Jeter feels for Cubs fans -- to a point

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
NEW YORK -- The Chicago Cubs haven't exactly crossed the mind of retiring New York Yankees great Derek Jeter lately. The teams don't play each other often and the Yankees are consistently in a win-now mode.

The Cubs? Not so much.

Jeter was asked between games of a doubleheader sweep on Wednesday if he could imagine going 105 years without a championship. The Yankees have won five since Jeter debuted for them in 1995 and 27 overall as a franchise.

"Can I imagine it? No," Jeter half-smirked. "I hear about it, but it's kind of hard to relate to it. But I've definitely heard about it. The Cubs have had some good teams there. It just goes to show you it's difficult to win a championship. They've had some great teams that have gotten close, but it's difficult to do."

Some might dispute how many great teams the Cubs have had but a Cubs/Yankees World Series almost happened in 2003. The Cubs famously lost to the Florida Marlins after leading three games to one. Jeter's Yankees were locked in a battle with the Boston Red Sox and the Cubs/Marlins series ended first.

"I'm well aware of the history and the tradition of the Cubs," he said. "I grew up in Michigan and was able to watch a lot of games on television. At the professional level, I've only been there once."

Jeter will get one more look at Wrigley Field before he retires. The Cubs host the Yankees in a two-game series in May. Just don't call it part of a farewell tour for him.

"I don't like the phrase farewell tour," Jeter said. "This is my last season, but I'm not going around shaking hands and kissing babies. We're trying to win."

Several Cubs have said they look up to Jeter and patterned their games and demeanor after him. Starlin Castro, Mike Olt and even minor leaguers Javier Baez and Albert Almora all described him as a favorite player.

"It makes you feel good anytime someone looks up to you and has nice things to say about you," Jeter said. "I remember when I met Cal Ripken Jr. I was a little timid to speak to him or approach him because you never view yourself that way."

Castro says he met Jeter once, at an All-Star Game. Jeter couldn't remember when it was and only knows him by his reputation.

"I haven't seen him play much," Jeter said. "I've heard a lot of good things about him. He's going to have a bright future. Hopefully when we go to Chicago I'll get a chance to talk to him more."

Cubs go down quietly in New York

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
NEW YORK -- The Big Apple just took a bite out of the Chicago Cubs' offense.

On a long, cold day and night in the Bronx, the New York Yankees did just enough at the plate, while the Cubs did little there in losing 3-0 and 2-0 in a rare doubleheader shutout sweep. It’s the first time it has happened to the Cubs since June 27, 1962, against the St. Louis Cardinals, according to data from ESPN Stats & Information research.

"Both of them were good," Cubs shortstop Emilio Bonifacio said of Yankees starters Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. “Their breaking pitches were pretty good, both of them.”

And the Cubs aren’t very good. They just came off a decent seven games on offense but still went 3-4 last week. You get the feeling there will be more days like Wednesday over the course of the next 148 games. They’ve already been shut out four times in their first 14.

"They just have to keep playing. They have to keep getting after it and keep adjusting," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said.

Without much mystery to the talent on the team, the conversation turns back to playing time. Should Renteria play potential core players more, or is he doing a good job of protecting them by platooning?

"We have been giving everyone an opportunity to face as many guys as possible," Renteria said. "We’ll continue to evaluate and allow these guys to get into a rhythm if we can. Everybody has been getting a lot of at-bats. It’s really not for a lack of playing time."

But what’s the point if you’re simply not as talented as most of the league? The Cubs know this. If they’re going to lose 100 games, do it with a purpose. Ryan Kalish and Darwin Barney left a combined 11 runners on base in the nightcap on Wednesday. That does no one any good. At least if Mike Olt or Junior Lake struggle in that way, they can still actually get something out of it. Let’s face it, if Barney or Kalish are in a Cubs uniform in a year it will be a surprise to everyone. That’s not the case with Olt and Lake.

Olt struck out three times against Tanaka during the day game. He looked bad, but this is the time to let him struggle. The more he plays, the better he will be in the future. That’s common sense. The bottom line is the Cubs need to lose with some purpose. There was little of that in New York over the course of their 12 hours at Yankee Stadium.

Castillo bunting: Renteria indicated catcher Welington Castillo bunted on his own in the fifth inning of Game 2 on Wednesday night. With runners on first and second and none out, Castillo laid down a nice sacrifice, but it wasn’t what his manager wanted.

"We wanted him to swing the bat," he said.

