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3/2 Smile


Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel signs a Twitter page during photo day Monday.

3/2 Photo day


Monday was photo day at the Cubs spring complex, which means players, coaches and manager Joe Maddon go from station to station to smile, pose, and answer questions. Here’s Maddon.

3/2 Monday’s schedule

Because of the rain in Mesa, the Cubs will do their drills in the batting cages, and fans won’t be able to see any of the workout.

Remember, Cactus League games begin Thursday with split squad games. The Cubs play host to the Athletics at Sloan Park in Mesa and will send half the team to Scottsdale to face the Giants.

3/1 Extra bases: Bryant, the varsity and more

* Kris Bryant has impressed Cubs manager Joe Maddon so far this spring.

“He’s solid, he’s motivated,” Maddon said Sunday of the Cubs’ top prospect. “He’s got a really nice way about him. He’s really good, he knows he’s really good but he carries that very well. I like that. False humility doesn’t do anything. It’s kind of a worthless quality. I think his humility is sincere but he also knows that he’s good.”

After batting .325, hitting 43 home runs and driving in 110 runs at Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, Bryant is very close to getting to the big leagues. Will the third baseman be ready for the Cubs on Opening Day?

“Somewhere,” Maddon said, smiling. “There’s all kinds of Opening Days.”

* Part of Sunday’s drills included work on rundown plays. They will do so at least two more times this spring, Maddon said.

“Today was just a basic, ‘Let’s talk about the concepts and principles behind it,'” Maddon said. “They’ve heard it a thousand times. I promise you most of them have forgotten about it. You bring out the runners with high energy and that’s how you really see it and the weaknesses exposed.”

* Cubs pitchers scheduled to throw live batting practice on Monday include Felix Doubront, Eric Jokisch, Hector Rondon, Zac Rosscup, Brian Schlitter, Pedro Strop and Drake Britton. Several of them will do so at Sloan Park, where the Cubs projected regular lineup took batting practice on Sunday.

“I like the varsity in the stadium,” Maddon said. “The varsity has earned the right to be in the stadium. The JV’s are trying to get to the varsity field. I like that. I’m a capitalist even when it comes to learning how to become a baseball player. I’m not into socialism or communism.”

* Daniel Bard, who has not pitched in the big leagues since 2013, threw a bullpen early Sunday. Bard is trying to comeback from undergoing Thoracic outlet syndrome in January 2014.

* The Cubs, who open the Cactus League season with split squad games on Thursday, will not play an intrasquad game.

* Former Cubs pitching coach Dick Pole was in Mesa Sunday. Pole, who started coaching in the Cubs organization in 1983 and joined the big league staff in 1988, was in Arizona to attend the funeral service for Wendell Kim, who passed away recently. Kim was the Cubs’ third base coach in 2003-04.

– Carrie Muskat

3/1 Montero ready to go

If he could figure out a way, Miguel Montero would probably start all 162 games but the Cubs catcher knows that’s not going to happen.

Montero, 31, ranked third among all catchers last season in starts with 130, trailing only the the Royals’ Salvador Perez and the Brewers’ Jonathan Lucroy. But Montero also batted .243. Would more rest have helped him stay fresh?

“I think the results of how you’re playing as a team will dictate how you feel,” Montero said. “You go to the playoffs, you’re never tired. Your adrenaline goes so fast. You don’t have time to think about, ‘Oh, I’ve been catching 140 games.’ Your mindset is, ‘Let’s go.'”

Manager Joe Maddon says Montero is one of those catchers who could probably play every day but that’s not going to happen.

“It won’t be 162,” Maddon said, “but we’ll talk and try to figure out a nice little program to keep him on top of his game and provide that opportunity for other guys to play, too.”

The Cubs also have catchers David Ross and Welington Castillo on the roster.

3/1 Sunday schedule

Here’s Sunday’s workout schedule for the Cubs. As always, it’s subject to change. Rain is forecast for the afternoon.

9:30 a.m. MT – Stretch
10 a.m. MT – Throwing program
10:10 a.m. MT – Team fundamental: pickoffs and rundowns (Field 1)
10:30 a.m. MT – Live BP (Sloan Stadium, plus Field 1/2)
11:25 a.m. MT – Batting practice

Note: There is no public access to the batting practice sessions at Sloan Stadium

2/28 Taking notes

Jon Lester hasn’t had a problem adjusting to the dry Arizona weather and feels the same way about throwing to different catchers. However, the Cubs pitcher did notice manager Joe Maddon talking to himself. Maddon apparently uses a digital recorder on the field to take verbal notes during practice.

“We were running a bunt play and obviously, he either had an idea or saw something he didn’t like or liked, and wanted to take a note down,” Lester said, noting it’s tough for the manager to keep pen and paper in his pocket.

