February 2013

2/21 Intrasquad game and injuries

Dioner Navarro hit a two-run single and Ian Stewart added an RBI double in the first inning Thursday to help the Cubs’ White team beat the Blue team, 7-3, at HoHoKam Park.
Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler showed off his much touted bat speed when he launched a solo homer in the second inning. Brian Bogusevic added another in the fifth for the Blue team.

Soler, who turns 21 on Feb. 25, hasn’t played much organized baseball in the last two years. Spring is important to him.

“You play every day, you learn more about baseball,” Soler said through coach/interpreter Franklin Font.

He’s also aware of the interest in him from Cubs fans.

“I want to do everything on the field to do better, to get better for the Chicago Cubs,” Soler said.

Soler was in the same lineup and batting ahead of Javier Baez, another potential impact player, who was the Cubs’ first-round pick in 2011. Baez struck out, hit a run-scoring fielder’s choice, and got doubled off first. He also may be getting some extra infield work.

“A little shaky today,” Dale Sveum said of the shortstop’s defensive play. “It’s kind of young stuff that’s still there that has to be cleaned up, obviously. A lot of stuff, even stuff behind the scenes that everyone else doesn’t see that we have to see, some instinctive stuff.”

Soler will start in left field again on Friday in another five-inning intrasquad game at HoHoKam, which will be the final tuneup before the Cactus League season begins Saturday in Tempe against the Angels.

“It’s just nice seeing these guys play because we’ve all come across tool guys and bat speed and all that and it never seems to pan out,” Sveum said. “It’s nice to watch them, see how they react to things. [Soler] doesn’t seem like a real panic type guy.”

* Stewart was pulled from the game because of a “mild, slight, very little quad [strain],” Sveum said. Josh Vitters also was unavailable because of a left quad strain as well. Stewart appeared to injure his leg coming out of the batter’s box after hitting a double in the first inning.

“It doesn’t seem to be no big deal and it felt like a cramp,” Sveum said.

Both Stewart and Vitters were listed on Friday’s intrasquad lineup but that may change.

* Thursday highlights: Starlin Castro was 3-for-3, and Nate Schierholtz hit a solo homer and sac fly.

* Here’s the early lineup for Friday’s game:

Blue Team
Brett Jackson CF
Darnell McDonald LF
Rafael Lopez C
Junior Lake DH
Brian Bogusevic RF
Christian Villanueva 3B
Alberto Gonzalez 2B
Brad Nelson 1B
Javier Baez SS

White Team
Logan Watkins 2B
Matt Szczur CF
Steve Clevenger C
Johermyn Chavez RF
Josh Vitters 3B
Edwin Maysonett SS
Brent Lillibridge 1B
Jorge Soler LF
Ian Stewart DH

— Carrie Muskat

2/21 Bunt tourney – UPDATED

Scott Hairston, Logan Watkins, Ian Stewart and Anthony Rizzo advanced in Thursday’s first-round bunt tournament matches for the position players. Among the pitchers, Scott Baker, Chris Rusin and Hisanori Takahashi moved on. Matt Garza’s match vs. Zach Putnam was delayed. Garza is sidelined with a strained lat, and so far, has a medical exemption. After Thursday’s intrasquad game, Dale Sveum said strength coach Tim Buss would sub for Garza in the tourney. Buss was the other finalist in the front office round.

Watkins totaled 670 points with an impressive display, and Sveum dubbed him “the DeJesus of this year.” David DeJesus won the inaugural event last year.

Here are Friday’s first-round matchups:

David DeJesus vs. Jorge Soler

Darwin Barney vs. Junior Lake

Starlin Castro vs. Matt Szczur

Alfonso Soriano vs. Rafael Lopez

Casey Coleman vs. Barret Loux

Shawn Camp vs. Robert Whitenack

Edwin Jackson vs. Trey McNutt

Carlos Marmol vs. Nick Struck

Strength coach Tim Buss vs. Zach Putnam

— Carrie Muskat

2/21 Lewis’ unique delivery

Jensen Lewis is among the pitchers scheduled to throw in the Cubs’ intrasquad game Friday at HoHoKam Stadium, and fans who may not be familiar with the right-hander should be able to recognize him quickly. He’s the one with the high socks and the herky-jerky delivery. It’s a style Lewis has used since he first started pitching. He even throws a football the same way.

“The most improtant thing is it creates a lot of deception and it’s hard for hitters to pick up,” said Lewis, a non-roster invitee in Cubs camp. “That’s important to keep
guys off balance. It’s something I’ve always had through college and through the Minor Leagues and stuff. I’ve been fortunate that most of my pitching coaches have said, ‘Hey, if it works for you, just keep it going.’

“I think the thing that’s come back to me is in talking to hitters, trying to figure out ways to get better, is it’s hard to pick it up and that’s fine with me,” he said. “It’s worked so far.”

Lewis, 28, came up through the Indians system, and compiled a 7-11 record and 3.68 ERA in 161 games from 2007-10. He has not pitched in the big leagues since 2010, and last year, pitched for the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A Reno team, where he was 7-2 with a 3.65 ERA in 52 games.

“God willing, I’ve stayed healthy,” Lewis said. “It’s something where everybody has their own unique delivery and this is something I’ve embraced and I haven’t known anything any different. When you’ve done it that way your entire life, you’re just used to it.”

His style worked early, and he simply hasn’t changed.

“You’ve got guys who throw side arm, guys who throw over the top,” Lewis said. “It’s just that unique thing. Everyone’s different and it’s something that’s given me a lot of success.”

