February 2016

#Cubs notes: spring pitching & more

Cubs fans won’t see the projected starting rotation in the first four Cactus League games as the team eases Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, and John Lackey into spring games.

Travis Wood will start the Cactus League opener Thursday against the Brewers, and Pierce Johnson will start Friday against the Angels in the Cubs’ first home game at Sloan Park. Trevor Cahill will go Saturday against the Reds and Adam Warren get the start Sunday against the D-backs.

Arrieta, Lester and Lackey will be slotted into the spring rotation, beginning March 8.

Kyle Hendricks will follow Wood against the Brewers. Both he and Jason Hammel have the edge over other pitchers competing for spots in the Cubs rotation such as Warren, Cahill and Clayton Richard.

“You just have to keep an open mind, is the best way I can describe it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Monday.

The Cubs are mindful of the workload many of the pitchers had last season, including Arrieta, who finished the season with 20 quality starts and totaled 229 innings in the regular season.

“By the time they get to the opening bell, they’ll be ready and they’ll be well,” Maddon said.

*Maddon has yet to name the Cubs’ Opening Day starter for the April 4 game against the Angels, but it most likely will be Arrieta, who is coming off a season in which he won 22 games and the National League Cy Young award.

“You can surmise whatever you like — don’t assume — but you can surmise or project or create conjecture, whatever you like to do,” said Maddon, who wanted to meet with the starters first before announcing it.

Arrieta was the Orioles’ Opening Day starter in April 2012.

*The second “Respect Bald” fundraiser will be held Saturday near Field 1 at Sloan Park prior to the Cubs’ game against the Reds. Players and coaches will get their heads shaved to raise money for pediatric cancer research. Fans can get a trim, too, for a $100 donation. The event will begin at 11 a.m. MT.

— Carrie Muskat

Victorino to switch-hit again. #Cubs

Shane Victorino never wanted to give up switch hitting, but had to in 2014 because of his back. This spring, he’s healthy and able to hit from both sides, which will definitely help the Cubs.

“To hear players talk about stopping being a switch hitter, every single one I talk to, I say, ‘If it wasn’t for physical reasons, there’s no other reason I would’ve given it up,'” Victorino said Sunday. “Some guys don’t want to do it — ‘Oh, I’m not good from one side,’ or ‘I’m better from one side.’

“In today’s game, the numbers game that everybody plays and the matchups, it’s not a benefit to get rid of switch hitting,” he said. “If you’re a switch hitter, I don’t care if you hit a [.150] on one side and you hit .400 on the other, do not give it up. The way today’s game is, it’s about matchups, it’s about this, it’s about that.”

A natural right-hander, Victorino is a career .299 hitter against left-handed pitching and a .265 batter versus righties. He didn’t start switch hitting until he was 20, then stopped, and resumed it two years later at the encouragement of his Double-A hitting coach, Gene Richards, who told Victorino he needed something to distinquish himself from other outfielders.

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs prospect Villanueva hurt

Cubs prospect Christian Villanueva broke his right fibula during drills on Sunday, and will most likely be sidelined for a few months. He was expected to have surgery Monday.

“It was a ground ball — I guess he hopped up to jump up in the air and you come back down and that’s how it happened,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s just crazy. It’s really unfortunate. This kid came in, ready to go.”

Villanueva, 24, began last season at Double-A Tennessee but when Kris Bryant was promoted to the big leagues, then Villanueva moved up to Triple-A Iowa to play third base. He batted .259 there, hitting 18 home runs and 23 doubles, and then played for Obregon in the Mexican winter league, where he hit .322 with nine home runs and nine doubles.

“It’s a tough break, literally, for him — he’s such a good kid,” Maddon said.

— Carrie Muskat

‘Schwarbered’ windshield to be auctioned. #Cubs

Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber accidentally broke the windshield of Peter Gesler’s car with a batting practice home run, but the busted glass was saved and will be auctioned off this spring for a good cause.

Schwarber launched the home run over a screen in right field on Field 1 at the Cubs complex on Feb. 17. Gesler was standing near home plate and watching the batting practice session when it happened.

“I heard it hit,” Gesler said Saturday. “[The players] were laughing and applauding.”

He didn’t know it was his vehicle until he went to the parking lot. Gesler then posted a photo on his Instagram account.

Schwarber suggested on Twitter that Safelite might be able to repair the damages, and the company did. Safelite took care of Gesler’s broken window, replacing his windshield in the Cubs parking lot. Schwarber did autograph the broken windshield and added “Go Cubs” as well, to the delight of Gesler, 62, a Cubs season ticket holder who lives in Denver.

The souvenir, which was to be put in a protective case, will be auctioned March 25 at a Cubs Wives event.

“It really belongs to the Cubs family,” Gesler said as he watched the team practice. “We’ve been met with such generosity that we thought this was the right thing to do.”

A long time Cubs fan, he grew up in Deerfield, Ill. Kenny Hubbs was his first Cubs hero. Schwarber might be a close second.

