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12/18 Numbers game

While we’re waiting for the Cubs to finish making roster moves, here’s some numbers to think about courtesy of baseball statistician Bill Chuck. He crunched the numbers and compiled a list of the most players used at each position this past season, and compared that to the single season record. The Cubs were not mentioned, but it’s an interesting list and I’ve included the Cubs numbers this year to compare:

* Catchers: The Indians and Rangers used five each in 2014. The record for most catchers used by a team in one season? Nine, shared by the 1911 Phillies and 1914 Pirates. Cubs: 4

* First basemen: In 2014, the Rangers used 11, a franchise record. However, the most used by one team in a single season was 13 by the Cardinals. Cubs: 3

* Second basemen: In 2014, the Yankees, Padres and Giants each used eight second basemen. The record is 11 shared by the 1911 New York Highlanders, the 1916 Pirates, and the 1972 A’s. Cubs: 7

* Third basemen: In 2014, the D-Backs, Red Sox and Phillies each used nine third basemen. The record is 15, set by the 1915 Philadelphia Athletics. Cubs: 4

* Shortstops: In 2014, the Dodgers and Phillies each used seven shortstops. The record for most in a single season is 10 set in 1944 by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Cubs: 3

* Left fielders: The Padres used 13 different left fielders in 2014. The record is 15, shared by seven teams (none of which are the Cubs). Cubs: 6

* Center fielders: The Blue Jays used eight center fielders in 2014. The record is 15 by the 1914 Reds. Cubs: 7

* Right fielders: The Blue Jays used a team record 12 right fielders this past season. That’s nothing compared to the 1902 New York Giants, who used 21 different right fielders. Cubs: 8

As for pitching …

* Starters: The Rockies and Rangers used 15 starters each in 2014. The record is 24 by the 1915 Philadelphia Athletics. Cubs: 13

* Relievers: The Rangers used a franchise-record 32 relievers in 2014. The record is 33 set by the padres in 2002. Cubs: 19

– Carrie Muskat

12/17 Minor League staff named

The Cubs announced their Minor League coordinators for 2015 and named former outfielder Darnell McDonald as the organization’s mental skills program coordinator and Dave Keller as the Latin America coordinator.

McDonald, 36, who retired in April after seven big league seasons, including 2013 with the Cubs, will work with players in all levels of the farm system. Last season, he served as a baseball operations assistant.

The 2015 season will be Keller’s 30th as a Minor League coach or manager, his 12th year in the Cubs organization and his first as Latin America field coordinator. He managed Class A Daytona in 2013-14 and led the club to the 2013 Florida State League title.

Tim Cossins returns for his third season as the Cubs Minor League field/catching coordinator and Derek Johnson and Anthony Iapoce are both back as the Minor League pitching and hitting coordinators, respectively.

Jose Flores also returns for his third season as Minor League infield coordinator, and Mike Mason will begin his second season as assistant pitching coordinator.

Tom Beyers is back for his 16th season with the Cubs organization, and first as the Minor League assistant hitting coordinator. Beyers joined the Cubs in 2000 and was a Minor League manager or coach for 11 seasons.

Rey Fuentes stays with the team as the Latin Coordinator, Mental Skills Program, following two years as cultural programs coordinator. Fuentes will oversee all educational classes and mental skills programs for the Cubs Latin American players.

In 2015, Doug Jarrow will begin his eighth season as the Cubs Minor League strength and conditioning coordinator,
and Nick Frangella will start his 12th season with the team and second as head Minor League athletic training and performance coordinator. This also will be Chuck Baughman’s 15th year with the Cubs and second as assistant athletic training coordinator. Rick Tronerud returns for his 20th year with the Cubs and second as Minor League rehab pitching coordinator.

– Carrie Muskat

12/17 Cubs Minor League managers and staff

Marty Pevey will return for his third season as Triple-A Iowa’s manager, Buddy Bailey is back at Double-A Tennessee, and Mark Johnson was promoted to Class A Myrtle Beach manager, the Cubs announced Wednesday.

Pevey will be joined by newly hired pitching coach Mike Cather, who spent 2014 in that role with the Padres’ Triple-A El Paso team. This is Cather’s 10th season as a coach after six seasons in the Red Sox system and three seasons in the San Diego organization. Brian Harper will return for his third season as Iowa’s hitting coach.

The 2015 season will be Bailey’s fourth straight and fifth overall as the Smokies manager. He’ll be joined by pitching coach Storm Davis and hitting coach Desi Wilson. Guillermo Martinez will join the Tennessee staff as an assistant coach after serving in a similar role last season with Class A Boise.

