Ben Zobrist hit a RBI single and scored on Kris Bryant’s infield hit in a three-run fifth inning to lift the Cubs to a 5-1 victory over the Mets Thursday night at Cashman Field in Las Vegas. Yasiel Balaguert added a leadoff home run in the eighth. Ryan Williams started and gave up two hits over three scoreless innings. The Cubs will close this two-game series against the Mets on Friday with Jason Hammel starting. First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast on WGN TV and Cubs.com. After an off day Saturday, the Cubs wrap up the exhibition schedule Sunday against the Angels.
Opening Night is April 4 in Anaheim.
Jon Lester tuned up for the regular season by striking out 10 over five innings and hitting his first Spring Training home run.
Lester, who will start the Cubs’ second regular season spring game next Tuesday, launched an opposite field two-run home run with one on in the fourth off a 3-1 pitch from the Rockies’ Scott Oberg. As Lester walked back to the dugout, Anthony Rizzo greeted him by pointing up to the sky with both hands — something a lot of home run hitters do as they cross the plate — and Lester did so.
Lester has never hit a home run in five previous Spring Training at-bats in his career — although, to be fair, he has spent all of his career in the American League until last season, his first with the Cubs. He has four hits in 98 career at-bats in the regular season.
Something else Cubs fans may not see again: Lester and Kyle Schwarber going back to back. Schwarber followed Lester’s blast with his second spring homer, and the Cubs finished with seven runs in the fourth.
Last July 6, Lester ended a streak of 67 career at-bats without a hit when he singled off his buddy, John Lackey, who was pitching for the Cardinals. Now, Lackey and Lester are teammates on the Cubs.
— Carrie Muskat
Javier Baez, who will begin the season on the disabled list with a sprained left thumb, was disappointed that he didn’t make the Cubs’ Opening Day roster, but expects to be sidelined for a short time.
Baez has been testing his thumb taking batting practice for two days, and said it’s passed all the tests so far.
“I haven’t played in a few days, so they want me to see live pitching,” said Baez, who hasn’t played in a game since March 20. “I want to see live pitching, too.”
He’ll stay in Arizona and continue his rehab with the Minor League teams.
“Whenever they have games here. I’ll be taking [batting practice], and taking ground balls,” he said. “I feel good.”
— Carrie Muskat
Wednesday is the Cubs’ last spring game in Arizona, and they will play host to the Rockies. Jon Lester gets the start in his final tune up for the regular season. Here’s the lineup:
La Stella 2B
*The Cubs will finish up the exhibition season with two games against the Mets in Las Vegas, and one more vs. the Angels in Anaheim on Sunday. The regular season opener is Monday night vs. the Angels in Anaheim.
Cubs Charities will continue the “Let’s Give” community initiative this season. Mark your calendars — here are some of the events:
April 23: 11th Annual Race to Wrigley Charity Run
This year’s race will feature an updated course, allowing runners to trek through historic Wrigley Field. For more information, visit www.racetowrigley.com.
April 28: Bricks and Ivy Ball
This is Cubs Charities’ primary fundraising event, and will be held at Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom. Cubs players, coaches, alumni, owners and management will attend. For more information, visit http://www.cubs.com/bricksandivy.
May 9: Annual Cubs Care Grant Luncheon
The Cubs will team up with the Robert R. McCormick Foundation for the annual Cubs Care Grant Luncheon in the Audi Club at Wrigley Field. Last year, the Cubs and Robert R. McCormick Foundation distributed more than $1 million in grants. For more information, visit www.cubscharities.org.
May 25: Kerry Wood and Friends Battle of the Bats Charity Home Run Derby
The Wood Family Foundation will join Cubs Charities to host the second annual Kerry Wood and Friends Battle of the Bats Charity Home Run Derby at Wrigley Field. For more information, visit www.cubs.com/derby.
June 2: Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation’s Cook-Off for Cancer
The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation will celebrate its fourth annual Cook-Off for Cancer, which will feature tasting portions prepared by notable Chicago chefs and served by Cubs players at Morgan Manufacturing. For more information, visit www.cubs.com/cook.
June 17: Foundation To Be Named Later’s Hot Stove Cool Music Chicago Concert
The fifth annual Hot Stove Cool Music Chicago benefit concert will rock Chicago again at Metro Chicago. Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons, Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper and the Chicago Hot Stove All-Stars will take the stage. The foundation raises funds and awareness for nonprofit agencies working on the front lines, serving disadvantaged youth in the Greater Boston and Chicago areas. For more information, visit www.foundationtobenamedlater.org.
