Roster Moves, Rizzo on the Radio and Other Cubs News and Notes

The Cubs off-season roster shuffle continued on Monday when the front office basically swapped a young right-handed pitcher with upside for another young right-handed pitcher with upside.

The Cubs claimed RHP Brett Marshall off waivers from the New York Yankees. Marshall was designated for assignment on Dec. 19 to make room on the 40-man roster for Carlos Beltran. The Cubs had room on the 40-man roster for Marshall after the Orioles claimed RHP Liam Hendriks off waivers from the Cubs.

Brett Marshall turns 24 years old in March and has two minor league options left. Baseball America ranked Marshall the sixth best prospect in the Yankees’ system prior to last season and he made his big league debut with the Bronx Bombers last May. Marshall had Tommy John surgery in 2009 and did not miss a start after he returned from the surgery. Baseball America indicated Marshall’s change-up (77-80 mph) was the best in the Yankees’ system and he also throws a fastball (89-94 mph), slider (mid-80s) and a curveball. Marshall’s changeup made him more effective against lefties than righties in the minors. Marshall keeps the ball down and induces groundball outs. Marshall has picked up 114 (2011), 120 (2012) and 120 (2013) strikeouts the last three seasons. Several reports have projected Marshall as a back-of-the rotation starter in a big league rotation. It is unclear at this point if the Cubs view Marshall as a starter or a reliever.

The Cubs decided to place Liam Hendriks on waivers and risk losing him to another team. The Orioles claimed Hendriks and view him as rotation depth. Hendriks has a big upside and he’s shown flashes of his ability in the minors. Hendriks has not been able to throw strikes in the majors which led to the Twins designating him for assignment to make room on their roster for Phil Hughes. Hendriks has one minor league option year left.

Both waiver claims were worth a look and it will be interesting to see if Brett Marshall sticks with the Cubs through the winter and reports to camp on Feb. 13.

Anthony Rizzo

Anthony Rizzo joined Kevin Kennedy and Rich Herrera during Hot Stove (MLB Network Radio) on Saturday to discuss his foundation and of course the Chicago Cubs.

The interview began with Anthony Rizzo explaining to Kevin Kennedy and Rich Herrera how well his second annual ‘Walk-Off for Cancer’ event went and how people can find out more about his foundation at Rizzo44.com. Rizzo explained how thankful he is for all of the support his foundation has received. And reminded everyone about his ‘Cook-Off for Cancer’ event that takes place in Chicago during the season.

Kevin Kennedy: Well, good luck with that and we will continue to throw it out there for you. I appreciate you joining us Anthony. We did have a caller that asked about the Cubs and mentioned you. He said they will have a big year next year. You’ve had two, pretty much, full years in the big leagues. Now one main, full year because you played in 160 last year. Touch on the growing process. I remember seeing you in San Diego, because I am out here in L.A. with the Dodgers, when you first came up and there was an adjustment period and of course Jed Hoyer and Theo seem to get you wherever go [laughs] so if they move on I think they are going to have you there too. But hopefully you’ll land and stay in Chicago forever, but touch on the adjustment period for you in the first couple of years in the big leagues.

Anthony Rizzo: Well, I think after San Diego there was a lot of adjustments and maybe a lot of doubt as well just because it was such a rough time. I’ve never really failed that bad in baseball. Then when I got called up with the Cubs I had some success and then last year having the full season under my belt I think is great for me. It was the first time I’ve ever had a full season at any level, was last year. So, to get through that and be healthy playing 160 games is good for me. Now I think I am a little more prepared and know what to expect this year this time around.

Rich Herrera: Anthony Rizzo joining us right now from the Chicago Cubs on MLB Network Radio.

RH: Let’s get ready to get down to Phoenix. Let’s get ready to get down to Spring Training. Rick Renteria, the new skipper in Chicago. You know him from San Diego. Tell us what you expect from him and maybe introduce to all of the Cubs’ fans that are listening to us what they are going to expect from this Cubs’ team next year.

AR: I mean, Ricky is a great guy. I know that. He was the bench coach in San Diego and he was awesome. He was really positive all of the time and that is what we need, especially being a young club like we are. He is going to bring energy to the park every day and I think a lot of the players are going to feed off of that. So, we are going to be a lot better I think than last year and a lot more improved, more mentally improved as well. No more mental lapses. I know none of us are going to put up with that this year. I think Ricky will bring it every day and will be a great manager and a great fit for us.

KK: You know we had a caller earlier obviously asking earlier about the Cubs too and how long you wait, but he was actually backing Theo because it is going to take some time. When you look through the prospects in the minor leagues, that are up and coming, there is some pretty good prospect pool. Anybody stand out that you’ve played with either in Spring Training or you’ve seen that you can expect in the next year or so for Cubs’ fans to be aware of?

AR: Well, just seeing Javy Baez in Spring Training was pretty impressive …

KK: Shortstop, right?

AR: Yeah, the shortstop. And then hearing about Kris Bryant and hearing about a lot of these kids that are down there is really exciting for us you know. Bring on the reinforcements and hopefully they pan out the way they are supposed to. But we have to worry about the 25 guys that are on the team no matter what and all just become one.