“Thanks to Kyle, [the Cubs] have all done stuff they didn’t need to do,” Gesler said.


#Cubs sign Victorino

This offseason, Shane Victorino worked out with Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant in Las Vegas. On Friday, the three were reunited as teammates after Victorino signed a Minor League deal with the Cubs.

“I’m just ready for an opportunity and hope to be part of something special,” Victorino said. “I’ve been blessed in my career to be part of a couple special championships in special cities. I tell myself, being a fan of the game, when there’s a 100-plus year drought in championships, you always want to be the first. That’s the goal.”

Victorino, 35, has two World Series rings, winning with the Phillies in 2008 and with the Red Sox in 2013. The Cubs, as most of their fans know, haven’t won a World Series since 1908.

With Fowler’s return and the addition of Jason Heyward, where will Victorino fit? He’s most likely considered a fifth outfielder in the mix but that’s OK for him.

“It’s not about playing time, it’s not about where things are, it’s about winning,” he said. “Obviously, for me, I have to win my job on the team and from there, be the best player I can be to help the Cubs win a championship.”

The deal is for $1 million plus $1 million in incentives if Victorino plays in the Majors, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported.

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs sign Victorino to Minor League deal

The Cubs added another outfielder on Friday as Shane Victorino signed a Minor League deal.

Victorino, 35, played for the Red Sox and Angels last season, batting .230 in 71 games. He has played for the Padres, Phillies, Dodgers, Red Sox and Angels over 12 seasons.

A right-handed hitter, Victorino most likely is trying to find a spot as an extra outfielder. On Thursday, the Cubs brought back Dexter Fowler, signing him to a one-year contract with an option for 2017, and traded Chris Coghlan to the Athletics to make room.

Fowler is projected to take over in center with Jason Heyward moving to right and Jorge Soler, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez also in the outfield mix.

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs bring Fowler back

Dexter Fowler returned to the Cubs in style Thursday, surprising his teammates on the field during practice with the news that he had signed a one-year contract to return.

“My heart’s here,” said Fowler, who rejected longer term deals elsewhere, including a three-year offer from the Orioles and signed a one-year, $8 million contract that includes a $5 million buyout and a $9 million option for 2017.

“I feel like the Cubs, they treated me with the utmost respect. With the offseason moves they made, you’ve got to go with what’s comfortable.”

One of the moves the Cubs made was to acquire Jason Heyward, who was projected to play center and possibly lead off. But now Fowler returns to that role with Heyward sliding to right. Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber will likely share left field.

Manager Joe Maddon called all of the players together on Field 6 Thursday, saying there was a special announcement. Once everyone was gathered, Fowler appeared, wearing a white t-shirt and black jeans, and was greeted by hugs and cheers.

“I think I owed it to the boys to tell them first,” Fowler said.

The Cubs dealt Chris Coghlan to the A’s for right-hander Aaron Brooks earlier Thursday to make room both in the outfield and on the roster for Fowler.

— Carrie Muskat

#Cubs trade Coghlan for Brooks

The Cubs Thursday dealt outfielder Chris Coghlan to the Athletics for right-handed pitcher Aaron Brooks.

Coghlan, 30, was projected as the fourth outfielder on the Cubs after batting .250 with 25 doubles, 16 homers and 41 RBIs in 148 games for the Cubs last season.

Brooks, 25, has pitched part of the last two seasons in the big leagues with the Royals (2014-15) and the A’s (2015) since being selected by the Royals in the ninth round of the 2011 Draft.

The Athletics acquired him last July as part of the trade that sent Ben Zobrist to the Royals. Brooks has gone 3-5 with an 8.38 ERA in 15 big league appearances, including 10 as a starter.

The right-hander combined to go 7-5 with a 3.56 ERA in 20 appearances, all but one as a starter, between Triple-A Omaha and Nashville last season. He struck out 103 batters and walked only 21 in 118.2 innings pitched, an average of 7.8 strikeouts and only 1.6 walks per nine innings. Brooks turned in a 4.90 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

#Cubs promo schedule; tix on sale Friday

Pajama bottoms, a Ron Santo replica statue, a 1916 throwback jersey, and Joe Maddon, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Kyle Schwarber bobbleheads are among the items that will be given to fans during certain Cubs home dates at Wrigley Field this year.

Single game tickets for the 2016 season go on sale Friday, starting at 10 a.m. CT on http://www.Cubs.com or by calling 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).

The Cubs will celebrate a century of the team playing at Wrigley Field this year, and will wear a commemorative patch on their home uniforms featuring a version of the 1916 logo in modern colors.

On July 6 against the Reds, both teams will wear 1916 throwback uniforms, and the Cubs will give away up to 30,000 replica throwback jerseys, presented by Ideal Industries Inc.

A Santo replica statue will be given to the first 10,000 fans on April 30, and a Ryne Sandberg retired number flag will be handed out May 30.

There will be a Rizzo “tarp catch” bobblehead on July 5, an Arrieta Cy Young award bobblehead on July 20, a Bryant Rookie of the Year bobblehead on Aug. 1, and a Schwarber home run bobblehead on Sept. 16. All will be presented to the first 10,000 fans each game.

