January 2012

1/13 Castro issues statement

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro issued a statement after he was questioned by Chicago police about allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman in late September.

“I personally, and through my attorneys, have fully cooperated with the police in this matter,” Castro said in the statement. “Unfortunately I cannot address the matter further at this time while the investigation is taking place. I understand that being a member of the Cubs means being a hard worker on the field and a good citizen off the field, and I always want to carry myself in a way that exceeds high expectations.”

No charges have been filed.

— Carrie Muskat

1/13 Castro questioned re: allegations

WBBM Newsradio reported Friday that Chicago police questioned Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro Thursday night about allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman in late September. No charges were filed against Castro.

Castro was accompanied by his lawyer, Michael Gillespie, at Area 3 Headquarters.

According to the police report, the woman was drinking with friends at a River North nightclub in Chicago on Sept. 29 when she met Castro. Sources said the woman and a friend left the bar at 3 a.m. and went to Castro’s apartment nearby. The woman told police that she passed out, and when she came to, the alleged offender was sexually assaulting her. She yelled, and left the apartment around 5:30 a.m. Twelve hours later, she went to a hospital and told police.

Castro, 21, left Chicago on Sept. 30 for the Dominican Republic. His attorneys have called the accusations “baseless.”

— Carrie Muskat

1/12 Cubs introduce 9-game ticket package

The Cubs announced the sale of the 9-Game Pack, featuring tickets to highly-anticipated weekend match-ups such as the Red Sox, Cardinals and cross-town rival White Sox. Sales begin Jan. 20 at 10 a.m. CST on Cubs.com.
Fans can customize their nine-game pack when advancing through the order process on Cubs.com, similar to the Cubs Pick 13 Plan offered last year. This year’s offering contains four fewer games per package but provides more games to select from when purchasing, including additional weekend games. Prices start at $170 before taxes and fees for a Cubs 9-Game Pack in the Upper Deck Reserved Outfield section.
Other match-ups featured include a series with the newly-named Miami Marlins, NL East champion Phillies, NL West champion Diamondbacks and Central Division rivals Brewers and Reds.
The Cubs 9-Game Pack marks the beginning of the “Baseball is Better” ad developed by The Brooklyn Brothers agency, which developed the campaign based on Theo Epstein’s introductory press conference remarks.
The 9-Game Pack will be available in both the Budweiser Bleachers and in the reserved seating bowl of Wrigley Field. Fans must order the same number of tickets for each of the nine games in their package. Tickets must be purchased online through Cubs.com, however, questions may be directed to the Cubs Ticket Office at (773) 404-4242.
— Carrie Muskat

1/12 Wood, Cubs still talking

Kerry Wood has said he’d like to reach a decision by Friday. Can he and the Cubs work it out?

“Players have the right to make choices in their careers,” Epstein said Thursday at Wrigley Field where he spoke to students from Agassiz Elementary School. “If they sign somewhere else, it doesn’t mean they’re disloyal or anything else. There are a lot of factors that go into it with someone’s career and livelihood. But teams have to make choices, too, about what’s best for the organization as a whole over the long haul.

“When you have a player the team wants and a situation the player wants [to return], you need to sit down and really try to work it out,” Epstein said. “A lot of times it does work out, sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, you move on.

“There are always other opportunities, always other teams for the player,” he said. “In this case, I know it’s important to the fans, and for baseball reasons, we’d like to work this out. He can be a real contributor to our bullpen this year.”

Wood is hosting a fundraiser at Harry Caray’s on Navy Pier Friday night, scheduled to begin after the opening ceremonies at the Cubs Convention.

— Carrie Muskat


1/11 Growing up

Theo Epstein plans on introducing a rookie development program with the Cubs similar to one he created with the Red Sox. Hopefully, such a program will help future Cubs avoid what happened to Starlin Castro. Chicago police want to question Castro about sexual assault charges from an incident last September that became public last week. No charges have been filed and Castro’s agents call the accusations “baseless.” Epstein said Wednesday now was not the time to comment on the matter.

A rookie development program definitely has merits.

“When you have a lot of young players at the big-league level,” Epstein said, “often times you forget just how new they are to this whole thing -– professional baseball, the responsibility that comes with it, the importance of representing the organization the right way (and) being a good teammate.

“Organizations that just assume that they’ll figure it out on their own make a big mistake,” he said. “[We’re going to] teach them what’s it’s like to be a big-leaguer, set the expectations for them and give them tools on how to meet those expectations, everything from how to deal with the media to how to say ‘no’ to people off-the-field that want things from them.

