* Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler appreciated the applause from the fans at Coors Field when he was introduced on Friday for the Rockies home opener. After all, he called the ballpark home for six seasons.
“Everybody was awesome,” Fowler said Saturday. “Everybody was like, ‘We miss you.’ It was kind of an emotional day. It was weird. I’m glad we got the first day over with.”
The hardest part for Fowler was just finding his way. He had never been in the visitor’s clubhouse at Coors Field.
“This is a new chapter in my life, I’m a Cub now and happy to be here,” he said.
He got a nice ovation as he tripled to lead off Saturday’s game.
* When the Rockies employed a defensive shift against Anthony Rizzo with two outs in the seventh on Friday, the Cubs first baseman bunted toward third and was safe on the infield hit.
“That bunt by him was all him, and he picked a perfect time to do it,” manager Joe Maddon said Saturday.
Maddon said he prefers to have players make the adjustments on their own, and Rizzo did just that.
“I’ve had this conversation a lot lately,” Maddon said. “It seems it’s assumed to make adjustments easily on a Major League level and it’s really not, meaning a guy who hasn’t really bunted a lot bfeore, just because [the opposing team is] playing there, that player should be able to bunt it there, or because they’re playng there, he should be able to hit it there. You have no idea how difficult it is.”
“I think this game works that way, where you try to prep in advance and then stay out of people’s way and let them be baseball players,” he said. “That’s what I’ve found.”
* Chris Denorfia was in Denver and took batting practice Saturday with the Cubs as well as get a check up from the medical staff. The outfielder, who is on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, was to begin a rehab assignment with Class A Myrtle Beach on Sunday.
* Maddon has some fond memories of Colorado from his days playing semi-pro baseball in Boulder.
“I’m a Boulder guy back in the day,” Maddon said. “When I was there, I was a power hitter. The ball traveled 5 percent further. I felt I could hit homers when I played in Boulder.”
* Rizzo was hit by a pitch in the first inning Saturday. It’s the fourth time in four games.
— Carrie Muskat
* Both the Cubs and Rockies batted the pitcher eighth, the first time each club did so in the same game since July 13, 2008 (Cardinals and Pirates).
* Joe Maddon has batted the starting pitcher eighth in the lineup in each of the first three games of the season. In 15,848 games from 1914-2014, the Cubs batted the starting pitcher in a spot other than the ninth position just once, Sept. 8, 2012, at Pittsburgh. Jeff Samardzija, making his final start of the season, batted eighth.
* Anthony Rizzo has been hit by a pitch three times in the first three games. According to ESPN Stats and Info, he is the first player to be hit at least three times in a team’s first three games since Atlanta’s Andres Galarraga in 2000 (also three times).
* Rizzo has reached base safely in his last 17 games dating to Aug. 23 of last season, the longest active streak in the Majors. It’s also the longest streak of his career.
* Jonathan Herrera made his Cubs debut Friday. The Cubs now have utilized 1,991 players since their inception in 1876.
Note: There’s another way to see my #Cubs stories. I started a new Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CarrieMuskatMLB
The Cardinals spoiled the coming out party for Jon Lester and Joe Maddon at Wrigley Field Sunday night. Matt Holliday hit a pair of RBI singles to back Adam Wainwright and lead the Cardinals to a 3-0 victory on Opening Night.
“It was a good atmosphere tonight,” Cubs catcher David Ross said. “Sometimes with that atmosphere, you try a little hard, or whatever. it was loud to start the game, I had butterflies, and I haven’t had butterflies in a while. That was a lot of fun. We didn’t play our best baseball tonight but there are a lot of areas we can improve on.”
Lester scattered eight hits over 4 1/3 innings, striking out six. He felt his pitches were a little flat, and didn’t blame his time off in Spring Training.
The other issue was something Cubs fans saw all too much of in 2014 when they ranked 14th in the NL with runners in scoring position. On Sunday, they were 0-for-13.
“I think we had pretty good at-bats and guys going deep in counts,” Anthony Rizzo said. “Wainwright came through when he needed to.”
Rizzo didn’t think Lester had a bad outing.
“If three runs [off Lester] is a tough outing, I’ll take that every time,” Rizzo said. “We had good at-bats, we just didn’t score when we needed to.”
Sunday marked the debut of the new video scoreboard in left field. There was a packed crowd of 35,055, even if they couldn’t sit in the bleachers, which are under construction.
“It was a very cool experience,” Mike Olt said. “It was loud and it was fun to be a part of. We wish we could’ve got the ‘W’ but we’ll come in on Tuesday ready to go.”
— Carrie Muskat
Anthony Rizzo joked with bench coach Davey Martinez that he’d like to lead off, so that’s where the Cubs first baseman will bat on Saturday against the Rockies.
“It’s something I always wanted to do,” Rizzo said. “They’ve been messing with the lineup a lot, so why not? I think it’ll be fun.”
Martinez had been scheduled to manage the Cubs in Mesa with Joe Maddon going on the road in the split squad game against the Reds, but they switched. Rizzo figures Maddon just wants to see how he does batting first.
“I think I’m your prototypical leadoff hitter,” Rizzo said. “I’m going to try to see some pitches, get on base. We don’t steal much on this team anyways.”
Don’t be surprised if he tries to steal.
Does he model himself after anyone?
“I’m going to try to do my best Dexter Fowler impression,” Rizzo said.
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs rank second in the Majors this spring in home runs but Anthony Rizzo, who led the team last year with 32, has zero, and yet he feels really good at the plate.
