The Cubs return home Monday for a six-game homestand, starting with three against the Pirates. Wrigley Field will celebrate its football history this homestand in conjunction with the city of Chicago hosting the 2015 NFL Draft.
he first 10,000 fans at the May 1 game will receive a Wrigley Field Football presented by Wintrust Community Banks that commemorates 50 seasons of Chicago Bears football at the historic ballpark. NFL legends Michael Irvin and Kurt Warner will throw ceremonial first pitches Tuesday while NFL Network personalities Rich Eisen, Steve Mariucci and Melissa Stark will lead the seventh inning stretch. Former NFL great Ickey Woods will throw a first pitch the following day. Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould wraps up the homestand with a first pitch and seventh inning stretch on May 3.
The Cubs and Cubs Charities will continue this year’s “Let’s Give” campaign through several events and recognitions during the homestand. On Tuesday, the team will present a check to the Illinois Tornado Relief Fund from last week’s fundraising efforts at Wrigley Field. Firefighters from Kirkland, Ill., who have aided in tornado recovery efforts will be recognized on the field pregame.
On Wednesday, the Cubs and Robert R. McCormick Foundation will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Cubs Care during the annual Cubs Care Grant Luncheon in the Audi Club at Wrigley Field. Cubs Charities and Cubs Care will grant more than $1 million to nonprofit organizations serving those in need in the Chicago area. That evening, Cubs Charities will recognize personal fundraising efforts from individuals running Saturday’s Race to Wrigley Charity Run presented by ATI Physical Therapy. Proceeds from personal fundraising will support critical care needs for pediatric patients in Chicago. The top fundraising team and individual will be recognized during a pregame ceremony on the field.
On Friday, Cubs manager Joe Maddon will continue his “Respect Community” charity T-shirt initiative by representing Misericordia Heart of Mercy, a Cubs Charities grantee, during his post-game press conference.
* The first 10,000 fans attending the May 1 game at 1:20 p.m. CT vs. the Brewers will receive a Wrigley Field Football presented by Wintrust Community Banks. Beginning in the 7th inning, fans can visit the Cubs Store across from Wrigley Field to inflate the football after they depart the ballpark.
Wintrust is rallying Cubs fans to support Cubs Charities and beat the rival White Sox in the process through its “You Decide” crosstown campaign. For each fan who opens a Wintrust Cubs checking account, Wintrust will donate $25 to Cubs Charities. Fans also can participate in the competition by tweeting with the #DecideCubs hashtag. With each use, Wintrust will donate 25 cents to Cubs Charities. Wintrust will donate an additional $25,000 to the charity of the team whose fans open the most accounts. Fans may visit http://www.wintrust.com/youdecide to participate.
On May 3, the first 1,000 kids 13-and-under can run the bases post-game, weather permitting, as part of the team’s ongoing Kids Sundays at Wrigley Field.
The start of Saturday’s game was delayed because of rain. Here’s the Cubs lineup:
The Reds saluted the 1990 World Champion team on Saturday in a pre-game ceremony, but manager Lou Piniella was unable to attend. Piniella, 71, did send a hand-written letter to the team and its fans, which was read:
“Dear Players and Fans,
“My sincere apologies for not being there on this very special occasion. Needless to say Nineteen Ninety was a great year in Reds baseball history. Unfortunately, our nephew whom we are very close to is getting married this weekend in Key West. This trip has been planned by our family for a very long time. Naturally I am disappointed that I can’t be there to share in your joy reliving all those wonderful moments that made that season so amazing.
“To the players, you are very special to me, and I want to thank you again for your dedication, your professionalism and your commitment to winning.
“To the coaches and the entire organization, thank you so much for a job well done. We could not have done it without you.
“And to the fans .. what would a team be without support, your encouragement, your love. Thank you for all of that and a lot more. Please enjoy this wonderful tribute … and even though I’m not present my heart will be with you.
* The Reds went 91-71 in 1990 to win the National League West, and swept the Athletics in the World Series that year.
— Carrie Muskat
Jon Lester makes his fourth start of the season on Friday night when the Cubs open a three-game series against the Reds at Great American Ball Park. This will be a rematch of last week when Lester faced Mike Leake at Wrigley Field.
For manager Joe Maddon, it will help to see one of the NL Central teams again so he can familiarize himself with the players.
