October 2009

10/25 Cubs look at Naples sites

Could the Cubs move their Spring Training site to Florida? A Naples, Fla., newspaper reports a group was formed four months ago for the purpose of making Collier County the Spring Training home of the Cubs. The Florida group has met with Cubs chairman Crane Kenney and Tom Ricketts, whose family is taking over as the team’s owner.

“The Chicago Cubs are exploring Naples, Fla., as a potential Spring Training venue and have been working with Chicago-based Esmark and Naples-based Fifth Avenue Advisors in that regard,” Kenney confirmed in a statement to the Naples (Fla.) Daily News. “Our site visits and discussions confirm that Collier County has a number of suitable locations for a world-class Spring Training facility.”

Cubs officials toured the area by helicopter to see what locations may be suitable. Craig Bouchard, who is a co-founder of Esmark Inc., said it was clear after their meeting that Ricketts and Kenney’s “objective is to do what is best for Cubs fans. They want to win a World Series. And they want to build the very best organization they can.”

The Cubs are believed to be looking for 120 contiguous acres. The Sports Management Division of Esmark is a principal sponsor of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Bouchards are principal owners of the Naples Tennis Club. Craig Bouchard, is a Cubs fan, and was an official with First National Bank of Chicago. He still has a home in the Chicago area.

The price tag for the venture could exceed $80 million, the newspaper reported. Bouchard said they are pursuing every avenue, public and private, to finance the project and not raise property or sales taxes of the residents of Collier County.

“I committed to Crane that Esmark will invest and take a leadership role in the stadium project,” Bouchard said.

The Cubs’ 25-year lease with the city of Mesa expires in 2016. The team has an escape clause, which allows the Cubs to pay $4.2 million to the city next spring in order to leave Mesa in 2012. Recent studies have shown that the Cubs bring in more than $52 million to Arizona, and more than $30 million to the city of Mesa.

The Cubs have called Mesa their Spring Training home since the 1950s, and permanent home since 1979.

“We are still a long shot,” Bouchard said of Naples as a site for the Cubs, “but I agree with the mayor of Mesa that we are a serious threat. We offer an outstanding destination for families, award-winning beaches and a belief we can put together a proposal that is favored by the Cubs. Sometimes, long shots win.”

Collier County has never had a Spring Training team. The Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins play nearby in Fort Myers.

Ricketts was expected to tour four sites in Mesa in November during the Cubs’ organizational meetings.

— Carrie Muskat

10/25 AFL & winter ball update

Cubs prospect Blake Parker blew a save Saturday but ended up with the win as the Mesa Solar Sox rallied for a 4-3, 10-inning win over Surprise. Parker served up back to back homers to Mets first-round pick Ike Davis and Yankees prospect Brandon Laird in the ninth, but the Solar Sox won the game on a two-out solo homer by David Cooper in the 10th.

Sunday is an off day in the Arizona Fall League, and the Solar Sox return to action Monday at Phoenix.

* In the Mexican League, Matt Camp posted his second three-hit game, scored two runs and drove in two in Mexicali’s 9-7 loss to Navojoa on Saturday. Camp, who was the Cubs’ 13th round pick in 2006 and converted to an infielder prior to the ’09 season, now is hitting .750.

* In Venezuela, J.R. Mathes threw five scoreless innings, giving up eight hits, for Caracas in a 9-0 win over Magallanes. Mathes now is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA.

Cubs prospect Robinson Chirinos hit a double for Magallanes in the game. Chirinos batted .300 in 69 games with Class A Daytona this season and .257 in 12 games for Double-A Tennessee. Second baseman Jonathan Mota was batting .350 for Aragua in Venezuela.

— Carrie Muskat

10/24 AFL & winter ball update

In the Arizona Fall League, Starlin Castro walked twice and scored two runs in the Mesa Solar Sox’s 11-10 loss to the Peoria Saguaros on Friday. Josh Vitters was 1-for-4 for Mesa, which will travel to Surprise on Saturday.

In the Mexican League, Cubs prospect Brian Schlitter blew a save but picked up the win in Mexicali’s 10-inning 9-8 win over Navojoa on Friday. Matt Camp went 3-for-5 with two doubles, two RBIs and scored three runs. He’s batting .389. Brad Snyder was 4-for-5 with two RBIs for Mexicali, which is managed by Iowa Cubs skipper Bobby Dickerson.

In Venezuela, Andres Blanco drove in two runs in a six-run 13th inning, hitting his second triple of the game, to lead Magallanes to a 10-4 victory over La Guaira on Thursday. Blanco also doubled and scored twice.

— Carrie Muskat

10/23 AFL update

Andrew Cashner, the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in 2008, gave up one run on three hits in 3 2/3 innings Thursday to take the loss in the Mesa Solar Sox’s loss to Scottsdale. Cashner struck out one, and now is 0-2 in Arizona Fall League play.

Reliever John Gaub, whom the Cubs acquired in the Mark DeRosa deal, was hit hard, giving up four runs on four hits over one inning.

