Thursday will be Day 2 for the Cubs full squad workout. Among the pitchers scheduled to throw live batting practice are C.J. Edwards, Blake Parker, Anthony Carter, Donn Roach, Neil Ramirez, Joseph Ortiz, Francisley Bueno and Gonzalez Germen.
Jon Lester is expected to throw his first live BP session on Friday. He had an early bullpen session Thursday.
The music was loud Wednesday for the Cubs’ first full squad workout, and included “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. It was time to get to work under new manager Joe Maddon.
“I’ve always liked music during batting practice,” Maddon said. “When you go to complex baseball and you’re out in the middle of nowhere and it gets really quiet, crickets and all that kind of stuff, I like when it’s really loud.”
Maddon picked the tunes for Wednesday. He hinted that others might get a chance.
“I think the first thing out of the chute in the morning, get the blood flow going, and it seems to have helped,” Maddon said. “I was told the speaker system was really good in the complex and they’re right.”
Maddon noted a good energy on the first day, which included Jake Arrieta, Jason Motte, Edwin Jackson, Justin Grimm, Felix Doubront and Jacob Turner throwing live batting practice.
* What did Maddon want the players to remember from his first workout speech?
“The one thing, more than anything, is that I want them to be themselves,” he said. “I don’t want them to feel inhibited when they play. I don’t want them to feel as though they’re out there to please. Don’t worry about making mistakes — you’re going to make mistakes, physical mistakes. We want to cut down on the mental mistakes.”
* Tommy La Stella took grounders at third base along with Mike Olt. La Stella has never played third in professional baseball but was told when he signed with the Cubs that he may get a chance there. Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez took grounders at second.
* Maddon said players can expect some different drills this spring. He likes to have hitters use heavier bats, say 35-36 ounces and 34-35 inches long to help promote the utilization of their hands. Maddon also complimented outfield coach Doug Dascenzo on his drills, saying they reminded him of what he saw with former coach Sam Suplizio, who passed away in 2006.
* C.J. Edwards, Blake Parker, Anthony Carter, Donn Roach, Neil Ramirez, Joseph Ortiz, Francisley Bueno and Germen Gonzalez were scheduled to throw live batting practice on Thursday.
– Carrie Muskat
Instead of pitching last summer, Daniel Bard rode a bike across Iowa. He then flew to Europe and drove around France, Switzerland and Germany with his wife.
“I said, I need a break, and I took it, and it’s the best thing I could’ve done,” Bard said.
He needed the extended vacation because Bard had gone from being one of the best set-up pitchers in the game with the Red Sox to struggling to retire Minor League hitters.
Bard is now in the Cubs camp, and there is a story about his comeback and how determined he is to get back to the winning form of 2010 when he was one of the toughest set-up pitchers in the American League. He discovered he had Thoracic outlet syndrome and had surgery in January 2014.
If you get a chance, read the story on Cubs.com
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs didn’t need to wrap Anthony Rizzo or Starlin Castro in bubble wrap Wednesday, the first day Cubs batters faced live pitching. One can’t blame Chicago sports fans for being a little nervous after injuries to Derrick Rose of the Bulls and Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks.
“I’m going to be tip-toeing today,” Rizzo jokingly said before Wednesday’s workout. “[The injuries are] unfortunate, especially because their season is coming down to the stretch. I’m pretty sure they have enough depth to hold on.”
Rizzo isn’t going to alter his approach.
“I play the game the same whether I’m on a Little League field and there are 20 people or millions of people watching,” Rizzo said. “It’s the same game. You just have to stay in the moment and that’s all we need to do.”
And he’s not worried about being hurt.
“You can’t play scared and you can’t be scared to go out,” Rizzo said. “If you think about getting hurt, you’ll get hurt. If you just play fearless and relentlessly, usually good things happen. Injuries are unfortunate and a lot of people make good careers, Hall of Fame careers, from someone else getting hurt. It’s obviously not a good thing but injuries are going to happen no matter what sport you’re in.”
– Carrie Muskat
Manny Ramirez was in uniform Wednesday, ready to start his new job as a hitting consultant with the Cubs. But he didn’t rule out possibly playing baseball again. Has Ramirez retired? He laughed.
“Not yet,” he said, holding court in the middle of the Cubs clubhouse. “If I’m here, I don’t know.”
Could he keep playing?
“Yeah, why not?” he said.
First priority was to get on the field and work with the young Cubs hitters. Ramirez, 42, couldn’t wait.
“There’s so much talent out there — I’m just happy to be a part of that,” Ramirez said. “There’s so much talent. This is the year. We’re going to improve little by little but we have so much talent, the guys only know what’s going to happen.”
Ramirez has had his share of troubles. In January 2011, he agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal with Tampa Bay. But on April 8, Ramirez abruptly retired after going 1-for-17 in five games. He had reportedly tested positive for a banned performance enhancing drug in his Spring Training test. Ramirez apparently didn’t personally inform the Rays about his decision to leave but did talk to Joe Maddon, now the Cubs manager. Ramirez tried to make a comeback in 2012 with the Athletics, but first had to serve a 50-game suspension.
“When I came here [to the Cubs last year], the first thing I did was go to the theater with all the Minor League players, and I had a meeting,” Ramirez said. “I went in and shared all the things that I went through so they don’t go through that. Some people grow faster than others and the good thing is you learn from your mistakes and you move on. You can go and tell these young players, ‘Hey, don’t do this, don’t do that, this has consequences’ and that’s what I did.”
Ramirez did play in the Dominican Republic this winter but said that was just for fun.
“The thought [of returning] was there,” Ramirez said. “In my career, I learned how to trust in God and put all my dreams to him. That’s it. I was just going to go and I went and played and had fun, and I couldn’t find a team so I’m here to help out.”
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs will hold their first full squad workout on Wednesday, which means the first live batting practice for some of the hitters. Pitchers scheduled to throw live BP include Jake Arrieta, Edwin Jackson, Jacob Turner, Felix Doubront, Kyle Hendricks, Eric Jokisch, Justin Grimm and Jason Motte. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and manager Joe Maddon will both meet with the players, although in separate meetings.
– Carrie Muskat
Starlin Castro is prepared to carry the Cubs on his back. The Cubs shortstop literally did just that in preparation for the season. One of the drills strength coach Tim Buss had Castro do to strengthen his legs was carry 210-pound teammate Mike Olt on his back, and run forwards and backwards.
“I did some things I’ve never done in my life,” Castro said. “It really makes you tired at the moment but after that, a few days later, you feel good.”
The Cubs are counting on Castro, who finished last season on the disabled list because of a high ankle sprain. He’s had hamstring problems the last two springs, which is why the emphasis on leg work prior to the start of camp. The first full squad workout will be Wednesday.
The Cubs need a repeat of last season from Castro, who batted .292 and matched his career high with 14 home runs. Manager Joe Maddon has yet to figure out where the shortstop will be in the lineup, preferring to study the numbers and talk to Castro.
“Wherever they put me, I’ll try to do my job,” said Castro, who has batted everywhere in the lineup. “The only thing I like is if he puts me six, seven, leave me there. I like one spot and that’s it.”
What Castro also is hoping for is a winning season, which would be his first since he was called up to the big leagues in 2010. The Cubs have finished in fifth place the last five seasons.
“It’s been tough, but this year will be my first time,” Castro said, confidently.
– Carrie Muskat