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Cubs Winter League Recap: 12/21/14

Catcher Willson Contreras and 2B Luis Valbuena both went yard for their respective teams Sunday. Here are some notes from yesterday’s action in the Caribbean:

Venezuela

  • C Willson Contreras went 1-for-4 with a three-run home run. He also struck out twice for the Tigres de Aragua in an 8-7 loss to the Aguilas del Zulia.
  • 2B Luis Valbuena went 1-for-4 with a home run and two RBI in the Cardenales de Lara’s 6-5 loss to the Navegantes del Magallanes.
  • PH-3B Johnathan Herrera went 0-2 with two strikeouts for the Navegantes.
  • LHP Joseph Ortiz earned a win for the Tiburones de La Guaira. He pitched one inning of relief, surrendering one hit and striking out one.

Mexico

  • 3B Christian Villanueva went 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout for the Yaquis de Obregon in a 6-2 win over the Tomateros de Culiacan.

Dominican Republic

  • RHP Starling Peralta gave up two hits and one run (unearned) in 0.2 innings of relief in the Estrellas de Oriente’s 5-2 win over the Toros de Este. His winter ERA still stands at 0.00.
  • LF Junior Lake went 0-for-4 for the Estrellas, but did manage a walk and scored a run. His is batting .243 in the winter league.
  • LHP Jeffry Antigua pitched 1.1 scoreless innings of relief, allowing no hits and one walk in the Toros del Este loss.

 

The Best of 2014: No. 8, Castro, Rizzo named All-Stars

140711_Cubs_096

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Every baseball season is filled with memorable moments, and this year’s Cubs campaign was no exception. Cornerstone players had bounceback seasons, newer additions stepped up, and top prospects made their big league debuts. To wrap up the year, we asked you to pick your top 10 moments of 2014. From now until the end of the year, we’ll be unveiling one moment per day.

No 10: Rizzo’s late-season walk-off homer
No 9: Hendricks makes an easy transition to the bigs

Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are named to the 2014 All-Star Game—July 10

Prior to the 2014 season, the Cubs’ biggest question mark was whether their two cornerstone players, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, could bounce back from disappointing 2013 campaigns. By midseason, Castro and Rizzo had put those fears to rest, rebounding to capture well-deserved All-Star honors, their third and first selections, respectively.

Rizzo, who was chosen via 8.8 million fan votes for the final roster spot, headed into the Midsummer Classic with 20 homers (good for third in the NL), 49 RBI and a .275/.381/.499 (AVG/OBP/SLG) slash line, while playing solid defense at first base. His .879 OPS at the break ranked 14th in the National League, and his 53 walks ranked fifth.

Castro pulled into the break with 11 homers and 26 doubles (seventh in the NL), to go with his .276/.326/.440 line. He also improved his defense, a part of his game that had been viewed as a weakness in previous seasons. At just 24 years old, Castro joined Ernie Banks and Don Kessinger to become only the third Cubs shortstop to make three All-Star Games.

The Best of 2014: No. 9, Hendricks makes an easy transition to the bigs

hendricks2014

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Every baseball season is filled with memorable moments, and this year’s Cubs campaign was no exception. Cornerstone players had bounceback seasons, newer additions stepped up, and top prospects made their big league debuts. To wrap up the year, we asked you to pick your top 10 moments of 2014. From now until the end of the year, we’ll be unveiling one moment each day.

No. 10: Rizzo’s late-season walk-off homer

No. 9: Kyle Hendricks makes six straight starts with at least 6.1 inings pitched and no more than one earned run, July 22 – Aug. 18

Among the many vaunted prospects in the Cubs system, right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks tended to get overlooked. It’s not as if people necessarily doubted the 24-year-old, whose fastball averaged merely 87.9 mph last year, but few expected him to dominate the way he did.

Hendricks’ accuracy, combined with his meticulous pregame preparation and countless hours of video work, took him to another level once he reached the major leagues in July. In 13 big league starts, the Dartmouth grad put up a 7-2 record with a 2.46 ERA, went 5.1 innings in 12 of 13 starts and gave up more than two runs in just three of those efforts.

