Countdown to Opening Night: 1 day
Joe Maddon made it official before Friday night’s practice game against the Diamondbacks, Travis Wood made the rotation and Edwin Jackson would start the season in the bullpen.
The decisions to have Wood stay in the rotation and Jackson to be the team’s long man in the pen were expected. Wood will slot in behind Jason Hammel in the rotation.
The Cubs will start the season with a Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Travis Wood and Kyle Hendricks rotation.
Lester, Arrieta and Hammel get the pleasure of facing the Cardinals in the first series of the season. Wood opens the Rockies series in Denver with Hendricks (Saturday) and Lester pitching the last two games in Denver.
Joe Maddon reiterated Friday he will not be skipping any starters with the off days in the schedule.
The Cubs might not finalize the first 25-man roster of the season until Sunday. Jonathan Herrera, Matt Szczur and Ryan Sweeney are the three players being considered for the last two spots. According to Mark Gonzales, the Cubs are “sorting out reserve issues,” the Sun-Times pointed to roster and contract considerations as the reasons for the delay in announcing the roster.
The Cubs have been shopping Ryan Sweeney. And ESPN Chicago indicated “a minor trade isn’t out of the question.”
Based on Joe Maddon’s spring lineup cards over the last two weeks, expect the pitcher to bat eighth in his lineup a majority of the time, at least early in the season. And there’s a chance Jon Lester could hit eighth Sunday in the opener.
Maddon likes the idea of having two leadoff hitters and batting the pitcher eighth would give the two-hole hitter, possibly Jorge Soler, more chances to drive in runs.
According to ESPN Chicago, Maddon had the Cubs analytics department run the numbers for pitchers hitting in the eighth spot. The difference is minimal but Maddon said “he simply likes how it feels.”
Adidas purchased billboard space across the street from Wrigley Field and the graphic featuring Kris Bryant was unveiled Friday afternoon with the text “Worth the Wait.”
Director of Baseball for Adidas, Aaron Kahn told Darren Rovell the billboard was not meant as a knock toward the Cubs or the team’s decision to have him start the season in the minors. Kahn said the company wants to make sure Cubs fans “know they have a great thing coming.”
The billboard has been planned but the text changed this week when Bryant was sent down.
According to Rovell’s sources, Adidas pays Bryant about $30,000 per year.
News, Notes and Rumors
• Dexter Fowler was lifted from Friday night’s game after the first inning. Reports during the game indicated Fowler was fine, his lower back tightened up. According to Carrie Muskat, if it had been a regular season game Fowler would have stayed in.
• Maddon said Friday Jon Lester does not have a personal catcher. Maddon has not decided whether David Ross or Miguel Montero will be behind the plate Sunday night.
• Jon Lester left the team early to fly to Chicago to prepare for the opener.
• Chris Coghlan told the beat writers he is ready to go for Sunday. He doesn’t know what happen that led to the stiff neck that sidelined him Wednesday.
• According to Carrie Muskat, Chris Denorfia is “still testing” his hamstring, but it appears he will begin the season on the disabled list. The Sun-Times reported Denorfia will start the season on the DL.
• Cole Hamels is focused on starting for the Phillies and not trade rumors according to Todd Zolecki.
• 19 teams feature new Opening Day starters according to Mark Newman.
• Patrick Mooney posted a look at the making of Jon Lester: What drove Cubs ace to greatness.
• Jesse Rogers asked if Anthony Rizzo is an MVP candidate.
• Players are intrigued by the left field video board according to the Sun-Times.
And, last but not least … a very cool video from MLB.com
This Day In Cubstory
2012 – Cubs selected Luis Valbuena off waivers from the Blue Jays
2009 – Cubs released Esteban German
2008 – Cubs signed free agent Jesse Garcia
2003 – Sammy Sosa became the first Latin American player to hit 500 home runs. In the seventh inning, Sosa drove a 1-2 pitch from Scott Sullivan into the right field stands at Great American Ball Park.
2005 – Cubs released Eric Eckenstahler
2002 – Cubs selected Mario Encarnacion off waivers from the Rockies
1994 – On Opening Day at Wrigley Field, Tuffy Rhodes became the first player to homer in his first three at bats of the season. All three solo home runs were hit off Dwight Gooden. The Cubs lost 12-8 to the Mets and Rhodes ended up hitting eight home runs for the Cubs during the 1994 season.
1958 – Marty Mason, born
1946 – Giants selected Bennie Warren off waivers from the Cubs
1941 – Eddie Watt, born
1916 – Mickey Owen, born
1916 – Willie Ramsdell, born
1905 – Cap Anson was elected City Clerk of Chicago.
1892 – Chicago National League Ball Club traded Fred Pfeffer to Louisville for James Canavan and an undisclosed amount of money.
1859 – Joe Brown, born