The Cubs' Nos. 8 and 9 hitters were due up, as Kalish subsequently struck out and Barney flew out. Renteria has used the bunt often so far this season, so maybe Castillo thought it was the right move. It wasn’t.

Rapid Reaction: Yankees 2, Cubs 0 (Gm. 2)

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
Rogers By Jesse Rogers

NEW YORK -- The Chicago Cubs dropped Game 2 of their doubleheader to the New York Yankees 2-0. Here’s a quick look:

How it Happened: The Yankees scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings while starter Michael Pineda pitched six scoreless innings in Game 2 as the Yankees shutout the Cubs twice on Wednesday. Three singles in the fourth off of Travis Wood plated their first run, then three more in the fifth got them their second. Pineda wasn’t as dominating as Masahiro Tanaka was in the matinee, but he was plenty good. He gave up just four hits and a walk while striking out three. He gave up one, two-out extra base hit in the sixth to Anthony Rizzo, but that was quickly forgotten about when Nate Schierholtz popped out. The Yankees’ bullpen got into some trouble as the tying runs were on second and third in the ninth, but Ryan Kalish grounded out to end the game. He stranded six himself, while Darwin Barney left five men on base. Wood gave up 11 hits but 10 were singles and he didn’t walk a batter.

Key early moment: It came in the fifth with the Cubs trailing 1-0 and men on first and second with none out. Cubs manager Rick Renteria had Welington Castillo bunt the runners over with his No. 8 and No. 9 hitters up. Kalish struck out while Barney flew out. Rally and inning over.

What it means: An offense that had scored four or more runs in 7 straight games came to an abrupt halt on Wednesday. The cold weather and good Yankees’ pitching had something to do with it, but the Yankees had to hit some good Cubs pitching in the same conditions. They got the job done. Kalish has regressed from spring training, while Barney is getting limited starts and not doing much at the plate either. In 18 innings of baseball on Wednesday the Cubs had nine hits, while the Yankees had 17 in two less innings at the plate. That tells the story of the day and night right there.

Bosio tossed: Pitching coach Chris Bosio was thrown out of the game in the seventh inning after arguing balls and strikes from the dugout.

What’s next: The Cubs are off again on Thursday before starting a run of 13 consecutive days of games starting with Friday’s contest at Wrigley Field with the Cincinnati Reds. Jeff Samardzija takes on Alfredo Simon.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Michael Pineda followed an overpowering outing by Masahiro Tanaka with one of his own, pitching six innings of four-hit ball as the New York Yankees beat the Chicago Cubs 2-0 on a bitterly cold Wednesday night to complete its first doubleheader shutout sweep since 1987.

Tanaka (2-0) struck out 10 and allowed just two bunt hits -- one replay aided -- over eight innings in a 3-0 win in the opener of the day-night twinbill. Carlos Beltran homered for a third straight game, off Jason Hammel in the first inning of the Cubs' first regular-season game at the current Yankee Stadium.

The 25-year-old Japanese right-hander struck out 10 for his second straight start, this time while wearing three-quarter sleeves on a 43-degree day that felt much colder because of a brisk wind. Tanaka (2-0) gave up a replay-aided hit to Junior Lake in the second inning, and Anthony Rizzo pushed a bunt toward a vacated third base with a shifted infield leading off the seventh.

Tanaka has 28 strikeouts in 22 innings, the most strikeouts for a Yankees pitcher in his first three career starts, according to the Yankees via the Elias Sports Bureau.

Tanaka threw 107 pitches, and Shawn Kelley allowed a single to Rizzo as he finished the three-hitter for his fourth save.

"It was cold out there and I did feel it but I was able to control myself, control the grip and manage myself to pitch the way I did today," Tanaka said.

(Read full post)

Yankees unveil Mandela plaque

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
[+] EnlargeNelson Mandela
AP Photo/New York YankeesThe Yankees honored the late Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president, with a plaque in Monument Park as part of their Jackie Robinson Day festivities.

NEW YORK -- There have been few press conferences at Yankee Stadium like the one held Wednesday, and few ceremonies like the one the New York Yankees put on Wednesday night.

The connection to baseball was slight, but it was enough.

As the Yankees honored Nelson Mandela, Yankees president Randy Levine said, "There's nobody more deserving of being in Monument Park."

The Yankees unveiled Mandela's plaque between games of their day-night doubleheader with the Chicago Cubs, adding it next to those honoring former Yankee stars, owners and announcers, and also the three Popes who have appeared at the stadium.

