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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 Cubs.com 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

0219balls

Happy spring, folks.

– Carrie Muskat

2/19 Theo on Bryant

Could Kris Bryant be the Cubs’ Opening Day third baseman? It’s possible.

“Anyone in camp can make the team — that’s why they’re here,” Theo Epstein said Thursday.

Bryant, who batted .325, belted 43 home runs and drove in 110 runs at Double-A and Triple-A combined last season to earn Minor League Player of the Year honors, has said his goal is to make the decision hard on the Cubs front office. There is the question of when the Cubs want to start Bryant’s service time clock.

When Epstein meets with the 23-year-old infielder prior to the start of camp, Bryant will hear what he needs to do.

“In Kris’ case, we see him as really, really close to the big leagues,” Epstein said Thursday. “He’s a really talented player and had a phenomenal year last year. When we sit down with the players, we also identify the areas where they need to continue to work. It won’t be news to Kris — he has an individualized player plan the way all our players do.”

One area the Cubs want to see improvement is Bryant’s defense at third base. He’s been working on it. Since he arrived in Mesa — well before Tuesday’s report date for position players — Bryant has been taking grounders at third on a half field.

“He’s coming to camp to work, he’s a great kid, he’s here early — no surprise there,” Epstein said. “We love everything about him. He’s got his work ahead of him. We’ll see where we are at the end of Spring Training.”

– Carrie Muskat

2/19 Lester looks “comfortable”

It’s good to be Jon Lester right now. The left-hander has a new, six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs, scored a hole in one on his first round of golf of the year, and looks good in his early bullpens.

“It’s been nice to see him so comfortable,” Theo Epstein said Thursday.

Lester was one of the early birds in Cubs camp, who arrived well before Thursday’s report date. This is his first spring in Arizona and his first not wearing a Red Sox uniform.

“He’s already showed people around here what he’s all about,” Epstein said of the left-hander. “He’s very serious about winning, he’s very serious about working hard. He’s very serious about connecting with his teammates and with the people around him, forming bonds that he feels are important to a winning club. He’s already leading by example. We’ve got some of the young pitchers following Jon around and doing his workout routine.”

Lester also has figured out the Cubs complex. When he arrived Thursday, Lester avoided the media outside the front door and snuck in the side. He couldn’t avoid the television cameras as he worked out and played catch on the field, though.

“He’s working hard and has a smile on his face the rest of the day and that’s Jon Lester,” Epstein said. “Joe [Maddon] had a good word — [Lester is] very sincere, he’s very authentic. He really just cares about winning, working hard and bonding with his teammates — winning first and foremost. He seems even more comfortable than I anticipated he would be on the day pitchers and catchers report.”

– Carrie Muskat

2/19 Cubs to wear No. 14 patches

The Cubs will wear No. 14 caps for their Spring Training opener on March 5 and a commemorative patch on their home and road uniforms all season to honor Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, who passed away in January. The caps and patch are part of a season-long tribute to Banks, who died one week shy of his 84th birthday.

Banks will be honored in a pregame ceremony before the Cubs’ regular season opener against the Cardinals April 5 at Wrigley Field. Each fan attending that game will receive a commemorative pin in honor of Banks.

The team said additional tributes will be finalized and incorporated throughout the 2015 season.

“There is no level of recognition that can properly acknowledge how much Ernie Banks meant to this franchise and fan base,” Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement. “Collectively, we must ensure Mr. Cub’s legacy rightfully lives on at the Friendly Confines and with future generations of baseball fans.”

2/19 Talking baseball

0219lester

David Ross and Jon Lester talk on Thursday with Cubs coach Mike Borzello in Mesa, Ariz. Thursday was the day pitchers and catchers had to report to Arizona, but both Ross and Lester were early birds at the Cubs complex.

2/19 Cubs upbeat for 2015

In January, Anthony Rizzo predicted the Cubs would win the National League Central. He’s heard from his Cubs teammates since his statement.

“They were all wondering if I was going to say — ‘What are we going to finish, in fourth place?'” Rizzo said Thursday. “Everyone’s really excited and it’s good. We’re coming in here and we’re preparing to win and the biggest thing is to get everyone pulling for each other, become one unit, one team.

“We all have to pull for each other, from the first man to the 25th man,” he said. “Everyone will be able to be a hero every single day on our team. When someone is in that position to succeed, we all have to be pulling for him.”

Rizzo was one of the early bird arrivals. Thursday was report date for pitchers and catchers; position players don’t have to be in Arizona until Tuesday.

“From the convention to the first few days here, yes, everyone’s more upbeat,” Rizzo said. “Then again, it’s the first few days of Spring Training and everyone all across the league is upbeat. The expectations are set at a higher bar this year and we’re all excited for it.”

– Carrie Muskat

2/19 Cubs get go-ahead re: signage

The Cubs got the go-ahead from a federal judge Thursday to erect the video scoreboards at Wrigley Field. First baseman Anthony Rizzo says he can’t wait for the renovations at the 100-year-old ballpark to be completed.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall ruled Thursday in Chicago that the Cubs can continue with plans to install advertising signs at Wrigley Field that could block views from nearby rooftop businesses, and rejected the rooftops’ emergency request for a temporary restraining order. Rooftop owners had argued the video scoreboards will cause “irreparable” harm if installed.

Rizzo, one of the early bird position players in Cubs camp, said he’s eager to see the improvements that are part of the renovation plan.

“That’s exciting stuff,” Rizzo said Thursday. “This will be new stuff, the new generation, the new things to come, hopefully, will start now. The renovations with Wrigley will only help us players and make the fan experience a lot better. With the tradition of the ballpark still there and the new stuff they’re adding, I think it’s great.”

– Carrie Muskat

2/19 Happy spring

Pitchers and catchers report to Arizona Thursday. Temperatures will be in low 80s in Mesa. Happy Spring Training everybody.

– Carrie Muskat

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