4/18 Reds 4, Cubs 1

Jeff Samardzija posted his fourth quality start on Friday but it wasn’t enough as the Reds beat the Cubs, 4-1, in front of 28,699 at Wrigley Field. Samardzija is winless in his last 10 starts. The Cubs have scored a total of four runs in his four starts this year.

“You keep going out there and doing your work,” Samardzija said. “Today was a tough day to hit with that wind. You just go out and keep doing your work and understand everybody is doing their job. You can’t let it get to you, for sure.”

* Manager Rick Renteria met with the players after the game, although he would not confirm the meeting.

“He said a lot of good things,” Welington Castillo said of the Cubs manager. “He’s a positive guy.”

Renteria said he’s not focused on the statistics, but what he sees on the field.

“I concern myself more with the way we approach the game,” Renteria said. “If our approach is good and we’re really focused on what we’re supposed to be doing both at the plate and in the field, I’m good with it. Today, I think we were a little sloppy in general, and Jeff really kept us in the ballgame throughout.”

* On the plus side, the Cubs did snap a 24-scoreless inning stretch with Luis Valbuena’s RBI single in the seventh.

* Anthony Rizzo had two hits, and was 13-for-26 at home this season. He also combined with Samardzija on three straight plays in the seventh inning.

“Let them roll it over and let me get to first,” Samardzija said. “I think we’ve seen enough out of Riz at first to know he’s a premium first baseman defensively. I always need to be on my toes when the ball heads that way because he plays deep and plays in the hole. We’re kind of on the same page. I’d rather have him cover a lot of ground. We’ve made that play a lot of times. It’s nice to have that over there, it’s a nice commodity to have a first baseman who can pick it like Riz.”

* Playing the NL Central is a good test for the Cubs.

“They’re a good team,” Samardzija said of the Reds. “We’re not playing a fifth-place team. They’re a complete team. They can hit, they can play defense, they can pitch. When they’re guys are healthy in the bullpen, they can close games out. When you play the Reds, Cardinals and Pirates and the Brewers now, you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game and play clean defense and put some runs on the board and pitch well if you want to win games. I think it’s a good learning curve for us to understand to win games in the big leagues we need all three facets of the game to be clean. You play the good teams and they take advantage of your mistakes, and you can’t give them any breathing room.”

* The Reds stole five bases against the Cubs. It’s the first time a team has done that against Chicago since Atlanta did so on Aug. 14, 2011.

– Carrie Muskat

4/18 Jackie Robinson Day at Wrigley

The Cubs are partnering with Ebony Magazine to present Jackie Robinson Day at Wrigley Field on Monday. Jackie Robinson Day is recognized throughout MLB on April 15 but the Cubs were on the road. Ebony is making available vintage photographs of Jackie Robinson and other African American baseball legends which will be on display at Wrigley Field in the Budweiser Bleacher Concourse during Monday night’s game. The photographs are from the Ebony Collections. Joshua Mhoon, 10, of the Oak Park Mustangs will throw out the first pitch. He plays pitcher and first base for the Mustangs.

4/18 Arrieta making progress

Jake Arrieta may be one start away from getting back to the big leagues. The Cubs right-hander will make at least one more rehab start with Triple-A Iowa early next week, and could then be ready to start for the big league team. Arrieta had tightness in his right shoulder when Spring Training began, and did not pitch in any Cactus League games. He has made three rehab starts for Double-A Tennessee, and given up one earned run on six hits and four walks over 12 1/3 innings. In his last outing on Wednesday, he went 5 2/3 innings. Arrieta was in Chicago on Friday to throw a side session for Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio, so he could evaluate the pitcher’s progress.

4/18 Cubs lineup

The Cubs begin a three-game series against the Reds on Friday at Wrigley Field. Jeff Samardzija will get things started against right-hander Alfredo Simon. Here’s the very left-handed lineup:

Bonifacio 2B
Lake LF
Rizzo 1B
Schierholtz RF
Castro SS
Sweeney CF
Castillo C
Valbuena 3B
Samardzija P

* The Cubs have been held scoreless in their last 18 innings, and look to avoid being shut out for a third straight game for the first time since being blanked in four straight, April 27-May 1, 1992.

