Countdown to Cubs Cactus League Openers: 6 days
The first week of Spring Training is in the books and today is the last Friday without a Cubs game until October. Based on the various reports the Cubs had another good day of practice Thursday as the players prepare for the Cactus League openers next week.
Joe Maddon is all about his team respecting the game. And his ‘Respect 90’ slogan was waiting for the players on Field 1.
Maddon tweeted in December that he would “make a daily push for our player to respect that distance, run hard for 90 feel and the respect will come back to you.” On Thursday, Maddon told the beat writers, “If we do respect 90 feet every day, a lot of good things are going to happen here.”
According to Patrick Mooney, the ‘Respect 90’ logo that was painted on the practice field will soon “be copied throughout the complex.”
Joe Maddon explained after practice that he planned on using the same slogan with the Rays this season. Maddon knows it’s important for the players to know “whatever you put out there will come back to you.” Maddon further explained, “If you give respect, you’re going to get respect in return. That’s the message … and the only message … I want to get out of that. If you really believe that and live by that, a lot of things will come your way. And on the baseball field, a lot of good things will come your way.”
Joe Maddon was very happy with the work the grounds crew did and said they “nailed it.”
Javier Baez may be penciled in to the Cubs’ everyday second baseman’s job, but he’s going to have to show he’s ready for the majors this spring.
The front office promoted him last year despite early season struggles at Triple-A Iowa after he did not make the big league team out of Spring Training. Baez adjusted like he has in the past after working with Brian Harper and Manny Ramirez.
When Baez made contact last year the ball seemingly went a mile and in a hurry. The problem was the more than 40 percent strikeout rate (95 strikeouts in 229 plate appearances) he ended up with after his first taste of the big leagues.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer said last month that Baez will have to show he can make enough contact to stay in the majors. Baez worked with new hitting coaches John Mallee and Eric Hinske this winter, found mechanical issues and he worked to apply the adjustments in Puerto Rico before the Cubs shut him down for the winter.
Javier Baez reported to camp 25 pounds lighter than this time last year after losing 15 pounds in the off-season.
Joe Maddon spent a weekend in Puerto Rico watching Baez play and setting the foundation for the relationship with the 22-year old. Baez told the beat writers it meant a lot to him for Maddon to show he cared that much about him. Maddon’s message to Baez at the time was to smile and remember to have fun.
Javier Baez has taken grounders at second base and is expected to see time at shortstop and third base this spring. It’s important for Baez to show the Cubs brass early in the spring games that he’s applied the mechanical and approach changes that he worked on this off-season.
David Ross signed a two-year contract with the Cubs to win ballgames and to help provide veteran leadership to a young clubhouse. And Ross has already noticed the impact talent on the roster.
David Ross told Nick Cafardo he questioned if he belonged with the Cubs after seeing some of the guys hit. Ross said that he’s “never seen so many promising young hitters on one team in all of the organizations he’s played for.”
Ross explained to Cafardo that Kris Bryant appeared to pop up a ball and it landed against the fence and he said it’s incredible to watch Javier Baez hit. At the time he spoke with Cafardo, Ross hadn’t seen Jorge Soler take batting practice but he was told what Soler is capable of at the plate.
David Ross is aware it’s “going to take time for the young hitters to mature” but “it’s going to be fun to watch the process.”
Joe Maddon told Ross the Cubs are “the spot to be in now” and he believes that now as well. Ross said, “This is one of the places to be in Major League Baseball right now.”
David Ross and Jon Lester have picked up where they left off in Boston according to the report. Ross and Lester feel the Cubs are going to win, especially after seeing the talent on the practice fields.
Joe Maddon is not opposed to David Ross being Jon Lester’s personal catcher. Maddon told Cafardo that David Price and Jose Molina had that type of relationship in Tampa and it worked. Maddon has been impressed with Ross and pointed out how important it is for a team to have a good backup quarterback.
David Ross was experimenting with different helmet styles last week according to a report from Carrie Muskat. Ross switched to the traditional catcher’s mask and helmet last year and he said he didn’t throw as well as he did wearing the hockey-style mask. The hockey-style mask helps him with his direction. Ross is having a helmet produced that has more padding and he had not decided which style helmet he was going to use after three days catching bullpens.
