Pitchers and catchers continued getting their work in Monday while position players rolled in early in advance of Tuesday’s reporting day. According to reports, the second group of pitchers that includes Edwin Jackson, Carlos Villanueva, Jason Hammel, Pedro Strop and Jose Veras completed their second bullpens of the spring with no issues.
Javier Baez was added to the list of early birds to camp when he reported to Cubs Park on Monday. Baez met briefly with the beat writers and admitted to Jesse Rogers having a manager that speaks Spanish will be better for the Latin players.
When asked about when he would be playing at Wrigley, Javier Baez acknowledged he is still young and learning the game. Baez would not say when he is anticipating a call-up to the majors. Baez did say he would do his best at any position the Cubs put him at the spring. The Cubs have said Baez might be exposed to second base and third base during the Cactus League games but he would begin the season as Iowa’s shortstop. Baez knows he must make improvements in the field and cut down on his errors.
Rick Renteria explained why the Cubs are leaving Baez at shortstop to ESPN Chicago. “Shortstops are the most flexible of positions to move … but you never want to remove a shortstop from shortstop. So if we have the luxury of Castro at the Major League level and Baez at Triple-A, why wouldn’t we do that?” Renteria will reportedly meet with Baez to go over the team’s plans for him during camp.
Position players must be in Mesa by Tuesday. The Cubs are not anticipating any delays with the position players reporting on time. The first full squad workout of the spring is Wednesday.
Cubs Don’t Know (Yet) Who’s on Third
One of the many storylines of the spring will be who is on third for the Cubs when the season kicks off in Pittsburgh on March 31. Rick Renteria addressed a possible platoon of Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy last week and reiterated the same Monday.
Right now, Valbuena and Murphy are the favorites to break camp as the Cubs’ main third baseman. Luis Valbuena hit .218/.331/.378 in 108 games last season with 15 doubles, a career-high 12 home runs and a .708 OPS while Donnie Murphy hit .255/.319/.530 with eight doubles, a career-high 11 home runs and a .849 OPS in 46 games.
Several reports indicated during the off-season that the Cubs were hoping Mike Olt would be able to win the third base job in the spring. Olt reportedly looked good during last month’s Rookie Camp and Jason McLeod has said the team will know as soon as Olt starts facing live pitching if he has fully recovered from the concussion and vision issues that derailed his career last year.
The Cubs view Mike Olt as a third baseman according to a report from Comcast SportsNet. But his ability to play outfield and first base might help the team down the road, if needed.
Emilio Bonifacio has played third base (134 games) during his big league career as well. So, the “mix and match” scenario might be how the third base position is filled to start the season. And with that said, the games have not started and Mike Olt has yet to face live pitching.
Rumors surfaced early in the off-season that the Cubs might be working on a long-term extension with Travis Wood. But soon after those rumors surfaced, they went away.
Travis Wood addressed those reports Monday with the Tribune. Wood said he would “love to stay” with the Cubs. But there was not a lot of communication with his agent about a long-term deal. Wood and the Cubs agreed to a one-year contract to avoid arbitration. Wood remains under the team’s control through the 2016 season.
WGN FM – The Game
As Robert Feder reported last week would happen, WGN FM launched Monday after a lease was worked out for the 87.7 FM frequency through September of 2015. Jimmy de Castro has been looking for a way to expand WGN and now has a FM signal with more bandwidth than WGN 720 AM. According to Robert Feder, it has “been more than 60 years since WGN operated its own FM sister station.”
WGN FM, or ‘The Game’, went on the air Monday afternoon and the station will be the new home of David Kaplan, David Haugh, Jordan Bernfield, Alex Quigley, Harry Teinowitz, Spike Manton and Mark Carmen. Kaplan’s long running show on 720 WGN will no longer be on the air.
The call letters will change to WGWG at some point this week according to Robert Feder. And for those with smartphones, WGN FM can be heard through the TuneIn Radio App for now.
It has not been reported yet how the addition of WGN FM will or will not affect the Cubs relationship with their long-time radio partner. The Cubs are expected to have a new radio contract in place by Opening Day and are believed to still be talking to WGN about extending their partnership.
Gordon Wittenmyer caught up with Dale Sveum, who maintains he was blindsided by his firing last fall. Wittenmyer reported Sveum “was caught off guard” when the reports surfaced during the trip to Milwaukee last year that the coaching staff was being evaluated. Sveum thought everyone was on the same page until that point. Sveum is now a coach on Ned Yost’s staff in Kansas City.
Wittenmyer reported Sveum and Theo Epstein “remain on good terms” and Sveum respects his former boss. In fact the two are supposed to meet for lunch at some point during Spring Training.
According to the report, Wittenmyer’s sources indicated “Crane Kenney’s side of the operation began making a strong play for Joe Girardi well before the end of the season.” According to Wittenmyer, “they boasted they would be able to land” Girardi and through “back channels” the Cubs offered Girardi a “bigger deal” than the one he received from the Yankees.
Wittenmyer asked Sveum if he thought the possibility of Joe Girardi being available had anything to do with his firing. Sveum does not think so.
News and Notes
Patrick Mooney provided more details from Brett Jackson on his 2013 season. Jackson said Dale Sveum was “always in his corner” and believed in him but at some point Jackson “lost some belief” in himself. Jackson told Mooney he was grateful for Sveum pushing to get him to the majors.
The Cubs are monitoring Welington Castillo closely during camp to make sure everything is okay with his knee. And according to Bruce Levine, Castillo reported to camp in shape and with an extra ten pounds of muscle.
And speaking of Welington Castillo, Jeff Samardzija told the Tribune he works well with Castillo.
Jeff Samardzija reacted to the announcement Ryan Dempster made Sunday. Samardzija said he was “totally blindsided” and feels his former teammate will be back in 2015.
ESPN Chicago posted answers to a lot of questions in its mailbag feature with Kyle Hendricks.
Bernie Pleskoff posted a report on the key position players for each NL team. For the Cubs, Pleskoff sees Starlin Castro as “a crucial component of the Cubs until Javier Baez is ready to take on a full time role.” Pleskoff explained it would really help if Castro hits “and plays with energy.”
Before camp began, photos surfaced of basketball goals at Cubs Park. Those goals have been replaced with a ping pong table according to ESPN Chicago.
And for those with an ESPN subscription, Matt Williams is using an air horn.