Mandela appeared at the old stadium on June 21, 1990, on his first trip outside of Africa after being released from prison. Reports at the time said that the stadium rocked with a chant of "Amandla!" the Zulu word for power.

During that trip to New York, Mandela put on a Yankee jacket and Yankee cap, and said, "You know who I am. I am a Yankee."

The Yankees kept those words in mind, and after Mandela died last year, they knew they wanted to honor him.

(Read full post)

Tanaka worth the money so far

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
NEW YORK -- He says he won't know for sure that choosing the New York Yankees was the right decision until "the end" but pitcher Masahiro Tanaka seems to be fitting in nicely for the team that bid the highest for the former Japanese star.

The Cubs tried to lure him to Chicago over the winter, but Tanaka chose the Yankees because they gave him the "highest evaluation," he said through an interpreter after beating the Cubs on Wednesday afternoon. That "evaluation" could mean the highest contract as Tanaka signed a seven-year, $155 million deal with New York. The Cubs wouldn't go higher than six years and $120 million.

"I did consider all the teams that wanted me," Tanaka said. "I looked at them evenly. I looked at all the teams very seriously."

Tanaka threw eight shutout innings while striking out 10 and giving up just two infield hits against the Cubs, who saw firsthand what could have been if he had chosen them. He was every bit as good as advertised in lowering his ERA to 2.05 with 28 strikeouts in 22 innings.

"He was good," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "That splitty isn't one you want to sit on. As guys were coming in they were saying 'It looks like a fastball.'"

Tanaka worked both sides of the plate and even snuck a few fastballs by Cubs hitters. Mike Olt looked overmatched, striking out three times.

Tanaka was asked if dominating the Cubs confirmed his decision to choose New York over them.

"I don't look at it that way," he said. "It's just one game. I definitely don't look at it that way."

Tanaka didn't want to re-visit his sit down with Theo Epstein and the rest of the Cubs' contingent which visited him in California in January, and it's uncertain if he would have chosen the Cubs had they been the highest bidder.

"I'll know at the end if the right choice was made to come to the Yankees or not," Tanaka said.

Cubs recall LHP Rosscup for nightcap

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
NEW YORK -- The Chicago Cubs recalled left-handed pitcher Zac Rosscup for the second game of their day/night doubleheader against the New York Yankees on Wednesday night.

Rosscup, 25, was a September call-up last season, posting a 1.35 ERA in 10 relief appearances. He was acquired in January of 2011 as part of an eight-player trade with the Tampa Bay Rays in which the Cubs also received pitcher Matt Garza.

As per MLB rules, teams can add a 26th man specifically for day/night doubleheaders.

Soriano happy to be playing for the present

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
Rogers By Jesse Rogers

NEW YORK -- Although it took some maneuvering at the time, former Chicago Cubs slugger Alfonso Soriano agreed to a trade to the New York Yankees in part because the Cubs were rebuilding. He saw the writing on the wall and decided, at 38 years old that a move was the right thing to do.

"At my age I want to win," he said before playing the Cubs in a doubleheader on Wednesday. "I don't want to be part of the future, I want to be part of the present. It's a little weird. I played with those guys, now against those guys. It's a little weird."

What feels good to him now is being with a "win-now" organization. He understands what the Cubs are trying to do, but it was still frustrating.

"Chicago is for the future," Soriano said. "At my age I just want to be thinking about the present ... They may want to build for the future, but we have to play in the present."

That's why the Cubs tried to deal him in 2012, but he wasn't interested in a trade to the San Francisco Giants, who went on to win the World Series. That's something the Cubs weren't able to do in 2007 and 2008 when they went to the playoffs with Soriano leading the way. But he struggled in the postseason and so did the Cubs, getting swept both years.

"The first couple of years was fun," he said. "But after that I don't know what happened. The fans in the city they need a world championship. People don't realize how big they can be if they win in Chicago. From front office to owner to player. They don't know how big they can be."

He says he used to preach that to the younger Cubs.

"Let's give a little bit more everyday to get better to try and win because if we win here we can be a God in the city," Soriano said. "That's what I said to the guys but that's not what happened."

So Soriano will play out the final year of his eight-year, $136 million contract with the team he started with. Then he's not sure what will happen to him but just like in Chicago he isn't focused on the future.

"At the Yankees it's all about the present," he said. "It's about going to the World Series that year."

NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka allowed two bunt hits in eight dominant innings on a frigid Monday, Carlos Beltran homered for the third straight game, and New York welcomed the Chicago Cubs to the current Yankee Stadium with a 3-0 victory in the opener of Monday's day-night doubleheader.