“It’s easier than writing it down,” said Maddon, who started using the recorder in instructional league. “It’s nice at the end of the day, you go back and play it back and things that you would’ve forgotten, you don’t forget now.”

More important is the tone Maddon has set in Cubs camp.

“I just like how positive he is,” Lester said. “Whether you screw up a play, he’ll find the positive light in it. He lets us be players, he lets us be who we are. That’s his reputation, that’s what I’ve heard from other guys. I think that brings out the best.

“This game is so hard on younger guys,” Lester said. “It’s so result driven and everybody wants to make the team the first day and I think Joe takes pressure off those guys by saying the things he says. He’s genuinely sincere about what he says. There’s no [nonsense]. You can tell he means everything he says — whether it’s, ‘You [stink] today’ or ‘You’re good today.'”

– Carrie Muskat

2/28 Wada and pitching matchups

Tsuyoshi Wada, who had been slowed because of a tight left hamstring, threw a live batting practice session on Saturday and passed all the tests.

“I thought he threw the ball really well,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I did not see any kind of restriction. He looked very, very healthy. The ball had a lot of movement on it. He looked good for his first time out after having been restricted because of his leg.”

What’s next for Wada is to be determined. The Cubs have outlined their pitching for the upcoming Cactus League games but Maddon wasn’t ready to reveal the rotation. The Cubs begin play Thursday with split-squad games against the Athletics at Sloan Park and against the Giants in Scottsdale.

Maddon also needs to talk with Jon Lester about the regular season Opening Day assignment. The left-hander was expected to start April 5 against the Cardinals.

“With Jon, I just need to talk to all the starters,” Maddon said. “[Pitching coach Chris Bosio] wanted to do it in the proper way and I have not been proper yet.”

On Sunday, Donn Roach, Blake Parker, Germen Gonzalez, Francisley Bueno, Joseph Ortiz and Anthony Carter are scheduled to throw live BP, weather permitting. If it rains, the players will get their work in the batting cages.

– Carrie Muskat

2/28 Cubs schedule

Rain is in the forecast, but here is Saturday’s practice schedule at the Cubs complex in Mesa. All times are Mountain Time. Remember, the schedule is subject to change.

9:30 a.m. – Stretch
10:05 a.m. – Throwing program
10:15 a.m. – Individual defense
(Pitchers PFP, infielders ground ball routine, outfielders ground ball/fly ball; catchers individual work)
10:30 a.m. – Team fundamental: 1st and 3rd defense
10:50-11:50 a.m. – Live BP Fields 5/6: Beeler, Hammel, Wood, Wada, Grimm, Cervenka, DeLeon, Rivero
11:55 a.m. – Batting practice
12:20 p.m. – Defense discussion

* If it rains, the Cubs do have contingency plans, and most likely would do most of their work in the batting cages

2/27 Friday notebook

* How happy was Javier Baez to see Manny Ramirez in Cubs camp?

“I grabbed Manny’s stuff and put everything in my locker and told him he was going to be here with me,” Baez said Friday. “The next day, he moved all his stuff back.”

Friday was Day 2 for Ramirez, who has been hired as a hitting consultant and was to work with both the Major League and Minor League players. Baez and Ramirez got to know each other last year at Triple-A Iowa when Ramirez signed as a player/coach.

What did Baez learn from Ramirez?

“The way they will pitch to you, the way they know how to pitch to you, and they know you have to make that adjustment,” Baez said.

The Cubs are trying to get Baez to shorten his swing to lower his strikeout numbers and have him experimenting with lowering his hands. He dropped more than 15 pounds this offseason and fortunately hasn’t noticed a difference in batting practice.

“I haven’t lost any power,” he said. “I’m driving the ball everywhere. I haven’t seen any difference.”

* C.J. Edwards needs to find a nail salon fast. He had a bandage on his right index finger Friday.

“What I heard was he had a nail problem,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We have to send him to a manicurist. I think his nail was too long and they have to trim his nails up.”

* Zac Rosscup took a ball off his right wrist during his live BP session Friday. It’s a good thing Rosscup is left-handed. Jorge Soler was the batter, and he and one of the athletic trainers checked on Rosscup, who was able to finish his session. Maddon said the reliever was fine.

* The Cubs were not expected to play an intrasquad game prior to the start of Cactus League games on March 5. The Cubs begin their Spring Training schedule with split squad games, playing host to the Athletics and also sending a squad to Scottsdale to face the Giants.

* Jason Hammel and Travis Wood are among the Cubs pitchers scheduled to throw live batting practice on Saturday. Others on the schedule include Tsuyoshi Wada, who was slowed for a couple days because of a tight left hamstring, plus Dallas Beeler, Justin Grimm, Hunter Cervenka, Armando Rivero and Jorge De Leon.

– Carrie Muskat


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