Chicago Cubs: 2012 spring training

Cubs 8, Diamondbacks 3

April, 2, 2012
4/02/12
6:43
PM CT
By Associated Press
ESPNChicago.com
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Arizona's young left-hander Patrick Corbin had a rough ending to what had been a spectacular spring, allowing the Chicago Cubs to hammer out an 8-3 victory Monday.

Corbin, who had allowed one earned run in 15 2/3 innings going into the game, gave up seven runs, six earned, and six hits in 5 1/3 innings in the Diamondbacks' final game at their spring training facility this year.

Geovany Soto hit a two-run homer and Starlin Castro doubled twice for the Cubs, who wrap up spring training against Milwaukee on Tuesday.

Kerry Wood pitched a perfect fifth inning to get the win. Arizona's Chris Young hit his fifth homer of the spring and second in as many games.

Cubs 8, Angels 1

April, 1, 2012
4/01/12
7:49
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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TEMPE, Ariz. -- A quick look at the Chicago Cubs' 8-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.

The good: It hasn’t been the best of springs offensively for David DeJesus, but he said the regular season is where you make your money and he’s starting to warm up in preparation for it. DeJesus had two hits and scored a run, finally getting his batting average over .200. It’s not the results in spring that count, he said, it’s the momentum you can build heading into Opening Day.

The bad: The Cubs committed three fielding errors on the infield, two of them coming from Opening Day starters. Third baseman Ian Stewart, shortstop Starlin Castro and fill-in first baseman Blake DeWitt all booted balls. The good news, if there is any, is that none of the errors allowed the Angels to score.

Outside the box: Darwin Barney continued his penchant for aggressive swings, finally breaking through against expected Angels Opening Day starter Jered Weaver. In the sixth inning Barney attacked a Weaver pitch and hit an RBI triple to center field for the first run in a scoreless game. He lost a few points on his spring batting average but is still batting .392.

Up next: Cubs right-hander Jay Jackson (1-1, 2.77) will pitch opposite Diamondbacks left-hander Patrick Corbin (1-0, 0.57) in the 3 p.m. CST start from Scottsdale. Jeff Samardzija will pitch in a minor-league game.

Cubs won't fear LaHair's power outage

April, 1, 2012
4/01/12
4:39
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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TEMPE, Ariz. -- For a guy with so much power, Bryan LaHair looks like he will leave Arizona without a home run this spring.

It’s not only an unexpected occurrence because the ball tends to fly a long way in the desert, but also because LaHair hit 53 total home runs after spring training ended a year ago.

Not only did LaHair hit 38 home runs at Triple-A Iowa last season, he then went to play for Magallanes of the Venezuelan winter league and he crushed 15 more.

Yet this spring all that power seemed to disappear. It’s not like he hasn’t hit the ball hard. He might have started the spring slow, but he has seven doubles among his 18 hits. In seven at-bats in a simulated game, he hit three more doubles.

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Garza goes four scoreless in final tuneup

April, 1, 2012
4/01/12
3:44
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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TEMPE, Ariz. -- Matt Garza became the second Chicago Cubs starting pitcher to complete his spring training workload when he pitched in a minor-league game Sunday.

Garza went four innings in his final tuneup, throwing 51 pitches. He added a handful of pitches in the bullpen following his outing.

The right-hander, who will start in the second game of the season April 7 against the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field, gave up two hits with no walks and six strikeouts.

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Cubs pitcher Paul Maholm talks about his start against the Angels and the potential of his team's rotation.

Bullpen decisions to come at last minute

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
1:37
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- The rotation is done, the Opening Day lineup is complete and most of the roster has been constructed.

That just leaves the bullpen for the Chicago Cubs' staff to sort out, something that will probably go down to the final hour before everything is sorted out.

“It will probably go down possibly to the workout on Wednesday,” manager Dale Sveum said.

That would be the team workout at Wrigley Field the day before the season opener against the Washington Nationals.

Rodrigo Lopez figures to make it as the long man, but two spots are expected to be left for four pitchers. Let the battle continue over the last five games for Frankie De La Cruz, Shawn Camp, Lendy Castillo and Manny Corpas, who has eight strikeouts in his last four outings.

Cubs-Red Sox close Theo comp issue

March, 29, 2012
3/29/12
1:53
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- The Theo Epstein compensation saga between the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox finally came to a close Thursday, albeit a slightly controversial one.

