2/13 Extra bases: Hairston, Lillibridge & more
* On Wednesday, Scott Hairston put a Cubs cap on for the first time in his life. He should’ve done so sooner. He grew up in Illinois, prepping at Naperville North High School, and his father played for the White Sox and his brother, Jerry, played for the Cubs. Hairston, who signed a two-year, $5 million deal with the Cubs on Sunday, joined the team officially for the first time Wednesday at Fitch Park.
“I was a fan of the players on the Cubs, but my dad played for the Sox, so I was a Sox fan,” he said about growing up. “I used to love coming to Wrigley Field and the history, especially in the late ’90s when Sammy [Sosa] was doing his thing. I sat in the bleachers a few times when he was hitting all his home runs. That was a good time to be in Chicago.”
Coincidentally, Hairston will wear No. 21 with the Cubs, which also was Sosa’s number.
“It’s Sammy’s,” he said. “Who wouldn’t want it? Who wouldn’t want to be 21?”
* Give Dale Sveum an assist in convincing Brent Lillibridge to sign with the team.
“I like to get a feel for the manager, especially in a situation like this,” said Lillibridge, a non-roster invitee. “I wanted to just talk baseball. [Sveum] really sold me on so many different parts of it and was real honest with me. That’s what you want from the manager and the whole organization.”
Now, his wife is already scouting for a place to rent in Chicago. They know the area. He played 3 1/2 seasons with the White Sox, then was traded twice last year — once to the Red Sox and again to the Indians.
He could be the utility player the Cubs need. Anthony Rizzo will be the main first baseman, but there is no backup. Catchers Welington Castillo and Dioner Navarro will get some playing time at first in Spring Training just in case but Lillibridge could be the guy. It helps that he has played outfield and shortstop as well.
“I’m not going to lie to you, it gives you a huge edge in the National League,” Sveum said of Lillibridge’s versatility. “He’s got some sock in his bat for a guy who looks like he’s 150 pounds soaking wet.”
* Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson and Jeff Samardzija all threw bullpen sessions on Wednesday. All looked good but Sveum was really pleased with Samardzija.
“You would’ve thought it was playoff time,” Sveum said. “That was about as dominant a bullpen as you’re going to see. It was pretty impressive to watch him throw those 30 pitches today.”
The trio of pitchers give the Cubs something they didn’t have, which is power arms.
“It’s nice as a manager, the players, the organization, to know you have three guys who have no-hitter stuff when they walk up on the mound,” Sveum said. “One, they have experience; two, they have great stuff; and three, they all throw over 95 miles an hour, which is always a huge plus.”
* Keep an eye on Brett Jackson. He has changed his swing, and it should pay off.
“I think it’s going to benefit him a lot,” Sveum said of the changes made during a week in November. “A lot of these things, you’re optimistic about change and making adjustments and stuff, and as a player, you really want the games to get going because it all feels great, but how’s it going to work in a game? That’s the final piece of the puzzle.”
* The Cubs front office bunting tourney gets underway Saturday to determine the final spot in the field of 64. GM Jed Hoyer will face Theo Epstein in the first round, with the media relations staff facing several of the clubhouse crew.
– Carrie Muskat