March 2015

Final #Cubs 15, Rangers 10

Matt Szczur hit a two-run homer, his fifth spring blast, in the Cubs’ 15-10 come from behind victory over the Rangers split squad team in Surprise, Ariz., on Tuesday. Jorge Soler hit a two-run single in the fifth, and Wes Darvill added a two-run homer in the seventh. Eric Jokisch started, and served up seven runson 10 hits over 3 1/3 innings.

The Cubs trailed, 9-7, in the ninth, and rallied for five runs against Kyuji Fujikawa, including a two-run triple by Wilson Contreras. Chicago totaled eight runs in the ninth.

* Cubs Up next: The Cubs play their final game of the spring at Sloan Park on Wednesday, playing host to the Brewers. Jason Hammel gets the start, his final tune-up before the regular season. Hammel has been in control since the right-hander had a side session and threw 42 fastballs. The key for him is fastball command. The game will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet and also Cubs.com, starting at 3:05 p.m. CT.

What can #Cubs fans expect at Wrigley Field? Here’s an update

Cubs officials gave an update Tuesday regarding Wrigley Field, saying the ballpark will be ready for Opening Night even if the bleachers are not. The Cubs began the renovation project of the 100-year-old ballpark this past offseason. The left field and center field bleachers are expected to be open by May 11, and the right field bleachers will be ready for fans in mid June.

On Sunday, the video scoreboard in left field will be operating. The right field video board will not be functioning until the All-Star break.

Cubs spokesman Julian Green spent time Tuesday debunking some rumors about the work being done. Green said “at no time has Major League Baseball intervened in our construction project. They are not concerned, mad or disappointed in the team or the pace of construction. They have been supportive in our efforts.”

There were no discussions with the White Sox about playing the Cubs home opener at U.S. Cellular Field, Green said. He said rumors that the upper deck and grandstand are not safe are “absolutely false and simply reckless.”

“This has been most disturbing and reaching an all-time low for our Wrigley Field rumors and myths,” Green said.

Some other items to note:

* The outfield walls are intact and the ivy is attached, but there will be gaps in the greenery. The ivy was expected to be back in full bloom by mid summer.

* Work will continue throughout the season west of Wrigley Field along Clark Street as construction continues on the new clubhouse and plaza area.

* Fans are encouraged to use public transportation when going to games at Wrigley Field because of the construction work. The Red and Purple lots are no longer available. The Cubs do offer free remote parking at 3900 North Rockwell and have free shuttle transportation. The Blue and Brown lots also will not be available.

* The bike check service will continue north of The Cubs Store on the west side of Clark Street.

* Pedestrian access will change. The access on Clark Street near Wrigley will be limited to one lane of traffic in each direction, and pedestrian access will only be on the west side of the street. Waveland Avenue from Clark to Sheffield will remain closed to traffic. There will be pedestrian access on the north side of Waveland only. Sheffield will be closed to traffic. Pedestrian access will be on the east side.

* Group and public buses will be affected. Group charter and coach buses will unload and pick up on Irving Park Road. CTA will provide the same level of service at the same drop off and pickup points.

* On Sunday, “Fall Out Boy” will perform three songs on the field. Because of the pre-game performance, the gates at Wrigley will open at 4:35 p.m. CT. That is for Opening Night only. All gates will be available on Opening Night.

* All ticket windows at Wrigley Field will be open Sunday and the rest of the season. The Cubs will no longer sell tickets at The Cubs Store.

* Wi-Fi/Cell service: Cell service will be available in the ballpark in 2015. The Cubs hope all providers finish their installation by Sunday. However, Wi-Fi has been a challenge at Wrigley, and the system will be down for the majority of 2015.

* Statues: The Ernie Banks and Ron Santo statues will be in place by Opening Night. The Harry Caray statue, which was near the bleachers, will not return for the 2015 season. It is part of the ongoing construction.

* Brick pavers: The Cubs say they will relocate the pavers to the area outside the bleachers on Sheffield and Waveland. All will be replaced, and in place by Opening Day 2016. Fans who have purchased the pavers will get information regarding specific locations.

#Cubs Lester on Bryant: “He’ll be with us at some point”

Jon Lester would like to have had Kris Bryant in the lineup on Opening Night but the Cubs starter also understands why the top prospect is not going to be at Wrigley Field.

“As a player, it [stinks],” Lester said Tuesday about the Cubs decision to assign Bryant to the Minor League camp after he led the Major Leagues with nine home runs and batted .425 this spring.

“It took me a while to understand it when I was coming up, but the quicker you learn this game is a business, the better off you are,” Lester said. “They can say, ‘Development, deveopment’ all they want. This game’s a business and it comes down to that.”

The Cubs front office did say the need for more development was a reason for Bryant to open at Triple-A Iowa. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has stressed it was not a business decision, but having Bryant in the Minor Leagues also delays the start of the third baseman’s service time.

