Chicago Cubs: Seattle Mariners
Wolf knows him now.
Baez belted a 2-2 pitch deep into the left-field grass, just missing the scoreboard in the process. It was hit well more than 400 foot and brought teammates -- and opponents -- to their feet.
"I've never seen anything like him,” Cubs first baseman Mike Olt said. “But I'm used to it by now. He's in my batting practice group every day.”
It was Baez’s third home run of the spring, tying him for the team lead with Olt, who homered twice in the game.
Baez’s bat speed often is compared to former slugger Gary Sheffield. Wolf understands the comparison.
“The distance on the home run was comparable,” he deadpanned.
Despite Baez's success this spring, he's still slated to start the year at Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs haven’t wavered from that plan.
McDonald’s outing: James McDonald was happy to just get back to competing, even though his stat line wasn’t impressive on Wednesday. McDonald walked five and hit a batter in 2 2/3 innings while giving up two runs.
“It’s not always going to be 1-2-3, 1-2-3,” he said after his night was done. “That’s what you eventually want. One thing I can control is my effort and the way I competed.”
At this point McDonald is probably a long shot to make the starting rotation if Jake Arrieta isn’t ready by Opening Day.
Russell pitches: Lefty reliever James Russell made his spring debut after a bout of dead arm to open camp. He admits it could be tied to his heavy workload in the past, but he’s feeling fine after throwing an inning on Wednesday. He did give up a home run to left-handed hitter Brad Miller.
“The arm is good,” Russell said. “One mistake. Made some good pitches. Felt great.”
Renteria replay challenge: The Cubs’ Ryan Kalish was called out on a close play at first base in the fourth inning, so Cubs manager Rick Renteria asked for a video replay, his first of the spring. The ruling was upheld. But replays showed the umpires still might have got the call wrong.
Day off: The Cubs have their lone day off of the spring on Thursday, and Renteria is asking his team to get away from baseball for a day.
“I probably shouldn’t have to say it, but some of those guys are going to want to be around it,” he said. “We’re pushing them a lot. They need a break.”
Renteria will probably report to work himself, because pitchers Jason Hammel and Eric Jokisch will pitch against Cubs minor leaguers to stay on schedule.
“Something that involves animals. Try to go to the zoo. I think I’ll go to the aquarium. Just walk around. I’m a big people watcher.” -- Cubs pitcher Carlos Villanueva on what he’ll do on his day off.
Special to ESPNChicago.com
Soriano, who smashed a two-run, 11th-inning homer to help the Chicago Cubs to a 5-3 win over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday, is now 5-for-9 with four RBIs since occupying the DH spot on Friday. He's expected to stay there for the remaining four games of Chicago's nine-game road swing.
It helps that Soriano can take reps in the cage in between at-bats instead of playing defense. That keeps him from standing in the outfield for the entire game.
"With my age, sometimes it's not comfortable to be in left field for nine innings," the 37-year-old said.
Soriano came into this weekend's series hitting just .195 in June, but if the past two games are any indication, he just might have his mojo back at the plate.
"You can count on it happening," Saturday's starter Jeff Samardzija said. "He's been swinging well in batting practice, so a lot of times it's just timing that makes a difference, especially with a veteran guy like him."
Of course, if Soriano continues his hot hitting, trade rumors will surely start swirling again -- especially for an American League team looking for a DH, now that it appears Soriano can thrive in that spot.
But the vet says he isn't expecting anything on that front.
"The last couple of years, there always have been trade rumors and nothing happens," Soriano said, adding that he hasn't spoken with Cubs president Theo Epstein. "I just want to focus on the day-by-day and see what happens."
Special to ESPNChicago.com
SEATTLE -- Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Cubs’ 5-3 win in 11 innings over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday afternoon at Safeco Field.
How it happened: The Cubs were on the verge of blowing yet another game Saturday in Seattle. But then Alfonso Soriano came to the rescue.
Hitting in the DH spot, the 37-year-old veteran crushed an 11th-inning, two-run homer to help the Cubs escape with a 5-3 win.
Before that, though, the Chicago bullpen blew its 16th game in 32 chances. Just one day after squandering a three-run lead on Friday, closer Kevin Gregg -- who came in a perfect 12-for-12 on save opportunities -- gave up a two-out single to Endy Chavez in the ninth that tied the game at three apiece.
