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2/22 Sunday schedule

Jon Lester, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Jason Motte and Jason Hammel are scheduled to throw side sessions on Sunday at the Cubs complex. Players will be on the field at 9:30 a.m. Arizona time for stretch.

Position players report Tuesday, and the first full squad workout is scheduled for Wednesday.

2/21 Expect different lineups

Even though the Cubs have enough position players already in camp to fill a roster for an intrasquad game, manager Joe Maddon hasn’t seen enough of them to be able to fill out a lineup card yet. And when he does, Cubs fans may be puzzled by some of the combinations.

“You know I’m not going to be afraid to try different things,” Maddon said Saturday.

That could include batting a pitcher eighth. Jon Lester, who consistently goes deep into games, will bat ninth, but Travis Wood, who’s a good hitter, could hit eighth, depending on who he’s facing that day.

It’s all to be determined, and Maddon and bench coach Dave Martinez will meet and write down one week’s worth of lineups prior to the start of Cactus League games on March 5. Maddon likes to think about what he’s going to do while riding his bike. Be prepared.

“There will be a lot of haphazard stuff,” Maddon said.

– Carrie Muskat

2/21 Rondon is closer but ‘pen is “work in progress”

Manager Joe Maddon didn’t mention the closer’s job to Hector Rondon during their one-on-one pre-spring meeting. Maddon didn’t think he had to.

“Mr. Rondon looks like he’s going to be pretty darn good here,” Maddon said Saturday.

Rondon took over the Cubs closer duties last season, converting 29 of 33 save opportunities, and liked the job but said he’ll do whatever Maddon asks, and that could be to pitch in the seventh or eighth, depending on the situation.

“Every reliever wants to close games,” Rondon said. “For me, it’s no big deal. Give me a chance to pitch whenever — second inning, third inning, last inning. The only thing that matters is put me in the game.”

The only possible change to Rondon’s role could be because of the addition of Jason Motte, who saved 42 games in 2012 for the Cardinals but missed 2013 after needing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. But Maddon sees Motte as what he calls a “force multiplier,” which is someone who makes the group around them better.

“He’s a perfect guy to fit in a variety of spots,” Maddon said.

The Cubs bullpen is still a work in progress. Maddon is looking for pitchers who can handle both right- and left-handed hitters. He’d like a reserve split guy, like a right-hander who is stronger against righties. There isn’t a clear-cut lefty for the mix. Having that one closer, though, will make things much easier.

“It’s always nice to have one guy but you have to have the one guy who’s able to do it,” Maddon said. “When you have one guy who permits you to think differently during the course of the game, then you have to manage eight innings worth of pitching because you know the ninth inning is taken care of.”

– Carrie Muskat

2/21 Who’s the Opening Day starter? Who else?

It should come as no surprise but Jon Lester will likely be the Cubs Opening Night starter.

Manager Joe Maddon confirmed the left-hander would get the ball on April 5 at Wrigley Field with a cautionary note.

“I would think that he has to be,” Maddon said, “but I need to talk to him first. I think it’s appropriate if you’re going to do something like that, to talk to Jon first before we make any kind of announcement like that, but I’m not going to sit here and be disingenuous. I really need to sit and speak to him first.”

Lester signed a six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs in December, and would likely be followed in the rotation by Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel.

– Carrie Muskat

2/21 Cubs Day 2 schedule

Jake Arrieta, Eric Jokisch, Jacob Turner, Dallas Beeler and Kyle Hendricks are among the pitchers scheduled to throw side sessions on Saturday on Day 2 of the Cubs spring training camp. Also, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, C.J. Edwards and Corey Black will have side sessions. Players are scheduled to stretch at 9:30 a.m. Arizona time.

* If you see Tsuyoshi Wada, wish him a happy birthday. He turns 34 on Saturday.

2/20 Off to work


I meant to post this earlier, but here’s new Cubs manager Joe Maddon headed onto the field for his first talk prior to the start of pitchers/catchers workout on Friday.

2/20 Extra bases

Some notes on the first day Cubs pitchers and catchers worked out:

* Jon Lester threw a side session, and naturally, David Ross was his catcher, as he was with the Red Sox. Lester said he can tell the Cubs are hungry to win.

“You can see they want it, they want to win,” Lester said. “Now it’s just a matter of getting our work in and trying to do that.”