“[It’s] how to properly handle themselves in the hotel or out on the town,” he said. “It’s an important part. You can’t make assumptions that guys know how to handle themselves. You need to work with them. You want an organization that projects the right image.

“To make a positive impact on the community, you have to work to get it. The players are the ones who are going to dictate how that goes. We need to support them every step of the way.”

Castro will be at the Cubs Convention this weekend. Manager Dale Sveum met the shortstop in mid November and wasn’t aware of the charges at that time.

“I don’t really know the details of all of it, but I don’t think it’s going to affect [him],” Sveum said. “Right now it’s what it is and I think it’s being taken care [of through the proper channels].”

Sveum said he tries to treat the players as grown men.

“I’ve raised my children and sometimes you do have to treat a lot of these players like they’re your children,” he said. “Guys get misled. They don’t quite understand sometimes how to handle the off-field activities, so to speak, especially when you’re in a big city like Chicago.

“You do a lot of talking,” he said. “Communication helps out, but the bottom line is they’re grown men. So they have to grow up on their own sometimes, too.”

— Carrie Muskat

1/11 Cubs eager to get started on 2012

Randy Wells expects another competitive spring because of the new pitchers the Cubs added this offseason.

“It was competitive last year in Spring Training — not quite to this extent,” Wells said Wednesday during a Cubs caravan stop. “At the same time, it was fun to go in there and earn your keep. … I think I pitched good enough in the second half to at least put my name in the mix for competition.”

Although he’d prefer to start, Wells will do whatever the Cubs ask. He has one goal.

“I want to win here,” Wells said. “I want to be a part of it. You think about the scenario. Think about how hard it is to drive down Waveland and Clark streets on a regular day when we win. I can’t imagine how it would be when we win it. I want to be a part of that.”

* Darwin Barney also is eager to get started after talking to new manager Dale Sveum.

“I’m excited to be here and I think we’re excited about the staff we have,” Barney said. “I’ve had an opportunity to talk to these guys. It gets you excited when you talk about their philosophies and the things they have to say.”

Sveum talked about moving forward and how the Cubs will get better. Barney isn’t taking anything for granted.

“You’re always competing,” the second baseman said. “Going into Spring Training is no different than it was last year for me. You’ve got new management, new coaches. You never know what they’re thinking. For me, I’m going to focus on being ready and try to win a job.”

* Tony Campana has added 10 pounds after an offseason at “Camp Bussy,” which was renamed in honor of strength coordinator Tim Buss. It was formerly “Camp Colvin” for Tyler Colvin. Campana has worked primarily on improving his upper body strength. Maybe he’ll hit a home run over the fence? He has one in the big leagues, an inside the park homer against the Reds.

“I’ve worked on my speed, too, so maybe I can hit a couple over the fence and a couple inside the park ones, too,” he said.

* New pitching coach Chris Bosio has started looking at video of the Cubs pitchers and talked to many of them. He has a feel for the pitchers because of his past job as an advance scout. Bosio has yet to talk to closer Carlos Marmol, who needs to get back on track.

“I think with Marmol, you just want him to be himself,” Bosio said. “We’ll address the mechanical stuff when we get a chance to see him. You’ve got a unique guy. Cal McLish, an old pitching coach told me, ‘Always let these guys go a little bit before you start changing anybody,’ and that’s my plan. I’ve got to see them first in person. Video can tell you so much, sitting 10 rows deep [in the stands as a scout] can tell you some things, too. You’ve got to let these guys be who they are and then try to help them and not so much maybe with mechanics but where we’re going with the pitch.”

Theo Epstein & Co. sought Bosio’s input on the pitchers they added this offseason.

“There were some questions and I gave my two cents,” Bosio said. “I felt like we were pretty much on the same page a lot, which was refreshing. We’ve got some very intelligent guys who we’re working with. They know the lingo, they know the terminology, they know what they like. They’re not shy about using their own phrases, which is again, refreshing for me, being on the same page not only on what we see on these guys but the terminology. It’s a nice combination.”

— Carrie Muskat

1/11 Wood close to deal?

FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweeted Wednesday that the Cubs were close to a one-year deal with Kerry Wood, which could include a club option for 2013.

During a stop on the Cubs Caravan on Wednesday, Cubs president Theo Epstein said he was hopeful the two sides could come to an agreement.

“If we can’t figure this out, something’s wrong,” Epstein said.