Starlin Castro was the DH Thursday, and went 1-for-4 with a double. He’s batting .481 in the AFL. On Friday, Mesa plays at Peoria, AZ, against the Saguaros.

— Carrie Muskat

10/21 Rudy on Milton Bradley

GM Jim Hendry says Rudy Jaramillo’s success with Milton Bradley in Texas had nothing to do with the Cubs’ decision to hire him as the Major League team’s hitting coach. Bradley led the American League in on-base percentage in 2008 and batted .321 under Jaramillo’s tutelage. Hendry had suspended Bradley at the end of the ’09 season for the final 15 games, and was talking to teams in an attempt to trade the outfielder and the $21 million still owed on his contract.

“We play the cards that we have,” Hendry said Wednesday at the news conference at Wrigley Field announcing Jaramillo as the Cubs new hitting coach. “Milton’s on the Cubs’ roster. That’s how we go about it until somebody’s not on the Cubs roster. [Jaramillo’s relationship with Bradley] didn’t have any connection. We could’ve had 20 different guys on our roster and Rudy would still be sitting here today as our No. 1 guy.”

When asked about Bradley, Jaramillo had nothing but positive things to say.

“This young man has all the talent in the world,” Jaramillo said. “He worked hard. When he came in [to Texas], I knew my job was, ‘Hey, I have to win this kid over.’ It took me a while. He was a good student. He had an outstanding year for us. He still has a lot of baseball left. We got along great. I knew kind of what buttons to push. He started trusting me, and we started to get that rapport and things started to get better and better and he led the league in on-base percentage and slugging, so his ability is still there, there’s no doubt in my mind.”

Jaramillo did not talk to Bradley this past season, but did talk to Cubs manager Lou Piniella a couple times to try to help get the outfielder back on track. Would he like to work with Bradley again?

“That’s not my choice,” Jaramillo said. “I’ll work with anybody. I can get along with anyone. I don’t know what his status is or whatever. I have no problem [with Bradley].”

— Carrie Muskat

10/21 AFL & Samardzija update

Starlin Castro went 4-for-5 with one RBI and scored two runs in the Mesa Solar Sox’s 14-10 loss to the Peoria Javelinas Tuesday in Arizona Fall League play. Castro, 19, was batting .522 so far. The Solar Sox travel to Scottsdale on Wednesday.

In the Mexican League on Tuesday, Jeff Samardzija gave up four unearned runs over three innings in Mexicali’s 6-4 win over Guasave. Samardzija was making his third start, and he walked one, gave up four hits, and struck out six. He now has a 1.38 ERA in three games.

— Carrie Muskat

10/20 Hitting coach update

It’s been interesting to read some of the speculation regarding the Cubs and hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. On Monday, one scribe said the team had offered him $800,000 a year. Fact is, Jaramillo had yet to interview. He was waiting for a phone call Monday from GM Jim Hendry to set up a meeting. Also, Cubs Minor League roving hitting instructor Dave Keller has not talked to Hendry about the vacancy, as some have speculated. Keller and Hendry were in Arizona last week, but did not chat about the job.

There could be news this week once Hendry has a chance to meet with Jaramillo, 59, who opted to leave the Texas Rangers when that team refused to offer a multi-year deal. Another coach available is Carney Lansford, who was recently relieved of his duties by the Giants. His son, Josh, is a pitcher in the Cubs’ Minor League system.

— Carrie Muskat

10/20 AFL update

Starlin Castro shifted over to second base Monday for the Mesa Solar Sox, and went 1-for-4 in a 8-1 loss to the Peoria Javelinas in Arizona Fall League play. Castro has played shortstop in the Cubs’ Minor League system. Maybe the Cubs are considering him for 2010 at second? Mesa third baseman Josh Vitters, the Cubs’ No. 1 Draft pick in 2007, was 0-for-4.

— Carrie Muskat

10/19 Koyie Hill's Big Wish

Cubs catcher Koyie Hill is throwing a party on Dec. 5 in Wichita, KS, to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Kansas. Cubs players past and present such as Ryan Dempster, Ryan Theriot, Randy Wells, and Rick Sutcliffe, plus other big leaguers will take part in the event at the Hartman Arena. There will be a silent auction, followed by a Tracy Byrd Concert, and then a live auction. The VIP tables are nearly sold out, and Hill wanted people who have shown interest to know that proxies will be available and phone numbers as well on the Big Wish Kansas website closer to the Dec. 5 date.

Anyone interested in more information should go to: www.bigwishkansas.com

— Carrie Muskat



10/18 AFL update

Cubs prospect Welington Castillo hit a two-run homer in a five-run seventh inning to spark the Mesa Solar Sox to a 6-4 win Saturday night over the Peoria Saguaros in Arizona Fall League play. John Gaub, whom the Cubs acquired in the Mark DeRosa trade with Cleveland, picked up the win in relief, and Blake Parker, who had 22 saves at Triple-A Iowa, notched a save.

The Solar Sox have Sunday off and resume play Monday, playing host to the Peoria Javelinas at HoHoKam Park.

— Carrie Muskat