If you’re making the drive to Goodyear for Thursday’s Cubs game against the Indians, Darwin Barney will make his first start at shortstop this spring while Anthony Rizzo will be the designated hitter. Travis Wood gets the start. Here’s the lineup:
T. Wood P
Jake Arrieta, slowed this spring because of tightness in his right shoulder, threw 10 pitches off the mound on Tuesday, the first time he’s thrown off a mound.
“It felt awesome,” Arrieta said.
The right-hander is hoping to catch up to the other Cubs starters and be ready by Opening Day.
“My endurance is ahead of schedule,” Arrieta said.
– Carrie Muskat
Jeff Samardzija makes his second Cactus League start on Wednesday when the Cubs play host to a Rockies split squad team at Cubs Park in Mesa. You can follow along on a webcast on Cubs.com. Here’s the lineup:
* Justin Ruggiano and Anthony Rizzo combined for three runs, Albert Almora delivered a tie-breaking RBI single and Mike Olt smacked a two-run home run to lift the Cubs to a 6-3 victory Tuesday over the Athletics’ split-squad team. Ruggiano hit a RBI double in the first and a two-run homer in the third, driving in Rizzo both times, and Almora delivered a tie-breaking RBI single with one out in the eighth as the Cubs won for the second straight game.
Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year after going 13-4 at Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, gave up one run on two hits and three walks over two innings in his first Cactus League start. The right-hander walked three batters in four of his 27 starts last season, and posted a 1.058 WHIP for the season.
* Last spring, Mike Olt struggled to bat .194. On Tuesday, he collected his first Cactus League home run in just his third at-bat and it wasn’t a relief as much as affirmation that everything is going well. Olt, hoping to find a spot on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster, belted a two-run, pinch-hit homer in the eighth.
“I’ve been feeling good at the plate the last couple days and as long as I’m feeling comfortable, I think good things will come,” Olt said.
The infielder was dealing with vision problems last year, although it took him while to figure that out. He went 6-for-31 in 19 spring games last year with the Rangers, including two home runs. He was assigned to Triple-A Round Rock, where he continued to struggle, batting .213. Texas included Olt as one of the four players in the deal to get Matt Garza from the Cubs. Tuesday’s home run was another step in Olt’s comeback.
“It’s really not me getting hits,” he said. “It’s about me seeing the ball well and that’s my main goal in Spring Training. Obviously, you want hits and you want to perform but the main goal in Spring Training is to get comfortable and it’s definitely a noticeable difference just the way I feel right now, and that’s what I’m happy about.”
* Cubs reliever James Russell has yet to appear in a game this spring. He said Tuesday it was because of his allergies but manager Rick Renteria said the lefty is going through a “dead arm” phase, which Russell has dealt with in the past. Russell is coming off his second straight season in which he appeared in 70-plus games. Renteria wasn’t worried about the lefty, who threw on the side Tuesday.
* Looking ahead, Jeff Samardzija starts on Wednesday against the Rockies and will be followed by Chris Rusin. Travis Wood will go Thursday, and James McDonald will make his first Cactus League start on Friday against the Angels in one of the Cubs’ split squad games. Edwin Jackson will get his second spring start in Mesa against the Indians. McDonald gave up six runs on three hits against the Angels in his first outing last Friday.
* Samardzija on the addition of Ted Lilly to the Cubs front office: “I wouldn’t have had the success I did my rookie year without Teddy.”
– Carrie Muskat
Ted Lilly knew he couldn’t pitch any more but wanted to stay in the game, and on Tuesday, was named to a job in the Cubs’ front office. Lilly, 38, officially is a special assistant to Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer, and he will do a variety of tasks, such as helping with scouting and developing the young players. Epstein, Hoyer and Lilly discussed the job at the Cubs Convention in January.
“His reputation with the Cubs is sterling, which is fantastic, and not only as a person but as a competitor,” Hoyer said. “I really liked what he had to say. A lot of guys want to get back in and don’t want to work that much, and he made it clear he wants to work and wants to get involved in scouting.
“I think we’ll use him in a variety of ways,” Hoyer said. “He feels he has a pretty eye and likes to try to evaluate but also was really humble and knows he has to learn how to do it. He was excited to get back involved and I think we’ll feel out how to use him.”
Former Cubs GM Jim Hendry hired Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux in a similar role in 2010. Hoyer said Lilly will watch the Minor League pitchers, visit the Cubs’ affiliates, and scout some amateur players.
“It was pretty clear after a few conversations that he had something to add,” Hoyer said of Lilly. “I like the fact that to finish it off, he was with a Cubs team that won 97 games and they had success, and as we try to figure out how to build a winner in Chicago, he was part of it.”