Johnson, a former catcher, begins his fifth season in the Cubs organization after spending the last two as manager at Class A Kane County, where he led the Cougars to a 91-49 record in 2014 and a Midwest League championship. He’ll be joined by pitching coach David Rosario and hitting coach Mariano Duncan.

Jimmy Gonzalez will begin his second season as a manager in the Cubs organization, taking over the new Class A South Bend team. He made his managerial debut last season with Rookie League Mesa. A former catcher, Gonzalez played 14 Minor League seasons after he was selected in the first round of the 1991 First-Year Player Draft by the Astros. Brian Lawrence will join Gonzalez as the pitching coach and Jesus Feliciano moves up from Boise to South Bend to be the hitting coach.

Gary Van Tol is back for his third season as the short season Class A manager with the Cubs’ new Eugene affiliate. Van Tol guided Boise to consecutive 41-35 records in his first two seasons, securing a playoff berth both years. He’ll be joined by pitching coach Anderson Tavares and hitting coach Ricardo Medina. Former Major League outfielder Terrmel Sledge rounds out the Eugene coaching staff as an assistant.

The 2015 season will be Carmelo Martinez’s 18th season in the Cubs organization, and his second as manager with Mesa. He has served as the Cubs Latin America field coordinator for six seasons and played in the Majors from 1983-91 with the Cubs, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Royals and Reds. Martinez will be joined by pitching coach Ron Villone and hitting coach Oscar Bernard. Ty Wright joins the staff as an assistant coach.

Juan Cabreja returns for the second consecutive year as manager of the Dominican Cubs. Armando Gabino joins him as the pitching coach and Claudio Almonte will be the hitting coach.

Pedro Gonzalez will manage the Venezuelan Cubs for the second year and be joined by pitching coach Eduardo Villacis and hitting coach Franklin Blanco.

– Carrie Muskat

12/17 Ruggiano to Mariners

The Cubs dealt outfielder Justin Ruggiano to the Mariners Wednesday for Minor League pitcher Matt Brazis, opening a spot on the 40-man roster. Ruggiano, 32, batted .281 with six home runs and 28 RBIs in 81 games for the Cubs last season, but missed time because of a left hamstring injury suffered in late April. His season ended on Aug. 22 when he fractured his left ankle.

Brazis, 25, is 8-6 with 14 saves and a 2.89 ERA in 100 Minor League relief appearances over three seasons for the Mariners. He split last season between Class A High Desert and Double-A Jackson, going 4-1 with six saves and a 2.36 ERA in 40 appearances. Brazis struck out 84 batters and walked 18 in 72 1/3 innings pitched.

The Cubs do want to add a veteran outfielder, but were looking for players with more experience to be what manager Joe Maddon calls “clubhouse dudes” and help mentor the young guys.

– Carrie Muskat

12/16 The Lester factor


Jon Lester says he doesn’t believe in curses. Hopefully, he also doesn’t believe in the SI cover jinx.

12/16 Lester and Twitter

For more than three hours last week, Jon Lester responded on Twitter to fans who wondered why he was not returning to Boston and instead signing with the Cubs. Lester responded to nearly everyone.

“I guess they caught me at a good time,” Lester said Monday during his introductory news conference in Chicago. “It was tough. For me, the important part of that whole deal was to get the Boston fans that truly understood the decision and who truly support us, to try to give them a response. [I wanted] to let them know they’ll always be a part of our lives and a part of our hearts and we’ll never forget our times and our relationships and memories we’ve had there. That was the more important side of what we were trying to do there. Within that, you’re going to get a few people who will try to ruin it for everybody else. We felt we could be a little bit of a smart ass with the bad ones.”

In case you missed some of Lester’s exchanges last week, here’s a small sample:

From @RobMussi: “I don’t understand how you could chose Chicago who hasn’t won a damn thing in over 100 years YOUR HOME IS HERE IN BOSTON #regret”

Lester’s response: “I know its hard to understand Rob, but it was the best decision for me and my family.”

From @Boriqua982: “from a Red Sox fan in Cali thank you for everything … and congrats on ur next step … #NVRQT”

Lester: “thank you for the kind words!”

From @anthony_ferraro: “huge Red Sox fan wishing you nothing but the best in Chi Town; pure class through and through; we miss you but respect the choice”

Lester: “Thx Anthony, really appreciate it!”

From @Dylan_Foster: “never seen a guy take so long to decide between last place teams”

Lester: “haha fair enough!”

– Carrie Muskat

12/16 Cubs and A’s deal

The Cubs were owed a player to be named later from the July 4 deal with the Athletics. However, the Cubs will instead receive cash considerations from the A’s. That makes the deal: Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland for Dan Straily, Minor Leaguers Billy McKinney and Addison Russell and cash considerations.

