Chicago Cubs: Josh Vitters

Cubs' cut 40-man roster down to 37

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
5:59
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- In advance of free agency beginning next week the Chicago Cubs cleared room off their 40-man roster by outrighting three players to Triple-A Iowa, including former 2007 first round pick Josh Vitters.

Vitters, outfielder Ryan Kalish and infielder Chris Valaika all cleared waivers, allowing the Cubs to send them to the minors.

Additionally, pitcher James McDonald elected free agency after spending the year on the disabled list.

The Cubs' 40-man roster stands at 37.

Vizcaino, Vitters, Jackson among 8 cuts

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
6:33
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- Former first-round picks Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson along with flame-thrower Arodys Vizcaino were among eight cuts from big league camp on Tuesday, Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria announced.

Vizcaino is the most intriguing of the names to be cut. There was some speculation he could make the team as a reliever after missing the last two seasons because of arm problems. He has been throwing in the mid to upper 90s throughout camp, but the Cubs are going to be cautious, as they've said all along.

"We're still following the plan," Renteria said. "We want him to get his innings in, in a controlled environment and kind of ease him back in. He's been out for two years, we want to get him in more game situations and things of that nature and make sure he can handle it all."

Vizcaino could be an early to midseason call-up after throwing three scoreless innings this spring. It might be a tougher path back to the majors for Vitters and Jackson. Vitters was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 draft, but he has struggled to make it and stay in the big leagues. Jackson has had similar problems but showed some signs of finding his swing again during camp, winning a game last Saturday over the Royals with five RBIs.

"I was impressed," Renteria said of Jackson. "Did some damage. I don't worry too much about his strikeouts because there is a lot of damage that comes with his stick."

Jackson struck out 10 times in 20 at-bats this spring. Vitters went down swinging or looking in 11 of 17 at-bats.

"His [Vitters] approaches were pretty good, I think the results may not have been what you wanted," Renteria said.

Being optioned to Triple-A Iowa along with Vitters, Jackson and Vizcaino are Zac Rosscup and Christian Villanueva.
Sent to minor league camp were Mitch Maier, Rafael Lopez and Armando Rivero.

With the cuts, the Cubs' roster is down to 45.

Cubs fall to A's; McDonald hurt

March, 17, 2014
Mar 17
7:29
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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PHOENIX, Ariz. – The Chicago Cubs dropped a 6-2 decision to the Oakland A's on Monday, scoring their only runs with two out in the ninth inning.

The Good: Outfielder Ryan Kalish continued a good spring with two more hits, raising his batting average to .300. Before the game, manager Rick Renteria praised Kalish’s efforts; he has a shot at making the 25-man roster. ... Career minor-leaguer Jonathan Mota hit a two-run home run in the ninth to spoil the shutout bid by the A’s.

The Bad: After a short, hot run at the plate, outfielder Brett Jackson has cooled off. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts; Josh Vitters also struck out twice. Vitters has 11 K’s in 17 at-bats this spring. ... Junior Lake went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts as well, lowering his spring average to .143.

The Injured: James McDonald left his start due to shoulder issues after throwing two pitches. The right-hander will be evaluated further, but his chances of winning the fifth spot in the rotation while Jake Arrieta is rehabbing took a huge hit. McDonald's health remains the primary concern -- he battled shoulder problems last season.

What’s Next: The run of split-squad games is over, but now come the nighttime affairs. The Cubs will play under the lights the next two days, starting with a road game against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday. Jason Hammel is scheduled to start.

Cubs sign 19 players to 1-year deals

March, 3, 2014
Mar 3
2:50
PM CT
By ESPNChicago.com
ESPNChicago.com
The Chicago Cubs agreed to contract terms Monday with 19 players all with fewer than three years of experience, including catcher Welington Castillo, outfielder Junior Lake and pitcher Jake Arrieta.

Also signed were pitchers Zac Rosscup, Chris Rusin, Dallas Beeler, Alberto Cabrera, Justin Grimm, Blake Parker Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon and Arodys Vizcaino. Infielders Arismendy Alcantara, Mike Olt, Christian Villanueva and Logan Watkins as well as outfielders Brett Jackson, Matt Szczur and Josh Vitters were also signed to contracts.

Terms of the contracts were not disclosed.

