Finally, Mike Olt will get on the field. Olt has been limited to the designated hitter role as he nurses a tender right shoulder. On Monday, he’s scheduled to start at first base for the Cubs in a makeup “B” game against the Angels in Tempe.
Olt has played more third than first, but playing first should limit stress on his throwing shoulder. He says the soreness is normal for Spring Training.
“It’s a little bit of a dead arm,” Olt said. “I was working it too hard to get ready.”
He much prefers playing than sitting.
“I’m not a huge fan of sitting on the bench and hitting,” Olt said. “It’ll be good to be back on the field and feel like you’re part of the game.”
The shoulder hasn’t affected his hitting in batting practice or the games so far. Eventually, he’ll get into a game at third. Olt is eager to show the Cubs he’s ready.
“If I am healthy, I do know I belong in the big leagues,” Olt said. “It’s not a matter of thinking about making the big leagues, it’s about going out there and doing my thing. Whatever happens, happens. When I do get the shot, I’ll be ready.”
– Carrie Muskat
After an all-day rain on Saturday, it’s a beautiful day Sunday in Mesa, and the Cubs will play host to the Royals at Cubs Park. Here’s the lineup:
E. Jackson P
On Monday, the Cubs will play a “B” game against the Giants at Cubs Park in Mesa, starting at 10 a.m. MT. Jason Hammel will start that game. They were originally scheduled to play the Angels, but now will deal with the Giants. Here’s the lineup:
“B” Game vs. Angels
The rest of the Cubs will face the Brewers in Maryvale on Monday. Eric Jokisch gets the start. Here’s that lineup:
As always, the lineups are subject to change.
– Carrie Muskat
New Cubs Park can handle up to 15,000 people but it had a tough time with the rain on Saturday. The Cubs’ Cactus League game against the Giants at the new facility was canceled because of rain and unplayable conditions. Saturday night’s game against the Diamondbacks in Scottsdale also was canceled.
Fans with tickets to Saturday’s game can use them for a future Cactus League game at Cubs Park.
Travis Wood, who was scheduled to start, threw a two-inning simulated game at the Cubs’ complex instead.
Edwin Jackson, who was scheduled to start Saturday night, will now start Sunday against the Royals in Mesa. He’ll be followed by Carlos Villanueva. Jason Hammel, who was to make his first start for the Cubs on Sunday, now will pitch in a “B” game on Monday against the Angels in Tempe. Hammel, who was the Orioles’ Opening Day starter, signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Cubs after going 7-8 with a 4.97 ERA in 26 games (23 starts) for the Orioles last season. The game will be broadcast on WGN Radio with Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer.
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs will play a day-night, home-road doubleheader on Saturday, beginning with a day game in Mesa at Cubs Park against the Giants, and followed by a night game in Scottsdale against the Diamondbacks. Travis Wood is scheduled to start the first game with Edwin Jackson in the night game. It’s raining in Mesa this morning, so we’ll play it by ear. Here’s the lineup for Game 1:
T. Wood P
It was one inning in the Cubs’ second Cactus League game, but Friday’s seventh was a sign of things to come. Kris Bryant belted a two-run homer in his first spring at-bat, driving in Albert Almora, but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Cubs lost, 15-3, to the Angels.
All of the so-called core four of Almora, Bryant, Jorge Soler and Javier Baez had at-bats in the seventh. Arismendy Alcantara, another highly touted prospect, popped up to lead off the inning, and Almora, the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in 2012, then doubled. Soler struck out and Bryant followed with a lengthy at-bat that resulted in a 420-foot shot just left of the batter’s eye off a 3-2 slider from the Angels’ Jarrett Grube.
Brett Jackson, another Cubs’ No. 1 pick, walked and Baez, a first-round selection in 2011, lined out sharply to third base to end the inning.
“It was kind of cool — Albert got on with a double, Jorge, he had some good swings, and then I drove in Albert,” Bryant said. “Hopefully, we can do that a lot in the future.”
The Cubs certainly hope so.
Bryant’s career has been on the fast track since the third baseman was selected second overall in last June’s First-Year Player Draft. After he signed with the Cubs, Bryant played two games with the Rookie League team, then was bumped up to short-season Boise for 18 games. His debut there wasn’t nearly as impressive as he struck out in all five at-bats. But Bryant batted .354 and was promoted to high Class A Daytona, where he hit .333 in 16 games with five home runs and five doubles plus 14 RBIs.
And he wasn’t done. The winner of the Golden Spikes award as the top college baseball player of the year, Bryant, 22, played in the Arizona Fall League, and batted .364 with six more home runs, eight doubles and 17 RBIs.
He may be familiar with playing in the desert but this is his first big league camp, and the seventh inning was his first at-bat.
“I felt good up there, I was not nervous at all, and saw a lot of pitches, which was good,” Bryant said. “Home runs don’t mean anything if you don’t win the game, so that’s a little disappointing. For myself, it was a good performance.”
