2/26 Maddon’s message: Respect 90

Ernie Banks used to come up with a saying every year for the Cubs. This season, manager Joe Maddon’s message has been painted along the first base line of Field 1 at the Cubs complex: Respect 90.

Last Dec. 3, Maddon posted it on his Twitter account @CubsJoeMadd: “Respect 90 … going to make daily push for our players to respect that distance .. run hard for 90 feet, and the respect will come back to you.” It’s also on his Twitter profile. And the Cubs players will see it on other fields as well. It’s something he wants ingrained in their minds.

“It really is the message I want to get out there,” Maddon said. “I believe if we respect that 90 feet every day, a lot of good things are going to happen here.”

Maddon had not used “Respect 90″ while with the Rays but would have done so this year if he had stayed. He’s had other sayings in Tampa Bay, such as “nine equals eight.”

“I guess Mr. Banks used to do it also,” Maddon said. “This was more of an organic moment. I thought of it one day and said, ‘God, I really like that.'”

– Carrie Muskat

2/26 Extra bases

* Javier Baez, Mike Olt and Jorge Soler will be the first to take some swings against new Cubs pitcher Jon Lester, who was scheduled to throw his first live batting practice session on Friday. Lester, Hector Rondon, Zac Rosscup, Brian Schlitter, Pedro Strop, Drake Britton, Corey Black, and Pierce Johnson are scheduled for live batting practice.

Manager Joe Maddon is still in the early phases of evaluating the roster this spring.

“I don’t really read into too many things,” he said. “I’m just watching.”

* Former Cubs outfielder Dave Martinez was the only coach Maddon was able to add to his staff, and having the familiarity has helped. Martinez was Maddon’s bench coach with the Rays for seven seasons.

“It’s very fortunate that we did [add Martinez] and it’s even more obvious to me now,” Maddon said. “People talked about it, and you need to bring somebody with you. Davey is the perfect fit and it really helps me daily because he brings a lot of the message to the guys.”

Of course, when Martinez played for the Cubs, they held Spring Training at Fitch Park. Still, the uniform hasn’t changed much or the fans.

“He feels like he’s home a little bit, too,” Maddon said.

* Maddon was pleased with the energy and execution during bunt drills Thursday.

“I told the boys afterword, ‘That’s pro, and if we can do that 99 percent of the time, we’ll be OK,'” he said.

* How does Maddon relax at the end of the day? He’s been catching up on some television shows, such as “The Office” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

“I’d rather go to sleep watching something funny than something way too serious,” he said. “I prefer a comedy to go to sleep with and [‘The Office’] is my favorite.”

– Carrie Muskat

2/26 Respect 90

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Here’s Joe Maddon’s message to the Cubs players: “Respect 90.” It’s painted on Field 1 at the Cubs spring complex.

2/26 What to look for: Cubs

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.

2/25 Cubs off and running on first day

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

2/25 Here’s Manny

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Cubs assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske and new consultant Manny Ramirez meet before Wednesday’s workout in Mesa, Ariz.

2/25 Daniel Bard’s comeback

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

2/25 Morning Joe

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New Cubs manager Joe Maddon chats with fans during the first team workout Wednesday in Mesa, Ariz.

2/25 Let’s be careful out there

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

2/25 Manny on Manny

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

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