Countdown to Pitchers and Catchers: 0 Days
The countdown is over. It is reporting day for Cubs pitchers and catchers as Spring Training officially begins for Joe Maddon’s team. The first on field workout is Saturday, position players report Tuesday and the first full squad practice is Wednesday, Feb. 24.
A majority of the players on the Cubs’ Spring Training roster have been in camp for days. Pitchers and catchers have already started working but those few that have not reported must be in Mesa today.
Players are excited about the upcoming season and are ready for Spring Training to officially get underway. Jon Lester tweeted Thursday, “If you’re reporting today … you’re late! #LetsGo #NVRQT”
Joe Maddon met with his coaches Thursday to “discuss the game plan this spring.” According to Carrie Muskat, Maddon will deliver a new message to his team before his second Spring Training with the Cubs.
“The target’s going to be bigger, and I want us to embrace the target. The pressure is going to be possibly greater, and I want us to embrace the pressure. The bigger the target, the greater the pressure, I think, equals a grander chance for success. So I’m all about that, and I will definitely bring that to our guys’ attention.”
The Cubs are the overwhelming pre-season favorite to win it all this year. Talk stops Saturday as the players officially get back to work and prepare to take it day-by-day over the course of a 162-game schedule.
Cubs-Cardinals the Rivalry of 2016
The rivalry that has always existed with the Cardinals was renewed last season and now is possibly bigger than ever. The Cardinals, media and fan base pretty much looked past the Cubs for decades, but last year, Joe Maddon’s team got the Cardinals attention.
The Cubs have gone about their business this off-season and that included signing two of the Cardinals best players from a year ago, Jason Heyward and John Lackey. But despite the projections, the Cardinals actually have a better team on paper than the one the Cubs eliminated from the post-season last year.
Jon Paul Morosi labeled the Cubs and Cardinals as the best rivalry of the 2016 season. Morosi talked to Mark DeRosa and Ryan Theriot about the rivalry. Both played for the Cubs and Cardinals during their career. Theriot won a ring with the Cardinals after declaring he was on the right side of the long-time rivalry.
Mark DeRosa became a fan favorite during his two seasons with the Cubs. He told Morosi, “I think everybody, deep down in their core wants to see the Cubs win. You’re not an American if you don’t want to see the Cubs win.”
At this point it might be easier to name the publication that has not ranked the Cubs as the best team in the game in the pre-season rankings.
The Cubs will be one of the big stories of the baseball season regardless of how things play out on the field. And Jayson Stark has the Cubs as the most compelling storyline of the spring.
Sports Illustrated ranked the Cubs at the top of its power rankings and stated, “On paper, this is the best team in baseball, by a decent margin.” And SI added, “If you’re looking for a complete team, one with a deep rotation and multiple quality options in the pen, power and speed, youth and experience, a great manager and the kind of war chest to make the go-for-it moves needed for a big run, the Cubs are it.”
USA Today ranked the Cubs ahead of the Giants, Cardinals, Mets, Royals, Dodgers, Astros, Blue Jays, Pirates and Nationals in its first top 10 of the 2016 season.
News, Notes and Rumors
• Matt Silverman and Kevin Cash met with the Tampa media Thursday and Marc Topkin passed on an interesting tidbit from the Rays’ President of Baseball Ops … Silverman said “the transaction window is open longer now and teams are more open to trades during Spring Training.”
• According to Paul Sullivan, it’s early but you can’t rain on Cubs parade of dreams.
• Jesse Rogers reported size does matter for Cubs as much-anticipated spring camp opens.
• ESPN Chicago: What could go wrong for the Cubs?
• Jesse Rogers asked what will Joe Maddon’s lineups look like this season.
• Jason Heyward is one of sixteen players to watch this spring according to ESPN.
• Carrie Muskat posted three questions as Cubs ready for Spring Training.
• Rob Hughes had a one on one with Clayton Richard.
• LHP Travis Wood will likely start the Cubs’ Cactus League opener on March 3 against the Brewers in Maryvale according to the Sun-Times.
• Mark Gonzales reported a little patience at the plate goes a long way for Cubs’ Albert Almora Jr.
• Chris Emma posted five key storylines awaiting the Cubs in Spring Training.
• The Cubs will open Spring Training with World Series-or-bust mindset according to a report from Patrick Mooney.
• The Yankees are the only team that has not signed a Major League free agent this off-season. As it turns out, according to Joel Sherman, the Yankees and Tommy Hunter agreed to terms on a two-year contract for between $11.5-12 million. The Yankees backed out of the deal because they were uncomfortable with the results from Hunter’s physical. Hunter had core surgery twice this off-season, the second time on Jan. 7 from an injury he suffered while he was with the Cubs. Hunter signed with the Indians instead. Terry Francona said Thursday that Hunter will likely begin the season on the DL.
• Jim Bowden posted a report on the seven pitchers he’s bullish about for the 2016 season.
• The Tigers signed RHP Bobby Parnell to a minor league contract that included a non-roster invite to Spring Training. According to Jason Beck, the Tigers are not expected to sign any more players this spring.
• Speaking of relievers, the Rays finalized their deal with RHP Ryan Webb. And placed RHP Chase Whitley on the 60-day DL to make room for Webb on the roster.
• OF Matt Joyce signed a minor league contract with the Pirates.
• Albert Pujols will likely begin the 2016 season on the disabled list according to a report from Hardball Talk.
• Former Cubs outfielder Ryan Kalish signed a contract to play for the Sioux City Explorers of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.
• The Red Sox think if Carlos Marmol lowers his arm angle, like it was prior to 2012, he will be able to have success in the big leagues again.
• Addison Russell had a little fun Wednesday night … click here for the video.
• The Pirates unveiled Thursday their alternative uniforms for Sundays during the 2016 season. The Pirates are throwing it back to 1979. The Cubs play in Pittsburgh on Sunday, July 10 to wrap up the first half, the only scheduled Sunday for the Cubs at PNC Park during the regular season. The Pirates caps were referred to as “Anson style.”
• Win The World Series and receive contract extensions the following spring … the Royals announced Thursday the team extended the contracts of both Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost. The Royals locked up Yost through the 2018 season. The terms of Moore’s contract were not released.
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This Day in Cubstory
2004 – Cubs signed free agents Russ Johnson and Santiago Perez
2001 – Cubs signed free agent Ben Ford
1982 – Cubs signed free agent Dick Tidrow
1971 – Miguel Batista, born
1943 – Jim Cosman, born