December 2012

12/12 Winter league update

Cubs prospect Junior Lake went 1-for-3 with an RBI for the Dominican All-Stars who beat a Venezuelan All-Star team, 8-2, on Tuesday. Former Cubs pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx started for the Venezuelan team, and gave up one run on two hits over one inning.

— Carrie Muskat

12/11 Report: Phillies interested in Soriano

According to Jon Heyman of and MLB Network, the Cubs and Phillies have discussed a deal that would send Alfonso Soriano to Philadelphia in exchange for Domonic Brown. Heyman notes the Phillies may be more inclined to sign a free agent, such as Cody Ross. The Cubs are reportedly willing to pay $10 million of the $38 million remaining on Soriano’s deal if they can get top prospects in return. Soriano, who turns 37 in January, batted .262 with 32 home runs lsat season. As a player with 10-and-5 rights, he would have to approve the deal.

— Carrie Muskat

12/11 Cubs vs. Astros March 29-30

The Astros will tune up for their first season in the American League by playing their former National League Central Division rivals, the Cubs, in two spring exhibition games March 29-30 at Minute Maid Park. This will be the Cubs’ only visit to Houston in 2013. The two teams do square off at Wrigley Field June 21-23 in Interleague play. Start times for the exhibition games will be 7:05 p.m. CT on March 29 and 1:05 p.m. CT on March 30.

The Cubs close the Cactus League portion of their spring schedule on March 28 and open the 2013 regular season April 1 in Pittsburgh. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report Feb. 10 with the first workout the following day. The full squad was scheduled to report Feb. 16 and will workout the next day under manager Dale Sveum.

— Carrie Muskat

12/11 Minor League staffs

Marty Pevey will return to managing as skipper of the Cubs’ Triple-A Iowa team, Buddy Bailey stays at Double-A Tennessee, Dave Keller will skipper Class A Daytona, and Mark Johnson will manage the new Class A Kane County affiliate. The Cubs announced the Minor League staffs on Tuesday.

Pevey, 51, just completed his third season as the Minor League catching coordinator. He last managed in 2009 with Class A Peoria, when he was named Midwest League manager of the year, leading the team to an 81-57 record. Mike Mason will return as Iowa pitching coach and Brian Harper, who was Daytona’s manager last season, will join the Triple-A team as hitting coach. Harper was the Mesa Solar Sox hitting coach in the Arizona Fall League this year.

This will be Bailey’s second straight season with Tennessee, and 24th as a Minor League manager. Bailey, 55, guided the Smokies to a 72-68 record in 2012, and picked up his 1,600th win on July 6. He ranks fourth among active managers in wins. Jeff Fassero will return as Tennessee pitching coach and Desi Wilson will move up from Daytona to be the Smokies hitting coach.

Keller, 53, was Iowa’s hitting coach last season and a special assistant to the Major League team in 2011. This will be his 10th season in the Cubs organization. He has managed in the Minor Leagues for the Reds, indians and White Sox. Mariano Duncan will join Keller as Daytona’s hitting coach and Storm Davis will join the Cubs’ organization as the team’s pitching coach.

The 2013 season will be the Cubs’ first in Kane County after eight years in Peoria, and Johnson, 37, will be at the helm. The former big league catcher has managed Class A Boise for two years, and the Hawks won the second-half East division with a 24-14 record. Boise won the Northwest League East Division Series, but lost to Vancouver in the best-of-three league championship series, 2-1.
Johnson will be joined at Kane County by pitching coach Ron Villone and hitting coach Tom Beyers.

Gary Van Tol, who has 20 years of coaching experience, will take over as Class A Boise manager. David Rosario returns as the Hawks pitching coach, and Bill Buckner will return as hitting coach for his second season. Buckner enjoyed a 22-year Major League playing career, playing for the Cubs from 1977-84. Jonathan Fierro, son of former Cubs athletic trainer John Fierro, will begin his first season as Boise’s athletic trainer.

Bobby Mitchell will stay as manager for the Mesa Rookie League team, which will have two hitting coaches in Ricardo Medina and Jimmy Gonzalez. Medina has been a coach, manager or scout in the Cubs organization since 1999. Gonzalez is a former catcher who played 14 Minor League seasons after he was selected in the first round by the Astros in 1991.

Yudith Ozorio will manage the Dominican squad, the same position he has held for the past three seasons. Leo Hernandez will serve as the pitching coach in his 18th year with the club while Oscar Bernard makes his organization debut as the club’s hitting coach. Osmin Melendez will serve as the Venezuelan Cubs manager, a newly created team. He will be joined by hitting coach Franklin Blanco, who begins his seventh year with the organization.

* The Cubs also announced their Minor League coordinators for the 2013 season, including four newcomers to the organization. Tim Cossins takes over as field coordinator after 10 seasons in the Marlins farm system, including the last six as the catching coordinator. Cossins takes over for Brandon Hyde, who was promoted to director of player development in August.

Derek Johnson is the new Minor League pitching coordinator after 11 seasons at Vanderbilt University as the team’s pitching coach, including the last three as the school’s associate head coach/pitching coach. Johnson earned National Pitching Coach of the Year honors in 2004 and National Assistant Coach of the Year honors in 2010.

Anthony Iapoce, the special assistant to the general manager and player development, will oversee the Minor League hitting program while contributing to additional projects within the organization. He has spent the last three seasons as roving hitting coordinator for the Blue Jays.

Carmelo Martinez enters his 16th season in the Cubs organization, and his first as hitting coordinator for the Cubs Single-A, Rookie League and Dominican League teams. He was the Latin American field coordinator for the previous five years (2008-12). Jose Flores joins the Cubs as Minor League infield coordinator, and will begin his 13th year as a coach or manager. Lee Tinsley enters his third year as the outfield/base running coordinator.

