* The Cubs have reportedly released outfielder Dave Sappelt. He was acquired with Travis Wood and infielder Ronald Torreyes from the Reds in the Sean Marshall deal. Sappelt, 26, has a .251/.301/.343 slash line in 274 plate appearances.
* The Cubs have reportedly signed outfielder Casper Wells to a Minor League contract. Wells, 29, batted .155/.211/.169 with one double over 76 plate appearances between the Athletics, White Sox and Phillies last season. He had vision problems and didn’t play after Aug. 25.
* Hector Rondon struck out two, walked two and gave up one hit in one scoreless inning in relief for Leones del Caracas in Venezuela. So far, the right-hander has given up four runs on 12 hits over 9 1/3 innings in 10 games.
The Cubs also have reportedly signed outfielder Casper Wells to a Minor League contract, and he was currently playing for Leones. In 19 games, the right-handed hitting Wells was batting .178 with one home run.
* Luis Valbuena drew a walk and scored a run for Lara de Cardenales in Venezuela. He was batting .278 in nine games.
* Right-hander Marcus Hatley had a rough outing for Culiacan. He entered the game in the ninth and walked the first Mexicali batter he faced, then made a throwing error. The next batter smacked a RBI single to tie the game, and one out later, Hatley served up another RBI single. He escaped without further damage but took the loss. It was only the third time in the last 10 games teams have scored on Hatley. The right-hander has a 3.00 ERA in 16 games, giving up five earned runs on 15 hits and six wlaks over 15 innings.
* Luis Valbuena was 1-for-3, hitting his first home run of the offseason, but it wasn’t enough as Lara lost 10-4 to Aragua in Venezuela. Valbuena is batting .303 this offseason, and has played strictly at second base.
* Junior Lake was 1-for-3 with one RBI in Estrellas’ 5-2 loss to Escogido in the Dominican Republic. Lake, who started in center, was batting .344.
Bill Mueller hasn’t worn a Major League uniform since 2007 and he’s eager to get back on the field. Mueller was named to new Cubs manager Rick Renteria’s coaching staff on Friday. A former American League batting champion, the 42-year-old Mueller was an interim hitting coach for the Dodgers in the second half of 2007. After an 11-year playing career that included two seasons with the Cubs, Mueller joined the Dodgers’ front office. He has spent the last six seasons as a special assistant.
“It’s something that has always been inside me to be near the field again and be a part of a team and be with a Major League club,” Mueller said Friday. “You never know when that opportunity might come or if it does. I’ve always tried to be as well-rounded as possible and stay in the game and continue to be a student of the game so if an opportunity pops up, I could handle it and be ready to take it on. This was an opportunity that was hard to pass up and I’m very excited about it.”
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer asked the Dodgers for permission to talk to Mueller, who picked Mike Brumley, 51, as his assistant. Brumley has spent the last four seasons as first-base coach with the Mariners. He began his big league career with the Cubs in 1987.
Mueller compiled a career .291 average in his 11 seasons as a player, and batted .326 in ’03 with the Red Sox when he won the batting title. It wasn’t easy, which is something he’ll stress to the Cubs hitters.
“I had to work to get everything I achieved,” Mueller said. “Going through the process of understanding my swing and breaking it down and understanding the strengths and weaknesses and all that good stuff was a process that I had to go through. I feel it helps with the relationship and the communication with these guys. … I wasn’t the best bat on the team, it was something I had to work very hard at.”
The next step will be to study video of the Cubs batters, some of whom he has seen as a scout. He’ll then contact the players. Told that Theo Epstein wants the Cubs to lead the league in on-base percentage, Mueller laughed. That’ll be a tough assignment, but he’s up to it.
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs received enough donations for tornado relief victims to fill a 53-foot semi-trailer truck plus an additional moving truck, and everything was delivered to Peoria, Ill., on Friday. Among the items donated were containers, cleaning supplies, gloves, flashlights, clothing, food, toiletries, pet supplies, and school supplies. The Cubs worked with the American Red Cross, which provided a list of items needed. Some fans drove from Indiana to make a contribution at Wrigley Field. Volunteers also helped sort, load and unload the items. Volunteers at Brewers Distributing Company in Peoria helped the Cubs staff unload the trucks, and that site served as a distribution center for the Red Cross.
The Cubs named manager Rick Renteria’s coaching staff on Friday. Chris Bosio (pitching coach), Lester Strode (bullpen coach), Mike Borzello (catching and strategy coach) and Franklin Font (staff assistant) return. Joining Renteria’s staff in 2014 are Brandon Hyde (bench coach), Gary Jones (third base/infield coach), Bill Mueller (hitting coach), Mike Brumley (assistant hitting coach) and Jose Castro (quality assurance coach). Castro will handle scouting and defensive assignments, among other things. The club has yet to name a first base coach.
Jaron Madison, who joined the Cubs as director of amateur scouting, has been named director of player development, replacing Hyde in that role. Matt Dorey, who this year worked for the Cubs as a national and regional crosschecker, has been named director of amateur scouting.
– Carrie Muskat
We could have news on Cubs manager Rick Renteria’s coaching staff Friday. Stay tuned.
– Carrie Muskat
Friday was a sad day for Major League players trying to cope with the passing of union executive director Michael Weiner. Cubs pitcher Carlos Villanueva, an active member of the MLB Players Association, called it a “difficult day.”
“It was a very difficult day, not only for me, but for all of us who had the pleasure of spending time with Michael,” Villanueva said Friday. “All I can say about Michael is what a wonderful leader he was to us, how he genuinely cared about us, and even when he was battling his illness, how he was there almost everyday at the office making sure that we were OK.”
Weiner lost his 15-month battle with brain cancer on Thursday. He was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in August 2012, and continued to serve the players and provide leadership and counsel to the MLBPA staff. Weiner was 51.
“He was not only our leader but he was family, because only someone who is family could dedicate their life to us the way he did,” Villanueva said.
The Cubs pitcher is the only non-American born player on the MLBPA board, and involved with the Latin players.
“From a Latin player point of view, he fought for us, he made sure that we got fair treatment above all, even when it seemed that we would get the short end of the stick,” Villanueva said from his home in the Dominican Republic. “Michael always had his calm demeanor, worked his magic, and made us feel that we mattered.
“He showed me personally, to not only care about the Latin players, but to care and love all of our members equally, that it is never about the individual, it’s about what we do now, and how that will affect in a positive way the well being of our future members,” Villanueva said. “He will stay with us forever, and we will never have anybody like him.”
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo also acknowledged Weiner’s passing on Twitter, saying: “It’s sad to see such a good man’s life be taken by cancer! Thank you for everything you have done! Rest in peace Michael Weiner!”
– Carrie Muskat
* Luis Valbuena went 2-for-3, scored two runs and drove in another in Lara’s 7-2 victory over Zulia in Venezuela. Valbuena, who has only played second base, is now batting .346.
* Junior Lake hit a double and drove in two runs in Estrellas’ 4-2 win over Licey in the Dominican Republic.
* Christian Villanueva had one hit and one RBIs in Obregon’s 10-3 loss to Los Mochis in Mexico.