Kris Bryant didn’t expect disco balls, smoke and bright lights after games in the big leagues, but that’s what happens in the Cubs clubhouse after a win.
“Every time we win, it’s like we won a World Series,” Bryant said Wednesday. “There’s disco balls and smoke every where — it’s a lot of fun. It’s something I’ve wanted to be a part of.”
He’d heard about Major League pitching, not Major League partying.
“I didn’t expect it,” Bryant said. “We just put some new lights in here and a new disco ball. I guess it’s against tradition. Usually when you win, you just expect it. Here, we’re celebrating every win. There’s nothing wrong with it.
“Guys here want to have fun, I want to have fun,” he said. “It’s much more fun when you win.”
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer gave manager Joe Maddon and the players his blessing.
“It is hard to win games, there’s no doubt,” Hoyer said. “I like the fact that they have a lot of fun. We have a young team so it adds some new life to it. Joe and Davey [Martinez, bench coach] really encourage it. [Anthony Rizzo] may be the ringleader. It’s a lot of fun and hopefully they’l have a lot of chances to continue it. If it starts to break the budget, I guess it’s a good thing.”
Maddon feels it’s important to celebrate.
“I think the more you celebrate, obviously, there’s that camaraderie component that goes with it and then furthermore you’re looking forward to celebrating again tomorrow night,” Maddon said. “It’s a lot of fun. So I don’t know why other teams don’t do it. They think it’s non-professional; I think it’s very pro. Actually. I’m pro-pro that.”
The loud celebration does let players “cherish the moment,” Maddon said, “because it’s not easy to win a Major League baseball game and to win them 90-plus times is very difficult in the same season.”
Bryant compared it to Little League games when players were rewarded with snacks after each game.
“If we go out there and pretend to be in Little League, we’ll win a lot of ballgames,” Bryant said.
— Carrie Muskat
Miguel Montero and Jorge Soler played dominoes. Anthony Rizzo posted a photo of himself with other 25-year-old-and-under teammates, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Starlin Castro and Soler. Joe Maddon had a little applesauce, some peanuts and a couple pieces of sushi.
The Cubs had plenty of down time Saturday at Great American Ball Park as they waited 4 hours 13 minutes before their game vs. the Reds was postponed because of rain. No make up date was announced. The Cubs return to Cincinnati July 20-22 and Sept. 29-Oct. 1.
The Reds wanted to play because the team was celebrating the 25th anniversary of the 1990 World Series championship squad, and had a sellout crowd at the ballpark.
“I know [the Reds] wanted to get it done for the full house and I totally get it, and I’m not going to denigrate the Reds for doing what they thought was the right thing to do,” Maddon said.
Saturday was the fourth rain delay of the season for the Reds, and all have been at Great American Ball Park. However, Saturday’s delay time nearly equaled the first three, which totaled 4 hours 23 minutes.
“The forecast has been so inconsistent all day,” Maddon said. “There was no way to believe it was not going to rain any more. I was originally told we were going to play at 2 [p.m. ET], and then 3:15 and then 4. I had three start times.”
The Cubs needed a specific start time for Jake Arrieta, who requires 40 minutes to prep. Maddon asked the umpires to at least give them a heads up regarding that, and they did.
“When you don’t have a specific game time, it’s hard to get into that groove,” Maddon said. “I thought the umpires did a great job in the end of trying to put this whole thing together.”
Arrieta did not throw a pitch, although he did share on Twitter that he wasn’t happy about the delay. Maddon said they saw Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani go to the bullpen twice in anticipation of the game starting. Arrieta (2-1, 1.74 ERA) and DeSclafani (2-0, 0.86 ERA) will square off Sunday in the series finale. The forecast calls for sunshine and temps in the low 60s.
This is the Cubs’ second game to be postponed because of rain. They still have to make up an April 7 game against the Cardinals.
At least two hours before the game was called, Maddon walked around left field to check the conditions.
“I’d heard the field drains well and I wanted to see it for myself,” he said. “It’s true. I want to compliment them on their drainage.”
— Carrie Muskat
Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella, sidelined with a strained right side, was to try and swing on Monday to see if he can pinch-hit. If not, the Cubs might need to make a roster move, and any time someone says that around the team, Kris Bryant’s name comes up.
