With a week before the first Cactus League game of the spring, the Cubs got their work in at Cubs Park on Thursday. Live batting practice continued with pitchers such as Edwin Jackson, Neil Ramirez, Jason Hammel, Wesley Wright, Jonathan Sanchez, Dallas Beeler, Kyle Hendricks, Eric Jokisch, Blake Parker and Carlos Pimentel taking the hill.
Mike Olt participated in his first live batting practice session of the spring and it reportedly went very well. The Cubs are hoping that Mike Olt will be able to get his career back on track and that he might be able to grab the starting third base job. Olt looked good in the cage during last month’s rookie camp and Jason McLeod has said the team would know exactly where Olt stood once he faced live pitching for the first time this spring.
Mike Olt faced Neil Ramirez Thursday and told Carrie Muskat afterwards he saw the ball “really well.” Olt was not sure if he was going to swing or not at first according to the report, but he said he “felt comfortable and saw the ball really well, took a couple of swings” and he feels like he is ahead of schedule. Olt is taking allergy medication which is also helping with his vision issues.
Five Cubs’ prospects were involved in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Jan. 6. Frandy De La Rosa was driving the Toyota SUV when it crashed and caught fire. De La Rosa, Jose Zapata, Jefferson Mejia, Kevin Encarnacion and a fifth player were hospitalized at the time. When Carrie Muskat provided an update on the players ten days later, Encarnacion and Zapata were still in the hospital and both players were “doing well.”
Kari Lake of FOX 10 in Phoenix sent the CCO a link to her report about Encarnacion. And he is still in the hospital trying to recover from serious injuries that has put his baseball career on hold.
Encarnacion is recovering at the Arizona Burn Center at Maricopa Center with burns and injuries to his throwing arm, torso and foot.
According to Lake’s report, Encarnacion was trapped in the burning SUV and 30 seconds after he was pulled out the vehicle exploded. Encarnacion is thankful to be alive. The extent of the damage to his throwing arm is unknown at this point. Encarnacion said in the interview he will be able to play again someday.
The Cubs flew Encarnacion from the Dominican Republic to the Arizona Burn Center so he could receive the best treatment possible.
Cubs TV Schedule
The Cubs released their broadcast schedule for the upcoming season Thursday. WGN TV, as previously announced, will televise the opener on March 31 in Pittsburgh. WGN will also carry the game on April 23 against the Diamondbacks. The Cubs will recognize Wrigley Field turning 100 years old on that Wednesday afternoon.
WGN will produce 83 games this season that includes four Spring Training games. WGN will broadcast 71 regular season games and eight more WGN produced broadcasts will be aired on WCIU.
The MLB Network announced Thursday the addition of three Cubs’ Spring Training games to its schedule … March 12 against the Mariners in Peoria, March 18 against the Rangers from Cubs Park in Mesa and March 19 against the Rockies in Scottsdale at Salt River Fields.
Unless the Cubs and WGN work out a new deal, the 2014 season will be the teams last season on WGN. Cubs’ games have been seen on Channel 9 since 1948.
Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies will call the games on the TV side for the second year, while Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer will call the action on 720 WGN.
According to a report from Carrie Muskat, Jake Arrieta likely will not be ready to pitch by Opening Day. Arrieta has not thrown off a mound yet. Jesse Rogers reported earlier in the week that Arrieta was expecting to be on a mound by Friday … so there should be clarity on the Arrieta front in the next 24 hours. If he is able to throw off a mound Friday and does not have any setbacks, there is a good chance he could be ready by the end of March and on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster.
Cubs vs. Cubs – Hendricks vs. Jokisch
The Cubs will face the Cubs on Wednesday (Feb. 26) at Cubs Park. The annual intrasquad game will take place prior to the Cubs first Cactus League game the next day. Reports last week indicated Kyle Hendricks would square off against Eric Jokisch … at least for an inning or two.
And speaking of Kyle Hendricks, he threw his first live BP on Thursday and faced Anthony Rizzo, Welington Castillo and Starlin Castro.
News, Notes and Rumors
Anthony Rizzo is looking to be consistent in his second full season at the big league level. Rizzo told ESPN Chicago that he wants to “be consistent everyday” on offense and defense. Rizzo also thinks being in the same clubhouse for the third straight season and not having any distractions this spring, like the WBC, will help him this year.
Jason Hammel threw the ball well Thursday according to a report from Carrie Muskat. Hammel threw all of his pitches and received “great tips” from Chris Bosio. Hammel worked with George Kottaras during his session and said the two were on the same page.
According to a report from ESPN Chicago, Carlos Villanueva is eyeing a turnaround for the Cubs this season. Villanueva said “everybody is sick” of the “lovable losers” tag and is “tired of being a spoiler.” Villanueva, along with Nate Schierholtz and Jose Veras, will likely be part of the Cubs mid-summer sell-off.
Jose Veras told Comcast SportsNet he is ready to pitch the ninth inning at Wrigley Field. Veras closed games for the Astros last year before he was traded to Detroit. Veras and Wesley Wright were teammates in Houston last year and figure to fill two spots in the Cubs’ seven-man pen when the season starts.
The Blue Jays are still looking for a “long term answer” for their pitching staff according to Shi Davidi. The Blue Jays are believed to still be interested in Jeff Samardzija but have yet to be willing to pay the Cubs asking price … which is rumored to include both Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman.
Aledmys Diaz and Odrisamer Despaigne reportedly worked out for the Yankees on Thursday. Jesse Sanchez reported both players are still in Florida. Diaz became eligible to sign with a big league team on Feb. 19 and is drawing a lot of attention. Sanchez expects him to sign soon but there are too many teams in the mix right now for him to guess which team would land the shortstop. The Cardinals are very interested in signing Diaz. And Shi Davidi reported the Blue Jays held a private workout for Diaz last week. Sanchez reported Thursday that Despaigne will return to Arizona next week for an open showcase at the Reds and Indians facility in Goodyear.
Rick Renteria has not named Jeff Samardzija his Opening Day starter yet … but when he does, Samardzija will become the first pitcher to start back-to-back Opening Days at PNC Park.
According to Robert Feder, Steve Stone has agreed to return to The Score after a year on another station … and Todd Hollandsworth has been added to WGN-FM’s lineup. Hollandsworth will host a weekly baseball show on ‘The Game’.
FanGraphs posted its annual report on the best transactions of the off-season.