The countdown to the Cubs’ Spring Training games is over. The Cubs kickoff their Cactus League schedule this afternoon (2:05pm CST) in Maryvale against the Brewers.
According to Baseball America, Theo Epstein will get what he hoped for back in January.
Baseball America posted its predictions for the National League on Wednesday. And not only does the well-respected publication have the Cubs winning the NL Pennant, Baseball America has the Cubs beating the Red Sox in the Fall Classic.
Baseball America predicted the Cubs, Mets and Giants will be the division winners in the Senior Circuit with the Cardinals and Dodgers squaring off in the NL Wild Card game.
Baseball America joined a rather long list of national publications that has the Cubs as its pre-season pick to be the last team standing at the end of the year.
Joe Maddon said Szczur is making progress. The Cubs “did not want to press it” with Szczur early in camp. The Cubs are being cautious to ensure the injury does not linger.
Matt Murton talked to the beat writers Wednesday about the appendectomy he had Saturday. He thought the pain was just a stomach ache but when he told the training staff Saturday how he felt within a couple of hours he had his appendix removed.
Murton has not had any setbacks and said he “will be eased back into activities.”
Four players in camp have dealt with injuries: Matt Murton (appendectomy), Matt Szczur (oblique), Zac Rosscup (left shoulder inflammation) and Christian Villanueva (broken right fibula)
Jake Arrieta and the Big Three
According to Mark Gonzales, the Cubs big three of Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and John Lackey will make their Cactus League debuts starting on March 9.
Gonzales reported Arrieta will likely make his first start of the spring on March 9 against the Indians at Sloan Park. Lester is scheduled to take on the Mariners in Peoria the next day (March 10) and Lackey is expected to square off against the Reds on March 11 at Sloan Park.
Arrieta said Wednesday his “arm is exceptionally good right now and his body feels great.” And if the season started today, he would be ready to go. He has to work on “refining secondary stuff” and fastball command over the course of the month.
Arrieta was honored to be named the starter for Opening Night. He downplayed being named the Opening Day starter and thinks he can draw from the experience he gained pitching the Orioles’ first game of the 2012 season.
The power that Addison Russell has displayed during practice this spring has surprised Joe Maddon according to a report from the Tribune.
Russell has looked very good in practice, both at the plate and in the field.
Maddon told the beat writers Wednesday, “I didn’t know he had that kind of power. You saw it last year during the season, and I’m watching him in batting practice right now. He’s very strong.”
Maddon said that Russell is a lot more comfortable and confident “in his Major League skin.” Maddon is loving what he’s seeing from his shortstop.
Javier Baez is in the starting lineup and playing center field for Joe Maddon in the Cactus League opener. Baez has played a lot of time in the outfield in practice and Maddon has liked what he’s seen from Baez.
“We were watching him on the main field the other day during batting practice, and he looks like he’s done it forever,” Maddon said.
The Cubs view Baez as the primary backup to all four infield spots. And by the end of Spring Training he’s expected to see playing time at every position other than catcher and pitcher.
Former Cubs’ outfielder Chris Denorfia signed a minor league contract with the Yankees. Denorfia is in big league camp on a non-roster invite. Denorfia has an opt-out in his contract if it doesn’t appear he will make the Opening Day roster. Denorfia batted .269/.319/.373 with 11 doubles, a triple and three home runs for a .691 OPS in 103 games for the Cubs last season. If Denorfia makes the roster out of camp, he will receive a $1 million base salary and can earn another $1 million in performance bonuses.
News and Notes
• Kyle Hendricks is on the spot to keep his No. 5 spot in the Cubs rotation according to the Tribune.
• Neil Ramirez told Tony Andracki that he “expects to ramp up his activity and workload as the spring progresses and he insists he’ll be ready when called upon.” Ramirez could be a gamechanger for the Cubs in the pen according to Comcast SportsNet.
• Lou Piniella will be with the Reds on Saturday at Sloan Park. And the Cubs’ former skipper is impressed by Joe Maddon’s formidable team according to the Sun-Times.
• Kris Bryant told 670 The Score that he “figures his outfield time to the Cubs is pretty much done.” Bryant said, “I don’t know if they’ll need me to do much of that his year.”
And last, but not least, ‘Grandpa Rossy’ had a rough day of catching drills and his teammates found something to help him get around the clubhouse … click here.
The CCO Poll
In the latest poll here on Chicago Cubs Online, we asked what was the Cubs best move of the off-season. There were 387 votes placed … and here are the results:
- Signing Jason Heyward – 175 votes (45.22%)
- Not Trading Jorge Soler – 84 votes (21.71%)
- Signing John Lackey – 34 votes (8.79%)
- Not Trading Javier Baez – 31 votes (8.01%)
- Signing Ben Zobrist – 26 votes (6.72%)
- Retaining Maddon’s Coaching Staff – 25 votes (6.46%)
- Acquiring Adam Warren – 9 votes (2.33%)
- Re-Signing Trevor Cahill – 3 votes (0.78%)
This Day in Cubs History
1895 – Joe Jaeger, born
1888 – Art Bues, born