The Cubs put one in the spring win column on Friday afternoon with a victory over a split squad Reds team. Miguel Montero, Dan Vogelbach and Tim Federowicz hit home runs. Anthony Rizzo doubled twice, scored two runs and was on base three times.
John Lackey got his work in over three innings. Lackey threw only fastballs the first two innings before mixing in other pitches during an unexpected third inning of work. Lackey said he felt great after the game that featured good outings from Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez.
Jason Heyward was penciled in as the Cubs’ starting center fielder until Dexter Fowler showed up on the practice field on Feb. 25. Fowler is expected to get a bulk of the playing time in center now with Heyward sliding back to right field, where defensively he is arguably the best in baseball.
Joe Maddon said that even with Fowler and Shane Victorino that Heyward will see time in center field this spring. Heyward could be the team’s primary backup in center and also start games there during the season if Fowler has struggled against that day’s starting pitcher.
Maddon wants to keep all options open as the team prepares for the season.
Jake Arrieta made news on and off the field this past week. Arrieta was incredibly sharp in his spring debut striking out four of the six batters he faced. Arrieta was also in the headlines after reports surfaced there were conversations about a mega-extension in the off-season.
Arrieta and the Cubs are reportedly not close on the amount of years it would take to lock him up for the foreseeable future. Arrieta is looking for six to seven years and the Cubs reportedly were not willing to go beyond five.
Bruce Levine reported the sides discussed a six-year extension in the $130 million range.
Arrieta would like to stay with the Cubs. Both sides have not set a deadline. Arrieta is under club control through the 2017 season. Arrieta and Theo Epstein said they do not want his contract to be a distraction for the team.
According to Bruce Levine, “It’s safe to say Arrieta wants a new deal before Opening Day.”
Arrieta’s next spring start is Monday (March 14) against the Padres at Sloan Park.
Shane Victorino was in Friday’s starting lineup batting seventh and playing left field. Victorino was a late scratch due to soreness in his left calf. Juan Perez took his place in the field.
Victorino will be re-evaluated Saturday. The Cubs have not provided a timeframe for his return to the lineup.
Neil Ramirez made his third appearance in the Cactus League on Friday. Ramirez retired all three batters he faced with a strikeout. Ramirez is 1-1 with a 6.00 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. Ramirez has allowed two runs on four hits in three innings … both runs and three of the hits were given up on March 7 in Scottsdale against the Rockies.
Ramirez is not rushing the process. He said he did not throw off a mound “a whole lot” before he reported to camp. He thinks he just needs to get his timing back.
If Neil Ramirez is healthy and is able to get his fastball back to 95-97 mph range, he will make the front office and coaching staff have several difficult conversations. Ramirez is out of options. He either makes the team out of camp or he will be picked up by another organization.
According to the Sun-Times, Ramirez is “the leading candidate if the Cubs decide to keep an eighth reliever on the opening roster instead of a fifth bench player.”
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News and Notes
• Bruce Levine reported Kyle Schwarber envisions quick return from knee strain. Schwarber will be re-evaluated on Sunday and could return to the starting lineup, possibly in a DH role if everything checks out.
• The Pirates made a very good deal Friday. The Pirates signed 3B David Freese to a one-year, $3 million deal that does not include any incentives. Freese will help the Pirates as long as he’s healthy. Motivation will not be a problem. Freese batted .257/.323/.420 for the Angels last season with 27 doubles and 14 home runs for a .743 OPS. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Pirates designated LHP Jesse Biddle for assignment.
• Clint Hurdle announced Friday that Francisco Liriano will start Opening Day, not Gerrit Cole. The Pirates don’t want to speed up Cole’s timetable. He’s recovering from a rib cage injury that has slowed him in camp.
• Just horrible news out of A’s camp … Jarrod Parker fractured his elbow again.
• Click here to see Anthony Rizzo and David Ross jam a little ‘Ice Ice Baby.”
And last, but not least, Jon Heyman tweeted late Friday night, “The buzz about the Cubs in Arizona is amazing. Not sure if I’ve ever seen so much spring excitement surrounding one team.”
This Day in Cubstory
2014 – Cubs released Aaron Cunningham
2003 – Cubs released Kevin Orie
1996 – Cubs signed free agent Terry Shumpert
1984 – Frankie De La Cruz, born
1971 – Randy Hundley suffered a badly sprained knee. Hundley played in only nine games in 1971 after playing in 160 games in 1968, 151 in 1969 and 73 in 1970.
1964 – Cubs signed amateur free agent Ron Theobald
1957 – Mike Quade, born
1954 – Larry Rothschild, born
1945 – Horacio Pena, born
1939 – Johnny Callison, born
1906 – Bud Tinning, born
1892 – George Maisel, born
1874 – Doc Curley, born
1867 – George Moolic, born