James McDonald is scheduled to throw three innings tonight in Peoria, Ariz., when the Cubs face the Mariners in a rare night game. The game will be available on webcast on Cubs.com and you also can watch on MLB.TV, although it’s the Mariners’ broadcast. Here’s the lineup:
Kyle Parker hit a two-run homer as the Rockies hit for the cycle in the third inning, and Nolan Arenado, Kent Matthes and Ryan Wheeler each added two-run blasts to beat the Cubs, 13-0, on Tuesday in front of a Cactus League record crowd of 14,840 at Cubs Park. The previous attendance high was 14,770, set Sunday at Cubs Park when Chicago played host to Milwaukee. Travis Wood took the loss, giving up five runs over 2 2/3 innings.
* James McDonald will make his second spring start on Wednesday when the Cubs travel to Peoria, Ariz., to face the Mariners in a rare night game. McDonald, 29, had a tough time last season with the Pirates. He was limited to six games because of shoulder issues, and posted a 2-2 record and 5.76 ERA. Pittsburgh designated him for assignment in September, and outrighted him to Triple-A Indianapolis but McDonald refused the assignment, and elected free agency. The game will be broadcast on Cubs.com, and you can watch on MLB.TV, although it will be the Seattle feed.
* Travis Wood is hoping the Cubs get all the dropped balls and strange plays out of their system this spring. On Tuesday, the Cubs lefty was charged with five runs on nine hits over 2 2/3 innings, with two runs scoring on singles that never left the infield. The Rockies took a 1-0 lead in the first, and with two outs in the third, Nolan Arenado was credited with a triple on a ball that center fielder Junior Lake lost in the sun. Wood gave up hits to the next five batters, including a two-run homer to Kyle Parker, before he was lifted.
“It’s going to happen, it’s part of baseball,” Wood said. “You see it every year. I’ve got to come back and help him out of the inning. I felt I made some good pitches and they put some good swings on them.”
The Rockies also got a couple breaks. Wood could only shrug after his outing.
“I said it’s just one of those days,” the lefty said. “Luckily, it happened in spring, so we can move forward from that and get ready for the next one.”
* James Russell, slowed this spring because of a tired arm, will make his Cactus League debut on Wednesday in the Cubs’ game against the Mariners. Russell has appeared in more than 70 games in relief in back to back seasons, and manager Rick Renteria said he is very cognizant of a pitcher’s usage. The Cubs do have another lefty, Wesley Wright, who could pick up some of the workload for Russell during the season.
* Javier Baez is taking ground balls at second and third before batting practice and Renteria will try to get the Cubs’ top prospect at one of those positions in a Cactus League game soon but is looking for the right shortstop to match up with. Baez will open the season at Triple-A Iowa at shortstop.
“We’re going to make sure when we do put him there we’re really comfortable and confident he can handle that side of the diamond,” Renteria said. “I think it’s pretty close.”
Darwin Barney started his second game at shortstop on Tuesday, and Renteria said that would be the most likely pairing with Baez because they want someone with experience.
* Mike Olt, who has not started at third to protect a tender right shoulder, is “getting close” to playing there in a Cactus League game. Olt did make a perfect throw on a double play in Monday’s game against the Giants, which impressed Renteria.
* Shortstop Starlin Castro, sidelined with a mild right hamstring strain since March 2, was able to do some light baseball activity on Tuesday. He was expected to get into games early next week.
* Edwin Jackson will face Minor League hitters on Wednesday at the Cubs’ complex to stay on schedule, while James McDonald gets the start that night against the Mariners. Renteria said Tuesday he has yet to talk to Jackson since his last Cactus League start March 7 when the right-hander decided to only throw fastballs, but didn’t tell either the manager or pitching coach Chris Bosio. Jackson gave up three runs on four hits over three innings against Cleveland.
“I’m sure we’ll have the discussion, and that will be between me and him,” Renteria said.
– Carrie Muskat
Ryan Sweeney’s right knee soreness apparently isn’t too serious. The outfielder is in the Cubs lineup Tuesday for their game against the Rockies at Cubs Park. Sweeney felt some discomfort during a play Sunday in right. Travis Wood gets the start. The game will be available on webcast on Cubs.com. Here’s the lineup:
T. Wood P
Emilio Bonifacio and Chris Coghlan each hit RBI singles and another run scord on an error as the Cubs edged the Giants, 3-2, on Monday at Scottsdale Stadium. Jeff Samardzija gave up two runs on five hits over four innings, striking out five. Chris Rusin threw three hitless innings in relief. The Cubs were stymied by Giants starter Matt Cain, who faced the minimum through five innings.
