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Leading off: Baez bats No. 1 for #Cubs

Joe Maddon decided to experiment with the lineup Saturday and inserted Javier Baez in the leadoff spot. It’s not the first time Maddon has done that with a player who would not appear to be best suited to getting on base. In 1985, he had Kevin King, an outfielder who was a Mariners’ Draft pick, and decided to insert him into the leadoff spot. King had seven homers in the first half but when switched in the lineup, he finished with 30 homers and batted .301.

“I said, ‘What can I do with this guy?’ I put him in the leadoff spot, and I said, ‘all I want you to do is hit ground balls up the middle,'” Maddon said. “[King] ended up with 30 home runs and hit .300. You don’t always expect those results, and of course, we won’t do that with Javy the whole time, but I did it with [Evan Longoria] and different guys who have been struggling. It gives them a different mindset and a lot of times it works.”

– Carrie Muskat

Good news for #Cubs: Lester says nothing to worry about

Cubs pitcher Jon Lester, who was scratched from Saturday’s start because of a tired arm, said the problem is nothing to be concerned about, and he expects to pitch Opening Night.

Lester had been slated to face the Mariners on Saturday at Sloan Park in Mesa.

“It’s something we all go through,” Lester said Saturday. “Usually mine is either a little bit early or later [in spring]. I’m sure Joe [Maddon] said if this was during the season, it wouldn’t be an issue. Since we have time, we have the opportunity to set back and let it be for a start and kind of get back to normal. We decided to use that option.

“You can ask every pitcher, it’s an every year thing for everybody. It’s nothing out of the ordinary.”

Lester said he’s experienced this in the past during Spring Training. There is no pain or discomfort.

“It’s one of those things that you have to go through to understand,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like anything. It’s more total body deadness and everybody puts a label on it as far as ‘dead arm.’ It’s nothing to be alarmed about. There’s no point in trying to grind through it right now. These games don’t mean anything. If it was April 15, it wouldn’t be an issue.”

– Carrie Muskat

#Cubs lineup vs Mariners 3/21

Kris Bryant is back in the lineup Saturday for the Cubs game against the Mariners. Eric Jokisch will start in place of Jon Lester, who was scratched because of a tired right arm. Manager Joe Maddon says he’s not concerned about Lester’s arm, saying the lefty should be ready for Opening Day. Here’s the lineup:

Baez 2B

Fowler CF

Bryant 3B

Soler RF

Rizzo 1B

Castro SS

Coghlan LF

Castillo C

Jokisch P

#Cubs charity events Saturday/Sunday

* The Cubs’ wives will host their annual garage sale and mystery ball event in center field on Saturday at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz., from the start of the game through the second inning, or while supplies last. Fans can purchase baseballs autographed by players for $35. All proceeds will benefit Paz De Cristo in Mesa.

* On Sunday, Cubs manager Joe Maddon will host the “Respect Bald” event with some of the players to raise money in the battle against pediatric cancer. Maddon and others will have their heads shaved at 11:30 a.m. MT on Field 1 at the Cubs complex. A select number of fans can participate in the event by donating $100 to get their heads shaved alongside the players. Besides the trim, fans will receive a t-shirt.

The “Respect Bald” event will continue during Sunday’s game at Sloan Park. Fans can participate from 12:30-2 p.m. MT inside the right field gate near the Cubs Store and outside the gates near the Cubs store for anyone who wants to participate but does not have a game ticket. For $50, fans will receive a head shave, a t-shirt, and know they helped support children with cancer.

– Carrie Muskat

Final: #Cubs 10, White Sox 7

David Ross, Arismendy Alcantara and Anthony Giansanti each hit two-run homers, Taylor Teagarden added a solo shot, and Junior Lake smacked a tie-breaking two-run double to power the Cubs to a 10-7 victory over the White Sox on Friday in Glendale, Ariz.

Ross’ blast was his first with the Cubs, and came one day after he celebrated his 38th birthday. The Cubs now have hit 24 home runs this spring, ranked among the most in the Majors.