But it was Soriano’s blast that helped save Chicago from another heartbreaking loss.
What it means: Soriano’s homer covered up another disappointing effort from the Cubs bullpen. Chicago reliever James Russell, who suffered a blown save in Friday’s loss, ran into trouble again in the eighth inning while trying to protect a one-run lead. He allowed a one-out single, but then pinch runner Jason Bay was caught stealing. Moments later, Raul Ibanez smacked a two-out double to left field. Seattle first baseman Justin Smoak followed up with a grounder to left field, but Brian Bogusevic made a great throw to nail Ibanez at home to end the inning.
It seemed like the Cubs would squeeze out with the win, but then Gregg surprisingly blew the lead for the first time all season.
Soriano had another good day at the DH spot, finishing 3-for-5 with a single, double, homer and three RBI. He went 2-for-4 with a home run on Friday. Soriano has been taking swings in the cage between at-bats, which is one advantage of not having to play in the field as a DH during interleague play.
Outside the box: The Cubs got another good start from Jeff Samardzija, who gave up two runs on six hits in seven innings of work in his first career start against Seattle. Samardzija is pitching well away from Wrigley Field as of late, allowing five runs in his past 31⅔ innings of work on the road.
Blake Parker retired the side in the 11th to pick up his first career save.
Center fielder Ryan Sweeney left the game after hitting the wall while making a catch in the third. The team called it “left rib soreness.” Julio Borbon replaced him.
The Cubs have homered in a season-high nine straight games. Chicago also scored first for the seventh time in their past eight games after Starlin Castro lifted a solo shot to center field in the first inning. Second baseman Darwin Barney had a Web Gem-like play in the fifth inning, sliding to his right and throwing out Chavez from his knees. Barney, a reigning NL Gold Glove Award winner, is riding a 67-game errorless streak at second base dating back to Sept. 30 of last season.
Up next: Edwin Jackson (3-10, 5.84 ERA) will face Jeremy Bonderman (1-1, 3.30 ERA) in the final tilt of this three-game series in Seattle at 3:10 p.m. CT.
The Good: Volstad gave the Cubs their second straight three-inning shutout performance by a starter after Jeff Samardzija's performance on Wednesday. Kerry Wood threw a shutout inning in his first Cactus League outing of the spring. Alfonso Soriano went deep for the third time in four at-bats over the past two games.The Bad: Carlos Marmol gave up four runs in the fourth inning, including Dustin Ackley‘s three-run home run. Marmol has worked his fastball back up to 94 MPH. He served up a hanging slider to Ackley. ”I am just worried about my fastball and throwing strikes right now," Marmol said. Manager Dale Sveum stated before Thursday's game that he would try to be careful with Marmol and Wood this season."When you get those guys up you need to get them in," Sveum said.
Up Next: The North Siders travel to Glendale to play the White Sox in the first of two games the Chicago clubs play against each other this spring. Ryan Dempster pitches against Chris Sale at Camelback Ranch.
Let's take a look at your Cubs season in review:
RotationWhat went right: Carlos Silva was the surprise of the National League in the first half, winning 10 games by the All-Star break while keeping the team afloat along with the usually reliable Ryan Dempster. Carlos Zambrano's return to ace form in the second half gives the feeling of some optimism for the rotation in 2011.
BullpenWhat went right:Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall emerged as two of the best relievers in the National League. Marmol set a major league record with an average of almost 16 strikeouts per nine innings pitched and was as dominant a closer as there was in the game. Marshall again proved to be the Cubs' most versatile pitcher in the bullpen and Piniella and Quade used Marshall in many different roles. Marshall finally settled into the primary setup man role for Marmol. Other nice stories included the coming of age of Andrew Cashner and James Russell, both of whom will be counted on in 2011 as integral parts of the Cubs bullpen. Cashner started to develop a good breaking ball to go along with his 98-100 mph fastball. Russell was finally used properly under Quade as he flourished facing mostly left-handers in the second half.
What went wrong: The bullpen imploded early and often as the plan to use three rookies and the inexperienced Samardzija caused the team to blow more games early on than any team in baseball. Veteran reliever John Grabow had his worst season protecting an injured knee which finally gave out on him in mid-summer.