The Cubs received 19-year-old first baseman Jair Bogaerts from the Red Sox to finish all aspects of the deal, but the conversation over the entire episode might not be complete.

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Castillo move was toughest for Cubs

March, 29, 2012
3/29/12
1:41
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Wellington CastilloDennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireWellington Castillo losing out to Steve Clevenger as the back-up catcher was a surprise Thursday.
MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs made a number of roster moves Thursday in order to close in on a 25-man Opening Day roster, and not all of them were expected.

Also announced was the starting rotation, which was a little more predictable. The Cubs starters, in order, will be Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm. Samardzija was able to seal his fate with six scoreless innings against the Indians on Wednesday.

The bench was also set with Joe Mather and Blake DeWitt earning spots, as well as Steve Clevenger, who won the hotly contested backup catcher role. Jeff Baker and Reed Johnson will be on the bench as expected.

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Wells on demotion: Possible "wake-up call"

March, 29, 2012
3/29/12
1:37
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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The Chicago Cubs made nine cuts on Thursday morning, none more shocking than the optioning of veteran pitcher Randy Wells to minor league camp.

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Wells, Wood optioned to Triple-A Iowa

March, 29, 2012
3/29/12
10:20
AM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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Randy WellsAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhRandy Wells hasn't been able to recapture the form that won 12 game as a rookie in 2009.
MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs right-hander Randy Wells was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on Thursday.

The Cubs have not yet announced their final roster moves, but Wells confirmed the move to reporters.

The only question remain in the bullpen, where two spots are available but Rodrigo Lopez is the favorite for the long relief role.

Wells was 7-6 with a 4.99 ERA last season. His best year was 2009 when he won 12 games as a rookie.

Travis Wood also was sent down.

Steve Clevenger will be the backup catcher.


Bill Nack recaps the history of the Cubs, and how the city of Chicago embraces the team.

Cubs face decisions on Wells, Byrd

March, 28, 2012
3/28/12
1:55
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- The Chicago Cubs are not shopping their players, but they sure are doing a lot of listening as spring training comes to a close.

[+] EnlargeBryan LaHair
AP Photo/Ross D. FranklinMarlon Byrd, left, has apparently drawn interest from the Braves, according to sources.
Teams have inquired about the availability of pitcher Randy Wells and centerfielder Marlon Byrd. The rotation appears set without Wells, who makes $2.705 million this season. Wells, 29, appears headed to the bullpen or back to Triple-A Iowa. If the Cubs try to send him out he would have to clear waivers (he does have a minor league option left).

If the Cubs make any moves, they’d be looking to get left-handed bullpen help. The Atlanta Braves, and Washington Nationals have inquired, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The Cubs could trade Wells, but may elect to keep him as insurance for the rotation. Wells has not talked to manager Dale Sveum or pitching coach Chris Bosio about his fate, preferring to just focus on his pitching.

A few clubs, including the Braves, have watched Byrd all spring and approached the Cubs about a deal, according to league sources. The Cubs must decide if they are ready to start the major league clock for 23-year-old prospect Brett Jackson, who was the most impressive position player in Cubs camp this spring and has since been sent to minor league camp.

Sveum said last week Jackson was the best young player he had ever seen in a major league spring training. Three players on the current roster told ESPNChicago.com that Jackson is ready for the big leagues and is mature enough to handle himself on and off the field.

“He did not go out one night in spring training, that’s how focused he was,” Byrd said.

The Cubs will meet Wednesday night to discuss the 25-man roster before heading back to Chicago for Opening Day on April 5. The decisions that come out of the meeting, which will include president Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer, assistant general manager Randy Bush as well as Sveum and his coaching staff, will have an impact on not only who stays on the team but who goes.

Cubs close to backup catcher decision

March, 27, 2012
3/27/12
3:52
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Steve Clevenger was trying to have as normal of a morning as possible Tuesday, although it wasn’t easy.

[+] EnlargeSteve Clevenger
Matt Kartozian/US PresswireSteve Clevenger is hitting .314 this spring as he tries to win the backup catcher job.
He sat quietly at his locker eating a waffle with a piece of sausage. But all around him it was clear his situation was far from normal.

