November 2011

11/23 Zambrano update

Carlos Zambrano, who needed 10 stitches to fix a cut after he was hit in the face by a line drive, was not expected to pitch until next week so he has time to heal. According to a report out of Venezuela, Zambrano was to see a doctor on Friday and might be available to start for Caribes next Tuesday. His status is day to day. The Cubs pitcher had his best outing in Venezuela last Friday, giving up one unearned run on two hits and two walks over five innings for Caribes, but had to leave the game after he was hit by Ezequiel Carrera’s liner.

— Carrie Muskat

11/23 Ryan Dempster holiday auction & pizza party

Are you thinking about a gift for your favorite Cubs fan but don’t want to mess with shopping at the malls? Starting Friday, the Ryan Dempster Family Foundation will hold a Thanksgiving online auction of sports memorabilia. The auction features items autographed by Cubs greats such as Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, Fergie Jenkins and Ron Santo. Plus there are some pieces of Cubs history, including game-used items.

Here’s a link to the items available:

Mark Jan. 12 on your calendar, too. The Dempster’s Foundation also will host the ultimate pizza party on Jan. 12 at D’Agostino’s in Wrigleyville. There will be a silent auction, a chance to mingle with Cubs players, a raffle, entertainment, and plenty of pizza. Tickets are $100 each (kids are $50 each and children under 2 are free) and that provides access to the all you can eat and drink event. All proceeds benefit the Ryan and Jenny Dempster Family Foundation. Tickets are limited and can be purchased at D’Agostino’s Wrigleyville location or by going to the website.

— Carrie Muskat

11/23 Winter ball update

Austin Bibens-Dirkx gave up two hits over 6 2/3 innings for his fourth win as Zulia beat Caracas, 8-0, in Venezuelan winter League play. Bibens-Dirkx struck out one and walked two in his outing.

Bryan LaHair’s stint in Venezuela is over. The first baseman batted .264 in 24 games with seven home runs, six doubles, and 14 RBIs. He also struck out 29 times. LaHair hit six of his homers in his first seven games with Magallanes. Cubs prospect Rebel Ridling is now playing first base for the team.

Jay Jackson made his first start for Caracas on Nov. 19, and gave up three runs on six hits over three innings. Marwin Gonzalez also is playing for Caracas, and was batting .333 in 23 games with three doubles and 11 RBIs.

In the Dominican, Chris Rusin is 1-2 with a 2.84 ERA in six starts with Leones del Escogido, giving up eight earned runs on 24 hits and eight walks over 25 1/3 innings. He’s struck out 21.

In Mexico, Blake Parker posted a 3.48 ERA in 19 games in relief for Hermosillo, striking out 20 over 20 2/3 innings. He gave up eight runs on 12 hits and four walks, with five of those runs coming in one outing on Nov. 15. He served up runs in three of his 19 appearances.

— Carrie Muskat

11/22 Highlights from new CBA

Here are some of the highlights of the labor agreement announced today between MLB and the MLB Players Association:

* A second Wild Card team will be added to both leagues in either 2012 or 2013. The two Wild Card teams will have a one-game playoff, with the winner moving on to the Division Series.

* In 2013, the Astros will move to the American League. This will give each league 15 teams, split into three five-team divisions. As a result of the uneven numbers, Interleague play will take place all year.

* Active rosters will be expanded from 25 to 26 players for certain regular or split doubleheaders.

* Beginning in 2012, there will no longer be any designated Type A or Type B free agents. There will be a new Draft pick compensation system.

* The cutoff for Super Two arbitration-eligible players has expanded, meaning more players will be eligible for arbitration that extra season.

* The minimum salary for Major League and Minor League players will increase. The Major League minimum will be $414,000 in 2012. By 2014, that minimum salary will be $500,000.

* The signing deadline for players taken in the First-Year Player Draft has been moved up. It will now fall between July 12-18, depending on the date of the All-Star Game.

* There will be a tax for teams who spend too much on players taken in the Draft. Each pick in the first 10 rounds of the Draft will be assigned a value each year, and a club’s “signing bonus pool” will equal the sum of all their picks in those first 10 rounds. If a club exceeds their own signing bonus pool, they will incur a tax and/or loss of future Draft picks (depending on how much over the team is).

* Any picks that are forfeited by teams that spend too much will then be distributed through a lottery to teams that complied. A team’s odds of winning that pick in the lottery will be based on their previous year’s winning percentage and previous season’s revenue.

* There is the addition of a new competitive balance lottery, which appears to be something that will help small market teams. The 10 clubs with the lowest revenue and the 10 clubs in the smallest markets will be entered into a lottery for six Draft picks that will come immediately after the first round of the Draft. A club’s odds of getting one of those six picks is based on the team’s winning percentage from the previous year. The worse the winning percentage, the better the odds.

* The teams that do not win one of those six lottery picks go into another lottery, that also includes all other teams, for six Draft picks that will then come right after the second round.