Travis Wood started for the Cubs, and gave up four runs on 11 hits over 4 1/3 innings, striking out two.

* On Saturday, Eric Jokisch starts against the Mariners at Sloan Park in Mesa. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. Arizona time/3:05 p.m. Central.

* The Cubs’ wives will host their annual garage sale and mystery ball event in center field on Saturday at Sloan Park from the start of the game through the second inning, or while supplies last. Fans can purchase baseballs autographed by players for $35. All proceeds will benefit Paz De Cristo in Mesa.

– Carrie Muskat

Travis Wood stays in contention for #Cubs rotation spot

The White Sox collected 11 hits off Cubs starter Travis Wood on Friday.

“That’s a lot of hits,” Wood said. “They were hitting the ball on the ground and finding a hole. My breaking ball wasn’t as sharp today so that’s something to work on in the side session moving to the next start. I was pleased with the way the ball was coming out. I was throwing strikes and got some quick hits. They just found holes.”

It’s down to Wood vs. Edwin Jackson for the final spot in the rotation but Wood doesn’t consider it a competition.

“Not for me,” Wood said. “I take it a day at a time and handle my own business, but Edwin has been throwing the ball outstanding. He’s put in the work and is throwing well and whoever it goes to will be well deserving.”

– Carrie Muskat

Travis Wood makes bid for #Cubs rotation

Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson are battling for the one opening in the rotation but the Cubs are trying to come up with a creative way to keep both.

“There’s different ways to utilize both of them,” manager Joe Maddon said Friday. “It’s hard to say they’re both starters but we’ve talked about different ways to make it fit.”

Maddon, who met with Theo Epstein to discuss the options, didn’t want to go into details but one possibility could be having Wood or Jackson start, with the other in the bullpen as a long man, depending on the opponent. Then, they could reverse roles.

“I’m in a real listening mode right now,” Maddon said.

On Friday against the White Sox, Wood served up two runs on 11 hits over 4 1/3 innings, striking out two.

– Carrie Muskat

#Cubs Bryant to start Saturday

Cubs top prospect Kris Bryant, sidelined with fatigue in his right shoulder, was expected back on the field Saturday, starting at third base for the first time since March 12.

The injury hasn’t affected his hitting. Bryant belted his seventh spring homer on Thursday in a “B” game, although it doesn’t in the Cactus League stats. He does lead the Majors this spring with 30 total bases and is batting .435.

* Manager Joe Maddon said Friday that both Dexter Fowler and Chris Coghlan were nursing bruises after fouling balls off their legs, and were day to day, as is Matt Szczur, who rolled his left ankle in a collision with the wall. All were listed as day to day.

– Carrie Muskat

3/20 Lester scratched

Jon Lester was scratched from Saturday’s start against the Mariners as a precautionary measure, manager Joe Maddon said.

“He’s going through a little bit of a dead arm period,” Maddon said Friday of the Cubs ace. “He more than likely will not miss the start after that but we wanted to be very cautious with it right now and at this point, it does not impact Opening Day.”

Lester, scheduled to open the Cubs season on April 5 against the Cardinals, reported to camp in good shape, and Maddon said the lefty may have done too much to “try to impress everybody.”

“I checked with him this morning and he felt great,” Maddon said.

Lester told the Cubs staff that he’s experienced this before, but Maddon was not sure when.

“A lot of times when you talk to a pitcher, and you ask how they’re feeling, when a guy smiles easily and talks easily and is upbeat about it, it’s a pretty good indication [everything’s good] and he was all of that,” Maddon said. “I really feel well or strongly that he’s going to be OK.”

Eric Jokisch will start Saturday at Sloan Park in place of Lester.

– Carrie Muskat

3/20 Commenting guidelines

Folks, this blog is intended for discussion on the Cubs, not movies or Midol or minestrone. Please keep your posts to 200 words or less, and let’s avoid any verbal confrontations. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, whether you agree or not. Thanks, and looking forward to the season.

– Carrie Muskat

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