He does not swing a golf club the same, though.

“No,” Lewis said, laughing. “If I did that, I’d be looking for a lot of balls.”

— Carrie Muskat

2/21 Matt Garza update

Matt Garza, sidelined with a strained left lat, is making progress in his rehab. He had ended a scheduled 40-pitch throwing session after 20 pitches because of discomfort in his left side. He’s getting treatment and has yet to resume baseball activities.

“Right now, I just want to get ready to throw, get ready to start pitching for opening week and that’s where my timeline’s at,” said Garza, a candidate for Opening Day along with Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson. “Spring starts — of course, they matter — but I’m more concerned about being ready by Opening Day.”

Garza arrived in camp feeling strong after missing more than two months of last season because of a sore right elbow that shut him down after his July 21 start.

“Maybe that’s what it was — maybe I came out too strong, too fast,” he said. “It is what it is, and now it’s time to get back to work.”

Spring Training camps opened a few days early so players could prepare for the World Baseball Classic, and the extra time may help Garza.

“It’s like [Dr. Stephen Adams] said, ‘Hey, time didn’t hurt anybody, so just relax, enjoy it a little bit because this will be the last time you’ll be off,'” Garza said. “That’s kind of the plan.”

It doesn’t hurt to raise his left arm.

“It’s just slow,” Garza said of his recovery. “Those muscles are the ones you have to really be careful with because they’re involved in everything you do. Some people say I shouldn’t even be laughing but it doesn’t hurt, so that’s the good thing.”

— Carrie Muskat

2/20 Cactus League matchups

Travis Wood will start the Cubs’ Cactus League opener on Saturday against the Angels. Jeff Samardzija will start Sunday against the Giants in the first home game at HoHoKam Stadium, and was expected to be followed by Shawn Camp, James Russell, Kyuji Fujikawa and Carlos Marmol.

Carlos Villanueva will start Monday against the Dodgers and Edwin Jackson go Tuesday against the Rockies.

— Carrie Muskat

2/20 Soler and Baez

On Thursday, Dale Sveum will get his first in-game look at Jorge Soler and Javier Baez. The two top prospects will take part in the Cubs’ intrasquad game at HoHoKam Stadium and bat back to back for the Blue team with Soler in left, Baez at short. The Cubs have 39 Spring Training games this year, and Soler and Baez will get lots of at-bats.

How eager is Sveum to see them?

“I’m very anxious,” Sveum said Wednesday. “Those are the guys you talk about who are on your radar in your Minor League system who have all those God-given tools — the speed, the arm, the power, hopefully, the hitting ability, meaning OPS and those things, although a lot of that stuff comes a little later in their careers. This is pretty special talent and bat speed that those guys have that you want to see in person and at game speed.”

Soler, the Cuban outfielder, turns 21 on Feb. 25; Baez, who was the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in 2011, just turned 20 on Dec. 1.

The intrasquad game was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Arizona time at HoHoKam Stadium and was open to the public.

— Carrie Muskat

2/20 South Side Cubs fan

Brian Bogusevic grew up in Oak Lawn, Illinois, and attended De La Salle high school in Chicago. He also was a White Sox fan.

“I went to high school literally across the highway from there,” said Bogusevic, a non-roster invitee in Cubs camp. “We used to practice in the parking lot at Comiskey.”

He also went to a lot of games on the South Side as a kid. The 29-year-old outfielder is looking for a job with the Cubs now. He came up in the Astros system and was a pitcher from 2005-08, then switched to outfield.

“It was actually their decision,” he said of the Astros. “I wanted to do it. I never made it known to them.”

He didn’t convert because of problems as a pitcher like Rick Ankiel had. Bogusevic was 14-21 with a 5.05 ERA in 77 Minor League games. His former college teammate, Micah Owings, is now doing the same thing with the Nationals.

“It wasn’t like an Ankiel thing, I just wasn’t doing as well, so we switched to see how it goes,” Bogusevic said. “It’s not like I’d never hit before. I had hit in college.”

Wait a minute — in his bio, it says Bogusevic pitched one inning last year for the Astros.

“That was a whole different deal,” he said. “That was us running out of pitchers. We were down 15 [runs] and we needed somebody to save some arms. I was the guy.”

He also was pretty sore after that. He’s going to stick to hitting.

— Carrie Muskat

2/20 Cubs 2013 media guide cover


2/20 Last day at Fitch – UPDATED

The Cubs will move from Fitch Park up the street to HoHoKam after Wednesday’s workout. Because of the rain, the team limited its workouts to hitting in the batting cages. Carlos Villanueva, Hector Rondon, Zach Putnam, Barret Loux, Hisanori Takahashi and Dayan Diaz were slated to throw live BP. We’ll update later.

The Cubs don’t abandon the Fitch Park facility. For those of you interested in the Minor Leaguers, they’ll start workouts here March 2.

— Carrie Muskat

2/21 Intrasquad game lineups

It’ll be the White team vs. the Blue team Thursday for an intrasquad game. Here the lineups:

White Team
DeJesus CF
Castro SS
Rizzo 1B
Soriano LF
Schierholtz RF
Navarro C
Stewart 3B
Barney 2B
Hairston DH

Blue Team
Valbuena 2B
Sappelt CF
Castillo C
Nelson 1B
Soler LF
Baez SS
Lake 3B
Jackson RF
Bogusevic DH

— Carrie Muskat