9/18 Rizzo named Branch Rickey winner

Anthony Rizzo has been named the winner of the 2014 Branch Rickey Award. He is the youngest to receive the award. The announcement was made in Denver Thursday.

Rizzo, 25, will be inducted as the 23rd member of the Baseball Humanitarians Hall of Fame on Nov. 14 at the McNichols Civic Center in Denver. Two days later, on Nov. 16 in Parkland, Fla., Rizzo and his foundation will host his third “Walk-Off for Cancer” 5K walk.

Created by the Rotary Club of Denver in 1991, the Branch Rickey Award honors individuals in baseball who contribute unselfishly to their communities and who are strong role models for young people. Each year, MLB teams are asked to nominate one team member for the award.

Rizzo was chosen by a national selection committee comprised of 400 members of the sports media, baseball executives, past award winners and Rotary district governors. Fans also were given a chance to vote online, and more than 30,000 votes were received. Rizzo won the fan voting by an impressive margin.

Rizzo has overcome Hodgkins Lymphoma, which he was diagnosed with while a Minor League with the Red Sox in 2008. His foundation’s goal is to help families affected by cancer. Besides his fund-raising walk in his hometown, Rizzo has hosted two “Cook-offs for Cancer” in Chicago. So far, he’s raised more than $500,000. The first baseman also is a regular visitor to pediatric cancer patients in Chicago and Hollywood, Fla.

Rickey was known to many as “Mr. Baseball” and is credited with breaking the color barrier in the Major Leagues in 1945 when he signed Jackie Robinson.

Previous recipients of this award include Dave Winfield, Kirby Puckett, Ozzie Smith, Paul Molitor, Torii Hnter, Tommy Lasorda, Roland Hemond, and Clayton Kershaw.

– Carrie Muskat

9/18 Cubs switch to South Bend

The Cubs are coming to South Bend. The team announced a partnership with South Bend to host its Class A Midwest League affiliate, a deal that will run through the 2018 season. The Cubs had been in Kane County for the last two years. South Bend was a Diamondbacks affiliate from 2007 until this year.

South Bend will announce new names, logos and uniforms on Sept. 25, and the new team will be hard pressed to match the old one’s success. The South Bend Silver Hawks won five Midwest League titles and 12 division titles in 26 seasons as an affiliate of the D-backs and the White Sox. The Cubs, though, won the Midwest League championship this year with the Kane County team.

– Carrie Muskat

9/18 Where are they now?

Darwin Barney is back in Chicago with the Dodgers for a four-game series at Wrigley Field, which opens Thursday. It’s time to update where some former Cubs players are now:

* Jeff Samardzija
Cubs: 2-7, 2.83 ERA in 17 starts
A’s: 4-5, 3.13 ERA in 14 starts

Samardzija has 10 quality starts in his 14 outings with the A’s, and he has not given up a run over 15 innings in his last two starts, but did not get a decision in either. On Wednesday, he struck out 10 and held the Rangers to four hits over eight scoreless innings, but the A’s lost, 6-1. If the season ended today, Samardzija and the A’s are in the playoffs.

* Jason Hammel
Cubs: 8-5, 2.98 ERA in 17 starts
A’s: 2-6, 4.76 ERA in 11 starts

Hammel hasn’t had the same success as Samardzija, and struggled in July (1-4, 7.83 ERA). His only win in July came with the Cubs on the day he was traded — a 7-2 victory over the Nationals when he gave up two runs over six innings. Hammel recently left the team to be with his wife for the birth of their second child. In case you forgot, Samardzija and Hammel were dealt to the A’s for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, Dan Straily and a player to be named later.

* Darwin Barney
Cubs: .230/.265/.328, 2 HR, 16 RBIs in 72 games
Dodgers: .273/.448/.455, 1 HR, 5 RBIs in 15 games

Barney hit a two-run homer on Wednesday for the Dodgers. Traded on July 28 for right-handed pitcher Jonathan Martinez, Barney was not promoted to the Dodgers until Aug. 10.

* Nate Schierholtz
Cubs: .192/.240/.300, 6 HRs, 33 RBIs in 99 games
Nationals: .179/.207/.286, 1 HR, 2 RBIs in 15 games

Schierholtz was released on Aug. 13, and signed with the Nats five days later. His team is headed to the playoffs.

* James Russell
Cubs: 0-2, 3.51 ERA, 44 games
Braves: 0-0, 3.38 ERA in 18 games

Left-handed hitters have apparently figured Russell out, batting .291 against the southpaw this year. He’s held right-handers to a .160 batting average. In 2013, those numbers were reversed as Russell held lefties to a .183 average, and right-handers hit .321 off him.

* Emilio Bonifacio
Cubs: .279/.318/.373, 2 HRs, 18 RBIs in 69 games
Braves: .236/.277/.281, 0 HR, 2 RBIs in 32 games

Bonifacio was traded July 31 to the Braves along with James Russell for Victor Caratini, who batted .264 in 14 games with Class A Kane County after hitting .279 in 87 games at Class A Rome. For the year, Caratini hit .277 in 101 games with five homers, 22 doubles and 55 RBIs.

* Jose Veras
Cubs: 0-1, 8.10 ERA, 0-for-2 in save opportunities, 12 games
Astros: 4-0, 2.25 ERA, 1-for-4 in save opportunities in 30 games

Veras, expected to be the Cubs closer, was sidelined with a strained left oblique until May 14, then released on June 10. He signed a Minor League contract with the Astros five days later, and has thrived.