– Carrie Muskat

12/15 Cubs to sign Motte; complete Doubront deal

The Cubs have an agreement on a one-year deal with free agent pitcher Jason Motte, pending a physical. According to reports, Motte, 32, will receive $4.5 million from the Cubs once the deal is finalized. The right-hander has spent his entire career with the Cardinals, including 2012 when he saved a National League-leading 42 saves. He has compiled a 3.03 ERA in 311 games over six seasons. A converted catcher, Motte missed the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in May that year. He appeared in 29 games with the Cardinals this past season, compiling a 4.68 ERA over 25 innings.

The addition of Motte will give manager Joe Maddon a much-needed veteran presence in the bullpen. Hector Rondon, 26, took over the Cubs closer duties last season, finishing with 29 saves in 33 opportunities.

* The Cubs also announced infielder Marco Hernandez was headed to Boston as the player to be named later to complete the Felix Doubront trade. Hernandez, 22, batted .270 at Class A Daytona last season with 22 stolen bases.

– Carrie Muskat

12/15 Lester picks No. 34

Jon Lester couldn’t get No. 31 with the Cubs, so he settled for No. 34 once he got the blessing from Kerry Wood. Wood was the last Cubs player to wear No. 34, and Theo Epstein asked the right-hander if it was OK for Lester to take it.

“[Wood] said it would be an honor,” Epstein said.

Lester, who wore No. 31 with the Red Sox and Athletics, said the link to Wood helped convince him it was a good switch. But there was more to the decision.

“Obviously, the Chicago tie of Kerry Wood — I remember watching him as a young pitcher,” Lester said of Wood, who spent 12 seasons with the Cubs. “Obviously, the Walter Payton aspect, and for me, the personal aspect of watching Nolan Ryan — or not necessarily watching [Ryan] but studying his career and being a part of that.

“It’s always been one of my favorite numbers other than 31,” Lester said. “I just felt like it was a good fit. It kind of keeps the same look to it.”

Payton, in case you didn’t know, was a legendary running back for 13 seasons with the Chicago Bears.

The Cubs retired No. 31 in 2009 in honor of Hall of Famers, Greg Maddux and Fergie Jenkins.

“Thirty-one was a pipe dream and clearly off the table,” Epstein said. “If multiple people want to volunteer it, I’m sure he would take it. I think he was leaning towards 33, but someone mentioned 34 might be of interest.”

– Carrie Muskat

12/15 Cubs sign Jon Lester

The Cubs formally introduced Jon Lester on Monday, and they can thank, Ryan Dempster, Kerry Wood, Anthony Rizzo, Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija for helping sell the left-hander on coming to Chicago. Lester agreed to a six-year, $155 million contract last Tuesday, but needed to pass a physical to make it official. He did that, and showed off his new No. 34 Cubs jersey for the first time at Spiaggia restaurant in downtown Chicago on Monday afternoon.

“This is a very, very significant day for the Cubs for a lot of great reasons,” Theo Epstein said. “Obviously, we get better on the field as Jon is the perfect pitcher to lead our rotation for where we want to go. We get better in the clubhouse with Jon’s character and work ethic and his ability to perform at his best when the games matter most, which sets a great example for our players.

“This signing really marks a transition of sorts for the Cubs, the start of a period where we are clearly very serious about bringing a World Series to the Cubs and the people of Chicago,” Epstein said. “It’s a great day for our fans. They’ve been so patient with us, incredibly patient, over the last few years and they truly deserve a pitcher and a person of this caliber to call their own.”

Lester, who picked No. 34 because he is a fan of Wood, admires Chicago Bears legend Walter Payton, and Nolan Ryan, did his homework, talking to everybody and anybody with a connection to the Cubs. What was the one thing Lester wanted to know?

“If everything I was hearing was true as far as winning,” Lester said. “Are these guys close? That was my question to Jeff. Are they close? Are they there? Getting information from him, getting information from Hammel, and talking to ‘Demper’ — obviously, ‘Demp’ has his roots here, this is his home.”

Not many free agents are willing to sign with a team coming off a last-place finish in the division.

“We wanted to sign Jon because of the great things we have going on here and we wanted to focus on the benefits of being a Cub, and not some of the liabilities of going elsewhere and some of the other destinations,” Epstein said. “It was about belief. We knew early on that if we signed Jon Lester it would be about belief — it was because he believed in us, believed in our future, and believed that winning a World Series with the Cubs was a unique opportunity and something special in his career.”

– Carrie Muskat


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