* Samardzija is one of 11 starting pitchers with at least three games pitched and a 1.29 ERA or better this season. He’s the only one without a win. He looks to end a nine-start winless streak dating to Aug. 30 of last season.

* The Cubs have scored three runs total while Samardzija has been in the game. That’s tied for fewest among NL pitchers with at least three starts this season.

4/17 Minor matters – Wednesday’s games

Kyle Hendricks struck out nine and gave up three runs over seven innings in Iowa’s 6-3 win over New Orleans. Logan Watkins hit his first home run and Arismendy Alcantara had three hits, and was a home run shy of the cycle. Josh Vitters had two RBI doubles and was batting .293.

In injury news, the Iowa Cubs placed outfielder Brett Jackson on the disabled list with a strained right oblique and added infielder/outfielder Jonathan Mota from Tennessee.

Jake Arrieta moved closer to returning to the big leagues with a 5 2/3 innings rehab outing for Tennessee. The Smokies beat the Generals, 7-2. Arrieta gave up one run on three hits and one walk, striking out two. John Andreoli drove in three runs and Jae-Hoon Ha had two RBIs.

Tayler Scott gave up four runs over 4 2/3 innings in Daytona’s 5-1 loss to Dunedin. Marco Hernandez had two hits.

Tyler Skulina gave up two runs over five innings in Kane County’s 6-2 win over Bowling Green. David Bote, Danny Lockhart, Shawon Dunston and Trey Martin produced consecutive RBI hits in the ninth.

4/16 Minor matters

Monday’s games
Iowa’s game at Memphis was postponed because of rain. The two teams will play a makeup doubleheader on May 28.

Dustin Geiger and Rafael Lopez each homered in Tennessee’s 6-4 loss to Jackson. C.J. Edward started and gave up three runs over five innings, and struck out seven. Edwards served up the second homer of his young career in the second. He’s now given up two homers in 198 pro innings.

Daytona lost 1-0 to Dunedin. Felix Pena gave up one run on three hits over eight innings. It was his second career complete game.

Kane County’s game was postponed because of rain.

Tuesday’s games
Logan Watkins drove in two runs in Iowa’s 8-4 loss to New Orleans. Carlos Pimentel took the loss, giving up seven runs over five innings on six hits and five walks. Chris Valaika had two hits.

Tennessee’s game versus Jackson was postponed because of rain, and the two teams will play a doubleheader on Thursday.

Daytona lost 10-3 to Dunedin, going 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position. Rock Shoulders hit a solo home run. Tim Saunders had three hits, including two doubles.

Kane County swept a doubleheader against Bowling Green, winning 2-0 in the first game, and 1-0 in the nightcap behind Paul Blackburn’s one-hitter. Jen-Ho Tseng threw 5 1/3 shutout innings in the first game, and Blackburn struck out six over six innings in the second.

* BAEZ Update:
Javier Baez said he was afraid he’d broken his ankle when he injured it during batting practice last Friday. He is currently on Iowa’s seven-day disabled list. It’s been tough for him to sit on the side.

“I don’t like being in the dugout and not playing and seeing what I can do,” Baez told the Des Moines Register.

4/16 Wrigley Field’s birthday party

You can party with Ernie Banks, Gale Sayers, Dutchie Caray and members of the Weeghman family at Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday party next week.

The ballpark will celebrate its 100th birthday on April 23 when the Cubs play host to the Diamondbacks a century after the Chicago Federals opened then Weeghman Park against the Kansas City Packers. The 100th birthday game headlines the first of 10 decade-themed homestands celebrating 100 years of Wrigley Field.

Tickets for the April 23 game are still available at http://www.cubs.com.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and some of Wrigley Field’s icons will take part in pre-game ceremonies. Past owners will be recognized, and the current owners, the Ricketts family, will be joined by descendants of both the Weeghman and Wrigley families and representatives of the Chicago Tribune.

You’ll be able to dress the part. The first 30,000 fans at the game will receive a replica 1914 Chicago Federals jersey when they enter the ballpark. The jerseys mirror the throwback Chi-Feds home uniforms the Cubs will wear on the field. The D-Backs will participate by wearing Kansas City Federal League uniforms.