“They’re a great team to work against, a former world championship team,” Samardzija said of the Giants. “They come with a plan, a lot of smart players who have played together for a long time. You really get tested on days like this. I thought it went excellent. I gave up a couple runs, singles that score runs, you can live with that.”
* Up next: Travis Wood gets the start on Tuesday when the Cubs play host to the Rockies at Cubs Park in Mesa. The game will be available on webcast on Cubs.com.
Jeff Samardzija felt he controlled his tempo well, was able to mix his pitches the way he wanted, including his splitter, and took advantage of catcher Eli Whiteside’s background with the Giants. And no matter what he does, the Cubs’ right-hander’s name keeps popping up in trade rumors. Samardzija shrugs them off.
“Just going with the flow, man,” Samardzija said after throwing four solid innings against the Giants. “I’m out here pitching, and I’m really excited with how I feel for this season and where I’m at right now.
“I keep getting stronger and I really like how I approached this offseason with spacing it out and not throwing until a little later,” he said. “I feel like I’m peaking at the right time. I can’t control [rumors]. I”m just going to come out and pitch and keep doing my job and whatever happens will happen.”
There were plenty of scouts in the sellout crowd at Scottsdale Stadium. Samardzija’s name has been mentioned quite a bit. He’ll be a free agent after 2015, and a deal could produce a nice package of prospects for the Cubs. He’s heard the rumors.
“You’d be lying if you said things don’t cross your mind like that,” Samardzija said. “I’m human, and I have different thoughts throughout the day. Sometimes the uncertainty of the situation pops in my head, for sure. Ultimately, that’s just an excuse. I want to go out there and pitch and do my job with no excuses.
“I’m not about to come in and say my mind’s shaken because of this or that — it’s not going to happen,” he said. “I’m going to go out and do my job. If I win, I win, because I did that, and if I don’t win, it’s because I don’t perform up to the task. That’s how I look at it. I’m a very practical guy and it’s black and white for me. Right now I”m wearing a cubs uniform and that’s how I’m approaching it.”
How he approached the Giants was to rely on Whiteside, who played for the team from 2009-12.
“What a good guy to have back there,” Samardzija said of Whiteside. “He’s won two world championships with them and I think he knows the guys a little. I told him before the game, ‘You go ahead and throw down whatever you feel like, and I’ll take your word on it.’”
Samardzija scattered five hits, all singles, and did not walk a batter, and struck out five. Best of all, he controlled his tempo.
“I really feel like I slowed down out there,” he said. “I’m more under control. Me and Lester [Strode, bullpen coach] have talked about that of late. Don’t worry so much about the velocity of the pitch but more about how you’re throwing it and whether you’re selling it to the hitter.”
Samardzija was happy not to have to face Barry Bonds, who began a stint as a coach with the Giants on Monday.
“I gave up my first hit in the pros to him on this field,” Samardzija said. “I opened against the Athletics, and my second game was here and Bonds hit a ball through the hole in the shift and hooked a sinker through. That’s one of my earliest memories of being with the Cubs.
“I was happy as heck telling everybody he just got a single off me,” Samardzija said.
By the way, Samardzija never faced Bonds in the regular season.
– Carrie Muskat
Ryan Sweeney is OK after a freak slip in the outfield on Sunday. The Cubs outfielder had to leave the game because of soreness in his right knee suffered while chasing a ball in right.
“I just slipped and I don’t know if it was concrete or a drain or whatever down in the corner, and my front foot slipped and twisted my back knee,” Sweeney said. “I felt it pull kind of on the outside and it started to tighten up on me and I kind of got a little scared. They wanted me out of the game to make sure I was OK.”
Sweeney had a brace on Monday, and hoped to be able to take part in all the drills. After a lot of ice on Sunday night, there was still some soreness Monday.
– Carrie Muskat
Starlin Castro hopes to begin running and hitting off a batting tee on Tuesday, and hoped to be back in Cactus League games by the weekend, although manager Rick Renteria said it was more likely the shortstop would return next week. Castro has been sidelined with a mild right hamstring strain suffered March 2.
“It [stinks] to be doing this,” Castro said of the rehab. “I’d rather be playing. We’ll see this weekend if I’ll be in the game.”
It’s the second straight spring that Castro has missed time because of a hamstring injury. Last year, it was his left hamstring, and the strain was more severe. He’s already thinking about what he has to do this next offseason.
“I’ll just work a little more to get stronger,” Castro said.
The plan is to begin baseball activities on Tuesday, and start taking ground balls on Wednesday.
“I don’t want to be rushed,” he said.
– Carrie Muskat
* Arodys Vizcaino is all smiles after his two Cactus League outings. The Cubs right-hander, who has not pitched since 2011 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, was clocked at 98 mph on Friday in his relief outing against the Indians.