Wood, 34, posted a 3.35 ERA in 51 innings for the Cubs last season. He did miss time because of a blister and ended his season in September because of a torn meniscus in his left knee. The right-hander gave the Cubs a hometown discount in 2011, signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal to come back. He has said he wants to stay in Chicago, and last year, started the Wood Family Foundation, which is hosting a fundraiser Friday prior to the Cubs Convention.

— Carrie Muskat

1/11 Roster move

The Brewers claimed infielder Jeff Bianchi off waivers from the Cubs on Wednesday, which opens a spot on the 40-man roster for Paul Maholm, whom the Cubs signed on Tuesday. Bianchi was previously claimed by the Cubs from the Royals on Dec. 9. He batted .259 with two homers, 48 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 119 games at Double-A Northwest Arkansas last season.  He missed 2010 after undergoing “Tommy John” surgery on his right elbow during Spring Training. Bianchi has spent his entire playing career in the Royals organization (2005-11).

— Carrie Muskat

1/10 Hoyer on Maholm, Wood & Samardzija

Cubs GM Jed Hoyer says free agent Paul Maholm wanted to pitch for the Cubs, partly because he wanted to stay in the NL Central. The lefty is a guy who “takes the ball, eats a lot of innings and really has kept his team in games his whole career,” Hoyer said. Maholm was shutdown in August because of shoulder soreness but passed the physical on Monday and says he’ll begin throwing off the mound soon.

Are the Cubs done now as far as their rotation?

“We’re very comfortable with the names that we have,” Hoyer said. “You never know what will happen over the course of the winter, what’s going to be available to us. A huge priority was building depth and we feel we’ve done that. You can never have enough pitching; the minute you think you have enough pitching, you don’t. We’re happy with the depth we’ve built up over the course of the winter. It’s a dangerous thing to say you’re ever done.”

That said, what about reports that the Cubs are talking to the Tigers about dealing Matt Garza? Hoyer would not comment specifically on the rumors. But he did say just because they’ve added Maholm does not mean they are automatically dealing Garza.

“This Maholm contract, and the fact you can look and say we have six starters now, this deal is not a precursor to anything,” Hoyer said.

* As for negotiations with free agent Kerry Wood, Hoyer said the two sides are still talking.

“We continue to want Kerry back in Chicago and we’ve offered him a substantial raise and we certainly hope it gets done,” Hoyer said.

* With the addition of Maholm, the Cubs starting candidates now include Garza, Ryan Dempster, Maholm, Chris Volstad, Randy Wells, Casey Coleman and Travis Wood. Where does that leave Jeff Samardzija? Hoyer said the right-hander will prepare this spring as if he were going to start.

“I think that’s important not only for the possibility that he could be in the rotation but also for his development,” Hoyer said. “If you prepare as a starter in Spring Training, it helps with your command and with your secondary pitches. We do see Jeff as a guy who can start. With the depth, he may wind up being a quality bullpen arm for us but we are going to prepare him in Spring Training as a starter.”

* The Cubs do need to make a roster move to open a spot on the 40-man for Maholm. Hoyer said it’s a procedural thing, and they will announce the move later Tuesday.

— Carrie Muskat

1/10 Could Kerry Wood leave Cubs?

Kerry Wood sounds as if he is moving on. Wood appeared on WGN Radio’s Sports Night on Monday night, and said he wants to keep pitching. But he has yet to reach an agreement with the Cubs for 2012.

“Regardless of what happens, we’re still in Chicago, we’re dedicated to the city,” Wood said Monday. “Things will work out for me in the city of Chicago because we’re dedicated to the city, we’re dedicated to the community, we’re dedicated to helping children and again, we’re staying here, we’re raising our family here.

“I’m a Texas boy, but I feel like I’ve become a Chicagoan, so we’re happy to be here whether I finish here or whether I don’t, we plan on being here a long time.”

Last year, Wood unveiled the Wood Family Foundation, dedicated to helping children in the Chicago area. On Friday, he will host “Woody’s Winter Warmup” at Harry Caray’s on Navy Pier, a fund raiser for his foundation. Theo Epstein was scheduled to attend. Wood has been part of the Cubs since he signed at 18, returning last season when he agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million deal. He understands the fans want him to stay.

“There’s always time for change and there’s always room for it so we’ll just have to wait and see,” Wood said.

Last week, Epstein said the team was negotiating with Wood’s agents about a new deal.

“Kerry Wood is exactly the type of guy we want to build a winning culture here in Chicago,” Epstein said. “I would be greatly, greatly disappointed if we’re not able to bring him back.”

The Phillies are one of the teams that has shown interest in Wood.

— Carrie Muskat