As the last few position players made their way to camp on Saturday ahead of the first full squad workout on Sunday, Dale Sveum announced Travis Wood will start the Cubs Cactus League opener against an Angels split squad team in Tempe on Saturday. Jeff Samardzija will start the home opener against the Giants in seven days.
The Cubs will play two intrasquad games, one on Thursday and the other on Friday at HoHoKam Park leading up to the exhibition opener on Saturday. Chris Rusin, Cory Wade, Trey McNutt, Nick Struck, Rob Whitenack and Rafael Dolis are scheduled to pitch in Thursday’s contest while Brooks Raley, Drew Carpenter, Hector Rondon, Dayan Diaz, Alberto Cabrera, Michael Bowden, Blake Parker and Jensen Lewis are slated for Friday.
Dale Sveum also addressed the Ian Stewart situation and clarified that the third base job is not his to lose but his to win … and Luis Valbuena told the Sun-Times he is not taking anything for granted.
After practice, the 2013 bunting tournament got underway. And while the focus was on Theo Epstein beating Jed Hoyer, the Cubs assistant for video and scouting, Nate Helm, beat out 15 other front office and clubhouse personnel to advance to the field of 64 and will square off against the players in the tournament.
Tom Ricketts, Theo Epstein and Dale Sveum will address the team prior to Sunday’s first full squad workout and reportedly Dale Sveum will not mention last season.
All of the players reported to camp on time prior to Saturday night’s deadline … let the practices begin.
Jed Hoyer on ESPN 1000
Jed Hoyer joined Bruce Levine and Fred Huebner at the bottom of the first hour during Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000) on Saturday morning.
Jed Hoyer addressed Scott Baker’s status and where he is in his recovery from last April’s Tommy John surgery. Hoyer thinks that Baker is still getting his legs under him and they are not going to put a date on when he will be ready to pitch. Hoyer pointed out that Baker feels great and they are confident he will be ready soon. They do not want to rush him back and would rather him miss starts at the beginning of the year than to have lingering problems that causes him to miss time later in the season.
Scott Feldman signed with the Cubs with the promise he would be a starter. Hoyer said it should have come as no surprise that Dale Sveum said he would begin the year as the Cubs’ fourth starter. Hoyer added that the “announcement” was common sense. As for where Carlos Villanueva and Travis Wood fits in, Hoyer pointed out it is early in camp, things always pop up and everything has a way of working itself out.
On how important the renovations to Wrigley Field are to the team, Hoyer said that players love playing for the Cubs and in front of the fans but that cannot rely on that forever. It is very important to improve the facilities at Wrigley Field. While Wrigley is a museum and has a great bowl in which to watch a game, behind the scenes it is well below standards and Hoyer cannot imagine a good reason as to why the Chicago Cubs cannot have A-plus facilities. The Cubs are looking forward to being able to tie the new facility in the Dominican with the new facility in Mesa to the Wrigley Field restoration project. Hoyer said that the renovation project should have been done at least 20 years ago and it is time to catch up.
The Cubs are excited about the young players in the system and those that will be in big league camp this spring. Hoyer made a point to say that a team never wants to take an eye off the present but it will be good seeing the young guys (Jorge Soler and Javier Baez) in camp. The Cubs do feel that getting at least 500 at bats at the Triple-A level is essential to the development of a player. Hoyer is not willing to say there will never be an exception but the organization believes that is the final step in a player’s development.
Jed Hoyer was asked about the Cubs interest in Michael Bourn and Hoyer said there was dialogue with Scott Boras about possibly signing Bourn but the dialogue did not get that serious or “far down the road”. The draft pick compensation tied to Bourn was a strong consideration as to why they decided not to sign him. Hoyer said the Cubs are not adverse to give up a draft pick to sign a free agent but the draft pick compensation did have an impact on why they did not sign the last guys on the free agent market.
The Cubs have to be open-minded on acquiring young talent if a team comes to them with the right deal for one of the veteran players. Bruce Levine asked about Carlos Marmol’s future with the team and if they would consider trading him to a team like the A’s … if they asked. Hoyer would not comment directly about Marmol but they would make a trade that involved one of their veterans if there was a chance to get young prospects in return.
Hoyer first saw Jorge Soler in the Dominican Republic and he is a very exciting young player that is very strong with excellent bat speed. Hoyer pointed out that Soler has work to do and admitted that his BP on Friday was impressive but that Javier Baez will also probably put on a show in BP on Saturday. Hoyer said it is important to temper the excitement with the young guys, especially after just watching them in BP.
On his working relationship with Theo Epstein, Hoyer admitted that on most days they have respectful disagreements and that happens all of the time. The two are in complete agreement and locked in as to how they want to build the organization. Hoyer and Epstein have worked so long together that there is complete trust but the two do disagree. Hoyer thinks there will be trash talking when the two square off in the bunting tournament based on what has happened in the past when they have played pickup basketball or football.
Bob Brenly and Cubs TV Contracts
Bob Brenly was at Fitch Park on Saturday to watch his son, Michael Brenly, who is in big league camp for the second year in a row on a non-roster invite. Brenly spoke with Paul Sullivan and explained how he ended up leaving the Cubs’ booth.
According to the report, Brenly said a snag in the negotiations led to him leaving. He explained that his new contract was done and he even celebrated the new deal with this family. Brenly said the next morning there were issues in his contract and that opened an opportunity for him to talk to the Diamondbacks.
Due to the Cubs’ TV contract with WGN expiring after the 2014 season, WGN and Comcast SportsNet could not guarantee the deal beyond 2014. As previously reported, the Cubs plan to open up the bidding rights after next season. The Cubs are under contract through the 2019 season with Comcast SportsNet.
Jim Deshaies signed a four-year contract to replace Brenly and his deal runs through the 2016 season … and Len Kasper is also under contract through the 2016 season.
According to a report from Baseball America, the Cubs signed utility man Tim Torres to a minor league contract. The 29-year old switch hitting super-sub played in 101 games in the Rockies system last year and posted a .226/.331/.322 line at the Double-A level with 15 doubles and three home runs.
Torres saw a majority of his action in the outfield last year and played games at second, short, third, all three spots in the outfield and even pitched in one game.
Spring Training News Bites
As far as Dale Sveum is concerned, Luis Valbuena has a spot on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster according to a report from the Sun-Times. Sveum said he will see playing time at several positions this spring.
Dale Sveum will no longer wear No. 33 … he gave it to Carlos Villanueva. Sveum will now wear No. 4. Dioner Navarro was issued No. 4 before camp began and will apparently wear another number.
Live batting practice begins on Sunday with the Cubs’ hitters getting their first official cuts of camp against the likes of Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, Chris Rusin, Brooks Raley, Nick Struck, Scott Feldman, Kyuji Fujikawa and Carlos Marmol … whoever draws Marmol might want to think twice about stepping in.
Jorge Soler put on another show in BP on Saturday … Dale Sveum was concerned about the cars driving on Center Street when Soler was hitting.
Quote of the day … Brent Lillibridge tweeted, “I’m in the third best shape of my life …”