Chicago Cubs: 2014 spring training

Series preview: Cubs at Braves

May, 9, 2014
5/09/14
12:55
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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The Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves begin a three-game series on Friday night in Atlanta:

The series
Friday, 6:35 p.m.: Jason Hammel (4-1, 2.43) vs. Julio Teheran (2-2, 1.80)
Saturday, 6:10 p.m.: Jeff Samardzija (0-3, 1.62) vs Ervin Santana (3-0, 2.41)
Sunday, 12:35 p.m.: Edwin Jackson (2-2, 4.57) vs Alex Wood (2-5, 3.00)

Samardzija on Saturday: All eyes will be on the right-hander as he starts for the first time since throwing a career-high 126 pitches on Monday. The Braves were interested in Samardzija last offseason and presumably they will be again as the trade deadline approaches. Seeing how he responds to that heavy workload will be a nice scouting moment for teams.

Who's Hot/Who's Not: He may not be hot in the traditional sense, but Mike Olt has two home runs and three hits over the past two games. That's about as hot as he's been all season. His batting average is .184, but he says a new approach has him going in the right direction. Reliever Justin Grimm is struggling. He couldn't finish the game on Thursday against the White Sox despite an eight-run, ninth-inning lead. He was pulled after giving up a run and loading the bases. He suffered the loss on Monday against the Sox giving up two 12th-inning runs.

Playing time, not record, a surprise

April, 21, 2014
4/21/14
11:30
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- If you’re overly surprised by the Chicago Cubs' 5-12 record three weeks into the season then you must be an overly optimistic person. The season is going about as planned.

Sure, there was always a chance they would employ a closer who wouldn’t implode or an outfield which would overachieve or that Edwin Jackson would have at least one quality start, but the odds were against all of that and the first three weeks followed those odds.

The one real surprise to the start of the season remains the lineup choices manager Rick Renteria continues to make. Stop me if you’ve heard this cry before: Why aren’t young players like Mike Olt and Junior Lake playing every day?

Now, realize this isn’t necessarily just another rant about that, but even if you’re OK with the idea of “protecting” the young players -- if that’s what’s going on -- at least you need to acknowledge it’s a bit of a surprise that Ryan Sweeney has nine starts this year in 17 games. Who saw that coming?

(Read full post)

Cubs lineup: Castro back in 2-hole

April, 3, 2014
4/03/14
11:13
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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PITTSBURGH -- Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria wants shortstop Starlin Castro to relax at the plate so after two games batting third, Castro is back in a more familiar position of hitting second.

"It's not because he's not on pitches," Renteria said before the series finale between the Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday. "I think it's his anxiousness more than anything because he's taking some pretty good hacks on some really good fastballs."

Castro missed most of spring training with a hamstring strain but Renteria isn't using that as an excuse. Castro is 0 for 9 in two games and made a critical error on Wednesday night allowing a run to score. He also swung at an off-speed pitch on a 3-0 count with runners on second and third in the 11th inning of a tie game.

"I think it would have been a strike if he had taken it but on a 3-0 count you're not usually looking for a breaking ball," Renteria said. "I think he's been a little more anxious in the 3-hole."

Here's the rest of the lineup against lefty Wandy Rodriguez on Thursday:

1. Emilio Bonifacio, CF
2. Castro, SS
3. Justin Ruggiano, RF
4. Anthony Rizz, 1B
5. Junior Lake, LF
6. Mike Olt, 3B
7. Darwin Barney, 2B
8. John Baker, C
9. Jason Hammel, P

Jose Veras and Wesley Wright aren't available for today's game after their heavy workload on Wednesday night.

5 for '14: Will Renteria's optimism waver?

March, 29, 2014
3/29/14
10:00
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Rich RenteriaRick Scuteri/USA TODAY SportsRick Renteria likes to keep things positive, but how will that play in the clubhouse when things aren't going well?
The job in front of new Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria is even tougher than what his predecessor, Dale Sveum, faced. And as we know, it didn’t work out well for Sveum, who was dismissed after two years in charge.

The ever-optimistic nature of Renteria will be challenged. He might never waver, but the people who help pay his salary -- the average Cubs fan -- might want to hear more than, “We’ll get 'em tomorrow” when things are going bad.

Renteria almost believes there was a higher order at work in directing his career to the Cubs. Maybe he’s right. The bilingual manager is known for his communication and teaching skills, especially with young players. Could there ever be a better job description for the current situation the Cubs face? They have young talents all over the organization, many of whom speak Spanish.

