* Top prospect Javier Baez was activated from Triple-A Iowa’s disabled list on Sunday and in the lineup as the designated hitter. Baez had not played since April 10. He injured his left ankle taking ground balls on April 11. In eight games, Baez was 4-for-26 with two home runs and 10 strikeouts.
* Anthony Rizzo entered Sunday’s game batting .464 at Wrigley Field, while teammate Starlin Castro was hitting .424 at home. They rank among the National League leaders in home batting average.
“Their two-strike approaches are pretty good,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of Rizzo and Castro. “‘Riz’ in particular with two strikes is choking up a little now and trying not to be so pull conscious and takes what they give him. It’s more of a mindset. You have to make an adjustment and as you improve as big league players, you know there are things you have to work on.
“He’s come to a conclusion that some of the things he’s doing are helping him,” Renteria said. “With offense, there are peaks and valleys to them, but so far, he’s had a consistent approach.”
* Renteria abandoned his usual lefty-righty platoon on Sunday, and has Mike Olt starting at third base against righty Homer Bailey.
“I’ve been trying over time with all the guys to give them some days when they go back to back,” Renteria said. “It gives them a better view and a little more comfortable. The reality is they’re going to face lefties and righties, and you’ve got to give them an opportunity to use some games back to back to get some kind of comfort.”
* The Cubs will celebrate Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary on Wednesday. Sue Quigg, grand-niece of former Cubs owner Charles Weeghman, will throw the game’s ceremonial first pitch, and use the 100-year-old ball her grandmother Dessa Weeghman threw at a Chi-Feds game a century ago. The first 30,000 fans will receive replica Chi-Feds jerseys, and the first 10,000 fans will get a birthday cupcake.
– Carrie Muskat
* Mike Olt took grounders at first base early Sunday just in case Anthony Rizzo was still bothered by back spasms, which forced him out of Saturday’s game.
“I told him not to,” Rizzo said, joking. “That’s my position.”
Rizzo was in the Cubs’ lineup Sunday for the series finale against the Reds. He was pulled from Saturday’s game in the eighth inning because of the back problems, which he said started “barking” in the fifth or sixth innings.
“He felt he’d be fine [Sunday] and came in and said he felt good,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said.
– Carrie Muskat
Happy Easter Sunday. Carlos Villanueva gets the start in the Cubs’ series finale against the Reds. Here’s the lineup — and keep in mind that left-handed batters are hitting .538 off Homer Bailey:
* Anthony Rizzo says he’s fine after coming out of Saturday’s game with back spasms. However, Mike Olt did take grounders at first base on Sunday, just in case.
The Cubs play host to the Diamondbacks, starting Monday night. Here are the pitching matchups:
Monday: LHP Travis Wood (0-2, 3.00) vs. RHP Bronson Arroyo (1-1, 9.95)
Tuesday: RHP Jason Hammel (2-1, 3.05) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (0-3, 7.11)
Wednesday: RHP Jeff Samardzija (0-2, 1.29) vs. LHP Wade Miley (2-2, 4.35)
Thursday: RHP Edwin Jackson (1-1, 5.40) vs. RHP Mike Bolsinger (0-1, 10.29)
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo had to leave Saturday’s game because of back spasms but did not expect to miss Sunday’s series finale against the Reds.
“It just started barking on me in the fifth or sixth, and once we took the four-run lead, I [decided to] play with more caution than go up there, get another at-bat and go out on the field and hurt it even more,” Rizzo said.
He was lifted defensively in the eighth inning, and Mike Olt moved from third to first.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Rizzo might have aggravated his back stretching for a high throw on a pickoff attempt.
“I felt it a little bit [Friday],” Rizzo said. “It’ll probably be gone tomorrow or the next day. The play on the pickoff that was kind of high, that’s when it started barking the most.”
– Carrie Muskat
Cubs manager Rick Renteria did talk to the players after Friday’s game, and said it’s part of an on-going process of communication.
“Yesterday, we had a talk with everybody to talk about the same things we’ve talked about since spring — it takes a lot of focus and intensity and commitment to have a chance to win,” Renteria said Saturday. “And not even a guarantee, just a chance [to win]. Winning is not an accident, it is a process and something you can put together with different means.”
Renteria was not happy with what he called “sloppy” play by the Cubs in the 4-1 loss to the Reds.
