Countdown to Cubs Cactus League Opener: 5 Days
MLB Network’s list of the 100 best players right now in baseball includes six Cubs, three in the top 20.
Jake Arrieta, the reigning NL Cy Young award winner, checked in at No. 9. Anthony Rizzo (18) and NL Rookie of the Year, Kris Bryant (19) made the top 20. Two of the newest Cubs, Jason Heyward (32) and Ben Zobrist (45) were ranked among the best 50 players in the game. And Kyle Schwarber landed at No. 95.
The Cubs, Cardinals, Tigers and Red Sox tied for the most players (6) in the top 100.
The top 10 players in Major League Baseball right now: Mike Trout (Angels), Bryce Harper (Nationals), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Andrew McCutchen (Pirates), Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays), Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks), Buster Posey (Giants), Manny Machado (Orioles), Jake Arrieta (Cubs) and Miguel Cabrera (Tigers)
Javier Baez found out Thursday that he will be seeing a lot more time at first base this spring. When the Cubs traded Chris Coghlan and signed Dexter Fowler, Baez became Anthony Rizzo’s primary backup at first base. Kris Bryant is actually third on the team’s depth chart at first.
As ESPN Chicago reported, Baez will now be the Cubs’ primary backup at second base, shortstop, third base, first base and possibly center field. Baez isn’t sure how much time he will see in center field now. He is willing to move around as his manager sees fit.
According to Jesse Rogers, the Cubs hope by the end of Spring Training that “Baez can play every position on the field, save pitcher and catcher.”
Baez does not have a first baseman’s glove. Last year when he played first he borrowed Kris Bryant’s. Baez said Friday he will get one if he needs it.
Anthony Rizzo should get more days off this season from the 160 games he played in last year. As it stands in late February, Baez could be at first base those games with Bryant across the diamond.
The Cubs added a very familiar name to the spring roster on Friday morning. Veteran outfielder and two-time World Series champion, Shane Victorino signed a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. If Victorino makes the team he will be paid $1 million base and has a chance at earning another $1 million in performance bonuses based on total days on the roster.
Victorino lives in Las Vegas and has trained with Kris Bryant the last two off-seasons. Victorino, Dexter Fowler and Bryant all hit together over the winter. Victorino said he’s healthy after missing a majority of the last two seasons with injuries.
The Cubs have been talking to Victorino for several weeks and reportedly had the deal with him in place before the team re-signed Dexter Fowler. The Cubs honored the agreement. Victorino is happy to be in camp with the Cubs and playing baseball.
Shane Victorino tweeted Friday, “Excited to be back at it. Even more excited to be wearing a Cubs uniform!! Only one goal (trophy emoji).”
There doesn’t appear to be room on the roster for Victorino, much less consistent playing time. Victorino said Friday it’s about winning, not about playing time. Victorino would fill the role of the defensive replacement in the outfield that appeared to be Matt Szczur’s job to lose entering Spring Training.
Joe Maddon’s Spring Ride
News and Notes from Cubs Camp
• Rick Sutcliffe said Jake Arrieta, Dallas Beeler and Justin Grimm looked “dominating” on Friday during the second day of live batting practice.
• Justin Grimm was hit with a comebacker Friday on his right calf. According to Mark Gonzales, Grimm said he was fine after practice.
• Joe Maddon thought Jake Arrieta was very good in Friday’s session. According to ESPN Chicago, Maddon “was impressed” and said Arrieta picked up where he left off.
News, Notes and Rumors
• Dexter Fowler addressed the confusion with the Orioles and said Adam Jones texted an apology. Jones misunderstood what Fowler said to him. Fowler was back on the practice fields at the Cubs facility on Friday. And he got his familiar No. 24 back.
• Click here for a video from the Tribune of Kris Bryant discussing Fowler’s return.
• According to the Sun-Times, disputes continue between the Orioles and Dexter Fowler over who said what and when.
• Kris Bryant’s grievance is still pending, but according to the Sun-Times he’s on to bigger and better things since controversial demotion.
• MLB Network’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days stops at Cubs camp on Saturday, March 5.
• For those that keep track of the players’ numbers: Shane Victorino was issued No. 8, Dexter Fowler kept his No. 24 and RHP Aaron Brooks received No. 13.
• Starlin Castro is the Yankees’ everyday second baseman. But as previously reported, Castro will also be Joe Girardi’s backup third baseman. According to a report from Wallace Matthews, the Yankees have asked Castro to learn how to play third base. Castro is still learning second base but told Girardi he could be the backup at the hot corner to Chase Headley. Alex Rodriguez is going to help teach Castro third base.
• Chris Coghlan reported to A’s camp at Fitch Park and was at practice Friday (click here for photo). Coghlan told Susan Slusser that Ben Zobrist gave him the rundown about the A’s. Coghlan is excited to be with the A’s, according to Slusser, and is willing to play anywhere on the field. Coghlan likes the comparisons to Zobrist and said it was “fun to play with him … for two days.”
• While Joe Maddon wants his team to ‘Embrace the Target,’ Terry Collins would like his players to ‘Embrace being the hunted’ according to a report from Adam Rubin.
• The Indians signed OF Will Venable to a minor league contract that included a non-roster invite to Spring Training.
• OF Drew Stubbs signed a minor league contract with the Rangers according to Jerry Crasnick that included a NRI to big league camp.
• One-time Cubs reliever, LHP Neal Cotts landed a minor league contract with the Astros. Cotts can opt-out of his contract on March 26 if it appears he will not make the team out of Spring Training. Cotts also has another opt-out date of June 1. According to Jon Heyman, Cotts will make a $1.5 million base if he’s in the majors and can earn another $1.25 million in incentives.
• MLB busted another player for using PEDs … Indians OF Abraham Almonte was suspended for 80 games for testing positive for Boldenone.
• I answered a few questions about the Cubs for a Cardinals’ site … click here to read what several Cubs bloggers said about the outlook for the upcoming season.
And last, but not least, the Cardinals just can’t quit thinking about the Cubs. Mike Matheny was asked Friday what he thought about the Cubs after the addition of Dexter Fowler. Matheny’s response, “I can’t wait to play them.” The first of 19 games against the Cardinals this year is on April 18 in St. Louis.
This Day in Cubstory
2006 – Cubs signed free agent Brian Boehringer
1977 – Craig Monroe, born
1969 – Willie Banks, born
1968 – Matt Stairs, born
1953 – Ron Hassey, born
1937 – Carl Warwick, born
1933 – Sammy Taylor, born
1906 – Leroy Herrmann, born
1904 – Bud Teachout, born