Posted on 07 March 2015 by Lou
WOW — what a great start for Jon Lester. 2 shutout innings, 3 strikeouts. And after allowing a 1-out, broken bat single in the 2nd inning, Lester buckled down and induced an inning-ending double play. We’ll take it. Lester threw just 24 pitches in his 2 scoreless innings of work. Lester threw 20 of those 24 pitches for strikes. Gotta love it!
And just like Travis Wood did in his first spring start on Thursday, Lester worked quickly, pounding the strike zone. It’s a sign of good things to come for Cubs starters as the spring season continues. Plus, I love Lester’s attitude. Especially in your first start of the spring, you would think he would be happy with the effort. But Lester complained about the placement of some of his pitches, indicating that he still had a lot to work on in the coming weeks before the season starts on April 5th. “The first one’s always tough. You get that one of out the way and now you build and look forward to the next one. I was happy with how I was able to pitch up in the zone a little bit. They’re still getting their feet wet as far as their swings and timing, so you can get away with that.”
Manager Joe Maddon clearly loves having Lester on his team – both on the mound every 5th day and in the clubhouse – “He’s been Jon Lester. I think he’s a guy who leads by example, although is he were to say something, everybody does listen. He’s been that guy, he’s been exactly what I expected – a consummate pro, quiet in his own way.”
So far so good in Mesa this spring. And even though the club is 0-2-1, there have been a lot of positives already. Go Cubs Go!
Posted on 06 March 2015 by Lou
Jon Lester is set to make his Cubs spring training debut today against the Cincinnati Reds at Sloan Park. Joe Maddon’s lineup looks like this:
Chris Donorfia RF
Arismendy Alcantara 2B
Javier Baez SS
Mike Olt 1B
David Ross C
Junior Lake LF
Chris Valaika 3B
Wellington Castillo DH
Matt Szczur CF
Meanwhile back in chilly Chicago, Cubs tickets for the 2015 MLB season went on sale to the public. Demand was clearly strong as fans clamored to buy tickets for a team that could make a surprising run at the playoffs in 2015. Opening Day – Sunday April 5th against the St. Louis Cardinals – where Jon Lester will make his official Cubs major league debut at Wrigley Field is already sold out. And the Cubs-White Sox Saturday July 11th contest sold old quickly as well. It’s a great sign that we already have sell outs at Wrigley Field again — haven’t had too many of those during the last 5 years. so it’s clear that fans have high hopes this year. Go Cubs Go!!!
Posted on 05 March 2015 by Bob
Cubs fans got a look at potential batting lineups in the Cubs Cactus League match up vs. the Oakland A’s with Manager Joe Maddon playing most of his veterans and sending mostly prospects to take on the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale.
Here is the veteran lineup with Travis Wood on the mound:
CF Dexter Fowler
1B Anthony Rizzo
SS Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
2B Javier Baez
LF Chris Coghlan
3B Mike Olt
DH Ryan Sweeney
RF Junior Lake
What stands out most is Rizzo batting second as he has been the Cubs No. 3 hitter for quite some time. This is pure Maddon; known to be someone who likes to think outside the box in the pursuit of manufacturing runs. While accepted logic dictates batting your pitcher ninth in a nod to the pitcher most likely being your weakest hitter; Maddon is of the school of thought that you don’t want to leave the bases empty when the top of your lineup rolls around. He has been known in the past to bat his pitchers eighth, in hopes of letting your No. 9 hitter set the table for the top of the order and in turn maximizing run-scoring potential as your regular No. 3 hitter moves up a spot in the order.
While not an exact science, it’s this kind of non-traditional thinking that has enabled Maddon to find success at each of his stops and endeared him to Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and their sabermetric-centric line of thinking. I wouldn’t expect Rizzo to remain in the two hole come opening day but I wouldn’t rule anything out as Maddon strives to piece this team together in a way that squeezes the most out of their potential.
Probably the only sure thing at this point is Dexter Fowler batting lead-off as that is precisely why the Cubs brought him to Chicago this off-season. Getting on base early is a high priority so that when Castro and Rizzo come up, they inflict the maximum amount of damage on opposing defenses. After all, a two or three run shot is always preferable to a solo dinger and these young Cubs, with their lofty expectations, will surely rise or fall based on their ability to produce those extra runs.
Posted on 19 January 2015 by Lou
Theo & Co. clearly have a vision and they continue to make moves to improve the major league ballclub just about each and every day. Today the Cubs announced a trade with the Houston Astros – CF Dexter Fowler for 3B Luis Valbuena and Pitcher Dan Straily. This adds a proven hitter to the Cubs top of the lineup with Fowler – a career .271 hitter with a great .366 on-base percentage. In 2014, Fowler boasted a phenomenal .375 on base-percentage with 120 hits and 66 walks in just 434 at-bats.
