Countdown to Cubs Cactus League Opener: 7 Days
The Cubs received the rock star treatment Wednesday by the large crowd and media that assembled at the team’s facility for the first full squad workout of the spring.
Pitchers got their work in separate from the position players. After infield drills, the players entertained the fans with batting practice that was also attended by Tom Ricketts, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
Joe Maddon liked the flow of Wednesday’s practice. It was short and the players got their work in. Maddon said he doesn’t “want anyone to push hard early” or “try and make the team early.” There is plenty of time in Spring Training for players to properly prepare for the season. Maddon also wants his players to focus on fundamentals “right from the start.” He did not like the way the team played early last spring and wants to avoid the same mistakes this year.
Kris Bryant looks at this Spring Training as a continuation of last season “with just a three-four month break.” And expectations is a word the Cubs “don’t have to pay attention to yet.” Bryant said Wednesday, “It’s going to be fun. We’re not putting any pressure on ourselves. It’s just another year where we have some new guys in the clubhouse, and we’re all looking forward to the season and having some fun with it.”
Thursday is the first day for live batting practice.
After addressing his team, Tom Ricketts met with the press Wednesday at Sloan Park. And obviously the Cubs goal this year is to win the World Series.
There is a different vibe in camp this year, according to Ricketts, he believes his players are excited about the upcoming season and ready to get started.
- Carrie Muskat: Ricketts, Good vibrations at Cubs’ Camp
- Sun-Times: Unsustainable no more, Tom Ricketts says Cubs in good spot to support payroll arc until TV deal
- Chicago Cubs Online: Paying Back Cubs Fans is What Drives Tom Ricketts
Tom Ricketts fielded questions about Theo Epstein’s contract extension during his media session Wednesday. Ricketts, like Epstein, maintains the two are on the same page. Ricketts said he and Theo have a great relationship and in fact went to dinner the night before. Ricketts reiterated they just have to sit down and hammer out the details.
The Sun-Times reported Ricketts and Epstein “appear to be close to starting talks on a contract extension.” According to Gordon Wittenmyer, they have not discussed specific terms but “Epstein is expected to become the highest-paid baseball executive in the game by the time the deal is done.”
Ricketts thinks Epstein is the best in the game and should be compensated as such. The Sun-Times indicated Epstein could sign an extension that would pay him $45-50 million over five years.
David Haugh reported it is “pretty clear Ricketts is willing to do whatever it takes to keep Theo Epstein in Chicago.”
News and Notes from Day Six of Cubs Camp
• Joe Maddon said Wednesday he has to make sure Kyle Schwarber doesn’t wear himself out. Schwarber is working with the pitchers then as an outfielder in camp. Maddon told Tony Andracki, “The only problem with Schwarber is the guy wants to work all the time.”
• Joe Maddon said a decision has not been made about starting the season with a seven or eight man bullpen.
• Rick Sutcliffe road to the Cubs’ facility Wednesday with Ryne Sandberg … Joe Maddon has asked Sandberg to be an instructor during Spring Training according to the Tribune.
• The first star of Cubs Camp went to Rick Sutcliffe.
• “Embrace the Target” is on the top of the Cubs’ daily schedule.
• Chris Bosio has organized a bunting competition for the pitching staff according to Carrie Muskat.
News, Notes and Rumors
• According to Comcast SportsNet, the players “want to give David Ross their own version of a farewell tour” because he “deserves it as much as Jeter or Ortiz.” Kris Bryant said Ross is “the best teammate he’s ever played with” and he’s “definitely going to miss him.”
• The Tribune reported Cubs hitting coach, John Mallee is living dream in honor of his father.
• Joe Maddon doesn’t think Jason Heyward will have a problem switching to center field according to the Tribune.
• Cubs prospect and Minor League Pitcher of the Year, RHP Ryan Williams is posting a Spring Training diary on ESPN Chicago … his first entry, Getting the call to big league camp.
• Cubs believe top prospects now can develop naturally under the radar according to the Tribune.
• Bruce Levine reported the Cubs’ sophomores are confident in making adjustments and avoiding jinx.
• The Tribune asked with single-game tickets going on sale Friday, will the Cubs break their 2008 record?
• Len Kasper will record your voice mail message. According to the Sun-Times, Kasper is auctioning “off a custom voice mail message to the highest bidder” to benefit “Girls in the Game.”
• Chris Coghlan expects the takeout slide rule to change according to the Tribune.
• A Day at the Diamond is this Saturday, Feb. 27 at Sloan Park.
• Comcast SportsNet reported Joe Maddon perfectly captures ‘Little League’ mindset with the Cubs.
• The Orioles did not make the Dexter Fowler signing official on Wednesday. Adam Jones spoke with Fowler and told Jayson Stark that he’s excited and is on his way to Orioles camp. Fowler is scheduled to take his physical on Thursday.
• RHP Yovani Gallardo restructured the agreement he had in place with the Orioles. Gallardo signed a two-year, $22 million contract according to Roch Kubatko. The deal includes a club option for a third year worth $13 million with a $2 million buyout.
• The rumored three-way trade (Blue Jays, Angels, Reds) involving Jay Bruce is dead. Bruce could still be moved, the Reds would like to unload his contract. Bruce thought he would be traded this off-season. The Orioles and Blue Jays were the teams that had shown the most interest in Bruce according to Jon Heyman. Jerry Crasnick reported the Reds would like to move Bruce “in the next week, after that odds increase that he’ll start the season in Cincinnati.”
• The Cubs Store across the street from Wrigley is coming down. McDonald’s is closing this week and demolition on it starts next week.
Lazarito Armenteros and his family reached out Wednesday to FOX Sports and held a conference call to tell their side of the story. On Tuesday, Charles Hairston told Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi that his agency would not be representing Lazarito after receiving death threats from his Dominican Republic-based investor. And that Lazarito and his family were “unable to leave the Dominican because the investor was withholding their travel documents.”
Lazarito and his parents, Lazaro Sr. and Joany, along with his new agency, Octagon and interpreter Miguel Martinez talked to FOX Sports from their home in the Dominican.
The family members are “in absolute control of their travel documents and free to move about as they wish.” Lazarito turned down the Braves invitation not because he could not travel but “because the Braves invited only the player and not his parents.” Rosenthal verified with a Major League source that the Braves “structured the invitation that way, believing it was common for the agent to serve as a guardian for such a workout.”
The issues Lazarito and his family had with Hairston and his agency were “an inability for Hairston’s agency to produce actual offers from clubs and a refusal to allow Lazarito to resume working with his original trainer.” The family also did not like that his focus was not solely on baseball. Hairston had sponsorship and endorsement deals and a clothing line set up for Lazarito.
Rosenthal contacted Hairston and he “disputed much of what Lazarito’s family and agents said, saying that the player’s investor is essentially driving the process and influencing the family’s comments and every decision.” And Hairston believes his investor is “working to steer Lazarito to a specific club.”
Hairston said he would not “step aside from the best prospect in the world” if they were not threatened or fired.
Lazarito wants to focus on baseball and accomplish his dreams.
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