Prior to the game, historic photos and video tributes to Wrigley Field will play on the right field video board. Greeters will wear clothing modeled from 100 years ago while the grounds crew will wear Weeghman Park jackets from the same era. After both starting lineups are announced, members of the Northwestern University marching band will take the field, which was customary for Opening Day and other special events during the ballpark’s first two decades.

The Chicago Bears, who played 50 seasons at Wrigley Field from 1921 to 1970, will be honored, and members of the McCaskey family will be joined on field by former players Sayers and Dick Butkus.

Several former Cubs players will take part in the festivities, including Banks, Glenn Beckert, Andre Dawson, Bobby Dernier, Randy Hundley, Gary Matthews, Billy Williams, and pitchers Ryan Dempster, Fergie Jenkins, Milt Pappas, Lee Smith and Kerry Wood. Sam and Spencer Brown, Ron Santo’s grandchildren, will take part as well.

Sue Quigg, grand-niece of former Cubs owner Charles Weeghman, will throw the game’s ceremonial first pitch, and use the 100-year-old ball her grandmother Dessa Weeghman threw at a Chi-Feds game a century ago. Wayne Messmer will sing the game’s National Anthem, and the pre-game festivities will concluce with a historic bi-plane flyover.

The tributes to the ballpark will continue throughout the day. Fans will have a chance to sing “Happy Birthday” in the fifth inning, and can join Dutchie Caray, wife of the late Cubs broadcast legend Harry Caray, and many of the day’s special guests as they lead the seventh-inning stretch from the field.

Special food items will be available to get fans in the mood. The Decade Diner, located inside Gate D near section 142, will feature a classic Reuben sandwich with pastrami, sauerkraut, house-made Louie dressing and Kraft Swiss Cheese on a marble rye bread. Or, fans can munch on a breaded pork chop sandwich with slow-cooked onions and spicy mustard on toasted roll. The Decade Dogs stand near section 123 will serve decade-themed specialty hot dogs, starting with the 1910s Reuben Dog featuring a Vienna Beef hot dog, sliced corn beef, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and Swiss cheese.

There also will be signature cocktails as well, including a 1910s Weeghman Park Old Fashioned, comprised of Bulleit Rye and Finest Call Old Fashioned Mix, served with an orange slice and cherry. That will be offered in limited-edition souvenir glasses April 18-24 on the main concourse at section 109 and in the bleacher patio in left field.

Game-used memorabilia will be available to collectors through various purchase opportunities. Framed, game-used bases with commemorative base jewels may be pre-ordered or purchased at the Cubs Authentics kiosk at Wrigley Field, pending availability.

Baseballs used at the ballpark this season feature the Wrigley Field 100th logo, while an additional “April 23, 2014” time stamp will be added to baseballs used on the actual game.

Game-worn throwback Chi-Feds uniforms will be available via auction following the April 23 game. For additional purchasing and product information, collectors can contact Cubs Authentics at (773) 404-4753, http://www.cubs.com/authentics, or by visiting the Cubs Authentics kiosk at Wrigley Field.

Cubs Charities will continue Wrigley Field’s birthday party at its primary fundraiser, the Bricks & Ivy Ball at the Field Museum. The “Party of the Century” theme will be integrated into the event for an exciting night of fun, entertainment and charitable giving. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet players, coaches and front office staff while bidding on exclusive experiences and memorabilia.

The first 10,000 fans attending the April 23 game will receive a birthday cupcake compliments of Jewel-Osco. A cake from Carlo’s Bakery, setting of the TLC show “Cake Boss,” will be on display near the Ernie Banks statue on Clark Street until the third inning. A portion of the cake will be served later to guests at the Bricks & Ivy Ball.

4/14 Cubs vs. Yankees


The Cubs will see Alfonso Soriano (pictured above with his son at Wrigley Field last year) when they face the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in Interleague play on Tuesday. Soriano took care of the other Latin players on the Cubs, especially Starlin Castro. When Castro was called up in May 2010 at the age of 20, Soriano, then in the fourth year with the team and 12th in the big leagues, welcomed the infielder into his Chicago home. It wasn’t done at the team’s request or because both were from the Dominican Republic, but because that’s what some of the Yankees players did for Soriano when he first joined the team in 1999.