The Cubs ranked 28th in all of baseball in on-base percentage in 2014, so adding more consistent, patient batters was a clear mission for Theo & Co. this off-season. The Cubs previously added reserve infielder Tommy La Stella from the Atlanta Braves (.328 on-base percentage in 2014) and Catcher Miguel Montero (.329 on-base percentage in a down 2014). The addition of Fowler makes the lineup that much better, especially at the top of the order to set the table for the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Jorge Soler and eventually Kris Bryant.
Current Cubs hitting coach who came from the Astros this winter raved about Fowler’s plate approach: “He understands the strike zone so well, but it doesn’t take the attack out of him. He doesn’t just take pitches to take. He takes them because he recognizes the strike zone.” Gotta love it.
It will be interesting to see what Manager Joe Maddon and the Cubs do with the rest of the lineup. Fowler bumps Arismendy Alcantara out of the CF starting position and pushed him to more of a “super sub” role. Alcantara could even make noise back in the infield with the 3rd base position wide open. Or will we see La Stella share some time at 3rd base with Alcantara or Mike Olt until the arrival of Kris Bryant in late April. This is just the kind of move that Maddon probably loved. Maddon has a knack for moving his players around and getting the most out of his players, so having a “deeper” lineup to play around with in 2015 will sure make things more interesting.
The other interesting news was Max Scherzer going to the Nationals for $210 million over 7 years. Does that mean the Nats will make one of their other “ace” starters available via trade sooner rather than during the course of the season. We’ll write more about that over the next few days as it impacts the Cubs…
Posted on 16 January 2015 by Lou
The Sold Out Cubs Convention kicks off today at the Chicago Sheraton & Towers. Wish I was there to get a glimpse at Manager Joe Maddon and ace Lefty Jon Lester — there will probably be a lot of buzz surrounding the team this weekend.
Here’s a good little schedule of what to expect this – the “Friday Night with Ryan Dempster” would probably be pretty entertaining too. That guys is a riot and now that he’s no longer playing, he can probably be even more candid than he usually is.
Not sure how thrilled I am that Anthony Rizzo predicted that the Cubs would knock off the Cards and Pirates for the NL Central Division title this year. I’m sure Maddon and Theo & Co. are even less thrilled than me. But you gotta like the confidence: “It’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to to play and we’re going to win the NL Central, you can quote me on that. We should be the team, with all due respect to every other team, we’re going to do some things this year. That’s what we’re going to put our sights on and we’re not going to accept anything else.” WOW!
It will be interesting to see if anyone else makes some bold claims like Rizzo during the course of the Cubs convention weekend. We’ll keep you posted and Go Cubs Go!
Posted on 30 December 2014 by Bob
While the Cubs have been seemingly quiet since the David Ross signing a week and a half ago, they entered the news cycle in a negative way shortly after the Christmas holiday as Starlin Castro was questioned by police in his native Dominican Republic regarding a shooting at a nightclub on December 27th that left one person in serious condition. Police believe Castro may be close to those that were involved in the shooting. This comes on the heels of a report earlier this month that Castro had been cleared of any involvement in another shooting that occurred in Santiago Caballeros. While Castro was not arrested, the Cubs can’t be pleased that his name keeps popping up in incidents like these, especially given the positive buzz the Cubs have fostered as of late, not to mention potential trade impact should the Cubs find a deal for Castro that bowls them over.
Castro’s agent Paul Kinzer, in speaking with MLB Network radio, confirmed that Castro may be trying to find a permanent residence in the US to avoid issues such as these. These incidents coupled with the death of Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras in a car crash this past October, where Taveras had a blood alcohol level five times the legal limit, has to have teams and executives around the league considering their options in protecting their investments in these players as they return to the DR in the offseason.
Either way, let’s hope there are no lingering issues as we turn the calendar page and embark upon the 2015 season which is setting up to be quite exciting. Hopefully we will be hearing about more deals to bolster the rotation and locker room, and less about off-field incidents and problems.