Cactus League: Five things to watch

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
9:29
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- The Cactus League schedule begins for the Chicago Cubs on Thursday when they play their debut game at new Cubs Park against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Here are five things to keep an eye on during spring games:

Third base: The baseball world is aware of what Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy can do at the hot corner and although they did a respectable job there in 2013, there is talent behind them in the form of high-ceiling prospects. Mike Olt, acquired in the deal that sent Matt Garza to Texas last season, says he's seeing the ball well after vision problems plagued him in 2013. Now he has to show that in games. If he takes the job -- and keeps it -- it could have long term ramifications at the position. If not, Murphy and Valbuena will keep the position warm until Kris Bryant or another prospect is ready.

[+] EnlargeEmilio Bonifacio
AP Photo/Rick ScuteriWill Emilio Bonifacio push Darwin Barney at second base?
Starting rotation: The usual names need to get ready for the season, possibly none more than Edwin Jackson. Spring results don't mean a lot, but for a pitcher coming off an 8-18 season, any kind of confidence boost can't be a bad thing. How serious is Jake Arrieta's shoulder injury? The rest of the spring will tell that story. If he's unable to pitch then James McDonald and Chris Rusin are next up. Rusin starts Friday and can make an immediate impression on his new manager. And then there is Kyle Hendricks. He's a longshot to make the team, but if he pitches as he did in the intrasquad game on Wednesday, going eight up and eight down, he could open some more eyes.

The outfield: On paper, the Cubs don't exactly have the strongest group heading into the regular season. Junior Lake will get his playing time but could the much-maligned Josh Vitters or Brett Jackson win a job? Without perennial All-Stars making big money out there someone could get pushed down the ladder. Right now Justin Ruggiano and Ryan Sweeney have a beat on starting jobs, but if Jackson or Vitters goes off in spring games, one of them could at least head north with the team. If there is a surprise in camp, it's most likely to come in the outfield. Lake is playing center and Ruggiano is in left for Thursday's opening game. It's still undecided where Lake's long-term future lies although he likes center better.

Second base: Is Darwin Barney on his way out or to the bench or does the late addition of Emilio Bonifacio just add depth? Bonifacio is getting the start ahead of Barney on Thursday but little can be deduced simply from that. Still, Bonifacio has skills the Cubs could use at the top of the order, but Barney has the skills to save runs at second base. One thing is for sure, the Cubs probably won't let Barney be the starter all season if his batting average hovers around .200 as it did last year. A good spring sets the tone but still might not stave off Javier Baez from playing there if he's called up this season.

Starlin Castro: Like Jackson, a rebound season is needed and he says he wants to be "locked in" from the beginning of spring games. It doesn't mean he has to hit .600 in February and March games, but with his newly added muscle and commitment to the game you'd like to see it pay off right away. Why wait until April? Castro never takes it easy once the games begin. He hates days off and so if he's going to play a lot it would be nice to see some production -- or at least an inkling that he's back to the old Castro.

Javier Baez creates buzz with long HRs

February, 22, 2014
Feb 22
11:24
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. – Chicago Cubs top prospect Javier Baez has a reputation for prodigious home runs – both in games and during batting practice.

On Friday at spring training he put on another show by hitting several balls over the fence, including one that hit a parked car.

[+] EnlargeJavier Baez
Jake Roth/USA TODAY SportsJavier Baez launched several home run balls in batting practice, including one that dinged a car.
To be fair, others in his hitting group were belting long balls in coach-pitched batting practice, but it was Baez who created the buzz.

“That’s fine,” third baseman Mike Olt joked. “He can get the publicity because he can pay for the damage to the car too.”

Olt was part of a group that included Baez and Josh Vitters in batting practice off of reliever Pedro Strop and then against one of the Cubs coaches. The home runs started to come when the coach took over.

“He was pretty tough,” Baez said of Strop. “He throws hard and has good breaking stuff.”

Vitters added: “We’re still feeling out the live BP thing. That’s more for the pitchers. The BP with coaches is more for us.”

Vitters said it’ll be a few more days before hitters catch up, so for now the confidence boost comes when the coaches take the mound.

“In BP it’s not about hitting home runs, it's about working your hands through the zone and stuff like that," No. 2 Cubs prospect Kris Bryant said. "But yeah, it’s a little easier to hit them in BP off a coach than off a guy like Jeff Samardzija.”

