The Cubs had a rough day in Peoria on Thursday behind Jon Lester in his first start of the spring. Lester was charged with six runs, three earned, in two innings. Jorge Soler and Javier Baez went deep for the first time this spring. But Kyle Schwarber left the game in the third inning with a sore left knee and could miss a week.
For those that focus on a team’s win-loss record in Spring Training, the Cubs are 1-8 in the Cactus League. After the game on March 10 a year ago, Joe Maddon’s team was 0-6-1.
According to a report from Bruce Levine, Joe Maddon is not concerned about his team at this point in Spring Training. Maddon is focused on keeping his players healthy and fresh throughout the Cactus League and have them ready to compete when the bell rings on April 4.
Right now the Cubs should be concerned about three things: 1) Health of the players 2) Health of the players 3) Health of the players
Maddon has not run out his projected starting lineup one time. And the first four starters are about to complete their first turn through the rotation.
Joe Maddon acknowledged the Cubs’ spring record “isn’t good” and told Levine he couldn’t care less.
Jon Lester’s throwing issue made headlines in his first outing of the spring. Lester works on his defense every day and those drills include throwing to each base. Lester is not comfortable with making those throws and never has been.
Lester admitted after Thursday’s game, “You go back to the minor leagues, high school, or whatever, it’s something I’ve never been comfortable with. I’m a bigger guy, and I have a harder time with being in the infield.”
Lester said he’s prepared to make those plays and throws. He’s not executing the play during games.
Jon Lester explained they are “working on some other things to get some throws over there.” And he assured the beat writers he will get better.
As he admitted, throwing to bases has been an issue for Lester throughout his career. It was exposed in the Wild Card Game against the Royals in 2014 and ESPN made sure that the baseball world knew about his problem on Opening Night last year.
• Report from the Sun-Times
Manny Parra signed a minor league contract with the Cubs on Feb. 22 and it was believed at the time the veteran southpaw had a slim chance of making the team out of Spring Training. But his odds improved Thursday when the Cubs released LHP Rex Brothers.
Early in his career, Parra was considered the Brewers’ top pitching prospect. Parra and Cubs’ pitching coach Chris Bosio have a long history together from their time in Milwaukee’s organization.
Parra has appeared in only one Cactus League game this spring, a scoreless inning against the Indians on Wednesday. Parra has thrown simulated games at the Cubs’ complex.
Parra has been with the Reds since he signed as a free agent in November 2013. Parra was 1-3 in 40 games last season with a 3.90 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 3.07 FIP. Parra allowed 15 runs, 14 earned, on 32 hits with six walks and 23 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings. During his time in Cincinnati, Parra was 3-8 with a 3.91 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 3.45 FIP in 150 relief appearances.
As a reliever, the 33-year old lefty is 6-15 in 248 games with a 4.01 ERA and 1.40 WHIP.
Manny Parra is in Cubs’ camp on a non-roster invite. If Parra makes the team out of Spring Training he will receive a $1.28 million roster bonus. Parra’s contract calls for a $520,000 base salary for the 2016 season and includes an incentives package.
At the time he was signed, Chris Bosio and Joe Maddon told the beat writers they thought Parra could help the Cubs this season.
Prior to Kyle Schwarber taking himself out of Thursday’s game, the Cubs had four position players dealing with injuries … OF Albert Almora Jr., INF Tommy La Stella, OF Matt Murton and OF Matt Szczur.
The Cubs held Albert Almora Jr. out of Thursday’s game due to the back spasms he suffered during practice Wednesday morning. The Cubs say they are not concerned about Almora Jr. at all.
Matt Murton and Matt Szczur are improving according to Joe Maddon. Murton is trying to get back to where he was prior to having his appendix removed. Szczur has not been able to participate in practices due to a strained lat.
Tommy La Stella is not ready to return to games yet. La Stella is dealing with a strained right calf. The Cubs have not given a timetable for when he will be back in the lineup.
Cubs Spring Rotation
John Lackey makes his Cubs’ debut on Friday afternoon at Sloan Park. Lackey will face Robert Stephenson and the Reds.
The Cubs posted their pitching plans for the weekend … Jason Hammel has the pleasure of taking on Mat Latos and the White Sox on Saturday afternoon (2:05pm CST). Trevor Cahill gets the night cap of Saturday’s slip squad day against the Dodgers in Glendale.
Kyle Hendricks gets the start on Sunday back at HoHoKam Park against the Athletics.
News and Notes
• Joe Maddon, Cubs are slow-dancing toward the regular season according to a report from ESPN Chicago.
• John Lackey is not out there to be the other team’s friend … he’s out there to whoop the other team’s ass according to a report from CBS Chicago.
• The Cubs still trying to follow directions on their T-shirts according to a report from Paul Sullivan.
• Starlin Castro went 3-for-3 with a double and three RBI while playing shortstop in the Yankees 4-4 tie with the Orioles. Castro is off to a good start this spring. He is batting .429/.429/.571 in five games.
• Jhonny Peralta is expected to miss 10-12 weeks after undergoing thumb surgery. Teams with shortstops available, of course at the right price, have called the Cardinals. John Mozeliak said those teams are “ambulance chasing.”
And last, but not least, the Cubs next round of spring roster cuts are expected early next week. The Cubs play three games over the next two days and make the extremely short trip to HoHoKam Park to take on the A’s on Sunday.
This Day in Cubstory
2008 – Cubs released Shingo Takatsu
1982 – Cubs signed free agent Tony Fossas
1980 – Rich Hill, born
1933 – A significant earthquake during an exhibition game in Los Angeles sent the Cubs and Giants scurrying to second base until the tremors stopped. The seismic event, which took place along the 46-mile long Newport-Inglewood Fault, was estimated at a magnitude of 6.3.
1933 – Jack Spring, born