Bryant, who smacked nine home runs and batted .425 in 14 Cactus League games in Spring Training, was 5-for-16 with two home runs and one double in four games at Triple-A Iowa, which opened a four-game series in New Orleans Monday. Could Bryant be up sooner rather than later?
“Maybe. We’ll see,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Monday. “We’ll weigh all the factors. I said during Spring Training that his performance last year and even during Spring Training showed that he’s really close and that we’re probably more likely to get him sooner rather than later.
“[Iowa] just started,” Epstein said. “We’re trying to get [Bryant] into a good rhythm down there. We’ll see. His development is an important factor and the needs of the big league team as well.”
La Stella has not played since April 8, and was not available all weekend against the Rockies. Manager Joe Maddon said they would see how La Stella responded to treatment Monday, and then make a decision.
“We’ll talk about that post game today,” Maddon said. “That’s going to be about him and the [athletic] trainers and relying on their judgement and making their best call.”
— Carrie Muskat
Cubs third baseman Mikt Olt, hit on the right wrist by a pitch Saturday night, said he was available to pinch-hit Sunday and felt relieved that the swelling had gone done.
“I’ll be able to swing it for sure,” Olt said after taking some swings in the cage.
Olt was surprised that his wrist looked so normal after taking an Adam Ottavino pitch off it in the ninth inning.
“Last night, it was swollen, and I woke up this morning and it wasn’t,” Olt said. “That’s a big step in the right direction.”
He received plenty of treatment from what he called the “big word machines” that the Cubs athletic trainers have. Olt joked that he was ready for anything.
“I could probably steal a bag, whatever they need,” he said.
The Cubs bench was shorthanded because infielder Tommy La Stella is sidelined with a strained side, which he felt prior to Friday’s game. Pitcher Travis Wood was listed on the Cubs lineup sheet as a right-handed hitter off the bench. Catcher Welington Castillo has worked out at third base in case they need a backup.
When Olt had to leave Saturday’s game, there was social media buzz that the Cubs would promote top prospect Kris Bryant.
“Not today,” manager Joe Maddon said.
— Carrie Muskat
Edwin Jackson’s first relief appearance of the season went smoothly and the Cubs right-hander said he was willing to pitch on Saturday. The other relievers have welcomed him.
“It’s cool,” Jackson said Saturday. “I’m like an inbetweener. I still chill with the starters, still chill with the bullpen, still chill with all the pitchers. I’m an inbetweener. I’m a bullpen-starter.”
Jackson began Spring Training vying for a spot in the Cubs rotation but Travis Wood got that job. On Friday, Jackson gave up one hit over two innings against the Rockies in his first relief outing.
“He’s been very professional, and then he gets his chance and does really, really well and that tells you how well he’s processed the whole moment,” manager Joe Maddon said of Jackson. “That speaks well for him and for us.”
Who knows? Jackson could get a spot start and extended innings.
“I just have to be ready for whatever situation arises and just stay in the game,” Jackson said. “That’s all you’re trying to do. Just be ready when the phone rings and your name is called regardless of the situation.”
— Carrie Muskat
Troy Tulowitzki hit a two-run double and Justin Morneau smacked a solo home run to lead the Rockies to a 5-1 victory Friday over the Cubs, and improve to 4-0 for the season. Travis Wood took the loss, giving up three runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings. The Cubs had chances, but went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and now rank last in MLB (2-for-25 with RISP).
“We had plenty of opportunities,” manager Joe Maddon said. “They found a way through it. We did not get the big hit, they did.”
In the season opener, a 3-0 loss to the Cardinals, the Cubs went 0-for-13 with RISP. Maddon called it an “industry-wide problem.” Trouble is, the lack of clutch hitting hindered the Cubs last season as they batted .223 with runners in scoring position, 14th in the National League.
“We keep putting ourselves in position and battling and getting good at-bats,” Anthony Rizzo said. “We just have to learn to capitalize more on pitchers and when they’re in trouble, not us. We’re not the ones in trouble at that time, that moment. We had the pitcher on the ropes a few times and didn’t come through. If we keep giving ourselves opportunities, good things will happen.”
* Both the Cubs and Rockies batted the pitcher eighth. It’s the first time two teams have done that in the same game since 2008 (Cardinals vs. Pirates). Were the Rockies copying the Cubs?