– Carrie Muskat
Jake Arrieta, slowed this spring by tightness in his right shoulder, will make another rehab start on Monday for Class A Daytona, and hopes that is his last tune-up before he’s ready to rejoin the Cubs. Arrieta has made three rehab starts with Double-A Tennessee but the Cubs are having him start for Daytona in hopes of finding some warmer weather. In his last outing, Arrieta went 5 2/3 innings, and said he’d like to throw 100 pitches on Monday.
“I want to get out there and get up to 100 pitches and kind of fine tune and refine some things and hopefully that’ll be the last stop,” Arrieta said.
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs face lefty Tony Cingrani on Saturday in the second game of their three-game series against the Reds. Edwin Jackson gets the start. Here’s the lineup:
E. Jackson P
Tsuyoshi Wada gave up one run on three hits over eight innings in Iowa’s 1-0 loss to New Orleans. Wada served up the homer on the second pitch of the game, and that was the only run. Chris Valaika and Logan Watkins each had a hit.
Kris Bryant hit his fourth home run in Tennessee’s 5-2 loss to Jackson, which scored five runs in the ninth. Ivan Pineyro threw 6 2/3 shutout innings. John Andreoli doubled, and stole home for his sixth stolen base of the season.
Daytona’s game against Tampa was postponed because of rain.
Kane County totaled five hits in a 9-0 loss to Dayton. Juan Paniagua gave up five runs over five innings and took the loss.
Chris Valaika, Logan Watkins and Eli Whiteside each had two hits in Iowa’s 5-4 win over New Orleans. The I-Cubs won despite making six errors. Brian Schlitter picked up his second save.
Tennessee slit a doubleheader against Jackson, losing 4-0 in the first game and winning 3-2 in the second. Corey Black took the loss in the opener, giving up three runs over four innings. In the second game, Taylor DAvis hit a go-ahead RBI single in the fourth.
Tim Saunders hit his first home run in Daytona’s 6-5 loss to Tampa. Rock Shoulders had three hits.
Daury Torrez, 20, struck out four over eight innings in Kane County’s 13-1 win over Dayton. Torrez gave up one run on two hits. Will Remillard had four hits, including two doubles, and five RBI. Yasiel Balaguert had two hits.
Jeff Samardzija posted his fourth quality start on Friday but it wasn’t enough as the Reds beat the Cubs, 4-1, in front of 28,699 at Wrigley Field. Samardzija is winless in his last 10 starts. The Cubs have scored a total of four runs in his four starts this year.
“You keep going out there and doing your work,” Samardzija said. “Today was a tough day to hit with that wind. You just go out and keep doing your work and understand everybody is doing their job. You can’t let it get to you, for sure.”
* Manager Rick Renteria met with the players after the game, although he would not confirm the meeting.
“He said a lot of good things,” Welington Castillo said of the Cubs manager. “He’s a positive guy.”
Renteria said he’s not focused on the statistics, but what he sees on the field.
“I concern myself more with the way we approach the game,” Renteria said. “If our approach is good and we’re really focused on what we’re supposed to be doing both at the plate and in the field, I’m good with it. Today, I think we were a little sloppy in general, and Jeff really kept us in the ballgame throughout.”
* On the plus side, the Cubs did snap a 24-scoreless inning stretch with Luis Valbuena’s RBI single in the seventh.
* Anthony Rizzo had two hits, and was 13-for-26 at home this season. He also combined with Samardzija on three straight plays in the seventh inning.
“Let them roll it over and let me get to first,” Samardzija said. “I think we’ve seen enough out of Riz at first to know he’s a premium first baseman defensively. I always need to be on my toes when the ball heads that way because he plays deep and plays in the hole. We’re kind of on the same page. I’d rather have him cover a lot of ground. We’ve made that play a lot of times. It’s nice to have that over there, it’s a nice commodity to have a first baseman who can pick it like Riz.”
* Playing the NL Central is a good test for the Cubs.
“They’re a good team,” Samardzija said of the Reds. “We’re not playing a fifth-place team. They’re a complete team. They can hit, they can play defense, they can pitch. When they’re guys are healthy in the bullpen, they can close games out. When you play the Reds, Cardinals and Pirates and the Brewers now, you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game and play clean defense and put some runs on the board and pitch well if you want to win games. I think it’s a good learning curve for us to understand to win games in the big leagues we need all three facets of the game to be clean. You play the good teams and they take advantage of your mistakes, and you can’t give them any breathing room.”
* The Reds stole five bases against the Cubs. It’s the first time a team has done that against Chicago since Atlanta did so on Aug. 14, 2011.
– Carrie Muskat