“Seeing these teams the next time through and watching how they do their thing helps,” Maddon said. “When I read 9a report) and can put a mental picture with the data, it really helps me a lot.”
Maddon also likes how tough the Central Division is.
“You want to play the toughest division — you get the young guys on board sooner,” Maddon said.
Here’s Friday’s Cubs lineup:
— Carrie Muskat
Chris Valaika hit a two-run homer but it wasn’t enough as Iowa lost, 9-2, to New Orleans. Jeffry Antigua gave up four earned runs on seven hits over 3 2/3 innings.
Kyle Schwarber had three hits, including a home run and a double, to lead Tennessee to a 9-2 victory over Jackson. Felix Pena picked up the win, giving up two runs over 5 2/3 innings. For Schwarber, it was his third straight multi-hit game.
Daury Torrez threw seven shutout innings in Myrtle Beach’s 6-0 win over Winston-Salem. Jacob Hannemann had three hits and one RBI.
Erick Leal threw five shutout innings in South Bend’s 10-0 win over Lake County. Yasiel Balaguert had two hits, including a triple and double. Gleyber Torres had two hits, two RBIs and two stolen bases.
Kyle Hendricks gave up three runs over 5 1/3 innings Thursday in the Cubs’ 5-4 loss to the Pirates. The two teams split the series at PNC Park, and the Cubs now have lost two in a row for the first time this season. Jonathan Herrera hit a two-run triple in the second and Addison Russell collected his first extra-base hit and RBI with a run-scoring double in the fourth, but that was about it. The Cubs loaded the bases in the fifth and Kris Bryant drew a walk to force in a run.
Bryant made his first start in center, and did OK. He had a tough time chasing down Josh Harrison’s double in the seventh. Harrison eventually scored the game-winning run.
“It took a left turn on him,” Joe Maddon said of Harrison’s hit. “It was like a two-iron. It hooked left and he had no chance with that.”
The Cubs needed Hendricks to go deeper to give the bullpen a breather.
“He’s still not as sharp as he can be,” Maddon said of Hendricks. “It would’ve been really nice to get six out of him today. The bullpen was a little short.”
Up next: The Cubs head to Cincinnati for a three-game series. Jon Lester opens it Friday against Mike Leake.
* Third baseman Kris Bryant played center field, catcher Welington Castillo nearly switched to third base, and pitcher Travis Wood, always eager to pinch-hit, was one run away from playing the outfield. Manager Joe Maddon has had to be clever this season, and that trend continued Wednesday night when Bryant made his Major League debut in center for a half inning. On Thursday, Bryant started in center to give Dexter Fowler another day to heal from a tight right groin.
“When you say ‘all hands on deck,’ we’re not kidding,” Maddon said. “They’re seeing it to be true and they like it. They like that they could show up at the ballpark and be put in the game at any time at various positions. I think they like that.”
No one has asked Maddon if he could switch positions, with the exception of Wood, who is ready for anything.
“I can’t tell you how alive that bench is in the latter part of games,” Maddon said. “They’re all ready to go. [Bench coach Dave Martinez] does a wonderful job of giving them advance notice. It’s a wonderful vibe that we have to nurture.
“I’ve been involved in it before and involved successfully before,” Maddon said. “Necessity is the mother of invention, so rock and roll.”
* One of the reasons the Cubs wanted veterans like David Ross, Miguel Montero and Jon Lester is because of the impact they have in the clubhouse. On Wednesday, Maddon saw Ross greet Starlin Castro after the shortstop had grounded out in the second inning to applaud him for running hard to first base on the play.
“You don’t see that every day,” Maddon said of Ross. “Those guys are like chemistry majors. They know what they’re doing and they set a different tone.”
* Dexter Fowler was available to pinch-hit if needed on Thursday. He was pulled from Wednesday’s game as a precautionary measure because of a tight right groin. Said Fowler: “If I had to play, I probably could.”
* Javier Baez, who has been on bereavement leave following the death of his sister, was to report to the Cubs facility in Mesa, Ariz., to get work in before he joins Triple-A Iowa. Baez has not played for the Minor League team this season.