Hendricks’ finest work of his nascent major league career came during a six-game stretch from July 22-Aug. 18, in which he surrendered no more than one run in any game and twice recorded no earned runs.

“When guys get on base, they’re saying he’s tough, he’s sneaky, he has good pitches, he commands them,” Anthony Rizzo said of Hendricks to the Chicago Tribune. “The best part is, it seems he can induce a double-play ball whenever [he wants to].”

Cubs claim C Lavarnway, OF Peterson

The Cubs claimed catcher Ryan Lavarnway off waivers from the Dodgers and outfielder Shane Peterson off waivers from the Athletics Friday afternoon. To make room on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Donn Roach and infielder Logan Watkins were designated for assignment.

The 27-year-old Lavarnway spent the previous seven seasons with the Red Sox, including 97 games in the majors between 2011-14. He was claimed off waivers by the Dodgers on Dec. 5 and designated for assignment on Dec. 10.

The 6-foot-4, 240-pound, right-handed hitting catcher is a career .201 major league hitter (56-for-279) with five home runs and 34 RBI. He saw his most extensive big league action in 2012 (46 games) and 2013, batting .299 with seven doubles, one home run and 14 RBI in 25 games for the 2013 World Series champs. In 2014, Lavarnway missed more than two months with a left wrist strain and saw action in only nine big league games. He primarily played for Triple-A Pawtucket, hitting .283 with three homers, 20 RBI and a .389 on-base percentage in 62 games.

Lavarnway was originally selected by the Red Sox in the sixth round of the 2008 Draft out of Yale University. He was named Boston’s Minor League Offensive Co-Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons in 2010-11 and combined to hit .290 (126-for-435) with 23 doubles, 32 homers, 93 RBI and a .939 OPS in 116 games between Double-A Portland and Pawtucket in 2011 to earn his first promotion to the big leagues.

Peterson, 26, batted .308 (167-for-543) with 40 doubles, 11 homers and 90 RBI with Triple-A Sacramento last season, earning Pacific Coast League midseason and postseason All-Star honors. He posted a .381 on-base percentage and a .460 slugging percentage, good for an .841 OPS. Peterson led the league in hits and doubles and ranked second with 101 runs scored. He played 83 games in center field, 42 games in left field and nine games in right field.

The 6-foot, 210-pound Peterson was originally selected by St. Louis in the second round of the 2008 Draft out of Cal State-Long Beach and was acquired by Oakland as part of the trade that sent Matt Holliday to the Cardinals. He made his major league debut with the Athletics in 2013, going 1-for-7 with an RBI in two games.

Roach, 25, was claimed off waivers from the Padres on Nov. 12. He went 1-0 with a 4.75 ERA in 16 appearances, including one start, in the majors last season, his first year in the big leagues.

Watkins, 25, batted .233 with four doubles, one home run and six RBI covering the last two seasons with the Cubs. He was originally selected in the 21st round of the 2008 Draft.

Cubs Winter League Recap: 12/18/14

Right-hander Yoanner Negrin had his finest outing of the winter Thursday, while Christian Villanueva recorded another home run for his squad. Here are some notes from yesterday’s action in the Caribbean:

Venezuela

  • RHP Yoanner Negrin had a stellar outing, giving up one run and striking out 11 over 7.2 innings to give the Leones del Caracas a 9-1 win over the Bravos de Margarita. He surrendered just four hits and walked none to pick up his third victory of the winter.
  • DH Luis Valbuena went 0-for-2 but drew a walk in the Cardenales de Lara’s 9-1 loss to the Tiburones de La Guaira.

Mexico

  • 3B Christian Villanueva hit his second home run in as many days for the Yaquis de Obregon in their loss to the Caneros de los Mochis. His fifth-inning blast marked his eighth home run of the season.