Cubs fans will see a lot of Bryant, Almora, Soler and Baez this spring as new manager Rick Renteria takes advantage of the Cactus League games to gauge the talent in the system. All are projected to open the season in the Minor Leagues. All have seemed very much at home in big league camp.
“It was a good first at-bat, and all the nerves are gone now,” Bryant said.
How can he be so calm?
“It’s just a game,” he said. “You’ve got to go out there and have fun and don’t put pressure on yourself and put a smile on your face and good things usually come from that.”
It worked at San Diego, where he led the nation with 31 home runs.
“I’ve just been blessed with power,” Bryant said. “I’m putting it to use. Hopefully, I can go out there tomorrow and give it all I’ve got and hopefully get a win.”
– Carrie Muskat
* Darwin Barney has been working a lot with Cubs hitting coach Bill Mueller and on Friday, the second baseman went 2-for-2 in his first spring game, hitting a solo home run in the fourth.
“I feel I can repeat what I’m doing up there and that’s the goal,” said Barney, who batted .208 last season. “It’s Day One and it’s a long spring ahead and a lot of work to be done.”
Barney isn’t being counted on to hit home runs — he matched his career high last season with seven.
“I’m trying to stay short and hit line drives,” he said. “My swing allowed me to do that and I’m happy about that. It’s early, it’s just one pitch. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
* Mike Olt, slowed this spring because of tenderness in his right shoulder, has yet to play third base and Cubs manager Rick Renteria said the team is taking a precautionary approach.
“He’s throwing fine and he’s been working at all the positions getting himself ready,” Renteria said Friday of Olt, who has been limited to designated hitter so far.
Olt, who battled vision problems last season, was scheduled to start at DH on Saturday night against the Diamondbacks.
* After more than 50 days without rain in the Phoenix area, Saturday’s forecast calls for showers. The Cubs’ contingency plan is to use the batting cages at their complex to get work done.
“We’ll deal with it as it comes,” Renteria said.
* Jake Arrieta continues to throw off flat ground and is making progress. Arrieta has been slowed this spring by tightness in his right shoulder, which he felt in the offseason before reporting to Arizona.
* Cubs fans eager to see top prospects Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant might want to go to Saturday’s game against the Diamondbacks in Scottsdale. Both are scheduled to start. Bryant hit his first spring homer in his first at-bat on Friday.
– Carrie Muskat
All Aaron Cunningham has to do is open his suitcase in the Cubs clubhouse, and the players come for his socks.
Cunningham is a non-roster invitee on the Cubs, but the outfielder is also a market manager for Strideline, which makes colorful and apparently very comfortable crew socks.
It all started a couple years ago when Cunningham saw the socks for sale during the holidays. He bought several pairs for family members, and decided to take it another step.
“I sent them an email, and said, ‘Hey, I like the product, I’m a professional athlete, I can help you spread the word with all the ballplayers,’” Cunningham said Friday. “They approved it and made me a market manager, and I started giving them out to guys and they started getting me involved, and now it’s a new company.”
What makes the socks unique is not that they were created by two college students but how good they feel and look. They designs include city skylines, such as Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco. There’s also are pairs featuring the state of Texas and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Cunningham, 27, has a patriotic red, white, and blue pair in his locker. Cubs pitcher Blake Parker likes a blue and white plaid that he wore Thursday in the first Cactus League game so much that he plans on wearing them every outing. That’s because Parker retired all three batters he faced.
On Friday, lefty Zac Rosscup purchased two pairs with the Chicago skyline as soon as Cunningham opened his suitcase with merchandise. They’re in Cubs colors, but fans most likely won’t see them because players wear their pants long and cover them up. However, there are some green, yellow and blue camouflage designs that guys could be wearing with street clothes which you might sneak a peek at.
“I’ll come in here with 100 socks and they’ll be gone in one day,” Cunningham said.
The positive feedback is helping sales. Cunningham, who has worked with Strideline at AAU baseball tournaments, selling 300 pairs in a weekend, has sent sample pairs to other Major League teams in hopes that they’ll be interested. Cubs clubhouse manager Tom Hellmann plans on stocking up on them. Who knows? Cunningham’s first goal is to make the Cubs. Someday, he may be doing more than just distributing pairs in the Cubs clubhouse.
“Baseball doesn’t last forever,” Cunningham said.
– Carrie Muskat
Saturday’s forecast calls for rain in the Valley of the Sun, which may mess up the Cubs’ day-night split squad games. Right now, the Cubs are scheduled to play at home against the Giants and at night in Scottsdale against the Diamondbacks. Here are Saturday’s lineups:
Vs. Giants, Mesa, AZ, 1:05 p.m. MT
T. Wood P
Vs. Diamondbacks, Scottsdale, AZ, 7:05 p.m. MT
– Carrie Muskat