Countdown to Cubs Cactus League Openers: 5 days
The Cubs completed their third full day of practice Friday. Joe Maddon said there is not an Intrasquad game scheduled and there doesn’t look like there will be a scrimmage between teammates prior to the Cactus League openers on Thursday.
The weather is looking questionable for the next four days. The team will still be able to get work in but not the full on-field practices that are scheduled before the exhibition season begins.
All eyes were on Jon Lester during Friday’s live batting practice session. Lester threw BP for the first time and was rather impressive according to the numerous reports.
Jorge Soler, Anthony Rizzo, Chris Denorfia and Javier Baez were among the group that hit off Lester. After batting practice, Baez told the beat writers that Lester’s stuff was nasty and admitted he told Lester that he would rather play defense behind him than try to hit off him.
Joe Maddon told the media after practice he thought Lester “looked really good” and David Ross said Lester’s fastball was crisp. Lester threw mainly fastballs but mixed in a cutter and a few off-speed pitches according to ESPN Chicago.
Maddon was impressed with the way Lester and Ross worked together. Maddon picked up on the chemistry and the way they trust each other. Maddon has not decided how he will use Ross. Contrary to reports, Maddon didn’t view Ross as Lester’s personal catcher … at least not before Friday.
According to the report from ESPN Chicago, Maddon told the beat writers, “On the surface it looks like you want David to catch Jon. Sometimes the comfort between the pitcher and catcher, and the defensive component, can outweigh the offensive side of it, too. I haven’t wrapped my mind totally around it.”
- Full Report from ESPN Chicago (1)
- Full Report from ESPN Chicago (2)
- Full Report from Carrie Muskat
- Jon Lester Photo – Brian Cassella – @briancassella
Spring Training Notes
- Manny Ramirez held court Friday with the Latin players before the morning stretch.
- Javier Baez confirmed to the beat writers one of the adjustments he made to his swing was he lowered his hands. By doing so, Baez said he should be able to get to the ball quicker, make more contact and cut down the strikeouts.
- The tip of C.J. Edwards’ right index finger was wrapped Friday according to Mark Gonzales. As it turns out, C.J. Edwards needs to trim his finger nails. Joe Maddon suggested the young right-hander finds a manicurist.
- Jorge Soler lined one back up the middle Friday that hit Zac Rosscup on the glove hand. Rosscup received brief medical attention and stayed in to finish his throwing session.
- Jason Hammel, Dallas Beeler, Travis Wood, Tsuyoshi Wada, Justin Grimm, Hunter Cervenka, Jorge De Leon and Armando Rivero are among the group of pitchers scheduled to throw Saturday.
- According to Jesse Rogers, Maddon is not ready to announce which pitchers will start the Cactus League openers Thursday. Maddon said he needed a day or two and would not commit to Jon Lester making his Cubs’ debut on Thursday.
Aramis Ramirez told the Brewers’ beat writers Friday that he will likely hang ‘em up after this season. Ramirez is planning on retiring and ending what has been a very good career.
Ramirez is the second best third baseman to play for the Cubs in the last 50 years. While many aspects of the game can be argued, there is no doubt that only Ron Santo was a better third baseman for the Cubs than Ramirez during that span.
In possibly the best trade pulled off by former GM Jim Hendry, Ramirez was acquired from the Pirates in 2003. Ramirez went on to hit .294/.356/.531 in 1124 games over his nine years with the Cubs. Ramirez drove in 806 runs and was nicknamed ‘The RBI Machine’ by Ron Santo. Ramirez launched 239 home runs and was responsible for one of the most memorable regular season homers in the last 15 years … the walk-off, two-run blast in the bottom of the ninth against Francisco Cordero that gave the Cubs a 6-5 victory over the Brewers on June 29, 2007. Lou’s crew went on a run after Ramirez’s homer that ended with a division crown.
Juan Pierre announced Friday he officially retired from baseball.
Pierre played for the Cubs for one year, the 2006 season that started out in a big way for the Cubs after sweeping the Cardinals at Wrigley Field but unfortunately went south when Rafael Furcal ran into Derrek Lee in Los Angeles and broke his wrist.
In 162 games, Pierre batted .292/.330/.388 for Dusty Baker with 32 doubles, 13 triples and three home runs for a .717 OPS. Pierre swiped 58 bases and was caught 20 times. Pierre is the only player to ever steal 50 bases for both the Cubs and White Sox.
Juan Pierre did not play last year and finished with a .295/.343/.361 career line that included 255 doubles and 614 stolen bases. And more importantly by all accounts he was a class act and a hard worker throughout his very good 14-year career.
News, Notes and Rumors
• Jesse Rogers sat down with Kyle Hendricks and asked him several questions. Hendricks answers make it a very good read. And he admitted that he was consumed with being called up at the beginning of last season.
• Dexter Fowler answered a few questions on Twitter for ESPN Chicago. Fowler wears No. 24 because of Ken Griffey Jr. and he doesn’t agree with UZR when it comes to his defense.
• Jake Arrieta has found the right formula for success according to Yahoo Sports.
• LHP Rich Hill signed a minor league contract with the Nationals. Hill received a non-roster invite to Major League Spring Training.
• FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan took a look at the Cubs versus a decade of projections.
• New Twins’ manager and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor is placing a limit on his players using their electronics in the clubhouse according to a report from Hardball Talk.
• Ben Lindbergh asked as baseball’s minors-to-majors jump really gotten harder for hitters.
And last, but not least, Ryne Sandberg set the Phillies’ pitching rotation for the first week of Grapefruit League games. Cliff Lee faces the Astros in Kissimmee on Thursday and Cole Hamels takes on the Yankees in Clearwater on Friday.
This Day In Cubstory
2009 – Cubs signed free agent Corey Koskie
1981 – Cubs traded Dave Kingman to the Mets for Steve Henderson and cash
1930 – Dolan Nichols, born
1885 – Tom Walsh, born
1960 – Bill Long, born