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
The Cubs have hired Manny Ramirez as a hitting consultant and Kevin Youkillis as a scouting and player development consultant.
The team also announced the establishment of the mental skills program, which will include noted sports psychologist Dr. Ken Ravizza as a consultant. Ravizza, a professor of applied sports psychology at Cal-State Fullerton, has worked with Cubs manager Joe Maddon since the 1980s. Ravizza met with the Cubs pitchers and catchers for the first time on Tuesday.
* Ramirez joined the Cubs last season as a player-coach at Triple-A Iowa. A two-time World Champion and 2004 World Series MVP, he played 19 Major League seasons with the Indians, Red Sox, Dodgers, White Sox and Rays. In his new role with the Cubs, Ramirez will continue to work with the Major and Minor League hitters on the “fundamental and mental aspects of hitting.”
Ramirez, 42, played in the Dominican Republic this winter, and batted .313 with six home runs in 41 games. While at Triple-A Iowa last season, he batted .222 in 24 games, but was credited with helping Javier Baez and others on the team.
* Youkilis, 35, recently retired after an 11-year Major League career with the Red Sox, White Sox and Yankees. In his role, he will assist the front office by scouting amateur and professional hitters in northern California and will work with hitters in the Minor League system under the direction of the hitting coordinator.
– Carrie Muskat
Cubs single game tickets for the 2015 season go on sale March 6 at 10 a.m. CT. Tickets will be available on http://www.Cubs.com or by calling 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).
Fans can participate in the MasterCard Pre-sale prior to the general on-sale date. Starting March 3 at 10 a.m. CT, single game tickets will be available at Cubs.com for a 20 percent premium, or a 15 percent premium for fans using a MasterCard.
The single game on-sale will include a selection of tickets to Opening Night, April 5, against the Cardinals, plus weekend bobblehead promotional games, Family Sundays and Interleague matchups against the Indians, Tigers and Royals.
The 2015 promotional schedule features unique items, including a Cubs winter aviator hat, Wrigley Field football, Chicago Whales replica throwback jersey, and several Cubs player debut bobbleheads.
For the 2015 season, “Weekends Start Here” with new Budweiser Bleacher Friday games. On select Friday games in May, June, July, August and September, the Budweiser Bleachers may feature pre- or post-game entertainment, exclusive giveaway items, special food and beverages and more. For an up-to-date promotional schedule, visit http://www.cubs.com.
Fans interested in purchasing Cubs tickets in person can visit The Cubs Store, 3616 N. Clark Street, Chicago, beginning March 9 at 9 a.m. CT. Because of the ongoing construction at Wrigley Field, single game tickets will be sold at The Cubs Store during regular store hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT every day leading up to Opening Night with the exception of March 14.
Here are the details for single game purchasing options:
* The Cubs will offer the MasterCard Pre-sale starting March 3 at 10 a.m. CT through March 4 at 10 p.m. CT. Fans using a MasterCard can purchase single game tickets in advance of the general on-sale date at a 15 percent premium, while fans using other forms of payment may purchase tickets at a 20 percent premium. MasterCard Pre-sale tickets may be purchased at Cubs.com.
* Fans have three ways to purchase single game tickets.
Via the Internet: On March 6, fans can purchase tickets at Cubs.com. A virtual waiting room will begin accepting customers at 9:30 a.m. CT. At 10 a.m. CT, customers will be selected from the virtual waiting room to begin purchasing tickets. All Internet customers will need a valid Cubs.com account. Customers are recommended to register for an account prior to March 6.
By Telephone: Tickets can be purchased by telephone beginning March 6 at 10 a.m. CT by dialing 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).
At The Cubs Store: Tickets will be available for purchase starting March 9 at 9 a.m. CT. The team will offer in-person single game tickets for purchase at The Cubs Store every day through April 5 during regular hours with the exception of March 14.
For updated ticket pricing, visit Cubs.com.
Kris Bryant had his one-on-one meeting with Joe Maddon Monday, and, no, the Cubs top prospect did not tell the manager that he belonged on the Opening Day roster. Bryant, 23, is confident, but knows he has to show Maddon and the Cubs he’s ready.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the big leagues,” Bryant said Monday. “I feel I’m pretty close now. I’m going to use this Spring Training as a way to go out there and get better in those areas.”
The Minor League player of the year last season after batting .325, hitting 43 home runs and driving in 110 at Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, Bryant first met Maddon in December during the Winter Meetings.
“He’s a guy I want to play for — I sure hope I get the chance this year,” Bryant said.
Cubs fans hope so, too. They can be assured that Bryant didn’t bring all his trophies to Mesa. He left them at home and has moved on.
“I know I have a lot to prove on the field and those [rankings] are just opinions I can’t control,” he said. “The only expectations I have to live up to are the ones I have on my own and I can assure you mine are greater than anybody’s out there.”
Maddon’s first impressions of the Cubs top prospect?
“That he gets it,” Maddon said. “Of course, he’s talented, great body, great power, wonderful arm, good third baseman, good outfield. He’s a lot of good things and he gets it. I think he understands the work involved necessary to be great. He’s rather humble for me. He’s not outgoing in a sense in a negative way. He knows he’s good. There’s also a humility about him, too.”
Maddon said Bryant could see some playing time in outfield this spring but will likely focus on third.
“Long term, Kris would be a nice long term solution,” Maddon said. “Is he ready right now? I don’t know. I’ve never seen the guy on the field. There’s other really good candidates who can play there, probably not to the level he can. At the conclusion of this camp, what’s the right thing to do then? That’s what we have to decide.”