Tickets for each regular season home game are available for purchase during Friday’s general on-sale, including Opening Day against the Reds April 11.

A virtual waiting room will begin accepting customers at 9:30 a.m. CT on Friday. At 10 a.m. CT, customers will be randomly selected from that waiting room to begin purchasing tickets. All Internet customers will need a valid account. There is a four-ticket purchase limit for Marquee and Platinum games per household, credit card or email address.

Here is the Cubs’ 2016 promotional calendar:

April 11: Cubs Magnet Schedule presented by Giordano’s (Up to 1st 30,000 fans)

April 30: Ron Santo Replica Statue presented by TransUnion (Up to 1st 10,000 fans)

May 8: Cubs Charities “Pink Out” T-shirt presented by Advocate Health Care (Up to 1st 5,000 Budweiser Bleacher fans)

May 30: Ryne Sandberg Retired Number Flag presented by Pepsi (Up to 1st 10,000 fans)

June 1: Cubs Cap presented by Conquer Cancer Foundation (Up to 1st 5,000 Budweiser Bleacher fans)

June 3: Cubs Tote Bag presented by MLB Network (Up to 1st 20,000 fans)

June 4: Commemorative Oversized Trading Card presented by Topps (Up to 1st 10,000 fans)

June 5: Cubs Laundry Hamper presented by Vienna Beef (Up to 1st 5,000 children)

June 19: Kids Hooded Towel (Up to 1st 5,000 children)

July 4: Cubs Camo Apron presented by Magellan Corporation (Up to 1st 10,000 fans)

July 5: Anthony Rizzo “Tarp Catch” Bobblehead presented by Reynolds Wrap (Up to 1st 10,000 fans)

July 6: 1916 Chicago Cubs Replica Throwback Jersey presented by Ideal Industries Inc. (Up to 1st 30,000 fans)

July 17: Cubs Family Decals presented by Gonnella Baking Co. (Up to 1st 5,000 children)

July 18: Cubs Ear Buds with Case presented by Starwood Preferred Guest (Up to 1st 10,000 fans)

July 19: Cubs Pajama Bottoms presented by American Airlines (Up to 1st 10,000 fans)

July 20: Jake Arrieta “Cy Young” Award Bobblehead presented by Pepsi (Up to 1st 10,000 fans)

July 30: Cubs Misting Fan presented by Comcast SportsNet (Up to 1st 10,000 fans)

July 31: Cubs Youth Batting Practice Pullover (Up to 1st 5,000 children)

Aug. 1: Kris Bryant “Rookie of the Year” Award Bobblehead presented by Wintrust Community Banks (Up to 1st 10,000 fans)

Aug. 3: Cubs Graphic Socks presented by StubHub (Up to 1st 10,000 fans)

Aug. 14: Clark Hat presented by Velveeta (Up to 1st 5,000 children)

Aug. 16: Joe Maddon “Manager of the Year” Award Bobblehead presented by Benjamin Moore (Up to 1st 10,000 fans)

Aug. 17: Cubs Beach Tote Bag presented by Las Vegas (Up to 1st 10,000 fans)

Aug. 18: Cubs Floppy Hat presented by RumChata (Up to 1st 10,000 Adults)

Aug. 30: Cubs Wine Cork Sunglasses presented by Barefoot Wine (Up to 1st 10,000 Adults)

Sept. 3: Cubs Tumbler presented by Pepsi (Up to 1st 10,000 fans)

Sept. 16: Kyle Schwarber “Home Run” Bobblehead presented by Comcast SportsNet (Up to 1st 10,000 fans)

Sept. 17: Cubs Stainless Steel Drink Bottle presented by IDEAL INDUSTRIES, INC. (Up to 1st 10,000 fans)


1st #Cubs star to Sutcliffe

The first “star” in Cubs camp went to Rick Sutcliffe.

Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez awards yellow star stickers to players or coaches, and Sutcliffe, who is in camp to work with the pitchers, got one after he was struck by an errant throw by outfielder Jorge Soler. Sutcliffe documented his new stardom on Twitter.

“Yes the 1st STAR of #Cubs camp goes to The Red Baron!” Sutcliffe posted.

“For those who don’t know a STAR goes to a guy who did something extraordinary the day before! #Cubs #ESPN”

“FYI it’s also my 1st Career Star!!”

Martinez said Sutcliffe got the sticker, which he put on his cap, because he “took one for the team.” First base coach Brandon Hyde tried to pull Sutcliffe out of the way, but the ball still struck the big redhead. Hyde also got a star for his efforts.

Sutcliffe thought Chris Coghlan had made the throw.

“I said, ‘whoever did it, I’m going to kick their [butt],” Sutcliffe said Wednesday. “I felt pretty confident if it was Coghlan, but now that I know it was Soler, I don’t know.”

Soler does throw hard.

“It hurt like hell,” Sutcliffe said.

— Carrie Muskat