February 2015

2/28 Taking notes

Jon Lester hasn’t had a problem adjusting to the dry Arizona weather and feels the same way about throwing to different catchers. However, the Cubs pitcher did notice manager Joe Maddon talking to himself. Maddon apparently uses a digital recorder on the field to take verbal notes during practice.

“We were running a bunt play and obviously, he either had an idea or saw something he didn’t like or liked, and wanted to take a note down,” Lester said, noting it’s tough for the manager to keep pen and paper in his pocket.

“It’s easier than writing it down,” said Maddon, who started using the recorder in instructional league. “It’s nice at the end of the day, you go back and play it back and things that you would’ve forgotten, you don’t forget now.”

More important is the tone Maddon has set in Cubs camp.

“I just like how positive he is,” Lester said. “Whether you screw up a play, he’ll find the positive light in it. He lets us be players, he lets us be who we are. That’s his reputation, that’s what I’ve heard from other guys. I think that brings out the best.

“This game is so hard on younger guys,” Lester said. “It’s so result driven and everybody wants to make the team the first day and I think Joe takes pressure off those guys by saying the things he says. He’s genuinely sincere about what he says. There’s no [nonsense]. You can tell he means everything he says — whether it’s, ‘You [stink] today’ or ‘You’re good today.'”

— Carrie Muskat

2/28 Wada and pitching matchups

Tsuyoshi Wada, who had been slowed because of a tight left hamstring, threw a live batting practice session on Saturday and passed all the tests.

“I thought he threw the ball really well,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I did not see any kind of restriction. He looked very, very healthy. The ball had a lot of movement on it. He looked good for his first time out after having been restricted because of his leg.”

What’s next for Wada is to be determined. The Cubs have outlined their pitching for the upcoming Cactus League games but Maddon wasn’t ready to reveal the rotation. The Cubs begin play Thursday with split-squad games against the Athletics at Sloan Park and against the Giants in Scottsdale.

Maddon also needs to talk with Jon Lester about the regular season Opening Day assignment. The left-hander was expected to start April 5 against the Cardinals.

“With Jon, I just need to talk to all the starters,” Maddon said. “[Pitching coach Chris Bosio] wanted to do it in the proper way and I have not been proper yet.”

On Sunday, Donn Roach, Blake Parker, Germen Gonzalez, Francisley Bueno, Joseph Ortiz and Anthony Carter are scheduled to throw live BP, weather permitting. If it rains, the players will get their work in the batting cages.

— Carrie Muskat

2/28 Cubs schedule

Rain is in the forecast, but here is Saturday’s practice schedule at the Cubs complex in Mesa. All times are Mountain Time. Remember, the schedule is subject to change.

9:30 a.m. – Stretch
10:05 a.m. – Throwing program
10:15 a.m. – Individual defense
(Pitchers PFP, infielders ground ball routine, outfielders ground ball/fly ball; catchers individual work)
10:30 a.m. – Team fundamental: 1st and 3rd defense
10:50-11:50 a.m. – Live BP Fields 5/6: Beeler, Hammel, Wood, Wada, Grimm, Cervenka, DeLeon, Rivero
11:55 a.m. – Batting practice
12:20 p.m. – Defense discussion

* If it rains, the Cubs do have contingency plans, and most likely would do most of their work in the batting cages

2/27 Friday notebook

* How happy was Javier Baez to see Manny Ramirez in Cubs camp?

“I grabbed Manny’s stuff and put everything in my locker and told him he was going to be here with me,” Baez said Friday. “The next day, he moved all his stuff back.”

Friday was Day 2 for Ramirez, who has been hired as a hitting consultant and was to work with both the Major League and Minor League players. Baez and Ramirez got to know each other last year at Triple-A Iowa when Ramirez signed as a player/coach.

What did Baez learn from Ramirez?

“The way they will pitch to you, the way they know how to pitch to you, and they know you have to make that adjustment,” Baez said.

