assignment in September, and outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis but refused that assignment, and elected free agency.

1/31 Happy birthday, Mr. Cub


Happy birthday to Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, who turns 83 today. He shares a birthday with Jackie Robinson.

1/27 Spring broadcast schedule

Cubs fans who can’t get to Arizona for Spring Training will be able to follow the team on the air. The majority of the Cubs’ Cactus League games will be available via television, radio or Internet radio broadcast. A Cubs game will be available every game day of the spring schedule via one or more broadcast mediums, and 33 of the 36 games are scheduled to be available overall.

The schedule features 10 games televised by Cubs broadcast partners (four by WGN and six by Comcast SportsNet), an increase from the six televised last season. There will be eight on the WGN Cubs radio network and 23 via Internet radio broadcast on Cubs.com. Fans will be able to access the Cubs webcasts on Cubs.com and MLB.com for free by registering for a log-in account with the website.

WGN TV will broadcast the first game from the team’s new spring home, Cubs Park, on Thursday, Feb. 27 against the Diamondbacks. WGN Radio will have its first broadcast the next day, Feb. 28, for the game against the Angels and feature the debut of new analyst Ron Coomer. Comcast SportsNet’s first game will be Sunday, March 16 against the Indians.

Cubs TV play-by-play announcer Len Kasper will again join Mick Gillispie, radio broadcaster for Double-A Tennessee, for most of the Cubs.com Internet radio broadcasts. You can find the Spring Training schedule on Cubs.com.

1/26 Cubs promotional schedule

A Joe Tinker bobblehead, Chicago Federals jersey and an Ernie Banks replica statue are among the promotional items that will be given away this season at Cubs home games. The Cubs are celebrating Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary, so the items are linked to different decades in team history.

Here is the 2014 promo schedule with the amount of items that will be given away:

Opening Week
April 4: Cubs magnet schedule (30,000)
April 5: Cubs magnet schedule (30,000)

April 18: Limited edition Joe Tinker bobblehead (10,000)
April 20: Cubs diecast train engine (5,000)
April 23: Replica Chicago Federals jersey (30,000)

May 2: Limited edition Red Grange bobblehead (10,000)
May 3: Cubs fedora hat presented by Budweiser (10,000)
May 4: Cubs Yo-Yo (5,000)
May 6: “Pink Out” T-shirt presented by Advocate and Cubs Charities (Budweiser bleachers)

May 16: Limited edition Babe Ruth’s “called shot” bobblehead (10,000)
May 17: Umbrella presented by Morton Salt (10,000)
May 18: Cubs Viewmaster (5,000)

June 6: Limited edition All-American Girls Professional Baseball League bobblehead (10,000)
June 8: Andy Pafko OYO mini figure (5,000)

June 20: Limited edition Ernie Banks debut bobblehead (10,000)
June 22: Cubs Mr. Potato Head keychain (5,000)
June 27: Wrigley Field 100 tote bag presented by MLB Network (20,000)

July 11: Limited edition Gale Sayers bobblehead (10,000)
July 13: Cubs Etch-A-Sketch (5,000)

July 25: Limited-edition Jack Brickhouse bobblehead with sound chip (10,000)
July 26: Ernie Banks replica statue presented by Budweiser (10,000)
July 27: Cubs magic baseball (5,000)

Aug. 8: Limited edition illuminating first night game bobblehead (10,000)
Aug. 10: Cubs Rubik’s Cube (5,000)

Aug. 22: Limited edition Kerry Wood 20-strikeout bobblehead presented by Budweiser (10,000)
Aug. 24: Reissue Gracie the Swan Beanie Baby (5,000)

Sept. 5: Limited edition bobblehead (to be announced)
Sept. 7: Build-A-Bear Plush Doll (5,000)

1/26 Hall of Fame

In a tip of the cap to the Cubs, Greg Maddux has announced he will go into the Hall of Fame with no logo on his cap. The Baseball Hall of Fame announced the cap selections that will appear on the Hall of Fame plaques last week. Induction ceremonies will be Sunday, July 27 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

According to a statement by the Hall, the plaque serves to reflect the totality of a career, details an individual’s accomplishments in the game in approximately 90 words, while listing each team on which an individual played or managed. The HOF works with the inductees on their decision. Here was Maddux’s statement regarding his pick of no logo:

“My wife Kathy and I grew up in baseball in Chicago, and then we had just an amazing experience in Atlanta with the Braves,” Maddux said. “It’s impossible for me to choose one of those teams for my Hall of Fame plaque, as the fans of both clubs in each of those cities were so wonderful. I can’t think of having my Hall of Fame induction without support of both of those fan bases, so, for that reason, the cap on my Hall of Fame plaque will not feature a logo.”