But as manager now, and not just a coach, Renteria might be tempted to fall into the trap of winning at all costs over development. If Mike Olt struggles, will he be given second and third chances? What about Junior Lake? This is the time to find out about those players, and it’s Renteria’s job to get the most out of them -- not to mention what he has to get out of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo.

Renteria's upbeat nature will come in handy if the Cubs fall out of the race. His goal will be to make every game count for his players as if they are a contending team. All spring he could be seen clapping and encouraging and cheerleading as much as possible. It’s a fine line between doing that just enough at the major league level and overdoing it. It’s the combination of his one-on-one communication and his public persona that will determine how his players feel and respect him. In short, is he being real?

But it can’t just be all about the positive when things are going wrong. At least not when fans want some real answers. So far in spring, the positive has been reinforced, which makes sense considering what time of year it is. But, soon enough, Renteria is going to have to be realistic about what he sees if it isn’t very good. That’s when we’ll start to know if he’s a manager for the long run. Does he have the nuance to navigate through this important transition year?

His predecessor did not. But that was at a time when the Cubs were working on gutting the organization of its aging and expensive veterans. Now, Renteria’s task is much more important. As Olt, Javier Baez, Lake and others start their major league careers, it will be on Renteria to max out their considerable talent.

With a lineup that could change every day, the possibility of Triple-A call-ups throughout the season and trades that will undoubtedly take place before the July deadline, Renteria will have a lot on his plate. But he really has only one task: get the best out of his core players and allow new ones to emerge. If he does that, it’s a successful start to his managing career.

5 for '14: When will top prospects arrive?

March, 28, 2014
3/28/14
10:00
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Javier BaezAP Photo/Chris CarlsonTop prospect Javier Baez could join the Cubs by June.
MESA, Ariz. -- All the losing the Chicago Cubs have endured over the past few seasons is about to pay off. At least in a small way.

If all goes right in 2014, fans should finally be able to see some of the team's heralded prospects, some of whom have vaulted the farm system into the top five in all of baseball. By being out of the playoff race by midseason, the front office has been able to focus on the future by trading aging veterans for younger players, and to pick high in the annual June draft.

And now some of those young players are nearly ready for prime time.

The Cubs have a "big four" of position player prospects in No. 1 draft choices Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Kris Bryant to go along with Cuban-born outfielder Jorge Soler. But the first of the major names to make it to Wrigley Field may not be any of those players.

Right-handed starter Kyle Hendricks (13-4, 2.00 ERA in 2013) could arrive quicker than any of them, while reliever Arodys Vizcaino is also waiting in the wings. They'll start the season at Triple-A Iowa just like Baez. Hendricks was acquired for Ryan Dempster in 2012, while Vizcaino came for Paul Maholm while Vizcaino was still recovering from Tommy John surgery. Now healthy, Vizcaino can get near 100 mph with his fastball; he impressed observers in the first bullpen sessions he threw this spring. Hendricks is your classic thinker on the mound.

Pitchers rather than position players are more likely to come up for an appearance or two if they're needed. While the Cubs want to make sure Baez is ready at the plate and in the field, guys like Hendricks and Vizcaino along with rising prospect Eric Jokisch could be at Wrigley Field anytime.

But when Baez shows up, people will take notice. After hitting 37 home runs at Class A and Double-A last season, he came into Cubs camp and put on a show. He crushed the ball to the opposite field and made adjustments at the plate he wasn't always doing previously. He also got a taste of playing second base since he'll have to play somewhere besides shortstop when he's called up with Starlin Castro entrenched there.

But Baez has to prove he's matured as a hitter for longer than a few weeks during spring training. The Cubs can also save some long-term money by waiting to bring him up until late June or July. When they do, pitchers beware. His swing is as vicious as they come.

The other major names are at the lower levels of the minor leagues, but all can make big jumps. Bryant could finish the season at Triple-A Iowa, as could Soler. Almora is a baseball rat and should make major leaps from Class A, if he stays healthy.

But first up probably are the pitchers, and then Baez. There could be a surprise or two, as well -- infielder Arismendy Alcantara is getting close and outfielder Matt Szczur played great defense this spring. They're both in Triple-A. The good news is that the wait to see these players in the major leagues is nearly over.

President of baseball operations Theo Epstein promised that the Cubs wouldn't rush their prospects but would call them up when they're ready.