The Cubs are trying to get Baez to shorten his swing to lower his strikeout numbers and have him experimenting with lowering his hands. He dropped more than 15 pounds this offseason and fortunately hasn’t noticed a difference in batting practice.

“I haven’t lost any power,” he said. “I’m driving the ball everywhere. I haven’t seen any difference.”

* C.J. Edwards needs to find a nail salon fast. He had a bandage on his right index finger Friday.

“What I heard was he had a nail problem,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We have to send him to a manicurist. I think his nail was too long and they have to trim his nails up.”

* Zac Rosscup took a ball off his right wrist during his live BP session Friday. It’s a good thing Rosscup is left-handed. Jorge Soler was the batter, and he and one of the athletic trainers checked on Rosscup, who was able to finish his session. Maddon said the reliever was fine.

* The Cubs were not expected to play an intrasquad game prior to the start of Cactus League games on March 5. The Cubs begin their Spring Training schedule with split squad games, playing host to the Athletics and also sending a squad to Scottsdale to face the Giants.

* Jason Hammel and Travis Wood are among the Cubs pitchers scheduled to throw live batting practice on Saturday. Others on the schedule include Tsuyoshi Wada, who was slowed for a couple days because of a tight left hamstring, plus Dallas Beeler, Justin Grimm, Hunter Cervenka, Armando Rivero and Jorge De Leon.

— Carrie Muskat

2/27 Riz on Lester: “He’s a horse”

Javier Baez had to face Jon Lester twice during the Cubs left-hander’s first live batting practice session on Friday. That was enough.

“I told him right after live BP, I prefer to play defense for you,” Baez said.

The Cubs’ $155 million pitcher was paired on Field 5 with catcher David Ross, who was Lester’s personal catcher with the Red Sox. Ross offered plenty of feedback, shouting, “that a boy, Jonny,” and “very nice” more than a few times.

“I can absolutely see why Jon loves to throw to him, and you can see how David can bring out the best in Jon — it’s just obvious,” manager Joe Maddon said. “They’re on the same frequency. There’s a tremendous amount of trust there. You can’t get any more trust than the both of them have.”

Anthony Rizzo hit two balls deep to left off Lester, but reminded everyone that it was practice.

“He’s a horse up there,” Rizzo said of Lester. “It’s nice to see someone like that — you face them early and hopefully everything else looks a little easier. The biggest thing is he felt good. Talking to him after, it’s good to hear. It’s an exciting stepping stone.”

The Cubs have yet to announce the Cactus League pitching schedule and when Lester will start. Games begin Thursday in Arizona.

— Carrie Muskat

2/27 Saturday’s schedule

Jason Hammel and Travis Wood are among the pitchers scheduled to throw live batting practice on Saturday. The list also includes Dallas Beeler, Tsuyoshi Wada, Justin Grimm, Hunter Cervenka, Jorge De Leon and Armando Rivero.

2/27 Lester’s 1st live BP

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Cubs pitcher Jon Lester had his first live batting practice session on Friday.

2/27 Here’s the cover of the 2015 Cubs media guide

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2/27 International news

According to Baseball America, the Cubs rank eighth among Major League teams with an international bonus pool of $2,230,700. The 2015-16 signing period begins July 2. The bonus pools are determined based on reverse order of winning percentage from 2014. The majority of signings come from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. In 2013, the Cubs spent heavily on international players, signing the Nos. 1-2 prospects, Eloy Jimenez ($2.8 million) and Gleyber Torres ($1.7 million).

2/27 Practice schedule

Here’s Friday’s practice schedule for the Cubs. All times are Mountain Time. Remember, it is subject to change:

9:45 a.m.: Stretch
10-10:15 a.m.: Baserunning for position players
10:20-10:30 a.m.: Throwing program (all players)
10:30-10:45 a.m.: Individual defense
10:45-11 a.m.: Team fundamental (pop ups)
11 a.m.-12:05 p.m.: Live BP, Fields 5/6
12:10-12:30 p.m. Batting practice, Fields 3/4/5/6
12:35-12:45 p.m.: First and third defense