9/17 Cubs 3, Reds 1

In his first start against the Reds since his Major League debut in Cincinnati on July 10, Kyle Hendricks notched his eighth quality start in 12 outings this season. The Cubs are 10-2 in those 12 starts. This was his sixth start of at least seven innings and his fourth in which he has allowed one or fewer runs in seven plus innings. Hendricks is 4-1 with a 1.53 ERA (6 ER/35 1/3 IP) in six starts at Wrigley Field.

* Luis Valbuena has hit safely in seven of his last eight games at home, and delivered an RBI single in the eighth.

* Hector Rondon has converted 11 straight save opportunities.

* The Cubs swept the Reds in a three-game set at Wrigley for the first time since July 24-26, 2009. It’s the Cubs third three-game sweep since Aug. 22 (Baltimore and Milwaukee) and their fifth of the season.

* Jorge Soler (0-for-2, 2 BB, R) has collected a run or RBI in 12 of his 15 games. He went hitless for just the second time in his career, but drew two walks for the first time.

* Anthony Rizzo (0-for-2, 2 BB, R) has reached base in nine of his last 10 games and has scored a run in three-consecutive games.

* The Cubs are 38-36 in 74 games at Wrigley Field this season compared to a 29-45 home mark though 74 contests last season.

9/17 Kris Bryant

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Top prospect Kris Bryant meets with the media Wednesday at Wrigley Field prior to being honored as the Cubs’ Minor League Player of the Year.

9/17 Bryant, Tseng honored

Before batting practice Wednesday, some of the Cubs players saw top prospect Kris Bryant in one of the suites at Wrigley Field, and yelled at him to come down to join them. Not yet, but maybe next year. Bryant and Jen-Ho Tseng were honored Wednesday as the Cubs Minor League player and pitcher of the year, respectively. Bryant has been the focus since he was selected second overall in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.

“I feel like I’ve been here the whole year and I haven’t played one game,” said Bryant, who was able to catch up with some of his Iowa teammates, including Logan Watkins, Mike Olt, Javier Baez and Rafael Lopez.

“I guess it’s bittersweet,” he said about being in a jacket and jeans and not in uniform. “It’s always been my dream to play in the big leagues and I hope for that day to come sometime.”

He could only watch as his Iowa teammates were promoted.

“It’s not up to me, it’s up to the guys in charge,” Bryant said. “I’ve always said my job is to make it hard on them and I think I did that this year, and that’s all I’m going to do the rest of my career.”

Since Iowa’s season ended, Bryant said he’s watched several Cubs games on television from his home in Las Vegas. He’s already been named the Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America and USA Today. The Cubs want to see how the offseason goes before committing to him as the starting third baseman in 2015. Is Bryant prepared if he doesn’t make the big league roster on Opening Day next year?

“Yes,” he said. “I don’t think that will be a problem for me.”

Tseng, 19, went 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA in 19 games (17 starts) that spanned 105 innings with Class-A Kane County. He walked 15 batters and struck out 85, helping to lead the Cougars to a Minor League-best 91 wins and the Midwest League title. The righty, signed as a non-drafted free agent last year, allowed three or fewer runs in 16 of his 17 starts. His goal this season was to stay healthy, which he did. The right-hander was as eager to meet Bryant as some of the fans at Wrigley Field. Was Tseng ready to pitch on Wednesday?

“Yes,” he said, smiling.

– Carrie Muskat

9/17 New Neil Ramirez fans

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Cubs pitcher Neil Ramirez and new friends he met Wednesday during a visit to the cancer care center at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downer’s Grove. Ramirez met with cancer patients, survivors and staff, and handed out Cubs hats and other goodies.

9/17 Good guy, good cause

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Cubs pitcher Neil Ramirez visited the cancer care center at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downer’s Grove on Wednesday. Ramirez met with cancer patients, survivors and staff, and handed out Cubs hats and other goodies.

9/17 Extra bases

* With 67 wins, the Cubs have surpassed their 66-win total from last season. They have 11 games remaining, and all but one is against a team in contention for the playoffs. The Cubs also are 37-36 at Wrigley Field.

* Jake Arrieta is the fourth Cubs pitcher in the last 100 years to give up one or no hits with at least 13 strikeouts in a complete game shutout. He joins Lou Warneke (1934), Frank Castillo (1995) and Kerry Wood (1998 and 2001).

According to baseball historian Ed Hartig, Arrieta is the first Cubs pitcher since 1950 to take no-hitters into the seventh inning three times in a season.

* Looking ahead to the Cubs four-game series against the Dodgers, here are the pitching matchups:

Thursday: Tsuyoshi Wada vs. Zack Greinke
Friday: Edwin Jackson vs. Clayton Kershaw
Saturday: Felix Doubront vs. Roberto Hernandez
Sunday: Jacob Turner vs. Dan Haren

9/17 Cubs lineup

Kyle Hendricks makes the start Wednesday as the Cubs go for a sweep of their three-game series against the Reds. Anthony Rizzo is back, too. Here’s the lineup:

Coghlan LF
Baez SS
Rizzo 1B
Soler RF
Valbuena 3B
Castillo C
Valaika 2B
Kalish CF
Hendricks P

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