“Our whole lives are one big plagiaristic moment,” Maddon said. “It’s how we decipher the information and utilize it ourselves that makes us all unique. It’s really hard to have one unique thought these days that hasn’t been attempted before us.”
* Asked if he’s keeping an eye on Kris Bryant at Triple-A Iowa, Maddon said no.
“I have too much to do here,” Maddon said. “I’ll hear the scuttlebutt during the day. I may ask, ‘Do you have a stat sheet from the Minor League situation so I can look at everybody?’ I get so locked into what I’m doing here and I tell you part of it is this – I was a Minor League grunt for so many years. I really didn’t like when the Major League dudes interfered with what I was doing. … They have no feel of what’s going on. They saw what happened in spring training and that’s all they remember. But when you’re a Minor League manager, coach, rover, you’re with these people on a daily basis.”
* Quote of the day:
“The first week of the season, everybody’s excited the season started. Fans and players as well. There’s nerves and jitters that aren’t there the rest of the year. Everything will get ironed out in the end.” — Cubs pitcher Travis Wood
* Up next: Jason Hammel gets the start against his former team. Hammel has never faced the Rockies, who he pitched for from 2009-11. The game will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet Plus and WBBM Radio.
— Carrie Muskat
We want to give credit where credit is due regarding the hoagie sandwiches now available at Wrigley Field. Even though Joe Maddon can make a terrific hoagie, the one being served at Wrigley is actually not a Maddon family recipe. Give credit to Maddon’s Aunt Geneva and Uncle Carl Mishinski. They created the sandwich served at the Third Base Luncheonette in Hazleton, Pa. The hoagie available at Wrigley will feature the same ingredients — ham, salami, white American cheese, crisp lettuce, sliced tomatoes, spicy peppers and olive oil, served on fresh hoagie roll.
“I’m certain the fans are going to dig them,” Maddon said.
— Carrie Muskat
Joe Maddon can read all the scouting reports the Cubs’ so-called “brainiacs” provide but the manager wants to get his eyes on the National League Central players and his opposing managers quickly.
“I’ve got to learn the National League,” Maddon said. “I don’t know these teams. You look at a scouting report, and when you actually know what this guy looks like visually, it’s a lot easier to understand the scouting report. … I have to understand the National League, I have to understand the Central fast, because we play them so often. I have to understand the other managers and how they think quickly. Those are my challenges.”
He’ll get a good look early. The Cubs play their Central Division opponents in all but six of their first 32 games through May 10. They had seven games against the Cardinals and Pirates in that stretch but lost one game versus St. Louis on Tuesday, when it was postponed because of rain.
* Clutch hitting:
The Cubs finished second in MLB with 48 spring home runs (the Dodgers clubbed 49), but those games were in the desert, which Maddon dubbed “Colorado south.” In April in Chicago, they’ll have to manufacture runs, which was a problem in the season opener as the team went 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
* The kids are all right:
The Cubs’ 25-man active Opening Day roster had a 28.63 average age, second-youngest in the NL and sixth-youngest in MLB, according to STATS Inc. The Rangers’ average age of 27.92 was the youngest in the Majors. The Cubs begin the 2015 season with two rookies on the active roster: outfielders Jorge Soler and Matt Szczur.
* Minor matters:
Four of the Cubs’ Minor League affiliates get underway on Thursday. Triple-A Iowa opens its season at Memphis with Donn Roach slated to start, and will play its first home game April 17 against Oklahoma City. Double-A Tennessee travels to Mississippi to start the season. Class A Myrtle Beach plays host to Wilmington and Class A South Bend entertains Bowling Green on Thursday. Myrtle Beach and South Bend both are new to the Cubs organization.
* Bricks and Ivy:
Cubs players, owners, alumni and management will take part in the annual Bricks and Ivy Ball, Cubs Charities’ primary fundraising event, on Wednesday at Union Station. The ‘80s-themed event includes cocktails, dinner, musical entertainment and a live and silent auction. Cubs Charities programs will be highlighted and Cubs Scholars recipients will be recognized. Last year, the Cubs and Cubs Charities combined to support donations of more than $4.5 million and thousands of autographed items, experiences and tickets to deserving nonprofit organizations.