* As for international signings, each team will be given an equal signing bonus pool for the 2012-13 signing period. After this next year, the signing bonus pool a team gets will be determined based on winning percentage. In other words. the club with the lowest winning percentage will be able to spend the most on International signings.

* Beginning in 2013-14, clubs will be allowed to trade part of their signing bonus pool. If a team spends more than its signing bonus pool allows, that club will incur a tax and restrictions on who the team can sign the next year.

* Players, managers and coaches will not be allowed to use smokeless tobacco during televised interviews or appearances. Tobacco products may not be carried by players/coaches in their pockets when fans are present in a stadium.

* Beginning in Spring Training, all players will be subject to HGH blood testing. All players will be tested every Spring Training and players are subject to unannounced testing during the offseason.

* Participation in the All-Star Game is mandatory unless a player is unavailable due to injury or has his excuse approved by the Commissioner’s office.

* Instant replay may be expanded to include fair/foul and trapped ball plays.

— Carrie Muskat

11/21 Cespedes, Jaramillo, Ryno & Santo

The Cubs are expected to get a first-hand look at Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes on Tuesday in the Dominican Republic. Jason McLeod, senior vice president of scouting and player development, was part of the Cubs contingent in the Dominican. Cespedes set a single-season record by hitting 33 home runs. The 26-year-old right-handed hitting outfielder has worked out for the Red Sox and Yankees, among other teams. However, his asking price, believed to be around $50 million, may be a little steep. McLeod also had a chance to scout 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler in the Dominican.

* Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo will return next season and be part of new Cubs manager Dale Sveum’s staff, baseball sources said. Jaramillo talked to Sveum over the weekend. Sveum is still putting together his staff, and an official announcement was expected soon, possibly after the Thanksgiving holiday. Coaches Bobby Dernier and Ivan DeJesus will not return, according to a source.

* Ryne Sandberg, who guided the Phillies’ Triple-A team to its first winning season and into the International League championship series, will return as the IronPigs manager in 2012. Sandberg had interviewed for the Cardinals’ Major League manager vacancy, which ultimately went to former St. Louis catcher Mike Matheny.

* Tuesday is the official release date for WGN Radio’s Pat Hughes new CD highlighting Ron Santo’s career. It’s a fun-filled collection of Santo clips from the “Pat & Ron Show” broadcasts, including discussions between the two on cage dancing, cake, “Al Fonseca,” Brant Brown, and more. It’s an absolute must for fans of Santo, who died last December. The CD is the 10th in Hughes’ “Baseball Voices” series, which naturally is the perfect one to honor No. 10. You can purchase it on or at

— Carrie Muskat

11/21 Cubs 2012 Spring Training schedule

The Cubs released the 2012 Spring Training schedule today. They’ll play 16 home games at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, Ariz., 17 road games, and two in Las Vegas.  Spring training report dates will be determined at a later time. The Cubs will make their annual trip to Las Vegas for a two-game weekend series March 17-18 against a to-be-determined opponent.   The Cubs close out the spring on April 3 against the Brewers. The Cubs and White Sox square off twice next spring – March 9 in Glendale and March 18 at HoHoKam.
Individual game tickets for the 2012 Chicago Cubs home spring training games at HoHoKam Park will go on sale Jan. 5 at 10 a.m. CT on or by calling 1-800-905-3315.  The ticket box office at HoHoKam Park will open for the sale of individual game tickets beginning Jan. 17 at 9 a.m. MT.
Season tickets at HoHoKam Park go on sale Jan. 4 at 9 a.m. MT and group tickets go on sale Jan. 5 at 9 a.m. MT at the HoHoKam box office or by calling 480-964-4467.

Here’s the schedule. All games begin at 1:05 p.m. Arizona time unless otherwise noted.  Split squad games are denoted with an (ss).
March 4 vs. Athletics, Mesa

March 5 vs. Athletics, Mesa

March 6 vs. Rockies, Mesa

March 7  at Royals, Surprise

March 8 vs. Mariners, Mesa

March 9 at White Sox, Glendale

March 10 at Brewers, Maryvale

March 11 at Dodgers, Glendale

March 12 vs. Reds, Mesa

March 13 at Giants, Scottsdale (7:05 p.m. MT)

March 14 vs. Brewers, Mesa

March 15 (ss) vs. Diamondbacks, Mesa; at Rockies, Scottsdale

March 16 vs. Giants, Mesa

March 17 (ss) at Athletics, Phoenix; at Las Vegas (Team TBD)

March 18 (ss) vs. White Sox, Mesa; at Las Vegas (Team TBD)