“I feel great,” Rizzo said Monday. “It’s really weird. I hit some good balls but they haven’t found a hole.”
In 12 games prior to Tuesday’s contest against the Athletics, Rizzo was 4-for-31. Last spring, he batted .321 with two home runs in 53 at-bats.
“Overall, I feel like I’m having really good at-bats,” said Rizzo, who is working with his third hitting coach in as many years in John Mallee. “We’ve had a good relationship so far and it’s really easy to go in the cage every day.”
But no home runs? Matt Szczur, who hit one in 116 games at Triple-A Iowa last year, has taken advantage of the desert air and hit three this spring.
“I haven’t hit a homer in two years in Spring Training,” Rizzo said, apparently forgetting the pair he hit last year. “It’s just not in my cards. All I care about is I’m seeing the ball real well.”
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs head into Wednesday’s game against the Dodgers still winless in Cactus League play. Does winning matter now?
“It is Spring Training, yes. Does it matter if we lost? No,” Anthony Rizzo said Wednesday. “We should be winning. It doesn’t matter how you win or lose, you want to win at the end of the day. Granted there’s a lot of moving factors but it’s the same all around. it’s still super early.”
However, the Cubs have committed seven errors in the last two games and it hasn’t been pretty.
“It’s something we need to clean up and come April 5, we need to play perfect baseball,” Rizzo said. “If we lose playing perfect baseball, OK. But if we lose being sloppy like we have in the past, that’s not OK. That’s why you say you need to do the little things every day as far as how we catch a fly ball, how we field a ground ball, how we make our throws, the footwork. All those little things pay off in the long run.”
New manager Joe Maddon has said he senses players might be trying to impress him.
“There’s a lot of hype as well,” Rizzo said. “It’s a couple weeks before we start worrying about that.”
— Carrie Muskat
What will Joe Maddon do as the new Cubs manager? Fans will get their first look when Maddon and the Cubs open Cactus League play Thursday with split squad games, including a home contest at newly named Sloan Park against their new neighbors, the Athletics.
The Cubs also will play the Giants in Scottsdale on Thursday. Travis Wood and Jacob Turner, both vying for a spot in the rotation, will start against the A’s and Giants, respectively. Oakland moved into the Cubs’ former Spring Training Fitch Park complex in Mesa.
For Starlin Castro, Thursday means the first time he’ll be on the field since he sprained his left ankle Sept. 2, ending the 2014 season early.
“I’m ready,” Castro said. “I’m excited because I didn’t finish the season playing and I’ve had a long time that I didn’t play a game. I feel real excited for the first game.”
The Cubs’ lineups were not posted in the clubhouse but Maddon did say Anthony Rizzo would bat second against the Athletics. Rizzo has hit there in five games in his young career, Aug. 21-25, 2013. In his first game in that spot against the Nationals, he went 3-for-4 with two home runs. He followed that with an 0-for-6 game.
Don’t read much into the batting order this spring.
“Honestly, I just want to try guys in different slots, especially in split squad situation, it’s really different,” Maddon said. “You’ll see them in different spots the whole camp.”
Maddon said Dexter Fowler, Starlin Castro, Miguel Montero and Javier Baez would also play in Mesa.
* Thursday’s home opener also marks the beginning of a season of tributes to Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, who passed away in January, one week shy of his 84th birthday. The Cubs will wear a commemorative No. 14 patch on both their home and away jerseys. On Thursday, the Cubs will wear hats with No. 14 on them to honor Mr. Cub for both split squad games.
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs didn’t need to wrap Anthony Rizzo or Starlin Castro in bubble wrap Wednesday, the first day Cubs batters faced live pitching. One can’t blame Chicago sports fans for being a little nervous after injuries to Derrick Rose of the Bulls and Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks.
“I’m going to be tip-toeing today,” Rizzo jokingly said before Wednesday’s workout. “[The injuries are] unfortunate, especially because their season is coming down to the stretch. I’m pretty sure they have enough depth to hold on.”
Rizzo isn’t going to alter his approach.
“I play the game the same whether I’m on a Little League field and there are 20 people or millions of people watching,” Rizzo said. “It’s the same game. You just have to stay in the moment and that’s all we need to do.”
And he’s not worried about being hurt.
“You can’t play scared and you can’t be scared to go out,” Rizzo said. “If you think about getting hurt, you’ll get hurt. If you just play fearless and relentlessly, usually good things happen. Injuries are unfortunate and a lot of people make good careers, Hall of Fame careers, from someone else getting hurt. It’s obviously not a good thing but injuries are going to happen no matter what sport you’re in.”
— Carrie Muskat
In January, Anthony Rizzo predicted the Cubs would win the National League Central. He’s heard from his Cubs teammates since his statement.
“They were all wondering if I was going to say — ‘What are we going to finish, in fourth place?'” Rizzo said Thursday. “Everyone’s really excited and it’s good. We’re coming in here and we’re preparing to win and the biggest thing is to get everyone pulling for each other, become one unit, one team.
“We all have to pull for each other, from the first man to the 25th man,” he said. “Everyone will be able to be a hero every single day on our team. When someone is in that position to succeed, we all have to be pulling for him.”
Rizzo was one of the early bird arrivals. Thursday was report date for pitchers and catchers; position players don’t have to be in Arizona until Tuesday.
“From the convention to the first few days here, yes, everyone’s more upbeat,” Rizzo said. “Then again, it’s the first few days of Spring Training and everyone all across the league is upbeat. The expectations are set at a higher bar this year and we’re all excited for it.”
— Carrie Muskat