They're almost ready.

Cubs 2014 spring training wrap-up

March, 27, 2014
3/27/14
5:48
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Anthony RizzoLisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesAnthony Rizzo led the Cubs in spring training with a .313 average.


MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs beat the White Sox 4-3 in Thursday’s Cactus League finale and in the process set a single-spring season attendance record. New Cubs Park drew 15,170 on Thursday increasing, their spring total to 213,815.

Here are some other final spring numbers and thoughts:

Record: 13-18-1

Leading Hitter (min 25 AB): Anthony Rizzo, .313

HR leader: Luis Valbuena, 6

RBI leader: Valbuena, Mike Olt, 12

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Reaction: Olt, Kalish, Bonifacio make Cubs

March, 27, 2014
3/27/14
1:39
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- The Chicago Cubs announced their roster for position players is set. Third baseman Mike Olt made the team as did spring invitees Ryan Kalish and Emilio Bonifacio.

[+] EnlargeMike Olt
Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsMike Olt now has a chance to prove he belongs in the Cubs' core.
What it means: At the very least the Cubs have a new potential core player in Olt as he'll get a shot to be their every-day third baseman. If he succeeds, it will have ramifications all over the organization. He's only 25 so he should be coming into his prime as the Cubs hope to turn into a winning team in the coming years. Olt has great power and seemingly hit every ball hard in spring games, even his outs. If he solidifies third base it could eventually move 2013 top pick Kris Bryant to the outfield. For now, it simply means he has a chance to grow with Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Welington Castillo and perhaps Junior Lake into the nucleus of a young Cubs team.

Just turning 26 on Friday, Kalish also has a chance to stick around. He plays baseball like a football player, with tremendous energy and speed. He was the Red Sox's rookie of the year as a July call-up in 2010 when he hit four home runs and stole 10 bases in 53 games.

Bonifacio may not be an every-day player, but at 28 years old he has a chance to stick around as a super utility guy. He's a switch hitter who can play the infield and outfield and has tremendous speed.

The lineup: Manager Rick Renteria will use his entire Cubs roster as much as ever starting next week. A lineup against a left-handed pitcher could have Bonifacio playing the outfield along with Junior Lake and Justin Ruggiano. The infield would consist of Rizzo, Darwin Barney, Castro and Olt.

Against a righty it's possible Kalish and Nate Schierholtz will be in there along with Luis Valbuena playing second or third base. It could change nearly every day.

What's next: The Cubs will announce their pitching staff in the next couple of days, including the early-season fifth starter. Chris Rusin and Carlos Villanueva have been battling for that spot all spring.

5 for '14: Samardzija still a Cub on Aug. 1?

March, 27, 2014
3/27/14
10:00
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Jeff SamardzijaJoe Sargent/Getty ImagesWhat the Cubs decide to do with Jeff Samardzija will heavily impact their rebuilding process.
MESA, Ariz. -- It’s the question that keeps getting asked, but soon enough it’s going to have to have an answer. In some ways we’re already in extra innings, as Jeff Samardzija could have been traded by now considering there’s been no movement in contract extension talks for over a year.

None. No new offers, no new strategies.

Neither side will budge, continuing to leave Samardzija squarely on the trade block. Every day he’s not signed to a multiyear deal is a day closer to free agency for him, which means he’s a day closer to being traded. The Cubs will never let him walk after the 2015 season. Samardzija is currently on a one-year deal.

Things might be different if the Cubs had a chance to win something this year, but the front office believes they can get younger and perhaps better pitching for him if they move Samardzija. It will certainly be cheaper with him wanting No. 1-type money, though the club hasn’t seen him pitch like an ace just yet. Samardzija’s career ERA is 4.19 and he’s coming off a second half in which it was over 5.00. Bad team or not, it’s probably hard for a front office to pull the trigger on a huge contract for a player with those results.

The Samardzija saga, while both old and ongoing, has major implications for the Cubs' rebuilding plans. Moving him means replacing him, both for his skill as well as his leadership. Signing him at his cost means using up a slotted salary for a No. 1 pitcher. It’s money they might want to use elsewhere. Simply put, Samardzija doesn’t want to be paid like Edwin Jackson (four years, $52 million); he wants to be paid more like Homer Bailey (six years, $105 million).