Dominican Republic

  • RHP Starling Peralta gave up no earned runs in 1.2 innings of relief as the Estrellas de Oriente fell to the Aguilas Cibaenas. He gave up three hits, fanned two and walked none in the effort.
  • RHP Frank Batista got the start in the Aguilas Cibaenas win and went three innings. He struck out five and gave up one earned run on three hits and one walk.
  • LF Junior Lake was hitless in three at-bats for the Estrellas de Oriente.
  • LHP Jeffry Antigua pitched 0.2 innings, giving up no earned runs in the Toros del Este’s loss to the Tigres del Licey.

 

Cubs and RHP Jason Motte agree to terms on a one-year deal

Motte

(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty)

The Cubs added a veteran presence—and a familiar NL Central face—to the bullpen Friday when they agreed to terms on a one-year contract with right-handed pitcher Jason Motte.

Motte, 32, is 18-13 with 54 saves, 50 holds and a 3.03 ERA (96 ER/285.0 IP) in 311 relief appearances covering all or part of six major league seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals (2008-12, 2014). He has struck out 290 batters while walking only 86 in 285.0 innings pitched and has turned in a 1.11 WHIP. Over his career, he has limited opponents to a .222 batting average, including a .217 mark by right-handed hitters and a .229 average by lefties.

In a stellar three-year span from 2010-12, Motte went 13-9 with 53 saves and a 2.43 ERA in 201 relief outings. He posted a career-best 2.24 ERA in 2010 before helping the Cardinals to the World Series championship in 2011 with a 2.25 ERA, nine saves and a career-high 18 holds in a career-best 78 relief appearances. He was on the mound to close out the decisive seventh game of the World Series, capping a postseason during which he turned in a 2.19 ERA and five saves.

Motte took over full-time closer duties in 2012 and tied for the National League lead with 42 saves, going 4-5 with a 2.75 ERA in 67 appearances. The next year he suffered a right elbow injury on March 21 that ultimately required Tommy John surgery, forcing him to miss the entire 2013 campaign. But he returned to the mound last season and went 1-0 with a 4.68 ERA in 29 major league outings.

A native of Port Huron, Michigan, Motte was originally selected by the Cardinals in the 19th round of the 2003 Draft as a catcher. He began his conversion to pitcher during the 2006 campaign and was in the big leagues by the 2008 season, posting a 0.82 ERA in 12 appearances for the Cardinals.

Motte is also the founder of the Jason Motte Foundation, whose mission is to provide comfort and care where there is a need for those affected by cancer of all kinds. His “K Cancer” campaign last season raised awareness and participation throughout Major League Baseball and beyond, and Motte was nominated for the 2014 Roberto Clemente Award, the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award and the Branch Rickey Award.

The Best of 2014: No. 10, Rizzo’s late-season walk-off homer

Rizzo_Walkoff_091514

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

Every baseball season is filled with memorable moments, and this year’s Cubs campaign was no exception. Cornerstone players had bounceback seasons, newer additions stepped up, and top prospects made their big league debuts. To wrap up the year, we asked you to pick your top 10 moments of 2014. From now until the end of the year, we’ll be unveiling one moment a day.

No. 10: Anthony Rizzo ends a scoreless game with a walk-off home run—Sept. 15 vs. Cincinnati

After sitting out nearly three weeks due to a back injury, Anthony Rizzo returned to action in mid-September and made an immediate impact.

Lower back stiffness caused the power hitter to miss 18 games, but he certainly appeared healthy when he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with the game knotted at 0-0 and launched a Pedro Villarreal pitch into the center-field bleachers for a walk-off home run.

The first baseman was greeted at home plate by his teammates, who doused him with water before piling on in celebration. While running away from the exuberant scrum, the slugger jokingly grabbed his back.

“I did it on purpose, just messing around with the guys,” Rizzo told MLB.com. “I definitely thought about [my back] the whole game. To get through the game tonight was nice.”

It was Rizzo’s third walk-off hit of the 2014 campaign, following a homer against Miami on June 6 and a single versus Tampa Bay on Aug. 10. His 32 homers in 2014 ranked second in the National League.