— Carrie Muskat

1/26 Think spring

If you’re tired of winter and want to think spring training, here are the uniform numbers for the Cubs’ roster. They are subject to change. Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 13 and position players report Feb. 18. Manager Rick Renteria’s first full squad workout at the new Mesa, Ariz., facility will be Feb. 19:

1 Gary Jones, third base coach
2 Eric Hinske, first base coach
3 Bill Mueller, hitting coach
4 Ryan Roberts, infielder
5 Welington Castillo, catcher
6 Ryan Sweeney, outfielder
7 Brett Jackson, outfielder
8 Donnie Murphy, infielder
9 George Kottaras, catcher
11 Kyuji Fujikawa, pitcher
13 Starlin Castro, infielder
15 Darwin Barney, infielder
16 Rick Renteria, manager
17 Brandon Hyde, bench coach
18 Chris Rusin, pitcher
19 Nate Schierholtz, outfielder
20 Justin Ruggiano, outfielder
21 Junior Lake, outfielder
22 Logan Watkins, infielder
24 Luis Valbuena, infielder
25 Chris Bosio, pitching coach
26 Billy Williams, instructor
27 Josh Vitters, infielder/outfielder
28 Chris Coghlan, outfielder
29 Jeff Samardzija, pitcher
30 Mike Olt, infielder
32 Eli Whiteside, catcher
33 Carlos Villanueva, pitcher
34 Kerry Wood, instructor
35 Lester Strode, bullpen coach
36 Edwin Jackson, pitcher
37 Travis Wood, pitcher
38 John Baker, catcher
39 Casper Wells, outfielder
40 James Russell, pitcher
41 Jose Veras, pitcher
43 Brooks Raley, pitcher
44 Anthony Rizzo, infielder
45 Mitch Maier, outfielder
46 Pedro Strop, pitcher
47 Arodys Vizcaino, pitcher
48 Aaron Cunningham, outfielder
49 Jake Arrieta, pitcher
50 Blake Parker, pitcher
51 Ryan Kalish, outfielder
52 Justin Grimm, pitcher
53 Wesley Wright, pitcher
54 Darnell McDonald, outfielder
55 Alberto Cabrera, pitcher
56 Hector Rondon, pitcher
57 Jonathan Sanchez, pitcher
58 Mike Borzello, catching and strategy coach
59 Zac Rosscup, pitcher
60 Chris Valaika, infielder
61 Christian Villanueva, infielder
62 Jose Castro, quality assurance coach
63 Brian Schlitter, pitcher
64 Franklin Font, staff assistant
65 Tommy Hottovy, pitcher
66 Neil Ramirez, pitcher
67 Tsuyoshi Wada, pitcher
68 Jorge Soler, outfielder
70 Javier Baez, infielder
71 Dallas Beeler, pitcher
72 Matt Szczur, outfielder
73 Marcus Hatley, pitcher
74 Brett Marshall, pitcher
75 Arismendy Alcantara, infielder
76 Jeudy Valdez, infielder
77 Kris Bryant, infielder
78 Albert Almora, outfielder
79 Kyle Hendricks, pitcher
80 Eric Jokisch, pitcher
81 Armando Rivero, pitcher
82 Rafael Lopez, catcher
83 Adam Melhuse, scout
83 Luis Flores, catcher (minor league camp)
84 Carlos Pimental, pitcher
85 Desi Wilson, instructor
86 Mike Mason, instructor
87 Bruce Walton, instructor
88 Kyle Phillips, scout
88 Will Remillard, catcher (minor league camp)
89 Carmelo Martinez, instructor
90 Storm Davis, instructor
91 Marty Pevey, instructor
92 Jose Flores, instructor
93 Brian Harper, instructor
94 Buddy Bailey, instructor
95 Chad Noble, bullpen catcher
96 Mike Brumley, assistant hitting coach
97 Tim Cossins, instructor
98 Derek Johnson, instructor
99 Anthony Iapoce, instructor

1/24 Cubs, Wood reach agreement

The Cubs have avoided an arbitration hearing with left-hander Travis Wood, agreeing on Friday to a one-year deal worth $3.9 million.

Last Friday, Wood and the Cubs had exchanged figures, and the lefty had filed for $4.25 million, while the Cubs countered at $3.5 million.

Wood, 26, is coming off his best season in the big leagues, going 9-12 with a career-best 3.11 ERA en route to his first All-Star selection. Wood also pitched 200 innings, reaching the mark for the first time in his big league career.

A second-round pick by the Reds in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Wood spent his first two seasons with Cincinnati before being traded to the Cubs in the deal that included reliever Sean Marshall. In four Major League seasons, Wood is 26-35 with a 3.83 ERA over 97 appearances (93 starts).

After settling with Wood, the Cubs have three remaining arbitration-eligible players — Darwin Barney, Justin Ruggiano and Jeff Samardzija — with whom they have yet to reach agreements.