At this point, the notion of who’s right or wrong is becoming moot because it’s not "if" he’ll be traded, rather "when." What’s interesting is that the Cubs don’t necessarily believe he’s an ace but are holding out hope they can get a potential ace in exchange for him. They’ve done an incredible job -– at least on paper -– in acquiring talent for their veteran pitchers, especially during the annual July trading period. Kyle Hendricks, C.J. Edwards, Arodys Vizcaino, Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop are just a few of the players that have become Cubs over the last few years. That’s a good collection of arms. So expect the Cubs to do well for Samardzija as teams get desperate in the coming months.

Unless there is a change of heart from either side, of course.

That would probably have to come from the Cubs, because Samardzija has the ultimate confidence in his health and ability to play things out until he becomes a free agent and gets his big payday on the open market. It doesn’t help that the Cubs are only about halfway done with their rebuilding efforts, so there’s no incentive for Samardzija to sign and then wait around in order to pitch in the playoffs.

The timing of a deal just doesn’t seem to be coming together. When asked on Wednesday if he would negotiate once the season starts, Samardzija quickly responded with a “no comment.”

It might not matter if neither side moves off their current position.

It’s bad news for the Cubs since they are already thin in major league pitching and have no guarantees that their young arms are going to develop into top-of-the-rotation guys. It could stall the rebuilding process or even set it back. It’s that critical of a decision, and so it looks like the Valparaiso, Ind. native’s days are numbered with the organization he’s been a part of the past seven years.

Podcast: Samardzija talks Opening Day

March, 26, 2014
3/26/14
8:34
PM CT
By ESPNChicago.com
ESPNChicago.com
Chicago Cubs Opening Day starter Jeff Samardzija talks to reporters about the upcoming season and some of the new additions on the team.

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Arrieta takes another step with simulation

March, 26, 2014
3/26/14
1:42
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- With team president Theo Epstein and manager Rick Renteria looking on Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta threw a three-inning simulated game on Wednesday morning as he continues his recovery from winter “shoulder stiffness.”

[+] EnlargeJake Arrieta
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesThe Cubs hope Jake Arrieta's recovery from shoulder stiffness continues to progress well.
“I was glad to get up-and-down-three-times out of the way,” Arrieta said afterwards.

Arrieta is on pace to return sometime in mid to late April as he’s already on a five day pitching routine. There’s plenty of focus on him as he could be a core pitcher as the Cubs move into their next phase of rebuilding in the coming years. His stuff is that good.

“Fifty pitches is a good place to be right now,” Arrieta said. “Hopefully we’ll bump it up to 60-65. I’m right there after that point. It’s been a good progression.”

Arrieta would be scheduled to throw again on Monday but the Cubs may wait until Tuesday to utilize their day off in Pittsburgh. When he’s ready, Arrieta will go on assignment to a minor league team before joining the Cubs next month. The key is his shoulder is feeling good.

“I anticipate some soreness but to feel normal after an outing,” he said.

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Baker wins job; Olt should be next

March, 26, 2014
3/26/14
1:35
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- The Chicago Cubs named John Baker as the backup catcher and cleared two players from their 40-man roster by giving catcher George Kottaras his unconditional release and losing Donnie Murphy to the Texas Rangers in a waiver claim.

[+] EnlargeJohn Baker
AP Photo/Morry GashVeteran catcher John Baker will back up Welington Castillo.
Kottaras signed a one-year deal with the Cubs over the winter after being acquired in a trade with Kansas City but lost out in the battle to be Welington Castillo's backup as manager Rick Renteria announced Baker, a spring invitee, won the job.

"Baker really worked hard this spring and I kind of think he just earned a spot," Renteria said after the moves.

The loss of Murphy paves the way for prospect Mike Olt to make the team as he's rebounded nicely from vision problems of a season ago while the emergence of infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio made Murphy expendable as well. Olt is batting .270 with five home runs this spring while Bonifacio has been an igniter at the top of the lineup, hitting four triples in Cactus League games.

"We still have that third base spot working itself out," Renteria said. "We're going to continue to play out what we have in camp, hopefully being able to come to a conclusion here in the near future."

Rosters have to be set by Sunday, but Olt looks like a lock. At the very least he can take Murphy's role in a platoon situation at third base with lefty Luis Valbuena. He also played at first base this spring so he might be the backup for Anthony Rizzo considering Murphy was likely the man for that role previously.

The moves also could benefit non-roster outfielder Ryan Kalish. He's rebounded from injuries and also provided a spark with his speed with six stolen bases. With Bonifacio and possibly Kalish on the 25-man roster, the Cubs will be much more athletic than they have been in the recent past.