Cubs Winter League Recap: 12/17/14

Christian Villanueva boosted his team with an extra-inning, walk-off homer, while Ivan Pineyro picked up his first victory of the winter on Wednesday. Here are some notes from yesterday’s action around the Caribbean:

Mexico

  • 3B Christian Villanueva recorded a walk-off homer in the 10th inning to give his Yaquis de Obregon club a 5-4 win over the Caneros de los Mochis. It was his 10th home run of the season.

Dominican Republic

  • RHP Ivan Pineyro picked up his first win of the winter, pitching five scoreless innings in the Estrellas de Oriente’s win over the Tigres del Licey. Pineyro struck out six and walked none while giving up six hits in the victory.
  • LF Junior Lake finished 0-for-1 with two walks for the Estrellas.

Puerto Rico

  • 2B Javier Baez recorded a double and scored the Cangrejeros de Santurce’s lone run in a 2-1 loss to the Senadores de San Juan. He went 1-for-3 and added a walk.

Venezuela

  • DH Luis Valbuena went 1-for-4 in the Cardenales de Lara’s 6-1 loss to the Tigres de Aragua.
  • LHP Joseph Ortiz pitched 1.1 innings of scoreless relief, giving up one hit, as the Tiburones de La Guaira topped the Navegantes del Magallanes.

 

Cubs Winter League Recap: 12/16/14

Not many Cubs prospects took the field Tuesday, but Arismendy Alcantara stole the show for his squad in the Dominican Republic. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action around the Caribbean:

Dominican Republic

  • CF Arismendy Alcantara recorded three hits, including a two-run homer, as the Tigres del Licey cruised past the Leones del Escogido. He finished 3-for-4 with a walk and a run scored.
  • CF Junior Felix Arias went 0-for-2 in the Gigantes del Cibao’s win over Aguilas Cibaenas.

Mexico

  • 3B Christian Villanueva struggled to find any rhythm, going 0-for-5, despite the Yaquis de Obregon pulling out a 6-5 win over the Caneros de los Mochis.

 

Cubs announce 2015 minor league coordinators

The Cubs announced their minor league coordinators for the 2015 season on Wednesday. They are as follows:

Tim Cossins returns for his third season as the organization’s minor league field/catching coordinator following 10 years in the Miami Marlins’ farm system, including the final six as the minor league catching coordinator. He was also a manager in the Marlins’ minor league system from 2003-07. Cossins began his coaching career in 2000 and in 2001-02 was the Major League bullpen catcher for Kansas City. The former catcher played eight minor league seasons (1993-2000) in the Rangers, Yankees and Expos organizations.

Derek Johnson returns for his third year as the Cubs’ minor league pitching coordinator following 11 seasons (2002-12) at Vanderbilt University as the team’s pitching coach, including the last three as the school’s associate head coach/pitching coach. He earned National Pitching Coach of the Year honors in 2004 and National Assistant Coach of the Year honors in 2010. In 2011, he helped lead the school to its first-ever College World Series appearance. While at Vanderbilt, he helped develop six pitchers that were selected in the first round/supplemental first round of the MLB Draft, including David Price.

Anthony Iapoce begins his third season as the organization’s special assistant to the GM and player development, overseeing the minor league hitting program while contributing to additional projects within the organization. Iapoce spent the 2010-12 seasons as roving hitting coordinator for Toronto and served as the hitting coach for the Marlins’ Single-A Jupiter affiliate for two seasons (2008-09). A former outfielder, he played 11 minor league seasons in the Brewers and Marlins organizations, as well as in independent ball, after being selected by Milwaukee in the 33rd round of the 1994 draft.

Jose Flores returns for his third season as minor league infield coordinator and his 15th year as a coach or manager. Flores spent two seasons as manager of Puerto Rico’s national team (2011-12) and was a bench coach for the Ponce Leones in Puerto Rico’s baseball league (2010). He handled similar duties for the Gaguas Criollos baseball club in 2008, the same year he managed the Cleveland Indians’ Dominican Summer League team. After playing six seasons in Houston’s minor league system (1990-95), he began his coaching career in the Puerto Rico Winter League (2001-06).

