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10/8 Cubs spring schedule

The Cubs will open Cactus League play on March 5 with split-squad games against the Athletics at Cubs Park and against the Giants in Scottsdale, beginning their second Spring Training at their new facility.

The club’s 29-game Cactus League schedule includes 15 games at Cubs Park and 14 road games. The team may add additional games in the future.

The Cubs and White Sox will meet twice with a game March 20 in Glendale and another game March 27 in Mesa. The Cubs conclude Cactus League play on April 1 against the Brewers at Cubs Park.

Individual game tickets for Cubs home spring games will go on sale Jan. 10 at 11 a.m. CT at the Cubs Park ticket office, on http://www.cubs.com, or by calling 1-800-THE-CUBS. For season ticket and group ticket information, go to http://www.cubs.com/mesa or call 1-800-THE-CUBS.

Date, Opponent, Site

March 5 (ss) vs. A’s at Cubs Park; vs. Giants in Scottsdale

March 6 vs. Reds at Cubs Park

March 7 vs. Rockies in Scottsdale

March 8 vs. Rangers at Cubs Park

March 9 vs. Padres at Cubs Park

March 10 vs. Indians in Goodyear

March 11 vs. Dodgers at Cubs Park

March 12 vs. Angels in Tempe

March 13 vs. Indians at Cubs Park

March 14 vs. Brewers in Maryvale

March 15 vs. Reds at Cubs Park

March 16 vs. Padres in Peoria

March 17 vs. Royals at Cubs Park

March 18 vs. Dodgers in Glendale

March 19 vs. Diamondbacks in Scottsdale

March 20 vs. White Sox in Glendale

March 21 vs. Mariners at Cubs Park

March 22 vs. Padres at Cubs Park

March 23: Off day

March 24 vs. Athletics in Mesa

March 25 vs. Mariners in Peoria

March 26 vs. Angels at Cubs Park

March 27 vs. White Sox at Cubs Park

March 28 (ss) vs. Rockies at Cubs Park; vs. Reds in Goodyear

March 29 vs. Royals in Surprise

March 30 vs. Giants at Cubs Park

March 31 vs. Rangers in Surprise

April 1 vs. Brewers at Cubs Park

10/8 AFL update

The Mesa Solar Sox lost their Arizona Fall League opener, 9-3, to Glendale on Tuesday. Cubs prospect Addison Russell started as the DH and went 1-for-4 with a two-run single. Cubs prospects Dan Vogelbach and Jacob Hannemann also got in the game, but both were hitless.

On Wednesday, rain interrupted the AFL schedule and canceled a meeting between the two teams in Mesa. The Solar Sox next game will be Thursday night at Cubs Park. Cubs prospect C.J. Edwards, who was scheduled to start Thursday, now is slated to go Friday when the Solar Sox play host to Surprise at Cubs Park.

For updates, go to the Arizona Fall League website.

10/7 Mueller resigns

Bill Mueller, a former batting champion who helped Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro get back on track last season in his first year as the Cubs hitting coach, will not return for the 2015 season. A Cubs official confirmed a Chicago Tribune report Tuesday that Mueller has resigned. The departure was related to the team’s decision to not retain assistant hitting coach Mike Brumley, who also was in his first season on the Cubs coaching staff.

Mueller, 43, joined new manager Rick Renteria’s staff after spending 11 years in the Major Leagues from 1996-2006, winning the batting title in 2003 when he hit .326 for the Red Sox. He also was the Dodgers interim hitting coach in the second half of 2007.

– Carrie Muskat

10/6 Prospects come back from car accident

In case you missed it, there is a story on Cubs.com about two young Cubs prospects who were severely injured in a car accident in the Dominican Republic in January, but are making a comeback. Pitcher Jose Zapata suffered a broken neck in the crash and was told he may not be able to walk. Outfielder Kevin Encarnacion suffered third degree burns on his right arm, and was told he may never have use of his arm again.

On Saturday, Zapata threw 15 pitches in a live BP session in Mesa, Ariz., facing batters for the first time since the crash. And he was greeted by applause from his teammates and coaches when he finished his session. On Monday, Encarnacion had his first at-bats in a game during an instrasquad scrimmage in instructional league in Mesa. He struck out twice and popped up to second base in his three at-bats in the seven-inning game.

These are baby steps, but so encouraging for the young players. Cubs Minor League pitching coordinator Derek Johnson has been impressed by Zapata’s comeback.

“Right now, it’s just trying to get a feel back in the strike zone and getting him comfortable against hitters and getting him comfortable on the mound,” Johnson said. “It’s an amazing story and we’re hoping for more amazing things to happen. It’s one of those things where even he probably never thought he’d be back here. It’s a great thing.”

You can read more about Zapata and Encarnacion on Cubs.com.

– Carrie Muskat

10/6 Cubs claim Ortiz

The Cubs continued to add pitching to the organization, claiming left-hander Joseph Ortiz off waivers from the Rangers. With the move, the Cubs’ 40-man roster is now full at 40. Ortiz, 24, went 2-2 with a 4.23 ERA in 32 relief appearances for the Rangers in 2013 before being limited to 15 Minor League appearances last season because of a fractured left foot.