He knows all about the angst of long-suffering Cubs fans. Remember, Lester pitched for the Red Sox. His goal is to be prepared, and if he is, he can handle anything. And he’s not thinking about the contract, which was the largest in Cubs history.

“My contract doesn’t justify me or represent me,” Lester said. “I represent myself and how I go about my business. My competitiveness doesn’t change because I have x-amount of dollars in the bank. I want to win, you’ll hear that a lot. If I don’t win, we don’t win, and you probably really don’t want to be around me too much. I’m not real happy — you can talk to my wife about that.”

* Joe Maddon talked to the players for about half an hour before the first workout. He didn’t post a long list of rules. Maddon doesn’t care if players have long hair or how they wear their socks. He used to have long hair and said he was proud of it. He did admit he can’t grow a beard.

* MLB issued rules regarding the pace of the game in hopes to speed it up.

“I respect what the commissioner is attempting to do in Major League Baseball in general,” Maddon said. “I will just check [the rules] out, play good in the sandbox and make it work.”

* The Cubs have hired renowned sports psychologist Dr. Ken Ravizza as a consultant. Maddon has known him since the ’80s.

“Here’s the thing about sports psychologists that people get confused with — people see it as being a weakness,” Maddon said. “Right away, ‘This guy wants a sports psychologist, he must be weak.’ That’s the furthest thing from the truth. To me, it’s just another coach, another skill. We have hitting coaches, we have pitching coaches, we have infield coaches, we have coaches for everything. The mental skills coach really can help you develop a routine that causes you to step out of the batter’s box or get off the rubber or take that little extra moment in order to recapture the thought process and slow things down.”

* On Friday, Maddon donned his third different Major League uniform.

“Honestly, I was more comfortable than I thought I would be,” Maddon said.

* Who’s in the mix at third base? Mike Olt and Kris Bryant. There could be more.

“I’m really big into multiple positions,” Maddon said.

That means fans will likely see players moving around in camp.

– Carrie Muskat

2/20 Cubs 2015 TV schedule

The Cubs released the 2015 regular season television schedule on Friday, and it will feature broadcasts on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, WGN-TV and WLS-TV/ABC 7.

WGN-TV’s first of 45 broadcasts will be on April 7 at 7:05 p.m. CT against the Cardinals in the second game of the season. The Cubs’ regular season opener from Wrigley Field will be on ESPN2 on April 5.

WLS-TV/ABC 7 will televise the first of its 24 games on April 8 at 1:20 p.m. CT when the Cubs face the Cardinals. Comcast SportsNet Chicago, which will handle 87 games, will have its first broadcast April 11 when the Cubs face the Rockies at 7:10 p.m. CT.

For the remainder of the television schedule, go to and click on “Schedule” on the navigation bar.

2/20 Rites of spring

Jon Lester, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Jason Motte and Jason Hammel all are scheduled to throw side sessions Friday on the first workout day for pitchers and catchers in Cubs camp. Joe Maddon met with the players before the workout for a 25-minute talk.

* Welington Castillo says he hasn’t talked to anyone in management regarding his status. The Cubs traded for Miguel Montero and also signed free agent David Ross. Castillo has been the starter the last two seasons.

“I haven’t heard anything,” Castillo said. “I’m still a Chicago Cub. I’m just here to get better, keep working hard like I always do. I can’t control that.”

He didn’t use injuries last season as an excuse.

“I think i just put too much expectations on myself, too much pressure to get better than what I did the year before,” Castillo said. “I think that was hurting me a little bit. At the end of the day, I realized it hurt me and I put too much pressure trying to do better. I didn’t just let my ability take care of it and play and go out and have fun. I think that was all on me.”

* Edwin Jackson did meet with Maddon, and says he’ll be prepared for whatever the Cubs want him to do.

“I just have to worry about myself and do everything that’s possible and do everything I have to do to help the team win ballgames,” Jackson said.

Is there a chance he will be in the rotation?

“We’ll see,” he said. “The only thing I’ve been worried about is getting myself right and getting prepared to play ball.”

* Congrats to Cubs prospect C.J. Edwards, who is engaged to be married.

– Carrie Muskat

2/20 It’s time to go to work


Happy spring, folks.

– Carrie Muskat


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