“I’m so happy right now,” Vizcaino said.
“His story is a great story because he’s trying to come back,” manager Rick Renteria said Sunday of the right-hander, acquired from the Braves in July 2012 in the Paul Maholm deal. “He’s worked very hard to get back to where he is right now and it’s still a progression. There are still some things that he’ll have to work through. We’ll be extremely patient with how we move forward with him.”
* Renteria said Sunday he had yet to speak with pitcher Edwin Jackson about the right-hander’s last outing in which he only threw fastballs. Jackson said he wanted to work on his fastball command, but didn’t tell Renteria or pitching coach Chris Bosio what his game plan was.
* Blake Parker knows it doesn’t matter what he did last year, or the year before. The right-hander is fighting for a spot in the Cubs’ bullpen and he’s not alone.
“There’s tons of guys here,” the reliever said, glancing around the Cubs’ clubhouse on Sunday. “You look around and you start putting yourself in places, and there’s a lot of competition in this locker room. There’s some unbelievable pitchers. Vizcaino is coming back from an injury, and I saw him the other day and he’s unbelievable to watch. It’s good for the team that you have a lot of competition. It only makes you better.”
But Parker has been a little inconsistent. In his first outing, he cruised through one inning of work. In his next two, he’s given up five hits and walked four over 1 1/3 innings. The problem, the right-hander said, are mechanical and mental issues.
“I felt like my last outing, I had a strong start,” he said of his relief appearance Friday. “I got a strikeout, and got 0-2 and threw a bad pitch and gave up a hit, and another hit, and kind of got away from attacking guys and got a little timid out there, which is what I meant by the [mental issues]. From that, [I tried] to make the perfect pitch, and my mechanics started to get out of whack, and then it spiraled downhill.
“It’s time for me to get it going and really focus on the things I need to focus on and get after it and work on the things I need to work on so I’m ready when the season starts.”
Parker is competing for a spot in the bullpen with right-handers Vizcaino, Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm, Neil Ramirez, Alberto Cabrera, Pedro Strop, and Carlos Villanueva.
* Anthony Rizzo did not hit a single home run last spring, then belted 23 during the regular season. Does Cubs manager Rick Renteria need to see the first baseman connect to know if Rizzo is ready for the season?
“No, I know he’s got power,” Renteria said Sunday. “Once you start to get into the flow of the game and you’re swinging the bat well, a gentlemen like ‘Riz’ who has pop, those come.”
Last spring, Rizzo batted .229, and so far this year, he’s 7-for-16 with two doubles and a triple.
“I actually don’t use the [Spring Training] stats as much as you might think,” Renteria said. “I’m more concerned with the approaches they’re having at the plate. One thing we want him to do is focus on his strength, which is the left center field gap. His approach has been working, and I think it’s a conscious effort.”
– Carrie Muskat
Justin Ruggiano drove in three runs, including two on his second spring homer, Junior Lake smacked a tie-breaking RBI and a sacrifice fly, Brett Jackson had a two-run pinch-hit single, and Anthony Rizzo hit a RBI triple for the Cubs who rallied to beat the Brewers, 10-8, on Sunday. The game drew a Cactus League-record crowd of 14,770. The attendance topped the previous league mark of 14,680 set March 1 at new Cubs Park.
* Right fielder Ryan Sweeney had to leave the game after chasing Jeff Bianchi’s double because of soreness in his right knee. Sweeney was listed as day to day.
* Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2013, gave up two runs on three hits and two walks over three innings in his second Cactus League start.
“I’m much happier with this [start],” Hendricks said. “I’m just disappointed that we go out and score two runs and then I go out and give them both back up. That will all work itself out as I get out there more and am more consistent with my mechanics.”
Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun was greeted by a chorus of boos from the sellout crowd during his two at-bats. Hendricks struck Braun out to end the first, but the Brewers outfielder doubled in the third.
“He got me on the second at-bat, but that wasn’t a bad pitch,” Hendricks said. “His barrel stays through the zone very well. I could’ve thrown a different pitch to him — but it was a good pitch, and he’s a really good hitter. He’s going to get his hits.”
Did Hendricks hear the crowd?
“You could hear those boos,” Hendricks said. “All the Brewers fans were trying to cheer over them.”
* Jeff Samardzija will make his third spring start on Monday when the Cubs travel to Scottsdale to face the Giants. Samardzija will likely pitch at least four innings. In his last outing against the Rockies, he gave up three runs on four hits over three innings. So far, he has not walked a batter, which is good. The right-hander is working on being more efficient with his pitches. The game will be broadcast on Cubs.com.
– Carrie Muskat