The moves also save the Cubs money as Wednesday was the last day players could be released without having to pay them their full salary for the season. Baker still needs to be added to the 40-man roster before Opening Day as would Kalish if he makes the team. Another spring invitee, veteran catcher Eli Whiteside will play in Triple-A Iowa.

Baker, 33, is a six-year veteran who played for the San Diego Padres the last two seasons when Renteria was the bench coach. He's a career .258 hitter. Kottaras hit .150 with eight strikeouts in 20 spring at-bats while Baker hit .292. Murphy was a late season call-up last year and hit 10 home runs in the final two months of the season.

5 for '14: Will Rizzo and Castro rebound?

March, 26, 2014
3/26/14
10:00
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Anthony RizzoJennifer Stewart/USA TODAY SportsBounce-back seasons from Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro would go a long way in the Cubs taking a big step in their development in 2014.
MESA, Ariz. -- They return as the cornerstones of the Chicago Cubs' rebuilding strategy. Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro are the faces of the major league team now more than ever.

Most of the veterans have been dismissed in recent years in favor of younger replacements yet to see their potential. And pitcher Jeff Samardzija might be next to go -- putting even more of the spotlight on Castro and Rizzo.

Both had their issues last year. And if they’re going to lead the Cubs from here on out, they first have to lead on the field.

Missing most of spring training is the last thing Castro needed. Not when he’s trying to erase the bad memories of 2013. Career lows in batting average (.245) and on-base percentage (.284) and a career-high 129 strikeouts tell the story: It was an awful year.

A new bilingual manager was hired and a trainer was sent to the Dominican Republic to get Castro in better shape. The Cubs were taking no chances. They were going to put him in the best position to succeed at any cost.

Then the injury happened. At first, Castro’s right hamstring strain seemed less serious than a year ago when he hurt his left one in the spring. He was on crutches back then, while this time he was projected to be out only seven to 10 days. That was on March 2 and he still hasn’t played in a Cactus League game going into last night.

Castro so wanted to be locked in as March came to a close. He looked sharp in early drills and went 2-for-2 in the opening game of spring, when most hitters are way behind the pitchers. Not Castro. He’s a creature of habit when it comes to the game. He wants to play every day, as he mostly did when he became a two-time All-Star.

But that was several years ago and now doubts about his ability have crept in among baseball observers. Maybe he has a few doubts of his own. It’s hard to imagine Castro having a good start to this season. Conventional wisdom says he’ll need April to be his spring training. But as good an athlete as he is, he might surprise people. And even if he gets locked in when May rolls around, that could still equate to five months of good Castro. But he has to prove it before people will believe in him again.

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The good news is the Cubs are telling him to get back to being his old self. And manager Rick Renteria is reinforcing what he says to him in English by repeating it in Spanish, just to be sure. Without the injury it would be easier to predict a huge year from Castro. Now? Who knows for sure.

As for Rizzo, he was maligned for his 2013 season more than he should have been. But after hitting just .191 with runners in scoring position -- the same year he signed a $44 million deal -- criticism is bound to find you. There are a lot of things to like about Rizzo’s game, including his defense, as he became a Gold Glove finalist after a slow start. And consider his power, which produced 23 home runs in his first full year in the big leagues. But the Cubs and their fan base want more.

Rizzo is from Florida but has a relaxed, California-like attitude about him. “See the ball, hit the ball,” is his most common analysis of batting. And, no, he’s not a stats guy. But he thinks he’s a better hitter than his .233 batting average of a year ago. If this spring is any indication, he just might be.

Going into Tuesday night’s contest against the San Diego Padres, he was hitting .366, including a smooth 6-for-13 against lefties this spring. He’s driving the ball to the opposite field and could make teams rethink the shift they employ. But none of that matters until he starts to do it next week -- and in clutch situations. Last year wasn’t bad, but there’s plenty to improve on.

The talent is there for Castro and Rizzo. Now the steps have to be taken or the rebuild simply stalls. And the unthinkable could happen. The Cubs might have to go in another direction -- especially at shortstop -- where hot-shot prospect Javier Baez waits in the wings.

First things first: Castro and Rizzo get 2014 to prove themselves all over again.

C.J. Edwards debuts, nerves and all

March, 26, 2014
3/26/14
12:41
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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PEORIA, Ariz. -- If Chicago Cubs prospect C.J. Edwards’ pitching ability catches up to his personality, the team might have a star on its hands.