The 25-year-old Japanese right-hander struck out 10 for his second straight start, this time while wearing three-quarter sleeves on a 43-degree day that felt much colder because of a brisk wind. Tanaka (2-0) gave up a replay-aided hit to Junior Lake in the second inning, and Anthony Rizzo pushed a bunt toward a vacated third base with a shifted infield leading off the seventh.

Tanaka threw 107 pitches, and Shawn Kelley allowed a single to Rizzo as he finished the three-hitter for his fourth save.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Yankees 3, Cubs 0 (Gm. 1)

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
Rogers By Jesse Rogers

NEW YORK -- The Chicago Cubs lost 3-0 to the New York Yankees in Game 1 of their doubleheader on Wednesday. Here's a quick look at the game:

How it happened: The Yankees scored single runs in the first, fourth and fifth innings and Masahiro Tanaka was as good as advertised on the mound, holding the Cubs in check all afternoon. Carlos Beltran put New York on the board with a solo shot in the the first, Dean Anna hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth and Brett Gardner scored on a ground out in the fifth. That was all the runs Tanaka needed. He went eight while giving up just two infield hits -- one a bunt by Junior Lake -- while striking out 10. Mike Olt went down three times by strikeout, Luis Valbuena and Justin Ruggiano twice.

What it means: The Cubs got a glimpse of what they missed out on when Tanaka signed with New York over the winter. His splitter was great and he snuck enough fastballs by Cub hitters to keep them honest. Jason Hammel pitched well again but Tanaka was better. The Cubs lost their third straight game for the first time this season dropping their record to 4-9.

First look at Tanaka: The righty has 28 strikeouts in 22 innings this season after adding 10 more to his total on Wednesday.

Pitching rotation: With several off days this week, manager Rick Renteria is trying to keep his main pitchers on their normal schedule so Edwin Jackson will start on Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds and Carlos Villanueva will throw on Sunday.

Arrieta update: Rehabbing pitcher Jake Arrieta threw 5 2/3 innings for Double-A Tennessee on Wednesday afternoon. He gave up one run on three hits and a walk while striking out two. He's scheduled for another rehab start in five days, this time at Triple-A Iowa as he gets closer to returning.

Renteria's day off: The Cubs had back-to-back off days in New York due to the rainout on Tuesday. Renteria said he watched three movies: "Joe," "The Bag Man" and "The Grand Piano."

What's next: Game 2 of the doubleheader starts at 6:05 p.m. CT. Travis Wood will be opposed by the Yankees' Michael Pineda.

Notes: Jeter will play Wednesday night

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
Marchand By Andrew Marchand
NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter simply stretching out his quad started a chain of events that has kept him out of the lineup since last Friday.

However, the three-game string will come to an end on Wednesday night when Joe Girardi plans to start Jeter against lefty Travis Wood.

"It is like an All-Star Break, I guess," said Jeter.

With a a day off Monday and a rainout Tuesday, Jeter has had a full four days off.

Of course, to listen to Jeter, he didn't need them.

"I didn't say anything," Jeter said of how the Yankees first diagnosed the injury last Friday. "I was running to first and someone saw me stretching. I don't know who. Joe said, 'Did you hurt yourself? We saw you stretching.' I was like, 'Nah, I was just tight. No big deal.' That was the end of the conversation. Saturday, he was not planning on playing me anyways. Then it got to Sunday and we got the day off."

Jeter thought he could play have played on Sunday against the Red Sox, but Girardi had the final call.

"That was his decision," Jeter said. "I get it, but that was his decision."

Tanaka vs. Red Sox: Since the Yankees were rained out on Tuesday, Masahiro Tanaka is now on turn to start one of the games against the Red Sox next week. Tanaka is going for the Yankees in the day game against the Cubs Wednesday.

Baseball weather: At noon it was 41 degrees and sunny. The Cubs took batting practice, while the Yankees did not. Good thing they waited a little while, because it looked like this a few hours earlier.

Who's on first: Girardi sounded pretty confident that if he wants to sit Kelly Johnson against a lefty, he could have just called up Scott Sizemore play the position.

Sizemore said he doesn't own a first-baseman's glove. He did take grounders there the other day in Scranton.

Sizemore missed all of 2012 and played in two major league games in 2013. He gave his wife, Brooke, credit for inspiring him in his recovery from a second severe knee injury.