Bryant led all collegiate players by a wide margin in long balls last season. He reluctantly admitted to putting on a show in batting practice at the University of San Diego but said it was “easier with metal bats, of course.”

“I usually save a round here or there to let it loose because I do believe if you want to hit home runs in a game you have to hit them in practice,” Bryant said.

So while the hitters have struggled against Cubs pitchers so far in spring training, they’ve gained some confidence against Cubs coaches. Does that pay off or give a false sense of progress for a hitter?

“You can get a lot out of it as long as you're doing the right thing,” Vitters said.

(Read full post)

Day 3 notes: Bryant, Almora arrive

February, 16, 2014
Feb 16
2:25
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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MESA, Ariz. -- Part of the future talent expected to help turn around the Chicago Cubs' fortunes in the standings arrived at spring training on Sunday, several days ahead of mandatory attendance.

First-round picks Albert Almora and Kris Bryant joined other early birds in preparation for what should be a competitive spring training among prospects. The No. 2 overall pick in last June’s amateur draft -- and both the MVP of the collegiate season as well as the professional Arizona Fall League -- is ready for his first big league camp.

“I’m definitely going to be here asking questions,” Bryant said before taking some swings in the batting cage Sunday morning. “Probably annoying them. This is an amazing opportunity for me. I want to make the most of it.”

(Read full post)

Vitters, Jackson still fighting to make it

February, 16, 2014
Feb 16
12:52
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Brett JacksonAP Photo/Morry GashCubs' prospect Brett Jackson struggled in his first major league experience.

MESA, Ariz. -- Vitters and Jackson. Jackson and Vitters.

The two former first-round picks of the Chicago Cubs are back for another spring training, but no longer are they the heir apparents at third base and center field.

If you’ve forgotten about them (it’s Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters by the way), it’s probably because they’ve been passed by more recent top draft picks. On the same day they arrived early to spring training so did 2012's first-rounder, Albert Almora, and 2013's top pick, Kris Bryant. They play center field and third base as well.

“I don’t know if I'll be able to fill the void in everyone's head of me because it's obviously pretty big,” Vitters said on Sunday morning. “But I think I can rejuvenate my career.”

(Read full post)

Countdown to Camp: Prospects outlook

February, 12, 2014
Feb 12
10:00
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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BaezJake Roth/USA TODAY SportsJavier Baez showed plate discipline as he moved up in he minor leagues last season.
With Chicago Cubs spring training set to begin Friday in Mesa, Ariz., we're taking an early look around the diamond.

Prospect candidates: INF Javier Baez, Christian Villanueva, Arismendy Alcantara, Mike Olt, C Rafael Lopez, P Kyle Hendricks, Dallas Beeler, OF Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters, Jorge Soler
Best Bets: Baez, Alcantara, Hendricks

SportsNation

After Javier Baez, which Cubs prospect has the best chance to be in the big leagues in 2014?

  •  
    48%
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    23%
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    15%
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    11%
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    3%

Discuss (Total votes: 1,403)

One thing is clear about the slew of prospects the Cubs should be seeing make it to the big leagues in the coming years: They won't be coming based on the needs of the major league club at that moment. The front office has repeated the notion that prospects need to dominate the level at which they're playing before any promotions occur. They also need to meet certain goals established by the club.

While it's doubtful any prospects who didn't play in the big leagues last season are expected to make the club out of spring training -- except perhaps Mike Olt -- there's a very good chance the Cubs will promote several throughout the season. And a few of them are considered elite names.

None are bigger than 2011 first-round pick Javier Baez.

After a monster season (37 home runs, 111 RBIs) at Single-A and Double-A in 2013, Baez is poised to see Wrigley Field for the first time by the end of 2014 -- if not sooner. He'll have to maintain the plate discipline he showed after being promoted last year, and considering his already violent and damaging swing, there's a good chance he could be in Chicago by late June. But the Cubs have been erring on the side of caution with their prospects so there's no guarantee. Then again, if he dominates at Triple-A Iowa they won't have a choice but to promote him.

There's also the issue of service time as the Cubs will probably follow the Anthony Rizzo timeline if a particular prospect doesn't make it out of spring training. It prevents them from having "Super Two" status and an earlier chance at arbitration. Rizzo came up from the minors on June 26, 2012.