Dave Keller enters his 30th season as a minor league coach or manager, his 12th year in the Cubs organization and his first as minor league Latin America field coordinator. He managed Single-A Daytona in 2013-14 and led the club to the 2013 Florida State League title after serving as Iowa’s hitting coach in 2012. In 2011, he was the Cubs’ major league staff assistant after seven years (2004-10) as the organization’s minor league hitting coordinator. Keller was a major league staff assistant and bullpen catcher for Cleveland from 2001-03 following two years as the organization’s minor league hitting coordinator. He managed in the minor leagues in the Cincinnati (1987-89), Cleveland (1990-94) and White Sox (1996) organizations, and was named the 1993 Carolina League Manager of the Year with Single-A Kinston. The former first baseman also played in the Reds organization for three seasons (1982-84).

Mike Mason begins his second season as assistant pitching coordinator after spending the previous six years as Triple-A Iowa’s pitching coach. He has 23 years of coaching experience following a seven-year big league playing career with Texas (1982-87), the Cubs (1987) and Minnesota (1988). Prior to joining the Cubs, he served as Kansas City’s minor league pitching coordinator (2004-07) and also handled interim pitching coach duties at the major league level in 2004. Mason served as pitching coach for Philadelphia’s Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre club in 2002-03 after serving as Kansas City’s minor league pitching instructor the previous two seasons (2000-01). He began his coaching career in Kansas City’s minor league system from 1991-99.

Tom Beyers returns for his 16th season with the Cubs organization and his first as the minor league assistant hitting coordinator, following two seasons as Single-A Kane County’s hitting coach. He was the Short-Season hitting coordinator in 2012 following one season as the minor league hitting coordinator in 2011. Beyers joined the Cubs in 2000 and was a minor league manager or coach for 11 seasons, including manager of Single-A Boise in 2004, a season in which he led the club to the Northwest League title and earned league Manager of the Year honors. A former outfielder, he spent his first 21 seasons in professional baseball with the Dodgers as a player, coach or manager after being selected by Los Angeles in the 15th round of the 1979 Draft.

Rey Fuentes begins his third season with the organization and his first as Latin coordinator, mental skills program, following two years as cultural programs coordinator. In this role, he oversees all educational classes and mental skills programs for the Cubs’ Latin American players. Prior to joining the Cubs, he coached and taught physical education in the Orlando area. Fuentes graduated from Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida, in 2002 with a degree in Exceptional Student Education.

Darnell McDonald begins his first season as the organization’s mental skills program coordinator and will work with players throughout all levels of the farm system. McDonald served as a Cubs baseball operations assistant in 2014 following his retirement in April after 16 professional seasons. He was selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 1997 Draft and played for the Cubs in 2013.

Doug Jarrow begins his eighth season as Chicago’s minor league strength and conditioning coordinator. He previously spent five years in the Dodgers organization, including 2003-05 as the minor league strength and conditioning coordinator and 2006-07 as the Major League strength coach. Jarrow began his career as a minor league strength and conditioning coach with Tampa Bay in 1998 and Pittsburgh in 1999.

Nick Frangella begins his 12th season with the organization and his second as head minor league athletic training and performance coordinator. He spent the previous two seasons as Triple-A Iowa’s athletic trainer.

Chuck Baughman enters his 15th year with the Cubs organization and his second season as assistant athletic training coordinator. He spent the previous eight seasons as a rehabilitation coordinator and joined the organization as Short-Season Boise’s athletic trainer in 2001. His career in professional baseball began in 1999 when he was the athletic trainer for Single-A Clinton in Cincinnati’s system.

Rick Tronerud returns for his 20th year with the Cubs and his second as minor league rehab pitching coordinator. He spent the previous 13 seasons with Rookie League Mesa, serving as the club’s rehab pitching coach. Tronerud joined the organization in 1996 as the pitching coach at Rookie-League Fort Myers after pitching (1972-81) and coaching (1982-89) in Oakland’s farm system.

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