RH: Again, Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs joining us here.

RH: I’ve got … This is kind of a funny question, or an odd question, goofy question, however you want to put it. How tough is it to be the guy who is projected to be the face of the Chicago Cubs because the Cubs fans want to win so bad. They are looking at you and they want you to be great and they want to have a bunch of support for you. Is it odd when everybody has all of these expectations and I’m not even sure they know what a realistic expectation for the Cubs are?

AR: I like to embrace that. It is a challenge. All of us are so competitive on ourselves and so hard on ourselves that we really do not let the outside get in, some guys do. But it is a process and Theo and Jed have done a great job at rebuilding our farm system like they said they were going to do and now we have one of the best, I think, in the minor leagues. So that is always good and when the time is right, it is going to be … They are trying to build a powerhouse for five, ten, 15, 20 years, every year, not for one and done.

KK: Does it bother you when hear Jeff Samardzija’s name out there, not that he is going to be moved, but people would like to have him, teams would like to have him because of the upside. But more than that, for you playing with him, give us what you see when he takes the mound every five days?

AR: Well he’s a competitor, an ultimate competitor. He loves competing. He loves pitching. He loves trying to get guys out. If a guy gets a hit off of him he gives the guy, the hitter, the credit for hitting a good pitch. You know, none of us like hearing trade rumors at all. Especially when the last two years our team has been broken up. So it is somewhat frustrating, but it is also part of the business so you understand it, but none of us like hearing that people having to be traded. We are teammates. We are basically a family throughout the year.

RH: Plus, he’s got some of the best hair in baseball and he is someone you can sit and talk some college football with, right?

AR: Yeah, he busted out the game film a couple of times over the last few years. [laughs] So we love talking about that and he loves baseball as well. He loves talking the game of baseball. He’s a competitor.

[Conversation switched to football and fantasy football. Rizzo is a Miami Dolphins fan and also pulls for the Bears but does not play fantasy football]

KK: Hey, I wanted to ask you, getting back to you, on the hitting side. I wanted to ask you that when I saw you in San Diego versus the next time I saw you in Chicago, there was a hand adjustment that I saw. Can you explain that and the adjustments you have to make in the big leagues? I clearly believe I saw your hands lower, right? A lot lower than they were in San Diego.

AR: Yeah, I lowered them …

KK: How did that come about?

AR: I think just naturally. I really don’t know how that got that high to be honest in San Diego, but they did. After taking some time off from that season and going back to hitting again, my hands are just naturally lower. After a season you get to digest what happened and what you were doing well and what you weren’t doing well. After that tough stint with San Diego I wasn’t hitting the fastball at all. I wasn’t even touching it so I knew I had to be on top of the fastball and hit the fastball and that was my mindset. That has always been my mindset, no matter what, hit the fastball and let everything else take care of itself.

RH: Anthony Rizzo joining us here from the Chicago Cubs. A couple of more questions before we let you go and we appreciate you taking time, especially during the holidays. So, for you what have you wanted to work on? What have you wanted to improve? And what do you want to have ready to go once you guys hit the field for Spring Training?

AR: I just want to be better all around. I want to be better defensively. I want to be better offensively in every aspect. I want to be the hardest out on the team, every at bat. I want to make that pitcher have to really work to get me out, if he is going to get me out. Put the bat on the ball every time where the pitcher knows when I am coming up that it’s going to be a tough out and it’s going to be a tough at bat for him. So personally that is what I want to work on. And then overall, the team, we just got to really come together as one and we can’t make any mental mistakes. I think that is where the fans get a little upset is if we are making mental mistakes. But we are going to go out and play hard every day and let the rest take care of itself.

KK: I want to ask you one more, just on that. Basically with the new manager, Rick Renteria, who you know and played for before, if there is one thing he will bring to the table that stands out for you, what will make the difference? Why will he make the difference in Chicago for you guys?

AR: I think the positive energy. Just being so positive all of the time. He really is. He brings a lot of energy to the park and we are young. He will never let us take a day off, take a rep off. So, I think that will be good for us. And he will never let us take a pitch off either. That is what we all need. Sometimes you will take a pitch or two off and you have to get on each other to get going again. But that is what the players are there for too to kind of police each other and Ricky will be there to guide us.

The interview wrapped with a brief discussion about the upcoming Christmas holiday.

Masahiro Tanaka

According to a report from Japan on Monday night, the Rakuten Golden Eagles could announce whether or not they will be posting Masahiro Tanaka on Tuesday. The report pointed to Rakuten posting Tanaka, but again, a decision has not been made.

Once Rakuten announces their decision on posting Tanaka, the dominoes should fall on free agent starters such as Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. Plus, the Tanaka decision could be holding up the Yankees going after Grant Balfour according to Andrew Marchand.

News and Notes

Carrie Muskat posted an excellent report on what motivates Javier Baez, and it’s his sister Noely … this is a must read.

Jeff Samardzija spent Monday at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. And handed out goodies according to Carrie Muskat.

Those that have not read or heard what happened in Baltimore in regards to Grant Balfour should read Ken Rosenthal’s report: Balfour fiasco part of troubling pattern for Orioles

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Quote of the Day

"From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life." – Arthur Ashe