Infielder Arismendy Alcantara is another candidate to come up midseason. His stock has risen as much as anyone's over the last 12 months or so. But unlike Baez, Alcantara might need a near full season at Triple-A before he gets his chance. Same goes for pitcher Kyle Hendricks. Like Baez, Hendricks also had a huge year in 2013 (13-4, 2.00 ERA) between Double-A and Triple-A. Those three players are next up to make it to the Cubs.

It still leaves others an opportunity if they indeed dominate. Infielder Christian Villanueva will play alongside Baez and Alcantara at Triple-A and there's always a chance former first-rounder Josh Vitters or even Brett Jackson find their groove.

Then there is the No. 2 overall pick of last year, Kris Bryant. He'll most likely start at Double-A Tennessee, but it might not take until mid-June to see him move up again. After all, he spent very little time at the Single-A level last year where he dominated, and then won Arizona Fall League MVP honors. If Bryant makes it to Iowa by June, there's a chance he's at Wrigley Field before season's end. It's not likely due to the Cubs conservative approach, but either way Bryant could be just one year away from being a big-league starter.

Jorge Soler is in the same boat as Bryant but might need more playing time as his 2013 season was cut short because of injuries.

All this is predicated on performance. Baez is the best bet because of his raw talent and his development when he moved up to Double-A last season. His plate discipline actually got better at the higher level. That's what the Cubs want to see. At the very least Hendricks and Alcantara should be September call-ups unless their performance dictates otherwise.

Olt remains a wild card because of his vision problems of last year -- though it was only two seasons ago he was considered untouchable within the Texas Rangers organization.

The Cubs are in the midst of transitioning from an older team to a much younger one. It started with Junior Lake in the second half of last season and it should continue with the eventual promotion of Baez.

And more are on their way.

Countdown to Camp: Outfield

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3
12:00
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Junior LakeRob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsAfter batting .295 through August, Junior Lake trailed off in September, batting .254.
With Chicago Cubs spring training set to begin Feb. 14 in Mesa, Ariz., we’re taking an early look around the diamond.

Major additions since Opening Day 2013: Junior Lake, Ryan Sweeney, Justin Ruggiano

Subtractions: David DeJesus, Alfonso Soriano

Holdovers: Nate Schierholtz

SportsNation

Do you think Junior Lake has what it takes to be an every-day starter?

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    82%
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    18%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,563)

Analysis: Going into spring training, the Cubs have four players for three starting spots in the outfield, with Lake, Sweeney, Schierholtz and Ruggiano set to get the bulk of the playing time. Lake is the player to watch. He burst onto the scene in the second half of 2013, giving the Cubs an intriguing option as a potential power guy who still likes to lay down a bunt and take off on the bases. He tailed off some as the league got to know him, striking out 68 times in 64 games. Still, he opened some eyes as a potential overachiever, and now he’ll get a full spring to learn the outfield after years as an infielder. He likes center field more than left, but he’ll probably start in the latter spot. And he’ll get the chance to play himself into the core of the team with little competition forcing him out of the lineup. Ruggiano is valuable simply because he has right-handed pop -- he hit 18 home runs last season, which is something the Cubs lacked after moving Soriano. The Cubs still have veteran Darnell McDonald kicking around, and former No. 3 overall pick Josh Vitters has moved from infield to outfield.

Outlook: New manager Rick Renteria will have an easier time rotating the outfield than Dale Sveum did a season ago because the Cubs are more balanced. Expect the left-handed Sweeney and Ruggiano to split time in center while Lake and Schierholtz will get the occasional day off in left and right field as well. Schierholtz set career highs in several offensive categories in 2013, and if he comes close to repeating those numbers he’ll be traded midseason before he becomes a free agent. Again, Lake is the one to watch in the outfield. Can he get to the next level as an everyday starter?

In fan Q & A, Epstein defends ownership

January, 18, 2014
Jan 18
8:07
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein came to the strong defense of team ownership near the end of an hour-long question-and-answer session with fans on Day 2 of the Cubs Convention on Saturday.