March 19 at Mariners, Peoria

March 20 (ss) vs. Rangers, Mesa; at Athletics, Phoenix

March 21 OFF

March 22 at Rangers, Surprise

March 23 at Rockies, Scottsdale

March 24 vs. Padres, Mesa

March 25 at Indians, Goodyear

March 26 (ss) vs. Padres, Mesa; at Diamondbacks, Scottsdale

March 27 at Reds, Goodyear

March 28 vs. Indians, Mesa

March 29 at Padres, Peoria

March 30 vs. Dodgers, Mesa

March 31 vs. Angels, Mesa

April 1 at Angels, Tempe

April 2 at Diamondbacks, Scottsdale

April 3 vs. Brewers, Mesa

— Carrie Muskat

11/19 Zambrano goes 5 innings

In his third start in Venezuela, Carlos Zambrano gave up one run — unearned — on two hits and two walks over five innings. His Caribes team beat Magallanes, 3-1, but Zambrano did not get a decision. He faced 19 batters, and struck out four. Zambrano had to leave Friday’s game after he was hit in the face by a line drive by Ezequiel Carrera and was taken to a local hospital as a precaution. Reports from Venezuela say he’s OK.

— Carrie Muskat

11/18 Vitters, Lake, Beliveau, Szczur added to 40-man

The Cubs selected the contracts of left-handed pitcher Jeff Beliveau, infielders Junior Lake and Josh Vitters, and outfielder Matt Szczur, and added them to the 40-man roster on Friday. In addition, the Cubs outrighted outfielder Lou Montanez and right-handed pitchers Esmailin Caridad and Kyle Smit off the 40-man roster.

Friday was the deadline for teams to set the 40-man rosters in anticipation of the Rule 5 Draft, which is conducted at next month’s Winter Meetings. With the changes, the Cubs’ 40-man roster is now 34 players.

Beliveau, 24, was named the Cubs’ 2011 Minor League Pitcher of the Year after combining to go 6-2 with five saves and a 1.57 ERA in 53 relief appearances between Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee. The lefty combined to strike out 89 and walked 19 over 74 1/3 innings. He also pitched for Team USA and briefly in the Arizona Fall League. In four Minor League seasons, Beliveau is 17-9 with 10 saves and a 2.69 ERA.

Lake, 21, combined to hit .279 with 21 doubles, six triples, 12 home runs, 38 stolen bases, 80 runs scored and 51 RBIs in 116 games between Daytona and Tennessee. The shortstop was named a 2011 Arizona Fall League Rising Star, batting .296 with eight doubles, three triples, five home runs and 18 stolen bases in 28 games. He is a career .267 hitter in 476 Minor League games over five seasons.

Szczur, 22, batted .293 with 22 doubles, three triples, 10 homers, 46 RBIs, 75 runs and 24 stolen bases in 109 games for Class A Peoria and Daytona this season. A fifth round pick out of Villanova in 2010, he participated in the 2011 All-Star Futures Game and was a mid-season Midwest League All-Star.

Vitters, 22, batted .283 with 28 doubles, two triples, 14 home runs and 81 RBIs in 129 games with Tennessee, his first full season at Double-A. He followed that with a strong season in the Arizona Fall League, batting .360 with six doubles, four home runs and 17 RBIs in 24 games. The Cubs’ first round pick in 2007, Vitters is a career .277 hitter with 95 doubles, 47 home runs and 229 RBIs in 419 games covering five seasons.

— Carrie Muskat

11/18 Checking out Cuban prospects

The Cubs will get a look at Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes next week. On Friday, new Cubs player development director Jason McLeod watched 19-year-old outfielder Jorge Soler, another Cuban outfielder, who isn’t as high profile as Cespedes but is drawing attention from teams like the Yankees and Nationals. Soler is 6-foot-2, 215 pound outfielder. According to Nationals Director of International Scouting Johnny DiPuglia, Soler has a “Hanley Ramirez-type body. Plus arm. Plus bat speed. He’s a good kid, a good energy kid.” Cespedes is 26, and was to tryout with the Red Sox this weekend. He is expected to establish temporary residency in Dominican Republic between Nov. 25-30. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Cespedes would be declared a free agent shortly after that.

— Carrie Muskat


11/18 Sveum on Fielder: He plays harder than anyone

Dale Sveum is a big fan of Prince Fielder.

“It’s just the way he plays the game,” Sveum said Friday. “It’s nice to watch a guy play and want to play every single day. He hits
the ball, he’s running as hard as he can. He pops up to the infield, he runs, every single day. It’s not like he takes the day off — ‘Oh, I’m mad today.’ Catchers, look out if he’s going to score.
“We were very fortunate,” Sveum said. “We had two of those guys, Rickie Weeks and [Fielder] who played the game as hard as anybody who ever played the game. [Fielder] definitely plays harder than anybody in the game now. When you get one, two, three, four guys to play that way, everybody falls into the way you want to play the game.”
Fielder is a free agent but doesn’t appear to be on the Cubs’ wish list.

“You’d like to have a lot of great players, all the great free agents out there,” Sveum said. “We’re trying to do something here in Chicago to build now and win right now but be smart about it, too.”

— Carrie Muskat