Lilly pitched for 15 seasons with the Expos, Yankees, Athletics, Blue Jays, Cubs and Dodgers. He was in Chicago from 2007-10, helping the team win back to back National League Central titles in 2007-08.
“I wanted to stay in the game,” Lilly said. “I would love to keep playing, too, but at this point, I’m sure that I’m retired from being on the field. I want to be around the game and I feel like I have something to offer. This is an organization that I’d prefer to be with, so it worked out.”
Lilly was limited to 13 starts the last two seasons with the Dodgers because of injuries. He started thinking about doing more than pitching in that time.
“The last couple years, when I had a lot of free time to think, I did start thinking about when my career was over,” Lilly said. “I wanted to keep playing but I definitely started thinking about this [type of work] at the end.”
Lilly has two young children, a 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter, and another child due in September, which makes a job as a pitching coach tough because of the time commitment needed. He is committed to the Cubs.
“The experiences I had the first couple years here winning were incredible in the sense that we put together a team that was expected to win,” Lilly said. “We didn’t accomplish the ultimate goal of winning a World Series but it was such a great experience. We had so many professionals in the clubhouse and guys who went about it the right way. I think that’s why I’ll always refer to those two years in Chicago as the best years I’ve had as a player.”
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs play host to the Athletics at Cubs Park in Mesa today with the game scheduled to start at 1:05 p.m. MT. You can listen to Len Kasper and Mick Gillispie on a webcast on Cubs.com. Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs’ Minor League pitcher of the year last year, gets the start. Emilio Bonifacio starts at shortstop in Day 2 without Starlin Castro, sidelined with a mild strain of his right hamstring. Here’s the lineup:
Rick Renteria picked up his first win Monday with the Cubs as they beat the Brewers, 4-2. Javier Baez hit a solo homer, his first this spring, and Luis Valbuena added a RBI double. Minor Leaguer Walter Ibarra, added to the travel roster, delivered the game-winning two-run single in the seventh. The Cubs play host to the Athletics on Tuesday at Cubs Park.
The Cubs have agreed to 2014 contract terms with all 19 players on their 40-man roster with zero-to-three years of Major League service. The list includes catchers Welington Castillo; pitchers Jake Arrieta, Dallas Beeler, Alberto Cabrera, Justin Grimm, Blake Parker, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon, Arodys Vizcaino, Zac Rosscup and Chris Rusin; infielders Arismendy Alcantara, Mike Olt, Christian Villanueva and Logan Watkins; and outfielders Brett Jackson, Junior Lake, Matt Szczur and Josh Vitters.
– Carrie Muskat
Monday’s game between the Cubs and Brewers will be the first to use Major League Baseball’s expanded instant-replay review system, which allows managers the right to challenge at least one call. The game, which is being played in Maryvale, can be seen on MLB.TV.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria won’t have a flag in his pocket to throw on the field if he wants to challenge a call.
“I think the protocol will be if you want to challenge, you have to go out and talk to the umpire and either invoke it or he may ask me to invoke it depending on how long you stand out there conversing with him,” Renteria said.
Renteria said the umpires will try to resolve the disagreement first.
“I would imagine that if my gut is telling me immediately that I saw it completely different [he'll challenge] — but you don’t want to waste it if you don’t have to,” Renteria said. “There’s going to be some availability as it’s set up to get the information that tells you if [the call] is good or not.”
– Carrie Muskat
Starlin Castro will be sidelined seven to 10 days because of a mild right hamstring strain that should not hinder the shortstop from being ready for the regular season, Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Monday.
“From what we gathered, it’s similar to what happened to him last year at this time,” Renteria said of Castro’s injury, suffered in the first inning Sunday when he tried to steal second. “It’s seven to 10 days and we’re just being cautious with him. It shouldn’t set him back for the regular season.”
Castro was sidelined for two weeks last spring with a sore left hamstring. After Sunday’s game, he said the injury suffered on Sunday was “not too bad like last year” and that the team removed him as a precautionary measure. A year ago, Castro could barely walk after he was hurt.
“This doesn’t seem to be anything like last year to the degree that it was,” Renteria said. “He’s walking around pretty good now.”
The Cubs will give Emilio Bonifacio and Darwin Barney more starts at shortstop while Castro heals and also look at top prospect Javier Baez. They also have infielders Arismendy Alcantara and Jeudy Valdez in camp.
“What it allows us to do is see other guys at that position and recognize if Barney can go over there and [Bonifacio],” Renteria said. “It’ll give guys playing time.”
Castro spent more time this offseason on conditioning and reported to camp in good shape. The Cubs sent strength coach Tim Buss to the Dominican Republic for three weeks to work with the shortstop, who also spent four weeks at a training facility in Bradenton, Fla. Castro is coming off a season in which he batted a career-low .245.
– Carrie Muskat