“Here’s the best thing about the Ricketts and their commitment to the Cubs,” Epstein said. “They know they’re going to own this club for generations and generations so they are willing to take the hit now and take some of the heat now ... because they know they are doing the right things to lay the foundation to get this right, to turn this into a franchise that they can be proud of for generations and generations.”

The Ricketts family has come under criticism for being unable to finalize Wrigley Field renovations while employing a last-place baseball team that’s lost 197 games over the past two seasons.

“I’m more proud of them for their willingness to take that heat and stick to their plan than I would be if they panicked the first time their name was dragged through the mud publicly and said, ‘We can’t do this, we need to put lipstick on this and find some quick fixes just to keep the fans and media at bay.’ They are in this for the long haul.”

Other highlights from the front office session with fans:

Mistakes with Jackson, Vitters

[+] EnlargeEpstein
Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY SportsCubs president Theo Epstein covered a wide range of topics in a Q & A with fans Saturday.
No sooner had Epstein finished explaining the process of bringing up prospects -- they have to dominate at every level of the minors first -- he admitted not having followed that plan with first-rounders Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters.

“Our manager [Dale Sveum] was the one that wanted [Jackson] up here to work with him on his swing because we weren’t getting it done at Triple-A,” Epstein explained. “So we sort of prioritized that swing adjustment over the rest of his development. In hindsight that was a mistake. With Vitters we were trying to learn more about him. He had gotten to a point where exposure to big-league pitching was important to him.”

Both struggled and have fallen behind others in the organization. Jackson was even demoted to Double-A last season.

“I don’t think we satisfied the criteria in respect to those two players,” Epstein said. “That’s something we could have done better.”

Analysis: Those mistakes undoubtedly had some effect on the front office -- hence the cautious approach since. It’s hard to know if bringing the two up caused them to struggle or if they were going to struggle anyway, but with a long-range plan in place, the Cubs probably aren’t going to make the same mistake twice.

Ticket-buying

Over the course of the past year, the front office has been careful not to criticize fans for not coming to Wrigley Field as much. Executives understand that prices aren’t in line with the product on the field. Epstein was asked as much again on Saturday.

“I would never tell you how to spend your money,” Epstein said to a fan. “I think there is something special about being part of it the entire way. We’re being transparent. We aren’t proud of our results. We wish we were further down the road with the talent with the [major league] level. We are sticking true to our vision.”

Analysis: It’s the right and only answer Epstein can give. Short of lowering ticket prices, the Cubs would be foolish to try any other gimmick to attract fans. Lying to them isn’t going to cut it. Epstein has been on the mark in this regard from the beginning.

Renteria wanted to be here

For the first time, Epstein revealed that new manager Rick Renteria had multiple teams interested in him, but he wanted to skipper the Cubs first and foremost.

“He came to us and said, 'Guys, just so you know ... I want to be a Cub,'” Epstein recalled. "'I believe in young players. That’s how I want to do it.’”

Epstein was asked about the firing of Sveum in regard to the regression of young players. His answer was all about Renteria.

“If we’re going to be so youth-centric and be putting so many of our eggs in that basket, we have to make sure they’re in a position to thrive up here,” he said.

Analysis: It’s yet another indication the Cubs simply weren’t happy with the message Sveum had for the team at the major league level. No matter the reasons for his dismissal, the Cubs seemingly got as good a coach for young players as was available; by all indications, this is Renteria’s strength. It also means there can’t be any coaching “excuses” for lack of development of Cubs youth.

Former No. 1 pick Vitters moves to the OF

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
9:56
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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MILWAUKEE -- Former No. 1 Chicago Cubs draft pick Josh Vitters will move to left field, team president Theo Epstein said Tuesday.

Vitters was drafted No. 3 overall in 2007 as a third baseman, but his progress has been slowed by injuries and ineffectiveness.

"He's going to come to spring training ready to re-establish himself," Epstein said.

The Cubs drafted and traded for two third-base prospects this summer, forcing a move to the outfield for Vitters. He was a minor league call-up last season but struggled to a .121 batting average and .193 on-base percentage in 109 plate appearances. He had a leg injury in spring training this season, putting him behind. He had back and rib problems as well.

"He has a program in place that we've signed off on that does not include winter ball," Epstein said. "It involves making himself a more complete baseball player. Working on the mental side of the game. He's really excited about it."