First there was the obvious. Sitting quietly right next to him was Welington Castillo, the guy he is trying to beat out for the backup catcher job.

The scene was literal, but could have also been figurative. Clevenger and Castillo have been side-by-side all spring in the backup catcher battle, the loser of which is headed to Triple-A Iowa.

Usually in spring training, the players are the last to know about where they stand in position battles. Often they ask the media if anybody has heard anything.

Clevenger admitted Tuesday that he is well entrenched in a cone of silence. He has batted .314 this spring with a pair of home runs and five RBIs, but he has no idea if it’s enough to win a major league job.

Castillo entered play Tuesday batting .303 with a home run and three RBIs, but he seemed to be getting most of the playing time of late.

If there were odds on such things, the consensus seems to be 51-49 that Castillo ends up with the job. Clevenger might be willing to sit down and wait to find out what happens, but he doesn’t have the time. He still has work to do.

The best course of action is to put your mind on other things. Easier said than done. Clevenger can’t help himself sometimes.

“You try to not think about it but sometimes you can’t help it,” he said.

Defense key if Cubs hope to improve

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
10:06
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- The Chicago Cubs were the worst defensive team in baseball the last two seasons, which gives you a pretty good idea why they had consecutive fifth-place finishes.

New Cubs manager Dale Sveum is convinced that his team will defend better this season.

“Nobody has a crystal ball to tell what is going to happen in a 162-game schedule,” Sveum said. “Just the implementation of positioning is going to help defensively. Is it going to cut down on errors? Who knows. But I think the work ethic will help.”

Looking at each position, there are some pluses and minuses from last season.

First and foremost, shortstop Starlin Castro will be better this season. Sveum and his staff have helped the third-year major leaguer shorten his stride and release point on balls hit directly at him. Castro and Darwin Barney will be entering their second season together, which should help cut down on coverage and relay gaffes. Barney had never played second base until last spring, so the career shortstop will automatically be more sound at the position. Both players need to help the catcher out on throws to second base as Geovany Soto had 13 throwing errors in 2011, the majority of which should have been at least knocked down by one of the infielders.

Third base will be better defensively with a more athletic player, Ian Stewart, replacing Aramis Ramirez. First base may be an adventure with Bryan LaHair trying to replace one of the better first baseman in Carlos Pena. The outfield should be OK, but not Gold-Glove caliber with a quicker Marlon Byrd and a solid David DeJesus to go with Alfonso Soriano's below-average range and throwing.

“We are going to be better [on defense], there is no doubt about it,” Sveum said. “The outfield play will be better. A lot of things have been implemented that are paying off in the long run.”

Better may be a relative term when you are trying to cut down from a major-league high 134 errors from the previous season.

No. 5 Maholm has looked like a No. 1

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
6:27
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- Not a bad day when your fifth starter performs more like an ace.

Chicago Cubs starter Paul Maholm's excellent spring continued Monday when he pitched five scoreless innings for the against the San Diego Padres, giving up four hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

“I was working on a few different things that we are trying to implement and gave up a few hits, but they were good pitches,” Maholm said. “The main thing was getting out there, getting through five, to the 70-pitch mark, and for the most part I worked ahead.”

In four starts this spring, the Cubs left-hander has given up just one earned run, good for a 0.90 ERA.

Maholm will occupy the No. 5 spot in the Cubs rotation, but the decision to have him bring up the rear on the starting staff wasn’t performance-based.

He was down for the count for three days early in camp with a flu virus and since the coaching staff eased him back into action, they wanted him to get as much preparation as possible before making his season debut.

“You’re never going to hear me complain about being one of the five guys,” Maholm said. “I’ll take the ball every fifth day and expect to win that day. I expect [Ryan] Dempster and [Matt] Garza and the rest of the guys [would say] the same thing. I will get matched up against some No. 1s and some No. 5s. The day you pitch, you’re the No. 1 guy.”

Maholm, who had a 3.66 ERA over 26 starts last season at Pittsburgh, will make his season debut in the second series of the season at home against the Milwaukee Brewers.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jason Hammel
WINS ERA SO IP
8 2.98 104 108
OTHER LEADERS
BAS. Castro .287
HRA. Rizzo 30
RBIA. Rizzo 71
RA. Rizzo 81
OPSA. Rizzo .889
ERAT. Wood 4.72
SOJ. Arrieta 135