Bill Mueller hasn’t worn a Major League uniform since 2007 and he’s eager to get back on the field. Mueller was named to new Cubs manager Rick Renteria’s coaching staff on Friday. A former American League batting champion, the 42-year-old Mueller was an interim hitting coach for the Dodgers in the second half of 2007. After an 11-year playing career that included two seasons with the Cubs, Mueller joined the Dodgers’ front office. He has spent the last six seasons as a special assistant.
“It’s something that has always been inside me to be near the field again and be a part of a team and be with a Major League club,” Mueller said Friday. “You never know when that opportunity might come or if it does. I’ve always tried to be as well-rounded as possible and stay in the game and continue to be a student of the game so if an opportunity pops up, I could handle it and be ready to take it on. This was an opportunity that was hard to pass up and I’m very excited about it.”
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer asked the Dodgers for permission to talk to Mueller, who picked Mike Brumley, 51, as his assistant. Brumley has spent the last four seasons as first-base coach with the Mariners. He began his big league career with the Cubs in 1987.
Mueller compiled a career .291 average in his 11 seasons as a player, and batted .326 in ’03 with the Red Sox when he won the batting title. It wasn’t easy, which is something he’ll stress to the Cubs hitters.
“I had to work to get everything I achieved,” Mueller said. “Going through the process of understanding my swing and breaking it down and understanding the strengths and weaknesses and all that good stuff was a process that I had to go through. I feel it helps with the relationship and the communication with these guys. … I wasn’t the best bat on the team, it was something I had to work very hard at.”
The next step will be to study video of the Cubs batters, some of whom he has seen as a scout. He’ll then contact the players. Told that Theo Epstein wants the Cubs to lead the league in on-base percentage, Mueller laughed. That’ll be a tough assignment, but he’s up to it.
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs received enough donations for tornado relief victims to fill a 53-foot semi-trailer truck plus an additional moving truck, and everything was delivered to Peoria, Ill., on Friday. Among the items donated were containers, cleaning supplies, gloves, flashlights, clothing, food, toiletries, pet supplies, and school supplies. The Cubs worked with the American Red Cross, which provided a list of items needed. Some fans drove from Indiana to make a contribution at Wrigley Field. Volunteers also helped sort, load and unload the items. Volunteers at Brewers Distributing Company in Peoria helped the Cubs staff unload the trucks, and that site served as a distribution center for the Red Cross.
The Cubs named manager Rick Renteria’s coaching staff on Friday. Chris Bosio (pitching coach), Lester Strode (bullpen coach), Mike Borzello (catching and strategy coach) and Franklin Font (staff assistant) return. Joining Renteria’s staff in 2014 are Brandon Hyde (bench coach), Gary Jones (third base/infield coach), Bill Mueller (hitting coach), Mike Brumley (assistant hitting coach) and Jose Castro (quality assurance coach). Castro will handle scouting and defensive assignments, among other things. The club has yet to name a first base coach.
Jaron Madison, who joined the Cubs as director of amateur scouting, has been named director of player development, replacing Hyde in that role. Matt Dorey, who this year worked for the Cubs as a national and regional crosschecker, has been named director of amateur scouting.
— Carrie Muskat
We could have news on Cubs manager Rick Renteria’s coaching staff Friday. Stay tuned.
— Carrie Muskat
Friday was a sad day for Major League players trying to cope with the passing of union executive director Michael Weiner. Cubs pitcher Carlos Villanueva, an active member of the MLB Players Association, called it a “difficult day.”
“It was a very difficult day, not only for me, but for all of us who had the pleasure of spending time with Michael,” Villanueva said Friday. “All I can say about Michael is what a wonderful leader he was to us, how he genuinely cared about us, and even when he was battling his illness, how he was there almost everyday at the office making sure that we were OK.”
Weiner lost his 15-month battle with brain cancer on Thursday. He was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in August 2012, and continued to serve the players and provide leadership and counsel to the MLBPA staff. Weiner was 51.
“He was not only our leader but he was family, because only someone who is family could dedicate their life to us the way he did,” Villanueva said.
The Cubs pitcher is the only non-American born player on the MLBPA board, and involved with the Latin players.
“From a Latin player point of view, he fought for us, he made sure that we got fair treatment above all, even when it seemed that we would get the short end of the stick,” Villanueva said from his home in the Dominican Republic. “Michael always had his calm demeanor, worked his magic, and made us feel that we mattered.
“He showed me personally, to not only care about the Latin players, but to care and love all of our members equally, that it is never about the individual, it’s about what we do now, and how that will affect in a positive way the well being of our future members,” Villanueva said. “He will stay with us forever, and we will never have anybody like him.”