CatchersWhat went right: Geovany Soto's re-commitment to becoming the type of player he was in 2008 when he won NL Rookie of the Year was a good story for the Cubs. Soto's defense wavered from time to time, but overall it was a positive return for the 2008 All-Star. Koyie Hill continued to be a positive backup for the Cubs.
What went wrong: Soto's season was cut short by shoulder surgery. However a positive out of that is that the Cubs were able to look at Wellington Castillo, who can be projected as a major league catcher in the future.
InfieldWhat went right: The Starlin Castro era began at shortstop on May 7 with the rookie setting a major league record with 6 RBIs in his first game. Although Castro struggled defensively at times, his arm and range suggest that he will be one of the star shortstops in the majors for the next 10 years. Blake DeWitt, acquired in the Theriot trade, proved to be a solid if not spectacular player at second base, and he showed that he fit well in the clubhouse. Ramirez's return to form in the second half was a key to the Cubs' run production as he led the team with 25 home runs and 83 RBIs. Xavier Nady proved to be a more than efficient first baseman after Derrek Lee was traded, although his power stroke never returned.
What went wrong: The sad tale of the infield centers around Ramirez's and Lee's awful first half slumps which killed any semblance of the Cubs' ability to score runs. Ryan Theriot's bulked-up body took away the bat speed that created a once-prolific singles machine. Defensively, Ramirez was well below average as he looked like a player that had never played the game during the first eight weeks of the season. A thumb injury in the middle of the summer only made things worse for the former All-Star. Lee's dreadful season eventually led to him getting traded to the Atlanta Braves.
OutfieldWhat went right: General manager Jim Hendry's signing of Marlon Byrd proved to be one of the best moves any team made in the offseason. Byrd was the Cubs' lone all-star, hustling his way to a near-.300 batting average. The Cubs' Energizer Bunny made only three errors in the outfield and should be in strong consideration for a Gold Glove. A lack of run production by Byrd can only be blamed on the failure of Ramirez, Lee and Theriot to do their jobs. The emergence of Tyler Colvin has some Cubs fans excited about his future. Colvin somehow was able to hit 20 home runs while rotating in the outfield with Kosuke Fukudome, Alfonso Soriano, Byrd and Nady. Colvin's year was cut short due to the freak accident that occurred when Castillo's shattered bat pierced Colvin in the chest causing a collapsed lung.
What went wrong: The same story that has occurred for the Cubs over the past four years: a general lack of run production. Fukudome had his usual downturn in mid-summer. Soriano's lack of a hot streak made the Cubs outfield one of the least productive in the league. Not a lot of home runs from this group even with Soriano's 24 and Colvin's 20.
What went wrong: Surprisingly, even a veteran manager like Piniella was affected by his lame duck status. Players began griping about Piniella by mid-May, complaining about his unorganized way of handling players' days off and posting the lineups late. Piniella's decision to announce his retirement before he was ready to step down proved to be a mistake. Family issues with the death of his uncle and the illness of his mother only conviluted an already bad situation. In defense of Pineilla, a lot of the players who were griping were the same ones who were failing to live up to their contracts.
Front officeWhat went right: Hendry's signing of Byrd and the trade of Milton Bradley to the Seattle Mariners for Silva changed the entire mood of the clubhouse. Hendry's farm system has produced two Rookie of the Year candidates in Castro and Colvin. Set-up man Cashner may also be a star of the future in the back of the bullpen. For the first time in decades, the Cubs' farm system is sending viable young players to the big leagues. Hendry's best move may prove to have been selecting Quade as Piniella's replacement. The team under Quade rejuvenated a lost season, giving both players and fans a realistic good feeling about a turnaround in 2011.
What went wrong: From January on, Hendry was hamstrung by a payroll that had been maxed out since December of 2008. Hendry's attempts to sign free-agent relievers Matt Capps and Chan Ho Park failed because of a lack of money available. Attempts to trade for San Diego Padres reliever Luke Gregerson and the Toronto Blue Jays' Jason Frasier never materialized. Free-agent setup man Grabow failed in his role.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella said before Sunday's game against the Seattle Mariners that his first baseman and primary run producer fouled a pitch off his foot in a game about a week ago and then again during subsequent batting practice. Piniella said Lee's foot is still bothering him, so he gave him the day off.