– Carrie Muskat
* Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Jacob Turner, Eric Jokisch, C.J. Edwards and Dallas Beeler threw side sessions on Monday in Cubs camp. Position players report Tuesday, but several were in the clubhouse Monday, including Chris Coghlan, Junior Lake, Mike Olt, Addison Russell, Ryan Sweeney, Dexter Fowler and Anthony Rizzo.
* On Tuesday, sports psychologist Ken Ravizza will meet with the pitchers prior to the workout.
* On Wednesday, the hitters had better be ready. It will be the first full squad workout and at least eight pitchers are scheduled to throw live batting practice, including Arrieta, Edwin Jackson, Turner, Felix Doubront, Hendricks, Jokisch, Justin Grimm and Jason Motte.
* Lake played in the Dominican Republic this winter and worked with Minor League hitting coach Desi Wilson. The focus was to get on base somehow, someway.
“[Wilson] told me when you get on base, it’s like 80 percent the run will score,” Lake said. “I worked a lot with him about that, about walks, about getting on base no matter what. I know that’s what I need to get on base and then [Anthony] Rizzo or [Starlin] Castro can drive me in, or somebody in the lineup.”
* Manager Joe Maddon was very hands-on with the catchers on Monday, offering suggestions on positioning and technique. It isn’t that Maddon doesn’t trust all the catching coaches, which includes Mike Borzello, Henry Blanco and Tim Cossins.
“Part of it is I really like the catching component of the game,” Maddon said.
* Left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, who missed Sunday’s side session because of tightness in his left hamstring, is scheduled to throw on the side Wednesday.
– Carrie Muskat
All David Ross has asked of his new Cubs teammates so far is to guide him so he go to the wrong field for drills. Ross may not know his way around the Cubs complex but he can definitely handle a pitching staff. And so can the Cubs other two catchers.
“From the other dugout, I’ve always known the benefits that [Ross] brought to a team,” manager Joe Maddon said Sunday, “and then you get to converse with him and be with him, and it’s true. He’s just a different man.”
What Maddon likes is how much Ross understands the game. And they’ve only been together three days. Ross is still getting to know everyone.
“I’ve introduced myself to some guys three or four times,” Ross said Sunday.
He wasn’t signed to a two-year deal simply to keep Jon Lester happy. The Cubs like Ross’s experience and leadership, and Theo Epstein sold the catcher on what they’re trying to do in Chicago.
“I think this is one of the places to be in Major League Baseball,” Ross said. “Joe said it the other day, this is the spot to be. I believe that, too, whether Jon Lester is here or not. These guys came in to play [the Red Sox] last year, and kicked our tail. I saw it first hand, and faced Jake Arrieta. He was the best pitcher I faced last year all year with my limited at-bats. He was a true top of the rotation starter.”
The Cubs not only have Ross but veteran Miguel Montero and Welington Castillo, who has been the starter the last two seasons. Maddon is high on the trio.
“You get three catchers like that in the same area code, that’s pretty good,” Maddon said.
The Cubs have had three top catchers on a roster before. In 1991, Joe Girardi, Damon Berryhill and Rick Wilkins were together on the team.
While Ross, who turns 38 next month, will likely be matched up with Lester as he was in Boston, Maddon will talk to Montero, 31, about how many games he wants to catch. The manager already knows the answer will be as many as possible.
– Carrie Muskat
* Joe Maddon wants the Cubs to play just as hard in March as in June, July or August, and hopefully, in October. That will be part of his message Wednesday when he addresses the full squad.
“I do like to win in Spring Training,” Maddon said Sunday. “I think my message to the group when they show up in a couple days is I want them to play the game whether it’s March 15 or July 15 or Oct. 15. When you build that mindset, and you get to the end of the season and the playoff situation, you don’t change your game. I think that’s the trap that a lot of groups fall into — that I have to try harder or I have to do more or I have to step up. I really don’t like the phrase ‘step up’ at all. That insinuates that you have not been trying before that.”
The Cubs open Cactus League play on March 5 with split squad games, and Maddon will expect to see good effort then.
“If we can build the thought process of where you come to play every day, regardless of the date, don’t apply any more weight to any game, by the time we get to the playoffs the game feels the same and I don’t think you’re going to be intimidated by that moment in any way shape or form,” he said. “That’s how I approach it.”
* Tsuyoshi Wada is the only pitcher being held out of drills. The left-hander has some tightness in his hamstring. All the other pitchers who threw on Friday had their second side sessions on Sunday.
* The Cubs will be careful with Jorge Soler this spring to avoid any leg injuries, which slowed the outfielder last year. The plan is to not keep him on his feet too long or push him too hard, Maddon said.
– Carrie Muskat
The 2014 season was humbling for Cubs pitcher Travis Wood. An All-Star in 2013 when he compiled 24 quality starts and a 3.11 ERA in 32 games, the left-hander posted a 5.03 ERA in 31 starts last year.
“Last year was a big learning year,” Wood said Sunday. “I always say you learn a lot more when you fail than when you succeed. You see your flaws better.
“I kind of went into ’14 like, ‘All right, I’ve got it, I know how to do it,’ and it was a humbling experience last year [finding out] that you’ve never got it in this game,” he said. “You’ve always got something to work on and get better at.”
What is Wood focused on this spring? He says he’s getting back to basics. Wood doesn’t blame a change in mechanics or anything else.
“I just chalk it up to the bad year and time to move on,” he said. “Let’s go.”
– Carrie Muskat