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12/19 Report: Ross to Cubs

David Ross and Jon Lester may be together again.

The Cubs have reportedly signed Ross to a two-year, $5 million contract, according to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal.

In 13 seasons, Ross has a .233 career batting average. What’s key is that in 29 games over two seasons catching Lester with Boston, the lefty pitcher has a 2.77 ERA with 192 strikeouts over 195 innings.

And, in case you forgot, the Cubs just signed Lester to a six-year, $155 million contract.

Ross caught five of Lester’s first seven starts this past season, and the lefty posted a 2.19 ERA with 43 strikeouts and had walked five.

“When you mix his stuff with my brains, it’s awesome,” Ross said at the time.

The Cubs would not confirm the deal.

– Carrie Muskat

12/19 Roster moves

The Cubs claimed catcher Ryan Lavarnway off waivers from the Dodgers and outfielder Shane Peterson off waivers from the Athletics. To make room on the 40-man roster, pitcher Donn Roach and infielder Logan Watkins were designated for assignment.

Lavarnway, 27, has spent the last seven seasons in the Red Sox organization, batting .299 in 25 games on the 2013 World Championship team. He was claimed off waivers by the Dodgers on Dec. 5 but designated for assignment on Dec. 10. He missed more than two months last season with a left wrist strain and spent most of the year with Triple-A Pawtucket, batting .283 with three homers, 20 RBIs and a .389 on-base percentage in 62 games.

Theo Epstein knows him well. Lavarnway was a sixth-round pick out of Yale in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft by the Red Sox.

Peterson, 26, batted .308 with 40 doubles, 11 homers and 90 RBIs with Triple-A Sacramento last season, and earned Pacific Coast League midseason and postseason All Star honors. A left-handed hitter, he posted a .381 on-base percentage and a .460 slugging percentage. Peterson led the league in hits and doubles and ranked second with 101 runs scored.

– Carrie Muskat

12/19 Reports: Cubs claim Peterson

According to reports, the Cubs have claimed first baseman/outfielder Shane Peterson from the Athletics. Peterson, 26, a left-handed hitter, has played in two big league games in 2013. In seven Minor League seasons, Peterson has a .284 batting average, including .308 last year at Triple-A Sacramento where he hit 11 home runs, 40 doubles and drove in 90 runs. The Cubs have not confirmed.

– Carrie Muskat

12/19 Motte excited about joining Cubs

After spending his entire career with the Cardinals, Jason Motte had no trouble signing with their biggest rival, the Cubs.

“I know Cubs-Cards is a big rival,” Motte said Friday. “We liked what the Cubs did this offseason and we’re excited for the opportunity they presented to us to play there. I’ve always said it, and there have been many articles about it, but people ask what’s your favorite opposing city to go to and I’ve always said Chicago.”

The Cubs signed the right-handed reliever to a one-year, $4.5 million contract, ending a week that began with the team unveiling Jon Lester. Motte and Lester are represented by the same agency, but they did not talk about being on the same team until both were in Chicago to undergo physicals last weekend.

“I think everyone is excited about the team and going out and playing in front of the fans,” Motte said. “There’s a lot of buzz going around.”

Motte has had plenty of success at Wrigley Field, giving up just two earned runs over 15 innings in 16 games, which also may have been a factor. He pointed to the many day games and having a more normal life with the Cubs.

“The fans get rowdy every now and then but you can’t blame them with the rivalry,” he said. “It is tough leaving somewhere where I was for 11 years. … There are people there who have really become our family, whether it’s the players or people around St. Louis who we’ve met.”

Motte was the Cardinals closer, saving a National League high 42 in 2012. He lost that job after being sidelined following Tommy John surgery in 2013, and admits to having an “up and down year” last season as the Cardinals relied more on young arms. The Cubs used Hector Rondon, 26, as their closer last season, and have young arms as well. Could Motte be more of a mentor than closer?

“Any way I can help, that’s what I’m there for,” Motte said. “Obviously, my job is to go out there and get people out and do my job on the field. If I have anything to share or anything to give, that’s also a plus. They have young guys but they have some good stuff. Hopefully, getting guys like me and [Miguel] Montero and Lester can help.”

– Carrie Muskat

12/19 Cubs sign Motte

Manager Joe Maddon now has a veteran presence in the Cubs bullpen with the addition of Jason Motte. The Cubs announced Friday they have signed the free agent right-hander to a one-year, $4.5 million contract that includes $2.5 million in performance bonuses.

Motte, a converted catcher who has only played for St. Louis, confirmed earlier this week on Twitter that he was switching to the Cardinals’ rival and took time to say hello to Cubs fans.

“Thank you for the warm welcome,” Motte said on Twitter. “My family and I are excited about the new opportunities, on and off the field, to make an impact in this great city. See you in AZ in February! Oh yeah #GoCubsGo”

Motte, 32, could share the work load with Hector Rondon, 26, who took over the closer’s job last season, finishing with 29 saves in 33 opportunities. At the Winter Meetings, Maddon said he would stick to one pitcher for the ninth if he had that “wonderful slammer.” Motte was that guy in 2012 when he saved 42 games, tied for most in the National League with the Braves’ Craig Kimbrel.

However, Motte missed the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in May that year. This past season, he appeared in 29 games, compiling a 4.68 ERA over 25 innings. In six seasons, Motte has converted 54 of 69 saves and posted a 3.03 ERA in 311 games.

– Carrie Muskat

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

SIcover

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

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