— Carrie Muskat
* Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams joined Ernie Banks’ sons, Jerry and Joey, as they threw out ceremonial first pitches prior to Sunday’s Cubs game against the Cardinals. Ernie Banks died in late January at the age of 83, and the Cubs showed a montage of some of Mr. Cubs’ career on the new video board.
The Cubs also honored Banks with oversized black and white photos from his career that were stretched over the left and right field bleachers, which are currently under construction. All fans attending Sunday’s game were given No. 14 pins in honor of Banks.
* Jon Lester has maintained that he doesn’t need a personal catcher, but manager Joe Maddon matched up the left-hander with David Ross on Sunday. Lester has a 2.77 ERA when Ross is behind the plate.
“I wanted Jon to go out there more comfortably,” Maddon said.
Miguel Montero, projected as the Cubs starting catcher, is 5-for-17 lifetime against Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright.
“For right now, based on what I saw all camp, regardless of what Jon has said, I think it’s a better way to go on Opening Night right now to have Rossy catch him,” Maddon said.
* Matt Szczur was called into Maddon’s office last Wednesday. Szczur knew the team was making roster moves and wasn’t sure where he fit.
“[Maddon] said, ‘I hate to give this news to a Villanova guy, but you made the team,'” Szczur said Sunday, sitting in the dugout at Wrigley Field, on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster for the first time in his young career.
“It was great, and a really great feeling,” Szczur said. “They told me I earned it, which was an even better feeling. I worked hard this offseason to fine tune it.”
Szczur and Maddon had a friendly wager this spring because their respective schools, Villanova and Lafayette, faced off in the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Villanova crushed Maddon’s school, and the manager had to wear a Wildcats sweatshirt plus get a bottle of wine for Szczur.
“The skip’s a good sport,” Szczur said of Maddon. “He’s trying to get me a Lafayette sweater. I’m waiting for it.”
Szczur was able to get his family to Wrigley Field in time for Sunday’s game against the Cardinals.
* Sunday was Maddon’s first time in the cramped interview room at Wrigley Field.
“I can get claustrophobic in here,” he said.
— Carrie Muskat
* The Cubs may not have a regular third baseman or second baseman, but instead rotate players in that spot. Joe Maddon plans to take advantage of versatility of Tommy La Stella and Arismendy Alcantara.
“I think you’ll see different things happening,” Maddon said. “Part of it is to get everybody involved, part of it is based on information I gather. In the National League, it keeps everybody involved. With the Rays, it was important to not have guys sit on the bench too long.”
* Opening Night starter Jon Lester passed all the tests after Tuesday’s Minor League game, even though the Cubs left-hander wasn’t happy with his outing.
“He felt great,” Maddon said of Lester, who threw 84 pitches over six innings. “I guess he threw some high velocity pitches more consistently and accurately than usual. Of course, he wasn’t completely satisifed with his outing and feels there’s more in the tank, which we all know to be true. Going into Sunday, we’ll keep an open mind.”
Lester will start the season opener against the Cardinals Sunday at Wrigley Field. Maddon expected the lefty to be able to go 95-105 pitches, depending on how difficult the innings are.
* The Cubs will open the season with three catchers, including Welington Castillo, who has been the starter the last two years. Maddon met with Castillo to discuss his role as backup to Miguel Montero and David Ross.
“I told him, I think he’s a Major League catcher, we think he’s a Major League catcher,” Maddon said. “Obviously, it’s going to be more difficult to be slotted in than he’d like to be right now. There’s a lot of opportunity in the latter part of the game, whether it’s pinch-running for somebody else or pinch-hitting, and beyond that getting him some starts.
“Of course, somebody will get injured — it always happens — so be ready,” Maddon said of his message. “He’s still young. He’s the kind of guy I don’t think we want to lose. That’s a premium position to find. You don’t shake a tree and find a good catcher. We have three good catchers here and that’s really nice.”
* When Cubs players checked the daily worksheet, they noticed a long list of things to do Wednesday.
“We posted this extremely painful workout for everybody, sans batting practice,” Maddon said. “They look at all this stuff and see all this defensive work, all this base running, all this different stuff to do and no BP. Then [first base coach Brandon Hyde] went in there and broke the news to them that it was April Fools.”
— Carrie Muskat