Yangervis Solarte is another option at first. Mark Teixeira (hamstring) hopes to return from the disabled list on Sunday.

Roberts out: Brian Roberts said his back feels better. Still, Girardi plans on keeping out of both games today, if he can. Roberts came down with spasms on Saturday night and sat out Sunday. It sounds like he should be able to play in Tampa this weekend.

Cubs get first look at Tanaka, the foe

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
NEW YORK -- All of that scouting of New York Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka might finally pay off for the Chicago Cubs. They didn't land him as their big free-agent signing over the winter, but at least they have detailed reports they can use in trying to beat him in Game 1 of their doubleheader Wednesday afternoon.

[+] EnlargeMasahiro Tanaka
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger/USA TODAY SportsThe Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka has a 3.21 ERA in two starts this season.
"His splitter is pretty good," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said Wednesday morning. "You have to see the ball up on him."

That coincides with all the scouting reports on Tanaka since he became available from Japan in January. His fastball is hittable, but his splitter is not. If the Cubs get behind in the count, they're in trouble.

"I won't get behind," designated hitter Mike Olt joked. "You really look at the first two games. You can get everything you need from that. You want to see what's working for him lately."

Tanaka, 25, has 18 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched this season, but he's given up about a hit an inning. And two home runs in two starts.

"He's pretty good," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "Can work the fringes at times ... His split, when it's down, is pretty good. He can elevate his fastballs a little bit."

The Cubs haven't played since Sunday afternoon, so there might be some rust, but they did take some indoor batting practice on Tuesday and then went outdoors on Wednesday before the game. Now they'll face the player they tried to woo in a Los Angeles hotel just a few months ago. The Yankees beat everyone to the punch by adding a year -- and an extra $22 million -- to land Tanaka with a seven-year, $155 million contract to pitch on the biggest stage in baseball.

"I would lie if I said I never dreamed of playing in this stadium or the old one," Rizzo said. "My family was asking me what it was like just being here."

Rizzo also wants to remind everyone how good Game 1 starter Jason Hammel has been for the Cubs despite making approximately $16 million less than Tanaka this season. Hammel is 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA. That's one more win and about a half-run less on his ERA than Tanaka after just two starts.

"He can just keep flying under the radar and winning ballgames for us," Rizzo said.

Podcast: Alfonso Soriano on facing Cubs

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
Former Chicago Cubs slugger Alfonso Soriano talks about facing his old team and what it would be like if the Cubs ever won the World Series.

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Click here for more audio from ESPN Chicago.

Chat wrap: Early reviews on Renteria

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
By's Jesse Rogers took your questions at the start of the Cubs' doubleheader against the Yankees on Wednesday, fielding questions on Rick Renteria's managing style, Jeff Samardzija's status and whether the future of the franchise really is as bright as many think. Click here to read the chat wrap.

Series Preview: Cubs-Yankees

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
NEW YORK -- The Chicago Cubs will take on the New York Yankees in a one-day, two-game series on Wednesday after their Tuesday night game was rained out.

The match-up: Game 1, Wednesday, 12:05 p.m., Jason Hammel versus Masahiro Tanaka; Game 2, Wednesday, 6:05 pm, Travis Wood versus Michael Pineda.

Honoring Robinson: The Cubs and Yankees will wear No .42 in the night cap in honor of Jackie Robinson. Before the game, the family of Robinson and Nelson Mandela will be on hand when the Yankees unveil a plaque for the former South African leader. Tuesday was Jackie Robinson Day around baseball.

Alfonso Soriano: He'll face his former team for the first time since being traded last season for a minor league pitcher. The Cubs are still paying Soriano nearly $18 million of his salary this year. He has three home runs in the Yankees' first 12 games.

Cubs bullpen: It should be fully rested after a rare two days off in a row because of a scheduled off day Monday and the rainout Tuesday. With recalled minor leaguers Chris Rusin and Blake Parker picking up innings over the weekend, the regular relievers should be more than ready for the doubleheader. It's still not clear who closes out a game in a save situation.

Streaks: The 4-8 Cubs have lost 2 of 3 in every series so far this season. They dropped the final two games in St. Louis over the weekend but haven't lost three in a row yet. They'll try to avoid that in Game 1.



Jason Hammel
2 3.05 16 20
BAE. Bonifacio .339
HRA. Rizzo 2
RBIA. Rizzo 8
RA. Rizzo 9
OPSA. Rizzo .922
ERAJ. Samardzija 1.29
SOT. Wood 19