July 6: Jon Lester’s NVRQT Goes Country
Jon Lester and his wife Farrah will host a country-themed fundraiser at Joe’s Bar on Weed Street in Chicago. Net proceeds from the event will benefit Lester’s NVRQT campaign, run by the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation (PCRF), which helps raise awareness and money for pediatric cancer research. For future information, visit www.cubs.com/nvrqt.
July 16: Cubs Wives Present Players’ Favorite Things Baskets
Cubs wives and girlfriends will once again create and auction off Cubs “Players’ Favorite Things Baskets.” Each basket will contain one-of-a-kind autographed memorabilia and hand-picked items, such as players’ favorite movies, restaurant gift cards, snacks, team gear and much more. The auction will launch online July 16-July 23 and will be available inside the concourse at Wrigley Field Saturday, July 16. Net proceeds benefit Cubs Charities. For more information or to place a bid online, visit www.cubs.com/auction.
July 20: Joe Maddon’s Respect 90 Main Event
Manager Joe Maddon will host the second Respect 90 Main Event at the Wintrust Bank Building, featuring dinner and drinks along with several rounds of amateur boxing. The night will help provide Chicago’s inner-city children and young adults with opportunities to develop championship attitudes through sports while encouraging fitness, academics and community engagement. For information, visit www.cubscharities.org.
Sept. 2: Let’s Go Gold
Cubs Charities will team up with Major League Baseball to take part in the fight against pediatric cancer by helping Wrigley Field “go gold.” For more information, visit www.cubs.com/letsgogold.
*Maddon also will support Chicago nonprofit organizations through his “Respect Community” charity T-shirt initiative. After every Friday home game, Maddon will represent a different Chicago nonprofit by wearing that organization’s T-shirt during his post-game press conference.
Jake Arrieta showed he’s ready for Opening Night. The Cubs right-hander tuned up by throwing 102 pitches over five innings, and got plenty of help as Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, Matt Szczur, David Ross and Munenori Kawasaki each homered in a 9-5 win Tuesday over the Athletics.
Arrieta, who came out of his last start after two-thirds of an inning to avoid breaking open a blister on his right thumb, was charged with one run on two hits and struck out five. His next start will be Monday against the Angels in the season opener.
“The blister’s good,” Arrieta said. “It was nice to get the pitch count up that high. Today, I got to throw all my stuff, got to pitch through some struggles a little bit with command. I was off a little bit timing-wise but was able to make some good adjustments after a couple to get back on track. … I like where I’m at going into our first game.”
Arrieta has been able to do his normal side work, and said the blister is a “non issue.”
Szczur, told earlier in the day that he had made the Opening Day roster for the second straight year, missed hitting for the cycle by a triple. He doubled in the second, hit a bunt single in the fourth, and hit a two-run homer in the sixth.
“I knew they had faith in me and knew they trusted me,” Szczur said. “It’s a great feeling to be on the squad.”
— Carrie Muskat
Cubs manager Joe Maddon told Neil Ramirez, Matt Szczur and Tommy La Stella that they made the Opening Day roster. Javier Baez will open on the 15-day DL, although the start day will be retroactive. He has a bruised left thumb but could be ready when the Cubs open the season in Chicago April 11. The final 25 are set, barring injuries between now and Opening night. The Cubs will carry 13 pitchers and 12 position players.
Jake Arrieta will make his final spring appearance on Tuesday when the Cubs play host to the Athletics at Sloan Park in Mesa. Arrieta’s last outing was cut short after one third of an inning because of a blister on his right thumb that never opened but hindered him. Here’s the lineup:
La Stella 3B
*Roster moves: The Cubs have released infielder Munenori Kawasaki, left-handed pitcher Manny Parra and outfielder Shane Victorino. However, a team official said they are actively trying to re-sign all three.
On Tuesday, the Cubs released Munenori Kawasaki, Manny Parra and Shane Victorino. However, the team is actively trying to re-sign all three. The Cubs’ spring roster consists of 32 players. Here’s the breakdown:
Rosscup – DL
Crow (non-roster invitee)
Federowicz (non-roster invitee)
NOTE: Beeler and Villanueva will not be ready for the start of the season.
Javier Baez, who has not played a game since March 20 because of a sprained left thumb, played catch on Monday, and his uncertainty for the start of the regular season is leaving the Cubs with a possible 11th-hour decision regarding the 25-man roster.
Tommy La Stella fills the role of backup infielder and pinch-hitter, and Matt Szczur, who is out of options, could be used as a defensive sub in the outfield or a pinch-runner.
“What we talked about today is when we want to make our decision,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Knowing what Javy’s up to matters a lot.”
The Cubs are still debating whether to go with 12 or 13 pitchers. Neil Ramirez, who is out of options, has had a strong spring. The 12 pitchers who are set include Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel, Kyle Hendricks, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, Travis Wood, Clayton Richard, Adam Warren, and Trevor Cahill.