Edwards sailed through an easy first inning -- despite some serious nerves -- before giving up three runs on four hits and three walks in the final 1.2 innings of his major league spring debut on Tuesday night against the San Diego Padres.

"I can't even explain the nerves that I had,” Edwards said afterward. “My right knee started going by itself. I was like looking around, trying to hold it down, but it didn’t work, so I let it bounce.”

Edwards threw 49 pitches, with the last 44 coming in the second and third innings as he struggled with his command. Cubs brass, including president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, looked on from behind home plate as one of their prized trade pieces of last season made his debut.

"I'm one of the top players in the organization that has tunnel vision,” Edwards said of ignoring his bosses. “I can't really see anyone. But I can hear everybody.”

What he heard on his big night was encouragement from his teammates as things started to go south. Twice there were meetings on the mound, with pitching coach Chris Bosio and the entire infield trying to calm Edwards down and loosen the moment.

“[Anthony Rizzo] comes up to me and goes, ‘Hey, you want to play first base?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s switch,’” Edwards said.

But what Edwards wanted to hear most came from his catcher for the night, John Baker.

“His exact words were, ‘You did a hell of a job. Your stuff will play. You have a bright future ahead,’” Edwards said.

His first inning showed what that future might hold. Edwards threw five pitches -- all of them strikes and one of which went for an easy double play.

Radar guns showed him in the low 90s. His pitches showed the movement that won him minor league pitcher of the year accolades last season. But he didn’t make as many hitters miss as he did a few days ago in a minor league game. It’s a work in progress.

Right now, Edwards is the best hope within the organization of becoming a No.1 pitcher. And his demeanor should help him get there. He prepared for his first start with long talks on the phone with his dad.

“My dad said keep praying, keep meditating,” Edwards said. “My dad helped me get ready for this game.”

And his teammates helped him get through it. There were some ups and downs, but the talent was evident.

The next step is to dominate Double-A this season and put some more weight on his slight frame; he weighed 165 after the game on Tuesday. Next spring Edwards could be ready for more than just one start with the big league team.

“The outcome wasn’t good but, overall, being around those guys, it was fantastic,” Edwards said.

Cubs fall, reliever Cabrera rocked

March, 25, 2014
3/25/14
6:43
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- The Chicago Cubs fell to the Los Angeles Angels 8-4 in front of another Cactus League record crowd of 15,276.

The Good: Junior Lake hit arguably the longest home run in new Cubs Park as he cleared the grass beyond the left-field fence where fans sit during the game. It was Lake’s fourth home run in his past two games as he’s come alive at the end of spring training. Extra work and fine-tuning have made the difference for Lake, who had struggled much of the spring. Prospect Dan Vogelbach had two hits while starting at first base, and backup catcher George Kottaras doubled off the wall late in the game.

Relievers Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon both threw scoreless innings as Rondon was hitting 99 mph on the in-stadium radar gun.

The Bad: Reliever Alberto Cabrera got rocked in the ninth inning trying to preserve a 4-2 Cubs lead. He gave up a home run, triple, double and single to the first four batters he faced. Cabrera was pitching well this spring to the point of probably making the team, but Tuesday was simply a bad day for the righty, who got only one hitter out before departing. His ERA rose from 1.00 to 5.79. Nothing he gave up was cheap.

What’s Next: The Cubs will make the hour trip to Peoria, Ariz., to take on the San Diego Padres at 9 p.m. CST. Top pitching prospect CJ Edwards will make his Cactus League debut in the game.

Top pick from '12 exits after sliding catch

March, 25, 2014
3/25/14
5:12
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs outfield prospect Albert Almora had to leave Tuesday's spring game against the Los Angeles Angels after making a sliding catch into the wall in left center field at HoHoKam Park.

Almora caught the ball hit by Collin Cowgill but stayed on the ground for several minutes as Cubs trainers raced out to attend to him. Almora was eventually able to get up and jog back to the dugout, but he was removed from the game with a bruised knee. The injury is not considered serious.

Almora, the Cubs' top pick in 2012, was hitting .462 this spring but was sent to minor-league camp earlier this month.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Starlin Castro
BA HR RBI R
.292 14 65 58
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Rizzo 32
RBIA. Rizzo 78
RA. Rizzo 89
OPSA. Rizzo .913
WJ. Arrieta 10
ERAT. Wood 5.03
SOJ. Arrieta 167