Epstein wasn't as certain about another first-round pick, Brett Jackson. He also was slowed by injuries and struggled during his time in the majors last season. This year he was demoted to Double-A.

"Still to be determined," Epstein said of Jackson's immediate future. "He may end up taking the same path."

Epstein said injured prospects Jorge Soler (foot) and Albert Almora (groin) are on pace to be healthy for the start of the Arizona Fall League.

Injuries consuming Sveum's time

March, 6, 2013
3/06/13
5:14
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- With a little more than three weeks until Opening Day, Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum seems to spend as much time with the team training staff as he does with his coaches.

Two of the Cubs' star players are injured and other players they are counting on have some medical issues.

Sveum hopes to get shortstop Starlin Castro back in the lineup within the next four or five days.

"We are looking at Sunday or Monday," Sveum said.

(Read full post)

Rizzo, Barney among Cubs signed

March, 4, 2013
3/04/13
2:45
PM CT
By ESPNChicago.com
ESPNChicago.com
The Chicago Cubs announced Monday they had agreed to terms with 21 pre-arbitration-eligible players, including first baseman Anthony Rizzo, second baseman Darwin Barney, pitcher Travis Wood and catcher Welington Castillo.

Also agreeing to terms were pitchers Michael Bowden, Brook Raley, Chris Rusin, Alberto Cabrera, Rafael Dolis, Trey McNutt, Hector Rondon, Arodys Vizcaino and Robert Whitenack, catcher Steve Clevenger, infielders Junior Lake, Christian Villanueva, Josh Vitters and Logan Watkins as well as outfielders Brett Jackson, Dave Sappelt and Matt Szczur.

Valbuena impressive early as replacement

February, 23, 2013
2/23/13
7:00
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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TEMPE, Ariz. -- Is it a coincidence in the days after Chicago Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart injured his left quad, that his replacement has taken off? Luis Valbuena has home runs on two consecutive days -- the latest against the Los Angeles Angels in an 11-2 win to kick off the Cactus League on Saturday.

“I’d be so happy if I win that job,” he said after the game. “Happy because of the work I do all year. Winter ball and spring training, that’s what I try to do -- put everything together.”

Valbuena says he’s being aggressive at the plate, and the results are starting to show. He wasn’t supposed to play in Friday’s intra-squad affair, but after Stewart and Josh Vitters were injured the day before, he promptly hit a ball out of Hohokam Park. Then came the long one on Saturday. Third base might be his job to win while Stewart is healing.

“It’s not my decision,” Valbuena said. “I’m just competing. I do my job like I know how to do.”

Travis Wood

Cubs pitcher Travis Wood knows he’s in a numbers game to make the rotation. When all are healthy, the Cubs have seven starters for five spots. With two (Matt Garza and Scott Baker) behind in terms of health, Wood has a great chance to be there come April.

“I like it, where I’m at,” he said after throwing two innings against the Angels on Saturday. “There’s still other guys out there, and everyone is competing for the same spot. It’ll be fun the rest of camp. We’ll see what happens.”

Wood was inconsistent last season but better in the second half; that’s what he wants to build on. He started Saturday’s game surrendering a walk and a double but got the next six batters out before departing -- though not before those two runners scored.

“I hate leadoff walks, but it was nice to get back out there and get in the flow of things and game situations,” Wood said. “It was nice to go out and have a good second [inning] once I calmed down and got the first out of the way and back to business.”

He struck out two in that second inning, while the two runs he gave up came on ground outs.

Brett Jackson

The first two at-bats of the Cactus League for Jackson resulted in triples, which is not bad for a guy who is re-tooling his swing. Like Valbuena, he’s carrying over a hot bat from an intra-squad game the day before in which he had three hits. Jackson has stated he expects to start the year with the Cubs, though the team has been adamant he’ll begin in Triple-A Iowa. It remains to be seen if their minds can be changed.

Jesse Rogers covers the Cubs for ESPN 1000 and ESPNChicago.com

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jake Arrieta
WINS ERA SO IP
10 2.53 167 156
OTHER LEADERS
BAS. Castro .292
HRA. Rizzo 32
RBIA. Rizzo 78
RA. Rizzo 89
OPSA. Rizzo .913
ERAT. Wood 5.03
SOJ. Arrieta 167