Countdown to Cubs Cactus League Openers: 8 days
The first full squad workout takes place for the Chicago Cubs today. Position players had to be in Mesa Tuesday. Tom Ricketts, Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon will address the players before practice and the Cubs’ Chairman is also expected to meet with the media.
Tom Ricketts and Mayor John Giles were part of a large group Tuesday at the Cubs facility to dedicate the name change at the team’s spring home. Sloan Park looks ready for the exhibition games that begin next week.
Starlin Castro met with the beat writers Tuesday and said he’s looking forward to playing for a winning team and for a manager that knows how to win games. Joe Maddon is the fifth different manager Castro has played for in the big leagues.
The Sun-Times posted an eye-popping stat about Castro’s time in the big leagues. Since his debut on May 7, 2010, the Cubs “have spent exactly 18 days at .500 or better, including two off days … and never later than April 23.”
Starlin Castro said his goal is stay on the field this spring in order to fully prepare for the season. Castro missed significant time the last two years with hamstring injuries during Spring Training.
Castro worked extensively with Tim Buss, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, this off-season in Mesa and in the Dominican. And one of the exercises used to strengthen Castro’s legs was carrying Mike Olt on his back while running backwards and forwards.
If he hadn’t landed on the DL last year, Castro is convinced he would have hit .300. Castro finished the season with a .292/.339/.438 slash line that included 33 doubles, a triple and 14 home runs for a .777 OPS. Castro said Tuesday he plans on hitting .300 this season and swipe 20 bases. Maddon has not addressed a lineup yet. Castro does not care where he hits as long as he is left in one spot and not moved around.
Starlin Castro has not moved his family from the Dominican Republic. He’s been in Mesa for the most part since January and told the beat writers he looking at homes in the Phoenix, Tampa and Orlando areas.
Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa
The Cubs announced Tuesday that Manny Ramirez is back with the organization and will be a hitting consultant at the Major and Minor League levels. Ramirez spent last season in the minors after signing a contract to be a player/coach for the Iowa Cubs. Ramirez connected with several of the young players on many levels. And Theo Epstein said Tuesday that everyone he worked with last year had nothing but positive things to say about Ramirez. Epstein pointed out Ramirez received rave reviews last year.
According to Theo Epstein, Manny Ramirez has not formally retired and that formal announcement still has to be made.
Jesse Rogers talked to Joe Maddon about Ramirez. Maddon was Ramirez’s last manager in the majors in 2011. Maddon enjoyed his time with Ramirez and thought they “developed a good relationship.” Maddon said Ramirez “is really smart” and the two “had great conversations about hitting.”
Manny Ramirez is expected to be in uniform at Wrigley Field during the season for possibly one homestand each month.
With Manny Ramirez expected in camp Wednesday for the first full squad workout, the questions shifted to Sammy Sosa and his relationship with the team.
Epstein fielded the questions about Sosa and said that decision is “being handled in other circles.” Epstein did not elaborate but he did say that once things are worked out between Sosa and the Cubs that he “would certainly be open to having him around in some capacity.” Epstein does not know Sosa and pointed out that he’s not involved in the decision.
Without a doubt, Sammy Sosa’s status with the team is one of the first questions Tom Ricketts will be asked Wednesday.
Wrigley Field Restoration Update
Mark Gonzales spoke with Julian Green, the Cubs’ Vice President of Communications and Community Affairs, and Green said there have not been any further delays with the construction at Wrigley Field.
The left field scoreboard is still on schedule to be installed and operational by April 5. The bleachers are on the timeframe that the team gave during the convention last month. The left field bleachers are scheduled to be open on May 11 and the right field bleachers are expected to be finished by the end of May.
The Assurance Club
According to a report from Danny Ecker, Schaumberg-based insurance brokerage Assurance Agency announced Tuesday “an expansion of its relationship” with the Cubs that gives the company “naming rights to the all-inclusive executive club area” at Wrigley Field. The ballpark’s mezzanine level will know be known as The Assurance Club.
The area was previously called ‘The PNC Club’ through the 2013 season, and did not have a corporate sponsor last year.
Financial terms of the multiyear deal were not included in the report. Danny Ecker indicated the deal could pay the Cubs in “the mid-six figure range annually.”
The fight over Ernie Banks’ estate took another strange turn Tuesday when it was revealed during what was reported as a “heated court appearance” that Ernie Banks had assets of $16,000 when he passed away last month.
The Banks family wants to know what happened to his estate and Regina Rice has been asked “to provide more detailed documentation about Banks’ assets within 30 days.”
News, Notes and Rumors
Joe Maddon addressed analytics with the beat writers and compared the information that’s available today with the way it was back in the day. “It wasn’t available. It’s new stuff. It’s color TV. It’s air conditioning. It’s power brakes. Before it was invented you could never miss it.”
Jon Heyman asked since the talks have stalled between the Red Sox and Phillies for Cole Hamels, would Boston be interested in trading for Cliff Lee?
Kerry Wood listed his Lincoln Park mansion for $3.6 million according to the Tribune.
Rolling Stone asked is this the Chicago Cubs’ Year?
According to a report from Carrie Muskat, a strong body and mind fuel Jake Arrieta.
This Day In Cubstory
1992 – Jorge Soler, born
1987 – Henry Rodriguez, born
1975 – Cubs acquired Milt Wilcox from the Indians for Brock Davis and Dave LaRoche
1958 – Dodgers purchased Solly Drake from the Cubs
1956 – Ed Lynch, born
1954 – Bob Brenly, born
1940 – Ron Santo, born
1921 – Andy Pafko, born
1919 – Monte Irvin, born
1911 – Cubs traded Scotty Ingerton and Big Jeff Pfeffer to the Boston Rustlers for Dave Shean
1905 – Cubs started Spring Training in Santa Monica, California.
1867 – Howard Earl, born