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo also acknowledged Weiner’s passing on Twitter, saying: “It’s sad to see such a good man’s life be taken by cancer! Thank you for everything you have done! Rest in peace Michael Weiner!”
— Carrie Muskat
* Luis Valbuena went 2-for-3, scored two runs and drove in another in Lara’s 7-2 victory over Zulia in Venezuela. Valbuena, who has only played second base, is now batting .346.
* Junior Lake hit a double and drove in two runs in Estrellas’ 4-2 win over Licey in the Dominican Republic.
* Christian Villanueva had one hit and one RBIs in Obregon’s 10-3 loss to Los Mochis in Mexico.
The Cubs added infielder Arismendy Alcantara and pitcher Dallas Beeler to the 40-man roster Wednesday, which was the deadline for teams to set their rosters in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft. With the moves, the Cubs’ 40-man is now at 39.
Alcantara, 22, who hit a solo home run playing for the World Team in the All-Stars Futures Game, batted .271 with 15 home runs, 69 RBIs and 31 stolen bases at Double-A Tennessee this season, and was batting .196 in 15 games with Licey in the Dominican Republic Winter League. The second baseman earned Southern League mid-season and post-season All-Star honors. He ranked second in the Southern League in hits and doubles and was tied for third in stolen bases.
Beeler, 24, was 4-2 with a 3.13 ERA in nine starts for Tennessee. He missed time after he tore a tendon in the middle finger of his right hand, and made six starts in the Arizona Fall League, where he posted a 4-1 record and 2.49 ERA. In his 15 starts combined, Beeler walked 22 and gave up four home runs over 76 1/3 innings. He started the AFL championship game for the Mesa Solar Sox and gave up one run on two hits over five innings. The right-hander was a 41st round selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.
Players first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons. Clubs pay $50,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn’t stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $25,000. In other words, an international player or high school draftee signed in 2009, assuming they were 18 or under as of June 5 of that year, must be protected. A college player taken in the 2010 Draft is in the same boat.
The Rule 5 Draft will be held Dec. 12.
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs want to send a care package to Illinois residents affected by Sunday’s damaging tornadoes, and need your help. On Thursday and Friday morning, the Cubs staff will be collecting donated items at Wrigley Field, and will deliver them to Peoria later Friday.
The American Red Cross gave the Cubs a specific list of what’s needed. Top priority items include tote bags, plastic trash cans, plastic storage bins and gloves.
Other items needed include non-perishable food items (granola bars, canned food); bottled water; large garbage bags; toiletries (toothpaste, deodorant, soap); buckets; sponges; mops; towels; baby formula; diapers; flashlights; batteries; manual can openers; duct tape; toilet paper; paper towels; feminine hygiene products. Also on the list are school supplies, such as new or used backpacks, crayons, colored pencils, notebooks, and binders.
Donations can be made at the Purple Lot on Clark Street, just west of Wrigley Field between Waveland Avenue and Addison Street, from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. CT on Thursday. Items will be accepted from 8-11 a.m. CT on Friday, and the truck will then leave for distribution in Peoria.
If you can’t come to Wrigley Field, Cubs fans are asked to visit RedCross.org; call 1-800-RED CROSS (Central Illinois Tornado Response); or text the Red Cross at “90999” to make a $10 donation.
More than a dozen tornadoes struck Illinois on Sunday, packing top winds of more than 100 mph. As many as 500 homes were damaged in the town of Washington near Peoria alone.
— Carrie Muskat
Today is the deadline for teams to set their 40-man rosters in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft. Players first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five years or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four years. Clubs pay $50,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn’t stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $25,000.
In other words, an international player or high school draftee signed in 2009, assuming they were 18 or under as of June 5 of that year, must be protected. A college player taken in the 2010 Draft is in the same boat.
The Cubs’ 40-man is currently at 37. Infielder Arismendy Alcantara is most likely to be added to the 40-man. The talented second baseman batted .271 with 15 home runs, 69 RBIs and 31 stolen bases at Double-A Tennessee this season.
Some other Minor League players who would be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if not protected on the Cubs’ 40-man are: pitchers Matt Loosen, Dallas Beeler, Marcus Hatley, Austin Kirk, Ryan Searle and Zach Cates; infielders Gioskar Amaya and Marco Hernandez; and outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha.
Remember that if selected in the Rule 5 Draft, that player has to stay on the Major League roster the entire season. So, even if a player isn’t protected by the Cubs, it’s not a slight, but may simply be that the team doesn’t feel he’s ready.
— Carrie Muskat