— Carrie Muskat

1/24 Non-roster invitees

The Cubs have invited 24 non-roster players to Spring Training, including top prospects Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Albert Almora. Among the pitchers invited to Major League camp are right-handeders Marcus Hatley, Kyle Hendricks, Carlos Pimentel, Armando Rivero and Brian Schlitter, and lefties Tommy Hottovy, Eric Jokisch, Jonathan Sanchez and Tsuyoshi Wada. Hendricks was the Cubs’ Minor League pitcher of the year in 2013.

Five infielders were invited, including Baez, Bryant, Ryan Roberts, Chris Valaika and Jeudy Valdez. The list of outfielders invited includes Almora, Chris Coghlan, Aaron Cunningham, Ryan Kalish, Mitch Maier, Darnell McDonald and Casper Wells.

Kalish, 25, a left-handed hitting outfielder, was voted the Red Sox’s rookie of the year in 2010. He’s coming off surgery on his right shoulder in January 2013 which was followed by cervical fusion surgery last August, similar to a procedure Peyton Manning had. Jorge Soler, another top Cubs prospect, will be in the big league camp; he’s on the 40-man roster.

Catchers John Baker, Rafael Lopez and Eli Whiteside also are on the list of non-roster invitees. The Cubs said Minor League catchers Luis Flores and Will Remillard also will assist at times in big league camp.

Cubs pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 13 to the team’s new facility in Mesa, Ariz., and have their first workout the next day. Position players report on Feb. 18, with new manager Rick Renteria’s first full squad workout scheduled for Feb. 19.

— Carrie Muskat

1/22 Cubs ticket packages on sale Friday

The Cubs will offer themed 6-Game Packs, 10-Game Packs and 14-Game Flex Packs to celebrate 100 years of Wrigley Field. The packages feature Opening Day, Wrigley’s 100th birthday celebration, rivalry matchups with the White Sox and Cardinals, as well as Interleague games against the Yankees, Rays and Orioles. These multi-game packs will go on sale at http://www.cubs.com/packs on Friday at 1 p.m. CST.

* Cubs 6-Game Pack
The Cubs 6-Game Pack provides a choice of four different pre-selected, six-game plans, with each option tailored to different interests. Options include the “Wrigley 100 Pack,” featuring the 100th birthday of Wrigley Field April 23, along with games from five other decade-themed homestands. The “Sunday Family Day Pack” features retro toy giveaways and opportunities for kids 13-and-under to run the bases post-game, while the Cubs will wear throwback jerseys from each decade being celebrated. The “Summer Six-Pack” features six summer dates from June through August, and the “Opening Day Pack” includes Opening Day, Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday and a Crosstown Cup matchup with the White Sox.

The Cubs 6-Game Pack is available in both the Budweiser Bleachers and the reserved seating bowl of Wrigley Field. Fans must order the same number of tickets for each of the six games in their package. Prices start at just $111 before City and County Amusement taxes for a “Wrigley 100 Pack” in the Upper Deck Reserved Outfield section, with other prices varying based on plan and location. No service fees will be charged for the Cubs 6-Game Pack.

* Cubs 10-Game Pack
The Cubs 10-Game Pack provides a choice of four different pre-selected, 10-game plans. Options include the “Decades Bobblehead Pack,” with each game featuring a unique bobblehead celebrating a historic event from Wrigley Field history; the “Wrigley Field Throwback Pack” featuring all 10 home dates of throwback jerseys, including Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday game; the “Nights and Weekends Pack” comprised entirely of weekend and night games, including a matchup with the White Sox; and the “Rivals Package” featuring matchups with division rivals, the White Sox and an Interleague game with the Yankees.

The Cubs 10-Game Pack is available in both the Budweiser Bleachers and the reserved seating bowl of Wrigley Field. Fans must order the same number of tickets for each of the 10 games in their package. Prices start at just $201 before City and County Amusement taxes for a Cubs 10-Game Pack in the Upper Deck Reserved Outfield section, with other prices varying based on plan and location. No service fees will be charged for the Cubs 9-Game Pack.

* Cubs 14-Game Flex Pack
Fans looking to customize their ticket package can choose the Cubs 14-Game Flex Pack with no online service fees on http://www.cubs.com/packs. This package allows fans to select from three Marquee games, such as Opening Day, matchups with the Yankees and summer weekend dates vs. the Cardinals, plus 11 additional games from each month throughout the season. Overall, fans can select from 44 total games when purchasing the Cubs 14-Game Flex Pack.

Tickets may be purchased online through http://www.cubs.com/packs, or by calling the Cubs Ticket Office at 1-800-THE-CUBS.

1/22 Pitch & Hit Club dinner

Former Cubs pitcher Mitch Williams will be honored at the 68th annual Pitch and Hit Club Awards Banquet on Sunday at the Carlisle Banquet Hall, 435 E. Butterfield Road in Lombard, Ill. Kim DeJesus, wife of former Cubs outfielder David DeJesus, will be honored as well for her work with the ALS Foundation. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to http://www.pitchandhitclub.org.