Soriano and Castro didn’t just live together, they were inseperable. They trained together, hit together, ate together.

“He was kind of like my father,” Castro said of his former teammate, who he will see on Tuesday when the Cubs play the Yankees in an Interleague game at Yankee Stadium.

“Not everybody can have people who, when you come to the big leagues the first time, take me to his home and let me live with him,” Castro said. “I didn’t pay a bill, I didn’t pay for what I eat, I didn’t pay nothing.”

It wasn’t just Castro, either. Soriano would take all the Cubs’ Latin players out to dinner every road trip and always picked up the tab. He never let anyone else pay.

“He talked about good things, like things you can learn about the game,” Castro said of the dinner conversations. “He’s a smart guy. He talks about things that you have to listen to and learn. He’s awesome. We miss him here.”

My note: If you want to read more, go to Cubs.com

– Carrie Muskat

4/14 Wada PCL Pitcher of Week

Iowa Cubs pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada was named the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week for April 3-13. Wada becomes the first I-Cub to earn the honor since Chris Rusin did so, May 7-13, 2012. In his first week in the Cubs organization, Wada went 2-0 in starts against Nashville and Memphis. He allowed one earned run in 13 1/3 innings (0.68 ERA), walked one and struck out 18, throwing 132 of his 187 pitches for strikes (70.5 percent). His 10 strikeouts against the Redbirds on Saturday night matched his career-high. Wada enters today ranking second in the PCL in ERA, third in strikeouts, second in WHIP (0.60) and second in batting average against (.149).

4/14 Hammel starts Interleague play

The Cubs play the Yankees on Tuesday, the first of eight Interleague series this season, and Jason Hammel will get it started. Hammel is well-versed in the Yankees, having faced them 17 times while pitching for the Rays and Orioles. He’s pitched at both old and new Yankee Stadium, too.

“They’ve always been a team that is very patient and a lot of their guys at the top and the bottom of the order just battle and put the ball in play,” Hammel said.

His last outing vs the Yankees was July 7 when he threw 102 pitches over five innings, giving up six hits and one run, while with the Orioles.

“I think I had 25-something foul balls,” he said. “My pitch count was done in like the fourth inning.”

The Yankees may not have reached the postseason last year, but Hammel knows not to overlook them.

“They’re a perennial powerhouse and find a way to win and the organization is committed to their players, that’s how they do it,” Hammel said. “That being said, there’s still a way to beat them. I’ve faced them many times and had some success. You just have to keep the ball down there.”

So, which does he prefer, the old or new version of Yankee Stadium?

“Old Yankee Stadium, I still have that as my top stadium,” he said. “I love Fenway — I live in Massachusetts now, and love going to Fenway — but the feeling you got when you walk on the mound of the old stadium was something else. You felt like you were in the middle of nowhere because of the way their first level seating went way back and wasn’t really staggered and it felt so cool.

“Now it’s different,” he said. “It’s the same size but it almost has lost the intimidation factor because you see the young teams like the Rays and Orioles now contending over there. You go in there and you know you can beat them. Before, you’d go into Yankee Stadium [and be happy] to take one.”

This series will mark the Cubs’ first-ever regular season games at new Yankee Stadium, the 122nd different ballpark in which the team will have played. After Tuesday, the Cubs will have played a regular-season game in every current Major League city and a game in every active ballpark.

The Cubs did play the first two games in the history of new Yankee Stadium, however, when the teams met in exhibition action prior to 2009. The Yankees won both games.

Heading into this season, the Cubs have played in three ballparks for the first time in the last two seasons, including O.co Coliseum in Oakland in 2013 as well as Marlins Stadium and Target Field in 2013.

Hammel hopes some of the young Cubs who have never played at Yankee Stadium aren’t overwhelmed.

“It’s awe inspiring when you walk in there [to new Yankee Stadium] because everything is so big and modern and exciting to play there,” he said. “It’s one of those bucket list-type places. Yankee Stadium, it’s an eye opener and so much fun to be there.”

– Carrie Muskat


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