Joe Maddon has spent Spring Training getting to know his players and learning what each of them brings to the table – both at the plate and in the field. Defense is just as important as what a player produces at the plate. Maddon is not sure what kind of team the Cubs will be on defense when the season starts.
Bruce Levine talked to Maddon about the Cubs defense and the skipper admitted his team has a chance to be “really good” or “pedestrian.” Maddon has challenged guys to go out this year and win a Gold Glove. And two of those players are Dexter Fowler and Starlin Castro. Maddon thinks Javier Baez is already a Gold Glove caliber second baseman.
No matter how the offense performs, Maddon knows the importance of the defense being good every game. Maddon explained to Levine he feels several players have the ability to be very good defensively. Maddon and his coaching staff are working on getting the players to believe that as well.
The Cubs have been very inconsistent defensively this spring. The team’s 21 charged errors are the second most in baseball and there have been other miscues and lapses that have not shown up in the box score.
B-Game vs. Angels
Kris Bryant went deep for the seventh time this spring. Albert Almora homered. Kyle Hendricks was reportedly very good and the Cubs beat the Angels 7-6 in a B-Game at Sloan Park on Thursday afternoon.
Here are the highlights from the various beat writers that were on hand at Sloan Park:
• Maddon’s lineup: La Stella 2B, Denorfia LF, Bryant DH, Montero C, Russell SS, Alcantara 3B, Almora CF, Valaika 1B, McKinney RF, Hendricks P
• Kyle Hendricks struck out the first two batters he faced Thursday.
• Chris Valaika, playing first base, robbed Matt Joyce of a hit to end the first inning with a diving stop.
• Kyle Hendricks struck out four over the first two innings but surrendered a two-run homer to Kyle Kubitza.
• Arismendy Alcantara tripled and scored on a home run by Albert Almora. And Almora made a diving catch in center to end the fifth inning.
• Kris Bryant homered with Anthony Giansanti along for the ride, a two-run shot in the third for Bryant. Unofficially his seventh homer for the spring.
• Tommy La Stella collected two doubles, one to left center and one to right center.
• Kyle Hendricks clubbed a double before being lifted for a pinch-runner. Hendricks allowed three runs on five hits with seven strikeouts and no walks in five innings Thursday.
Kris Bryant worked on his defense with Gary Jones prior to Thursday’s B-Game. Bryant spent time fielding grounders backhanded.
Bryant’s throwing session reportedly went well. Bryant will be evaluated Friday according to Mark Gonzales and is expected back at third base “soon.”
Kris Bryant – Albert Almora
Tim Sheridan shot and edited this excellent video, turn up the volume and enjoy the sound on the Bryant Blast that led to Joe Maddon saying after the scrimmage, “Oh my God that ball got out quickly.”
Daniel Bard had a rough outing Thursday in the B-Game with the Angels, but Joe Maddon said he was encouraged by what he saw from Bard.
Bard hit a batter, walked two, uncorked two wild pitches and threw wildly to first base on a pickoff attempt.
Joe Maddon told the beat writers if they can get Bard “straightened out, the reward could be incredible.”
More Kris Bryant Reaction
Kris Bryant remained the biggest topic of conversation throughout the game Thursday, especially after he went yard for the seventh time this spring. Here’s more reaction to the Kris Bryant–Scott Boras–Theo Epstein comments:
• Anthony Rizzo has talked to Kris Bryant about the situation. Rizzo understands what Bryant is going through but knows it would not be the worst thing for him to go to Triple-A at the beginning of the season to get into a rhythm before he makes his big league debut. Rizzo wants to win and defended ownership. Rizzo has seen the turnaround with the organization since he’s been with the Cubs. And Rizzo knows Bryant will help the team win games eventually.
• The Sun-Times caught up with Mark Prior and talked to the Cubs’ former ace about expectations and pressure that comes with being the organization’s No. 1 pick. Prior gave his thoughts about Kris Bryant.
• Jeff Passan spelled out why Kris Bryant should start the season in the minors. And why the system should be changed.
• And Buster Olney checked in with his take on the matter.
News, Notes and Rumors
• According to Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper, RHP Dylan Cease threw a simulated game on the back fields at the Cubs complex Thursday. Cease is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
• Crain’s Chicago Business reported Thursday that Jon Lester purchased a home for $3.8 million less than a mile from Wrigley Field.
• Edwin Jackson reported to camp in the best shape of his life and he’s at least showing some signs this spring of being serviceable according to the Tribune.
• Jesse Rogers talked to several of Miguel Montero’s former teammates about the Cubs’ new catcher.
• Kyle Hendricks, who should make his first start on April 10, has impressed his skipper. Maddon said Thursday there is nothing he can say to Hendricks other than hello. Maddon told ESPN Chicago, “I’m very careful about being too smart with people that don’t need your help.”
• And Maddon sees big potential in C.J. Edwards according to Comcast SportsNet. Maddon told Patrick Mooney he likes Edwards a lot and believes he is a Major League pitcher. “Great delivery. Easy delivery. The ball out of the hand is exceptional. Real nice curveball.”
• Checking on Rule 5 Draft pick, LHP Andrew McKirahan: In five appearances, five innings, for the Marlins this spring, McKirahan has allowed two runs on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts (3.60 ERA, 1.40 WHIP).
• According to Marc Topkin, Rays owner Stu Sternberg said Thursday he wishes Joe Maddon “nothing but success” with the Cubs and there are “no hard feelings,” but the way he left the Tampa still doesn’t sit well with him.
• The Braves released former Cubs’ closer RHP Jose Veras. Veras signed a minor league contract with Atlanta in February and was in camp on a non-roster invite. Veras should be able to catch on with another team. Veras allowed seven runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings over six appearances this spring with seven walks and four strikeouts.
• Every game on the final day of the Major League Baseball season will start at the same time. According to Hardball Talk citing Bill Shakin as its source, MLB is trying to ramp up the drama leading into the playoffs. The thinking is that by starting every game at 3:00pm ET (2:00pm CDT), teams would not be eliminated from the post-season before they every take the field … so all games on Oct. 4 have a 3:00pm ET (2:00pm CDT) start time.
And last, but not least, Wrigley Blog has done an excellent job proportioning the left field video board with Photoshop → this is a MUST click on link for those that have not seen their renderings.
This Day In Cubstory
2014 – Cubs traded Trevor Gretzky to the Angels for Matt Scioscia
2003 – Cubs released Tim Christman
1983 – Cubs released Allen Ripley
1979 – Cubs acquired Steve Dillard from the Tigers for a PTBNL. Cubs sent Ed Putnam to the Tigers on March 24, 1979 to complete the trade.
1977 – Cubs signed free agent Joe Decker
1971 – Manny Alexander, born
1954 – Cubs traded Roy Smalley to the Braves for David Cole and cash. Trading Smalley opened a spot a shortstop for Ernie Banks.
1933 – George Altman, born
1927 – Jim Willis, born
1912 – Clyde Shoun, born
1893 – Johnny Butler, born
1888 – Albert Spalding announced a baseball tour to Australia would take place the following winter with his Chicago team and a squad of National League All-Stars
1867 – Emil Geiss, born