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On Sunday, Bradley cut off an attempt for an interview by three Chicago writers by saying "no chance" and "beat it." He told the writers "you ran me out of town. ... Peace."
Sunday's rest defused a potentially touchy reunion with the Cubs, for whom the 31-year-old former All-Star began a tumultuous 2009 in the cleanup spot. He lasted just 19 games in that place with Chicago, batting .179 with just two home runs and five RBIs at cleanup. He hit just .257 overall with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs before getting suspended by the team for a run-in with his hitting coach. He later said the team and city mistreated him.
That prompted a response earlier in spring training from Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, who said: "I think it's time maybe Milton looked himself in the mirror. He just didn't swing the bat. He didn't get the job done. It's really unfortunate that you ... try to use the other areas for excuses."
Hendry said signing Bradley to a three-year, $30 million contract before last season was "a mistake." He added the atmosphere of the entire organization has improved since the outfielder was traded to Seattle for pitcher Carlos Silva in December.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella asked about Bradley before the game.
"How's Milton doing? Tell him I said hi," Piniella said.
"He got off to a little bit of a rocky start with the bat. He's certainly very capable of being a productive fourth hitter. He's over there in Seattle, and we wish him well."
Piniella said he didn't think the media "ran" Bradley out of Chicago.
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Bradley has no use for what anyone thinks. He claims his own place in the game.
"If I was a musician, I'd be Kanye West. If I was in the NBA, I'd be Ron Artest," the 31-year-old former Expo, Indian, Dodger, Athletic, Padre, Ranger and Cub said this week. "In baseball, they've got Milton Bradley. I'm that guy. You need people like me, so you can point your finger and go, 'There goes the bad guy."
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With one out in the third inning, Bradley was called out on strikes by home plate umpire Dan Bellino. Bradley dropped his bat and started to take off his batting gloves and then was tossed from the game by Bellino.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu claimed Bradley mistakenly thought his strikeout was the third out of the inning.
"I didn't understand it either,'' Wakamatsu told the Seattle Times. "And in all fairness to Milton, I think he thought it was three outs. He started taking his gloves off, his bat dropped and then he picked up his bat and walked off. And that's what I told the umpire. I didn't think that was called for, that I thought it was an overeaction on his [the umpire's] part.
"He said he [Bradley] couldn't do that. And I said 'Do what?' But like I said, I told him to go back at the end, look at his actions and tell me if he didn't think [Bradley] thought it was three outs right there. So, I just didn't think it was called for.''
Bradley forgot the outs after catching a fly ball against the Minnesota Twins last season when he was with the Chicago Cubs. He caught a fly ball off the bat of Joe Mauer for the second out of the inning and tossed the ball into the stands, allowing a runner to score from third base.
Bradley said that Chicago's expectations of 30 home runs from him was unrealistic.
"Just no communication," Bradley told the Times, referring to his Cubs tenure. "I never hit more than 22 homers in my career, and all of a sudden I get to Chicago and they expect me to hit 30. It doesn't make sense. History tells you I'm not going to hit that many. Just a lot of things that try to make me a player I'm not."
Piniella said on Thursday that the Cubs really didn't have those type of expectations for Bradley.
"We expected him to bat fifth in our lineup," Piniella said. "Milton did get off to a struggling start for us in 2009, but that was last year. We wish him well and we hope [Carlos] Silva does well here."
Bradley was traded to Seattle for Silva this winter. The former Cub hit .257 with 12 home runs and 40 runs batted in before being suspended for the rest of the season in Sept. 20 for conduct detrimental to the organization.
In an interview with The New York Times, Bradley -- who was dealt in the offseason to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Carlos Silva -- pointed to his career record to show what happened in Chicago.
"Two years ago, I played, and I was good," Bradley told The Times. "I go to Chicago, not good. I've been good my whole career. So, obviously, it was something with Chicago, not me."
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"In the past I've always just wanted to win,'' Bradley told the Seattle Times. "I didn't care whether I liked it or not. As long as I was winning because that's all it's about for me. But at this point in my career, I want to enjoy it. I want to have fun. I've been fortunate enough to have played on a lot of teams, met a lot of guys. So, I've built some lasting relationships and that's definitely something I take to heart.''