The Cubs dropped two exhibition games Monday, one to the Royals in Mesa and the other to the Rockies in Scottsdale. Jason Heyward collected his first hit of the spring, a solo home run, and Anthony Rizzo also took the Rockies’ Jon Gray deep. As was the case in Mesa, the bullpen could not hold the lead at Salt River Fields.
Addison Russell drove in both of the Cubs runs against the Royals with his second homer of the spring. Russell smacked a two-run home run to left with two down in the fifth inning off lefty David Huff. Russell hit only two homers off lefties last season. Russell is hitting the ball with a lot more authority this spring than a year ago.
Russell told ESPN Chicago that he’s not trying to hit home runs. Russell is looking to make good contact.
According to Comcast SportsNet, the Cubs are working with Russell “to correct his running mechanics.” Russell has missed time the last two years with hamstring injuries. He focused during the off-season on “strengthening and training his legs and back muscles in an effort to avoid injuries” at the Andrews Institute in Northwest Florida.
Joe Maddon thinks Russell is quicker laterally this spring. The Cubs are watching Russell closely. Maddon said it’s important to communicate with Russell, listen to the trainers and “if there’s any kind of inclination, just back off and give him a day.”
Ryne Sandberg was back in uniform at Cubs’ camp on Monday. Sandberg is a guest instructor. Multiple photos surfaced of him with Rick Sutcliffe and Sweet Swingin’ Billy Williams.
Joe Maddon invited Sandberg last month to come back to camp as a guest instructor. Maddon said Monday, “It’s going to be a blast to have him around. We’ll definitely rely on what he has to say.”
Maddon would like for Sandberg to talk to the middle infielders. And Maddon wouldn’t mind if he also talked to the hitters.
According to ESPN Chicago, Maddon has “made it clear to former Cubs players that they’re welcome at Spring Training.” Maddon has actually reached out to several of them and said it is important to invite them to Spring Training.
Tommy La Stella
Tommy La Stella left Monday’s game against the Royals before the top of the second inning with soreness in his right calf. The Sun-Times indicated the injury is not serious. La Stella is listed as day-to-day.
La Stella missed a majority of last season with an oblique injury.
Multiple reports have pointed to La Stella being a key piece to the Cubs’ bench this season. Joe Maddon loves what La Stella brings to the table offensively from the left side. La Stella has worked at second and third base this spring.
According to a report from Carrie Muskat, Matt Murton hit off a tee on Monday and was hoping to do more. Murton is recovering from an appendectomy on Feb. 27.
Murton has not been cleared by the Cubs medical staff. And the veteran outfielder doesn’t want to rush back and suffer a setback.
According to Jon Heyman, “right before” the Cardinals acquired Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden from the Braves for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins, the Yankees “tried hard for Heyward and Andrelton Simmons.”
Heyward heard that he was close to being traded to the Yankees. Heyman reported those in the know said it would have been a “5-for-5 blockbuster.”
The Braves would have sent Heyward, Simmons, David Carpenter, B.J. Upton and Chris Johnson to the Yankees, according to Heyman, for Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, Manny Banuelos, Ian Clarkin and Gary Sanchez. The Yankees obviously didn’t pull the trigger on the deal.
News and Notes
• According to Bruce Levine, Jason Hammel is on a new mission. The Sun-Times explained how Jason Hammel made himself look like a key to the Cubs rotation. The Cubs are hoping Jason Hammel can find his groove according to Comcast SportsNet. And the Tribune reported Jason Hammel seeks a turn for the better in Cubs’ rotation.
• Jason Hammel told the beat writers after his outing Monday that Kyle Schwarber “was great” behind the plate.
• Anthony Rizzo’s home run in Monday’s exhibition game against the Rockies was hit at 114 mph according to Daren Willman. Anthony Rizzo hit only one ball harder than that last season.
• Jason Heyward’s homer had an exit velocity of 107 mph, according to Darren Willman. Jason Heyward hit only one home run last season harder than the one he launched Monday in Scottsdale.
• According to ESPN Chicago, the Royals’ bullpen is royalty. How far behind are the Cubs?
• Gordon Wittenmyer talked to Kris Medlen about Jake Arrieta breaking his ERA record.
• Rick Sutcliffe watched live BP on the minor league side Monday. Sutcliffe tweeted, “Exciting day in Minor League camp watching live BP! Complete turnaround from what I saw in Theo’s first spring. 95 mph everywhere. #future.”
• Mike Olt was designated for assignment Sunday to make room on the White Sox roster for Austin Jackson. And according to Paul Sullivan, Olt cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Charlotte.
• The Orioles signed Pedro Alvarez to a one-year, $5.75 million contract that includes a $1.5 million incentives package/performance bonuses.
• And The Score posted three ways the Cardinals can replace Jhonny Peralta.
This Day in Cubstory
1981 – Cubs signed free agent Mick Kelleher
1976 – Ryan Freel, born
1942 – George Gerberman, born
1924 – Toby Atwell, born
1869 – Jim Hughey, born