Posted on 19 December 2014 by Lou
As has been rumored since Jon Lester signed with the Cubs, David Ross has agreed to a 2-year, $5 million deal to catch for the Cubs in 2015. Ross caught 18 starts for Lester with the Red Sox in 2014 and he has caught 29 Lester starts over the last 2 MLB seasons. Lester’s ERA with Ross as his catcher in 2104 was a nasty 2.02. Ross should also provide some much-needed veteran leadership for a young Cubs squad. Ross and newly-acquired Miguel Montero should form a nice-duo for the Cubs for the next 2 seasons as they continue to groom 2014 1st-round pick Kyle Schwarber in the minor leagues. The only negative for Ross is that his offensive production continues to diminish later in his career. in 50 games in 2014 for he Red Sox, Ross hit just .184 with 7 HR’s and 18 RBI’s.
This must mean that current catcher Wellington Castillo is officially on the trading block. Before the Ross signing, the Cubs announced that they had claimed former Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway off of waivers. Theo Epstein drafted Lavarnway in the 2008 draft. Lavarnway is 27 years old and has a career .210 batting average in 97 major league games.
Theo & Co. continue to remain active this winter. The continue to tweak the roster at the major league to give Manager Joe Madden as many options as possible throughout the long MLB season. We’ll keep you posted if we hear anything on the Castillo-trade front…
Posted on 17 December 2014 by Lou
The Chicago Cubs traded reserve outfielder to the Seattle Mariners for reliever Matt Brazis.
Ruggiano played in 81 games for the Cubs in 2014. He hit .281 with 6 HR’s and 28 RBI’s. The move clears a spot on the 40-man roster for recently-signed reliever Jason Motte. Now the Cubs could also go out and sign a veteran right-handed bat like Johnny Gomes to further re-tool the Cubs roster for Joe Madden and the Cubs in 2015.
Brazis is only 25 years old. Seattle drafted Brazis in the 28th round of the 2012 draft. In 100 minor league games, Brazis has an 8-6 record with a 2.89 ERA. He finished the 2014 at the Double-A level — striking out 84 batters with only 18 walks in 72 innings. He could be a bullpen arm for the future for the Cubs.
Theo & Co. are clearly still exploring various options to make the team better in 2015. Let’s hope they have a few more moves up their sleeves before camps report in February…
Posted on 16 December 2014 by Lou
The Chicago Cubs keep on trucking. Even as they were announcing the signing of lefty Jon Lester, the Cubs were continuing to re-tool there pitching staff. The Cubs signed right-handed veteran Jason Motte to a 1-year, $4.5 million deal. Motte had spent his entire career with the division-rival St. Louis Cardinals, even serving as their closer during their 2011 World Series Championship season. Motte had his best year in 2012 – racking up 42 saves with a 2.75 ERA while making 67 appearances. But the wear-and-tear of those 2 seasons caught up with Motte after that. Motte experienced elbow trouble in 2013, missing the entire season after having Tommy John surgery. Motte never returned to form in 2014, struggling to a 4.68 ERA in 29 appearances.
Assuming Motte is fully healthy at the start of the 2015 campaign, he should be a nice veteran addition to the back end of the bullpen. And knowing how new Manager Joe Madden likes to keep everyone involved in the mix, Madden should love a guy like this to have at his disposal.
Posted on 13 December 2014 by Lou
As if the week wasn’t busy enough for the Chicago Cubs with the franchise-changing free agent signings of starting pitchers Jon Lester and Jason Hammel and the equally important trade for Catcher Miguel Montero. On Friday, the Chicago Cubs announced a new partial TV deal with ABC7/WLS-TV in Chicago. ABC7 will broadcast 25 games each season for the next 5 years through the 2019 MLB season. ABC7 will pay the Cubs $750,000 per game. There is no online component to the deal, so anyone who doesn’t have Channel 7 won’t be able to see the games that air solely on ABC7 TV. Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney raved about the new relationship with ABC7-TV — “We are excited to have WLS-TV as our new television broadcast partner. WLS-TV has established itself as a trusted voice in Chicago, and we look forward to a new chapter of Cubs baseball airing on the flagship station of the ABC television network.”
Comcast Sportsnet Chicago will broadcast roughly half of all Cubs games this season. A select number of games will be televised on national telecasts like ESPN or FOX. So after the ABC7-TV deal, that still leaves approximately 45 games for which the Cubs do not have a television partner to broadcast the games. Kenney has indicated that the Cubs are in discussions will other potential television partners and that news of another deal could be announced soon.
Things are definitely coming together on the north side. Construction around the ballpark continues to steamroll forward and with the “warmish” weather we’ve been having, hopefully that means the Cubs can get back on target for having the Bleachers open in time for the ESPN Sunday Night Game against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 6th. With Jon Lester taking the ball for the 1st time in a Cubs uniform, we need all the fans there ready to go. Go Cubs Go!!!