He began 2014 on the 60-day disabled list and made two rehab appearances with the Rangers’ Rookie League team in Arizona in July before joining Double-A Frisco, where he posted a 4.50 ERA in 13 relief outings. A native of Venezuela, Ortiz originally signed with the Rangers as a non-drafted free agent on Aug. 28, 2006. In 217 relief appearances over eight Minor League seasons, he is 18-15 with 31 saves and a 2.44 ERA.

10/6 Arizona Fall League

The Arizona Fall League gets underway Tuesday, and Cubs prospects will be playing for the Mesa Solar Sox. Their first game will be at Glendale against the Desert Dogs, starting at 12:35 p.m. MT. The Solar Sox will play their home games at Cubs Park in Mesa, and the first one is scheduled for Wednesday at 12:35 p.m. MT. The Cubs prospects on the Solar Sox will be joined by players from the Angels, Athletics, Blue Jays and Nationals.

The Cubs players on the AFL roster include:

RHP Zach Cates: Cates, 24, was a combined 3-2 with a 4.08 ERA in 36 games at Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee this season, striking out 40 over 53 innings. A third-round pick by the Padres in 2010, he was acquired along with Anthony Rizzo in the Andrew Cashner deal.

LHP Gerardo Concepcion: The Cuban pitcher was 4-2 with a 3.32 ERA in 29 games, playing primarily at Class A Kane County. In eight games with Daytona, Concepcion, 22, gave up two earned runs over 15 1/3 innings for a 1.17 ERA, striking out 14.

RHP C.J. Edwards: Edwards, 23, only pitched in 12 games this season because of shoulder problems. He made four starts with Tennessee before he was shut down. In 10 starts total with Tennessee, he gave up 13 earned runs on 30 hits and 21 walks while striking out 46. Teams batted .173 against him. The right-hander was acquired from the Rangers along with Mike Olt, Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez for Matt Garza.

RHP Ivan Pineryo: In 11 games with Tennessee, Pineyro, 23, gave up 30 earned runs over 48 2/3 innings for a 5.55 ERA, striking out 41. He was acquired from the Nationals for Scott Hairston in July 2013.

SS Addison Russell: Acquired from the Athletics in the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel deal, Russell batted .350 in 68 games last season combined. He was slowed by a hamstring injury at the start of the year. In 50 games at Tennessee, he batted .294 with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs.

1B Dan Vogelbach: The left-handed slugger batted .268 with 16 homers and 76 RBIs in 132 games at Daytona last season. The 21-year-old was a second-round pick in 2011.

OF Jacob Hannemann: A left-handed hitter, Hannemann batted .251 combined at Kane County and Daytona, and swiped 37 bases. The 23-year-old was a third-round pick in 2013 out of Brigham Young.

OF Bijan Rademacher: Rademacher, 23, batted .281 at Daytona with 10 homers, 22 doubles, six triples and 56 RBIs in 111 games. He was a 13th round pick in 2012.

– Carrie Muskat

10/3 Cubs Inbox

Time to rev up the Cubs Inbox. Got a question about the team? Send it to CubsInbox@gmail.com, and please include your full name and hometown.

10/2 Scouting report: The Cardinals

On Friday, the Cardinals square off against the Dodgers in the National League Division Series. Two Major League scouts offered their take on two key players on Redbirds, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina:

Scout No. 1:

Adam Wainwright
“He has superb command with all four of his pitches. His curveball is a big top to bottom spinning curve with great bite downward, and that makes it very tough for hitters to square up. He can locate his fastball on both sides of the plate. He doesn’t have an overpowering fastball. He pitches at 88-92 mph with the fastball. I’ve seen him reach back and hit 95 mph but he mainly sits around 90 mph. Just when you think you are on his fastball, he will use his cut fastball and/or his slider to keep you guessing. He’s a great competitor who knows how to win and when the going gets tough, he has the plus curve he can use to escape damage.”

Yadier Molina
“Defensively, his game speaks for itself. He’s the best catcher in the game today in terms of calling the game for his pitcher. He knows how to get the most out of his pitcher, he knows the league well and how to pitch guys. The Brewers’ Maldonado is the only guy I know of who has better pure arm strength than Molina. Offensively, Molina looks like he might still be feeling the effects of his injured thumb. He doesn’t look like he is feeling for the ball, but it doesn’t look like he is/can fully let it fly just yet. He’s a smart hitter at the plate and will sit on a pitch if you fall into patterns with him. He’s an aggressive hitter, who is looking to swing the bat.”

“The Cardinals have pitching coming out of their ears and that is the strength of the team. Ellis is a professional hitter off the bench from the right side, with Descalso being the secret weapon off the bench hitting from the left side. Descalso has been swinging the bat well down the stretch, hitting .359 in August.”