“I’m sure Kris has handled it very, very well,” Lester said of the decision, announced Monday. “He’s a good kid and he’ll be with us at some point. We’ve all been there. He’s just a little more high profile than the rest of us were coming up.”

Lester will make his Cubs debut Sunday night when they play host to the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. No knock on third baseman Mike Olt, but Lester wouldn’t mind having Bryant in the lineup.

“You want anybody who’s swinging the bat like he is, but at the same time, we all understand what’s going on,” Lester said. “A lot of these guys went through the same situation, but we weren’t Kris Bryant and we weren’t hitting nine homers in Spring Training.

“We’ve all had that conversation and at the end of the day, when you sit back and look at it, you say, ‘I get it,'” he said. “He’ll be with us at some point hitting homers. It’s just a fun topic for everybody to talk about right now.”

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs Lester tunes up for Opening Night

Jon Lester wasn’t too pleased with his final tune up for Opening Night but the Cubs left-hander said he hopes the excitement of the start of the season can help him.

“I wasn’t the sharpest today but got to where we needed to,” Lester said after throwing 84 pitches over six innings in a game between Triple-A Iowa and Double-A Tennessee at the Cubs complex. “Once we get into a game with some fans and some adrenaline, I think things will sharpen up a little bit.”

Lester started three Cactus League games and then was scratched from his March 21 game because of a tired arm.

“We’ll figure it out,” Lester said. “In this game, there’s always things you have to overcome, and this is part of it. Come Sunday, everything will be fine. We’ll go out there and have a game plan.”

Lester struck out four of the 20 batters he faced. He had a tough time with left-handed hitting Bijan Rademacher, who battled Lester in a 12-pitch at-bat that ended with left fielder Jae-Hoon Ha making a running catch of a foul ball.

This was Lester’s first Spring Training in Arizona, and the only downside was that he couldn’t fish as much as he did in Florida.

“It’s been good for my family, it’s been an easy adjustment,” he said. “We’ve kind of scoped out some areas for the next couple years that we want to gravitate toward. It was a pretty seamless transition.”

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs Lester throws 84 pitches in Minor League game

Jon Lester tuned up for Opening Night by throwing 84 pitches in a MInor League game Tuesday in Mesa. Lester struck out four of the 20 batters faced. Bijan Rademacher gave him a hard time in the fourth with a 12-pitch at-bat.

Lester started three Cactus League games and then was scratched from his March 21 start because of a tired arm. The lefty has made two Minor League starts since then to prepare for Sunday’s season opener against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs to honor Ernie on Opening Night

The Cubs will honor Hall of Famer Ernie Banks in pregame ceremonies Sunday before the first regular season
when they play host to the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Banks’ two sons, Joey and Jerry, will throw out ceremonial first pitches and lead the crowd in the seventh-inning stretch.
The Cubs are wearing commemorative No. 14 patches on both the home and away jerseys this season, and the bases used on Opening Night will be adorned with Ernie Banks tribute base jewels.

Each fan attending Opening Night will receive a commemorative No. 14 pin. Banks passed away in January at the age of 83.

#Cubs vs Rangers, Surprise, AZ, Tue 3/31

Lefty Eric Jokisch will get the start Tuesday when the Cubs travel to Surprise to face the Rangers. Here’s the lineup:

Fowler CF

Soler RF

Rizzo 1B

Castro SS

Castillo C

Olt 3B

Szczur LF

Jokisch P

Alcantara 2B

#Cubs CJ Edwards, Schwarber star in Futures Game

C.J. Edwards struck out three of the six batters he faced in the Cubs’ 5-1 loss to the Rangers prospects on Monday night at Sloan Park in Mesa. Kyle Schwarber walked in each of his late appearances and threw out a pair of runners trying to steal.

#Cubs roster breakdown

With the moves Monday regarding Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Addison Russell, and the addition of Phil Coke, the Cubs are close to finalizing their 25-man roster. Here’s who’s left:

13 pitchers

Starters: Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Kyle Hendricks, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood

Relievers:

Britton
Coke
Grimm
Motte
Ramirez
Rondon
Strop

3 catchers:
Castillo
Montero
Ross

5 infielders:
Alcantara
Castro
La Stella
Olt
Rizzo

6 outfielders:
Coghlan
Fowler
Soler
Lake
Sweeney
Szczur

#Cubs select contract of Phil Coke

The Cubs selected the contract of left-handed pitcher Phil Coke, who had signed a Minor League contract with the team. By making the team, Coke will be paid $2.25 million.

In nine relief appearances this spring, Coke, 32, has given up four hits but has not allowed a run. He’s spent the last seven seasons with the Yankees (2008-09) and Tigers (2010-14), going 22-27 with 80 holds, eight saves and a 4.16 ERA. Last season, Coke was 5-2 with a 3.88 ERA in 62 relief appearances for the Tigers.

With the addition of Coke, the Cubs’ 40-man roster is now at 40.

He was one of three left-handed relievers in camp, joining Drake Britton, who is out of options, and Zac Rosscup.

— Carrie Muskat