— Carrie Muskat

12/11 Garza, Stewart updates

The offseason is going well for Matt Garza and Ian Stewart. Garza, shut down after 18 starts because of an elbow problem, started throwing on Monday, and happily announced his progress. The Cubs pitcher tweeted: “1st day throwing the baseball! Felt great, #keepitslow! Looking forward to day#2 #GoCubsGo”

Meanwhile, Stewart is taking his offseason workouts to another level. He’s working this week with Hall of Famer Rod Carew, and tweeted on Monday: “Wrist is good, no pain when I swing.” Stewart needed wrist surgery, and had to be shut down. He has agreed to terms on a new deal with the Cubs, which has yet to be officially announced.

— Carrie Muskat

12/11 Winter League updates

Junior Lake was 2-for-4 on Saturday with two RBIs for Estrellas de Oriente in the Dominican Republic. Lake was batting .336 in 38 games with four home runs and 19 RBIs. He’s hitting .579 (11-for-19) against left-handed pitchers.

Updating Michael Bowden’s last outing for Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican: the right-hander gave up three runs on seven hits and one walk over 4 2/3 innings on Saturday. He’s now 3-3 with a 3.62 ERA in seven starts.

Dave Sappelt was batting .324 in 18 games with Bravos de Margarita in Venezuela.

Hector Rondon, whom the Cubs acquired in the Rule 5 Draft from the Indians, has a 4.26 ERA in 21 games in relief for Leones del Caracas in Venezuela. He’s given up nine earned runs on 13 hits and five walks, while striking out 11 over 19 innings. Teams were batting .197 against him.

Tony Campana was batting .205 with seven stolen bases in 14 games with Leones del Caracas.

— Carrie Muskat

12/10 Winter ball update

Luis Valbuena went 2-for-4 with five RBIs, hitting his fifth home run and a double for Cardenales de Lara in Venezuelan winter league. Valbuena was batting .312 in 40 games. Meanwhile, Dave Sappelt has five straight multi-hit games, and was batting .324 in 18 games total for Bravos de Margarita in Venezuela.

— Carrie Muskat

12/7 Cubs welcome Fujikawa

The Cubs officially introduced new reliever Kyuji Fujikawa on Friday at Wrigley Field. The Japanese right-hander, who played for the Hanshin Tigers, agreed to a two-year, $9.5 million contract. The deal includes a signing bonus of $1 million and $4 million in salaries in 2013 and ’14. There also is a vesting option valued at $5.5 million or $6 million, to be determined by games finished.

He visited Chicago and Wrigley Field a few weeks ago, and was sold on the city and the ballpark then.

“From that day on, in my head, it was ‘Cubs, Cubs, Cubs,’ and that’s how everything came through,” Fujikawa said.

The right-hander, who totaled 220 saves in 12 seasons with Hanshin, will be used to set-up closer Carlos Marmol, not take his place.

“Our goal is to have the best bullpen possible,” GM Jed Hoyer said. “Kyuji certainly adds to that. He’s had a great career. If you look at his career, he was a dominant set-up guy first and a dominant closer. We know he can do both roles. We look at it as adding a great arm and we don’t worry about the role.”

Fujikawa wasn’t too concerned when he would be pitching.

“[He wanted] a chance to have a meaningful role and do his job,” Theo Epstein said of Fujikawa. “That’s all he said. He said, ‘My job is not closer or set-up guy, my job is to help the team win and do what the manager asks of me’ and that’s the only time it came up in the discussion.”

There’s a reason he picked No. 11.

“I was No. 22 with the Hanshin Tigers,” Fujikawa said, “but to have a better career than No. 22, I went younger with No. 11. I asked for 11 and it was luckily open.”

He may want to feel young but the Cubs are hoping Fujikawa can stabilize the young bullpen. They also really like his stuff.

“The biggest thing was his ability to pitch with his fastball,” Hoyer said. “He’s not a guy who tricks you, he comes right after guys. … Guys who rely too much on trickery can be guys who the league figures out quickly. Our hope is that because he pitches with his fastball, he can pitch to a game plan and establish himself and have a nice run.”

— Carrie Muskat

12/7 Winter ball update

Tony Campana may be able to give the Cubs a good scouting report on new pitcher Hector Rondon. The two are playing for the same team in Venezuela. On Thursday, Campana was 1-for-4 and scored a run on Thursday for Leones del Caracas in Venezuelan winter league play. He’s batting .200 in 13 games. Rondon, acquired in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft from the Indians organization, gave up one run on two hits over one inning in relief on Thursday for Leones. Rondon, who is coming back from two elbow procedures, has appeared in 20 games in Venezuela, striking out 11 over 18 innings.

Dave Sappelt was 2-for-4 with one RBI and scored two runs for Bravos de Margarita in Venezuela. He was batting .324 in 18 games with three home runs, three doubles, one triple and 10 RBIs.

— Carrie Muskat

12/7 Ian Stewart returns

One year ago on the last day of the Winter Meetings, the Cubs made a deal to acquire Ian Stewart from the Rockies. One year later,  Stewart received a new deal with the Cubs. The third baseman has reportedly agreed to a one-year, $2 million contract. The money is a slight drop from the $2.2375 million Stewart made last year, but he has a chance to make another $500,000 in incentives. The money also is non-guaranteed, so if he isn’t healthy after undergoing wrist surgery, the Cubs are not obligated. The Cubs did talk to free agent infielder Jeff Keppinger about playing third, but he signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the White Sox. The free agent market was thin, and the Cubs did like Stewart enough last year to trade Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu to the Rockies for him.

— Carrie Muskat