Scout No. 2:

Adam Wainwright
“A workhorse on the mound with a four-pitch mix. He’s a fast working strike thwoer who throws a fastball, curve, cutter and change up, and all with plus command and to both sides of the plate. He will move from different sides of the rubber to create different angles to the hitters. He’s one of the only pitchers doing that in today’s game. His 6-foot 7-inch frame offers a tremendous slot with high arm angle to the plate. He will throw any pitch at anytime and have confidence he will throw it for a strike. A true competitor who will also give you a quality at bat. Adam is not afraid to takes his swings at the plate. He is a good athlete for his size and moves around the mound very well. He fields his position very well and is a true professional. His curve and cutter combo make it tough for anybody to react. As a hitter, you have to go up there sitting on one pitch because if you are just going to react or wait for a mistake, the at-bat will be over quickly. Paired with Molina, these two guys make up a special battery.”

Yadier Molina
“Yadi is the game’s best catcher and arguably the best catcher in Major League history. Yadi offers so much more than meets the eye especiall when it comes to handling the staff. He does it with ease. Molina shuts down the running game with his arm and quick release times. His game calling ability and unbelievable feel offers things that can’t be taught. He is a truly professional hitter who uses the whole field. He is a very smart hitter and will know what the pitcher is going to do before the pitcher even knows. He has the ability to hit the ball in the seats but also be used as a hit and run guy hitting the ball behind the runner. He’s still not 100 percent from his thumb injury, he has not driven the ball like he is capable, but he’s such a fierce competitor that he wants to play. He makes this Cardinals team go. He’s a guy who can’t be replaced. Players like him come around once in a generation, if ever.”

– Carrie Muskat

9/30 Theo: Goal in ’15 is to win division

The emphasis in the first three seasons under Theo Epstein has been to restock the Minor League system and build a foundation of impact players. In 2015, Epstein feels the Cubs will take a major step and not just develop players, but be competitive.

“I think we’ve proved we can be very competitive in this division and when you have a chance to compete, you should set your sights high and that means our goal is the [National League] Central title next year,” Epstein said Tuesday.

Here are some highlights from a 40-minute media session at Wrigley Field:

* The Cubs will be looking for impact talent via free agency but Epstein cautioned that any deal has to make sense and they will not “sell out just for 2015.” Among the needs are another starting pitcher, a left-handed reliever, and outfield help. The next 15 months will be key in terms of player acquisitions, he said. That time frame includes this coming offseason, the next Trade Deadline, and next offseason.

* They are aware that some of the young talent still needs time, such as Javier Baez, who batted .169 with 95 strikeouts in 52 games after he was called up Aug. 5. Baez is expected to be the Cubs’ Opening Day second baseman, Epstein said. He’s a perfect example of the theme Epstein projected for 2015.

“We’re being open about the fact that we’re here to compete and our goal is to win the [division] title, but at the same time we’re not going to bail on our young players, we’re not going to abandon our vision,” he said. “We just have to make the tough decisions and strike that balance the right way.”

* Epstein admitted Renteria had some limitations with the roster, such as relievers who were restricted because of past injuries and youngsters without much experience. But the manager did fulfill many of the criteria laid out for him, such as developing a positive attitude, setting a good tone for the players and getting them to play hard.

“He established an environment where our young players could continue to grow and feel support, and where they could learn how to be big leaguers, and where they could learn how to win,” Epstein said.

* Neil Ramirez and Justin Grimm will stay in the bullpen for 2015, and not be considered for the rotation.

* The Cubs have not made as much improvement in terms of on-base percentage as Epstein would like.

“Frankly, it’s one of the areas where we haven’t had a lot of success,” he said.

* Epstein’s feelings on the Cardinals? He says: “How do you balance admiration and contempt? I’m a Cub, so I have to hate the Cardinals, but I also admire the way they run their baseball shop. They’re really consistent, they make good decisions, all the way back to George Kissell. They teach the game the right way, they stay true to the vision of how to play Cardinal baseball. In some respects, and I hate to say this on the record, but we have to do a lot of things that they do to be successful. On the other hand, I think we’re building something that has a chance to go toe to toe with them and surpass them. I think we have a chance to win this division and win it on a consistent basis, and we’re going to need to beat them to win the World Series.”

He feels the NL Central is becoming a powerhouse. When Epstein first joined the Cubs in October 2011, he thought the NL Central would be a little easier than the AL East.

“I was dead wrong,” Epstein said. “If you look forward over the next five years, or so, I think this has a chance to be the most competitive and best division in baseball. When you have the talent to compete you should set your sights high.”

– Carrie Muskat

9/30 Cubs coaching staff

The Cubs coaching staff will remain intact for 2015 with the exception of assistant hitting coach Mike Brumley, who will likely be re-assigned in the organization, possibly as a scout. Theo Epstein made the announcement Tuesday at Wrigley Field. That means manager Rick Renteria’s staff will include bench coach Brandon Hyde, pitching coach Chris Bosio, hitting coach Bill Mueller, first base coach Eric Hinske, third base coach Gary Jones, bullpen coach Lester Strode, catching/strategy coach Mike Borzello, quality assurance coach Jose Castro and assistant Franklin Font. This was Brumley’s first season on the Cubs coaching staff.

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