The Cubs dropped their Cactus League opener Thursday 2-1 in Maryvale to the Brewers. Joe Maddon’s team hosts the Angels in the home opener on Friday afternoon (2:05pm CST). Pierce Johnson squares off against Jered Weaver. Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell and Dexter Fowler are expected to be in Maddon’s starting lineup.
Buster Olney joined a growing list of baseball writers when he predicted the Cubs will beat the Royals in The Series this fall. Olney thinks three teams from the NL Central will make the playoffs again this year. Olney has the Cubs winning the division and the Cardinals and Pirates playing in the Wild Card Game. Olney thinks the Giants and Nationals will take the other two division crowns in the NL.
As for the American League, Olney sees the Rays, Royals and Rangers as the division winners with the Yankees playing the Astros in the Wild Card Game.
Baseball America predicted the Cubs will beat the Red Sox in the Fall Classic and Thursday posted the editors’ predictions. John Manuel: Red Sox over the Cubs in five games; J.J. Cooper: Cubs over Astros in six; Ben Badler: Cubs over Astros in six; Ted Cahill: Nationals over the Red Sox in five; Jim Shonerd: Royals over Cubs in seven; Vince Lara: Red Sox over Mets in six; Josh Norris: Cubs over Red Sox in seven
John Lackey wore a T-shirt to Thursday’s team meeting that sums up what lies ahead for the Cubs … “Pull your hat down and hold on tight. It’s going to be a hell of a ride.”
Javier Baez played his first game in center field of the spring on Thursday. Baez worked with coaches at first base earlier in the day before going through the learning process that is center field.
Baez misplayed the first hit of the game into a triple. Jonathan Villar hit a ball off the wall in center. Baez got too close, the ball hit and bounced back towards the infield. Baez said after the game he made a bad read “that’s all.” Baez pointed out that was “the first ball he’s missed all spring.”
Baez told the beat writers “he is too hyper to be in center field that he needs to learn how to relax.” As for calling off Jorge Soler on what went as a sac fly by Colin Walsh, Baez said he called him off too early. And then rushed his throw. He admitted he has to learn that he has more time to make plays in center than at second or shortstop.
Baez also dropped a fly ball off the bat of Jonathan Lucroy after taking what the Tribune called a “strange route” to the ball.
The Cubs received positive reviews on Baez’s defense in center during the four games in winter ball. And he’s looked good in the outfield during practice. The Cubs want to see if Baez can play the position and possibly all three outfield spots. It’s a process that did not start well in a game that didn’t count.
David Ross is the elder statesman in the Cubs’ clubhouse. Ross will retire at the end of the Cubs season. And his teammates are determined to make this year unforgettable for one of the most respected players in baseball.
The latest gift for David Ross … a scooter that pulls a cart which holds his catching equipment and bats. And the license plate reads “GDPA.”
Kris Bryant announced Thursday his partnership with Express. Bryant is the new Express Men ambassador and “will appear in a new integrated marketing and advertising campaign across print, digital, social media and in-store platforms” starting in March.
According to a report from the Associated Press, Bryant sees endorsement possibilities as new face of the game.
As for the ‘Bryzzo’ ad campaign, that will be launched later in March as part of MLB’s #This campaign. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant would not reveal any details when asked about ‘Bryzzo.’
News and Notes
• According to the Tribune, starting and relieving experience make Adam Warren a good fit for the Cubs.
• Bruce Levine reported that Kyle Schwarber is eyeing consistency while being a sponge in Spring Training. The Cubs think Kyle Schwarber playing two positions will help boost his development according to a report from Comcast Sports Net.
• Kyle Hendricks is trying to tune out all the noise in the rotation battle according to Comcast SportsNet.
• According to ESPN Chicago it’s another spring and another chance for Albert Almora Jr.
• Addison Russell is “just grippin’ and rippin’ right now” and according to the Sun-Times he is ready to unleash power.
• Kris Bryant said the Cubs were over the loss in the NLCS pretty quick and they are embracing increased expectations.
• Iowa Cubs’ broadcaster Randy Wehofer will help Mick Gillispie call the Cubs’ Spring Training games on March 23 and March 25.
• RHP Jacob Turner is relishing the opportunity he has with the White Sox according to the Sun-Times.
• The White Sox agreed to terms with RHP Kameron Loe on a minor league contract. Loe will report to minor league camp. His deal does not include an invite to Major League Spring Training. Loe pitched in seven games for the Cubs during the 2013 season.
• Dodgers’ lefty Brett Anderson will be out three to five months after undergoing surgery for bulging disc in his lower back. According to Mike DiGiovanna, Dave Roberts expects Anderson to pitch his season. Dan Haren tweeted after the Anderson news hit the wire that he is beginning his throwing program … those on Twitter now following Haren is really missing out.
• The Tigers announced Thursday that Cameron Maybin will be out four to six weeks with a non-displaced fracture of his left wrist.
• According to Maury Brown, Major League Baseball had a staggering 8.4 billion minutes streamed to their mobile app in 2015.
This Day in Cubstory
2003 – Cubs signed free agent Trent Hubbard
1999 – Cubs signed amateur free agent Hee-Seop Choi
1917 – Clyde McCullough, born
1890 – Earl Tyree, born
1886 – National League met and adopted the stolen base but retained the rule it took seven balls for a walk and rejected the batter being awarded first base if hit by a pitch.
1884 – Red Murray, born
1884 – National League owners agreed to provide two separate team benches to minimize fraternizing among opposing players during games.
1874 – Jim Korwan, born