Countdown to Cubs Cactus League Opener: 2 Days
Ben Zobrist would like to be part of The Cubs team that puts an end to the longest drought in the history of North American sports. Zobrist reportedly turned down more lucrative offers from other teams to play for the Cubs and be reunited with his long-time skipper Joe Maddon.
Zobrist grew up a Cardinals’ fan in Eureka, IL. Zobrist explained to Tracy Ringolsby that his decision to sign with the Cubs did not sit too well with family and friends. While they want to root for Zobrist, “rooting for the Cubs is next to a sin.” Zobrist said “now they have to suck it up.” His father, who is a pastor, had to counsel two of his uncles that “were both pretty shook up” after he signed with the Cubs.
The Mets, Giants and Nationals are three of the teams that showed serious interest in Zobrist. Along with the team he just helped win their first Fall Classic in 30 years.
The Royals were “at the top of his list” and they had interest in re-signing Zobrist. But winning the World Series last October “played a part” in his decision.
“This place is the only place that appealed to me more. If we hadn’t won, it would have been more of an issue, ” Zobrist said. “With the Cubs, I have the opportunity to try to win another one.”
Joe Maddon obviously was a factor in Zobrist signing with the Cubs. Zobrist said earlier in the off-season that even if Maddon wasn’t the manager he probably would have chosen the Cubs.
Ben Zobrist thinks the Cubs “are proud and ready to take the next step” after reaching the NLCS last year.
Notes from Cubs Spring Practice
• Monday was photo day at the Cubs facility and the players got their work in on Fields 1 and 2 in the home whites. The Cubs uniforms included the patch that recognizes the team’s 100th year at Wrigley Field.
• The players started Monday working on baserunning drills … and hitting the orange corner on the bags at first, second and third. Every player participated and there wasn’t any lollygagging. Players worked on taking leads and picking up third base coach Gary Jones with Brandon Hyde.
• Kyle Schwarber worked with Miguel Montero and David Ross on throwing drills. Schwarber showed off his strong arm. His popup time was behind the two veteran catchers. And it’s really something watching Ross go through the drills. Mechanically, he is as good as it gets. And his throws, even on the last day of February, were on target each time.
• Kevin Youkilis was in uniform and working with the players on Field 1.
• Rex Brothers threw live BP on Field 1 and struggled. Chris Bosio worked with him as he struggled with his release point and just throwing strikes. Willson Contreras got a workout behind the plate, which was good to see, but not under those circumstances. It will be interesting to see Brothers make adjustments as the Cactus League season progresses.
• It was only practice but Willson Contreras did not treat that way. Contreras blocked pitches in the dirt, moved extremely well to both sides and even showed off his hops on a couple of occasions. Contreras was so good Monday that Bosio let him know how well he was doing on multiple occasions.
Cactus League Pitching Matchups
Joe Maddon announced his starting pitchers for the first four games of the Cactus League schedule. Travis Wood gets the ball in the opener against the Brewers. Pierce Johnson faces the Angels the next day at Sloan Park in the spring home opener. Trevor Cahill gets the Reds at Sloan on Saturday and Adam Warren makes his Cubs’ debut in Scottsdale on Sunday against the Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields.
- March 3 – vs. Brewers at Maryvale – Travis Wood and Chase Anderson
- March 4 – vs. Angels at Sloan Park – Pierce Johnson and Jered Weaver
- March 5 – vs. Reds at Sloan Park – Trevor Cahill
- March 6 – vs. Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields – Adam Warren
Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jason Hammel are not expected to pitch in a Cactus League game until the end of next week. Reports varied from March 8 to March 10 as for when Maddon could start using a majority of his projected rotation in exhibition games.
The Cubs are not playing an intrasquad game this spring. The first exhibition game is Thursday versus the Brewers.
- CCO: Maddon Announces Cubs Rotation for Early Cactus League Games
- The Tribune: Light spring load for Cubs pitchers, includes Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop
- The Sun-Times: Wait’ll Next Week: Cubs top starters to be eased into spring rotation
- ESPN Chicago: Cubs’ top starting pitchers to debut next week
- Bruce Levine: Cubs taking cautious approach with top pitchers early in Spring Training
MLB Win Totals
Bovada released its win totals for all 30 MLB teams for the upcoming season. And the over-under on Cubs’ wins is 92 1/2 … the highest win total in baseball.
Bovada has the Cubs (92 1/2), Mets (89 1/2), Giants (89 1/2), Nationals (89 1/2), Dodgers (88 1/2), Astros (87 1/2), Cardinals (87 1/2), Blue Jays (87 1/2), Red Sox (86 1/2) and Pirates (86 1/2) with the 10 highest win totals in the game.
Cubs prospect Christian Villanueva broke his right fibula during infield practice on Sunday. The Cubs said he will be out for months and have not given a timeframe on when he could start rehab.
Villanueva underwent surgery Monday and tweeted, “Surgery was a success. Thanks for all the prayers and well wishes.”
News and Notes
• Joe Maddon rolled up in ‘Cal State Fullerton’ on Monday and dipped into the 1970s before the Cubs’ workout according to the Tribune.
• Comcast SportsNet reported Maddon continues to do whatever it takes to bring the Cubs together with crazy Leap Day celebration.
• Respect Bald is Saturday, March 5 at 11:00am. Those that would like to participate in the charity event, the donation is $100.
• Jorge Soler is unfazed by Dexter Fowler addition according to Bruce Levine.
• The Sun-Times reported that Jon Lester has no hard feeling for the Red Sox going all in on David Price. Lester talked to Price about signing with the Cubs prior to him inking the deal with the Red Sox. Lester has no hard feelings toward the Red Sox whatsoever and told the Sun-Times everything happens for a reason. “This is definitely the place to be in baseball right now,” Lester said. And he’s thrilled to be with the Cubs.
• After a shaky NLCS in left, Kyle Schwarber is out to prove he can play outfield according to the Tribune.
• Joe Maddon doesn’t have a playing time problem according to ESPN Chicago.
• The Cubs don’t believe Javier Baez will get overwhelmed in super-utility role according to a report from Comcast SportsNet.
• No word yet when Aaron Brooks will make his spring debut. According to Susan Slusser, before the trade with the Cubs last week Brooks was scheduled to start the A’s first Cactus League game.
• Major League Baseball released the final order for June’s Draft … the Cubs first pick is in the third round, No. 104 overall.
• The sentencing date for Chris Correa was changed from April 11 to April 18. The Cubs will be in St. Louis on April 18. Correa is the Cardinals executive that hacked the Astros’ database on multiple occasions and stole proprietary information. MLB is expected to take action against the Cardinals after Correa is sentenced.
• Jon Paul Morosi thinks Major League Baseball could expand to 32 teams in the next decade … and he provided a list of possible destinations for new big league teams.
And last, but not least, on Feb. 29, 1972 Hank Aaron signed a contract worth $200,000 … and he became the first player in Major League history be paid $200,000 a year.
This Day in Cubstory
2005 – Cubs received approval to expand the bleachers and build an additional 1,790 seats at Wrigley Field. The construction project began at the end of the season in order for the project to be completed by Opening Day 2006.
2003 – Cubs signed free agent Javier Cardona
1988 – Trevor Cahill, born
1980 – Micah Hoffpauir, born
1969 – Doug Creek, born
1948 – Cubs traded Bobby Sturgeon to the Boston Braves to Dick Culler and Walt Lanfranconi
1918 – Hank Wyse, born
1914 – Harry Caray, born
1855 – Paul Hines, born