Gordon Wittenmyer asked Gary Jones and Padres’ manager Bud Black about Rick Renteria. The Cubs’ former skipper who was fired in October to make room for Joe Maddon has not talked publicly about his dismissal.
The Cubs are paying Renteria for the next two years and he is taking the year off despite offers to from teams to join their organization.
Gary Jones, who Renteria brought in last year, stayed on with the team and told Wittenmyer that he thinks Renteria is in “a good place.” Renteria obviously did not like the decision the Cubs made but understands it.
Bud Black would like Renteria to return to the Padres in “whatever extent he wants to help out.” Black has asked Renteria to come out to the Padres facility in Peoria but he’s not taken Black up on the invitation. Black said Renteria “seems to be in a good frame of mind.” Black indicated that Renteria has been going back and forth from his home in San Diego to Texas “dealing with health issues with family.”
Joe Maddon reached out to Renteria, as he said he would. According to the report, Maddon has not heard back from Renteria.
Spring Training Notes
- Jon Lester is scheduled to throw his first live BP on Friday. Lester is part of the group that includes Corey Black, Pierce Johnson, Hector Rondon, Zac Rosscup, Brian Schlitter, Pedro Strop and Drake Britton.
- And Javier Baez, Mike Olt and Jorge Soler are scheduled to take BP on Friday against the pitching group that includes Jon Lester.
- Joe Maddon was pleased with the energy and execution during bunt drills Thursday according to a report from Carrie Muskat.
- Joe Maddon told the beat writers he doesn’t want his players to make the first out of an inning at home plate. Maddon doesn’t believe in never making the first or third out at third base. That’s not part of his book because he threw it out.
- Kris Bryant hit a pair of long home runs during Thursday’s BP, one to left and one to left center. And Bryant caught Kyle Schwarber’s attention. Kyle Schwarber told Jesse Rogers now he understands why he hit so many home runs last year while hitting for a high average.
- According to ESPN Chicago, Joe Maddon’s humor was on display Thursday with TV talk.
News, Notes and Rumors
Tommy La Stella started taking grounders and learning how to play third base when the Cubs acquired him in November. La Stella has not played a position other than second base in pro ball. La Stella is adjusting to the new position and told Carrie Muskat that he feels very comfortable at third base.
Kris Bryant is one of the position players to watch this spring according to Jim Bowden.
The Diamondbacks signed former Cubs infielder Cody Ransom to a minor league contract. Ransom is in Arizona’s big league camp on a non-roster invite.
The Brewers get the award for horrible contract to an aging reliever … Milwaukee signed Francisco Rodriguez to a two-year deal that includes a club option for a third year and deferred money. Rodriguez will be paid $3.5 million this season, $5.5 million in 2016 with $4 million deferred and the club option is worth $6 million.
And with the Brewers no longer in need of Jonathan Papelbon, the Blue Jays are interested in him. And Papelbon said he would possibly waive his no-trade rights to go to Toronto if the Phillies approached him. The Jays are one of the teams Papelbon can block a trade to.
Koyie Hill is among the catchers in camp with the Phillies and he could play his way onto their roster. Even with all of the catching depth in system, the Phillies are looking for top catching talent in a deal for Cole Hamels according to a report from Jim Salisbury.
Mike Matheny would like to see Matt Adams bunt more in order to beat the shifts … like Anthony Rizzo did to the Cardinals.
SiriusXM Radio (MLB Network Radio) announced its 2015 Spring Training Tour schedule on Thursday … and Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette will be in Cubs camp on March 17.
Paul Sullivan asked if Kris Bryant and Carlos Rodon should start the season in the majors.
This Day In Cubstory
2006 – Cubs signed free agent Brian Boehringer
1977 – Craig Monroe, born
1969 – Willie Banks, born
1968 – Matt Stairs, born
1953 – Ron Hassey, born
1937 – Carl Warwick, born
1933 – Sammy Taylor, born
1906 – Leroy Herrmann, born
1904 – Bud Teachout, born