* Looking ahead to Cubs vs. Reds:
Friday: LHP Jon Lester (0-2, 6.89) vs. RHP Mike Leake (0-1, 3.92)
Saturday: RHP Jake Arrieta (2-1, 1.74) vs. RHP Anthony DeSclafani (2-0, 0.86)
Sunday: LHP Travis Wood (1-1, 3.24) vs. RHP Jason Marquis (1-1, 7.20)
— Carrie Muskat
Kris Bryant ended Wednesday’s game in center field and that’s where he will start on Thursday in the Cubs series finale against the Pirates. Bryant said he prefers center to left or right because it’s easier to read the ball off the bat. The Cubs are trying to fill in while Dexter Fowler nurses a tight right groin. Fowler was available to pinch-hit Thursday if needed.
“Obviously, it’s not my position,” Bryant said. “It’s Dexter’s spot out there. I’m just going where they tell me. I’ll have
fun with it.”
Told that players like Willie Mays and Andrew McCutchen played center, Bryant laughed.
“Don’t even put me in the same sentence with those guys — I’m not there,” Bryant said. “Third base is the position I want to get better at. When guys go down, other guys step up, and I’m here to fill that hole when needed and Dexter will be back soon.”
If the Cubs had tied Wednesday’s game in the ninth, Bryant would’ve played first base.
“That would’ve been cool to play three positions in one game,” Bryant said.
Here’s the lineup:
— Carrie Muskat
* It was 42 degrees at game time at PNC Park. Manager Joe Maddon is doing everything he can to stay warm. There’s only one heater in the dugout and it’s at the opposite end from where he’s standing.
“We need two of them,” Maddon said. “There was one at the other end of the dugout. I kept taking my walks back and forth.”
* Edwin Jackson, moved from the rotation to the bullpen this season, has done well enough that he will be used in tougher situations in games, Maddon said Wednesday. Jackson picked up his first win of the season in relief on Tuesday, throwing one inning against the Pirates. He struck out one of the three batters faced.
“Jacks is starting to take to it,” Maddon said of the right-hander’s switch after eight seasons as a starter.
The Cubs have to make sure Jackson has enough time to warm up, and will most likely continue to have him start innings rather than enter in the middle. The move is not a reflection on how Brian Schlitter (9.64 ERA) or Jason Motte (6.43 ERA) are doing, Maddon said.
“I’m not saying you’re not going to see Schlitter or Motte,” Maddon said. “You always kind of like when it first starts out, you play it like it was first drawn up and don’t try to make too many adjustments too soon until you need to try something differently. More than anything, I think Jackson has earned the right or opportunity to pitch in more opportune moments or more difficult moments for him.”
* The Cubs are carrying 13 pitchers but Maddon hasn’t felt a need yet for an extra bench player.
“It’s an American League kind of group offensively speaking,” Maddon said of the Cubs regulars. “Whatever speed we have, we’ve been taking advantage of. If you don’t have to pinch-hit for a lot of guys, you’ll have less guys on the bench than in the bullpen.”
Plus, the Cubs can count on pitcher Travis Wood, who hit two pinch-hit home runs this spring.
* Anthony Rizzo has been hit by a pitch six times in 13 games, setting a franchise mark for the month of April. Maddon isn’t going to caution the first baseman.
“Maybe he should wear a pad,” Maddon said. “Get the Barry Bonds autographed elbow pad, something like that. You can buy that — I guess Walmart is selling them right now very inexpensively. That’s something I would encourage him to wear.”
* Last year, when the Cubs employed a defensive shift, the third baseman normally moved between the second baseman and shortstop. This season, the Cubs infield simply shifts collectively to the left.
“Part of it is I don’t want [third baseman] Kris Bryant turning double plays,” Maddon said. “He’s not used to it. You could take Kris Bryant and put him all the way over in that hole but that’s not necessarily his best spot to be that nimble, deep kind of guy. … My biggest concern is putting a guy in the potential double play slot who is really not used to it or comfortable with it.”
* Justin Grimm, on the disabled list with right forearm inflammation, threw a bullpen at the Cubs complex in Mesa, Ariz., where he is rehabbing. There is no timetable for his return, or for reliever Neil Ramirez, who also is at the facility. Ramirez is on the DL with right shoulder inflammation.
* Tsuyoshi Wada threw 89 pitches over 5 1/3 innings Wednesday in his second rehab start for Triple-A Iowa. The left-hander, who is on the disabled list with a groin injury, gave up two earned runs on six hits and four walks while striking out five.
— Carrie Muskat