Over the last two days, plenty of players in the Cubs organization excelled in Caribbean League play. Cubs newcomer Carlos Pimentel picked up a win Wednesday in the Dominican, Walter Ibarra made an impact, and Luis Valbuena contributed in a double-header. Here are some other stat lines from action around the winter leagues.
Frank Batista, RHP – Batista pitched a scoreless eighth inning for Cibaenas Wednesday, giving up no hits.
Junior Lake, LF – On Wednesday, Lake had an RBI triple and a run scored for Estrellas. On Thursday, he finished 1-for-4 with a single.
Carlos Pimentel, RHSP – Pimentel continued a solid winter run, improving to 4-0 with a dominant effort for Escogido Wednesday. He pitched six scoreless innings, striking out seven, giving up two hits and walking one. The 24-year-old signed a minor league deal with the Cubs after spending 2013 with the Rangers.
Walter Ibarra, SS – Ibarra went 1-for-3 with a double Wednesday for Mazatlan. He also added a run scored. He continued his hitting ways with an RBI double on Thursday, driving in the Venados’ only run.
Jonathan Mota, 3B – On Wednesday, Mota recorded a single in three at-bats.
Rubi Silva, CF – Silva was hitless in four at-bats for Ponce, striking out three times Wednesday.
Yoanner Negrin, RHSP – Negrin pitched 4.2 innings, giving up two earned runs on six hits and a walk Wednesday, earning the loss for Caracas. He struck out one.
Hector Rondon, RHP – Rondon had a rough inning of work, giving up two runs on three hits in a Caracas win Thursday. He had one strikeout.
Luis Valbuena, 2B – Valbuena went 1-for-4 with a single Thursday in the first game of a double-header for Lara. In Game Two, he went 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored.
(Photo by Dave Durochik)
Want to welcome in the holiday season the Cubs way? Join board member Laura Ricketts, Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins and Cubs fans to kick off the season with the annual tree-lighting ceremony under the Wrigley Field marquee Thursday night.
The 24-foot tree, which will be lit at 5:30 p.m., is decorated to incorporate Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday. In addition, the Cubs will be hosting a toy drive from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. today, with toys being donated to Lawrence Hall Youth Services. Fans can bring unwrapped gifts to the administrative entrance located on Clark Street next to the Ernie Banks statue.
Hot chocolate, cookies and a photo opportunity with Santa will also be available.
The Venezuelan league had the day off Tuesday, but Junior Lake delivered a three-hit performance for his side in the Dominican. Here are some results from yesterday’s action in the Caribbean.
Junior Lake, LF – Lake bounced back from a four-strikeout afternoon Monday to go 3-for-4 Tuesday with a double and an RBI. Estrellas fell 4-3.
Walter Ibarra, SS – Ibarra had a hit and drew a walk for Mazatlan Tuesday. The 25-year-old hit .276 in 58 games of combined Double- and Triple-A ball for the Yankees last year.
Jonathan Mota, 3B – Mota went 1-for-4 with a run scored for Ponce in a 9-3 win.
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The Cubs named former major leaguer Eric Hinske the club’s new first base coach Tuesday, rounding out new manager Rick Renteria’s 2014 coaching staff.
Hinske, 36, concluded his 12-year big league career in 2013 with Arizona. Originally selected by the Cubs in the 17th round of the 1998 draft, Hinske was the 2002 AL Rookie of the Year with the Blue Jays and made three straight World Series appearances with Boston in 2007, Tampa Bay in 2008 and the Yankees in 2009. Throughout his playing career, he had a sterling reputation as a clubhouse leader.
He was a career .249 hitter with 137 homers and 240 doubles. The former corner infielder/outfielder played 1,387 games with Toronto (2002-06), Boston (2006-07), Tampa Bay (2008), Pittsburgh (2009), the Yankees (2009), Atlanta (2010-12) and Arizona (2013).
The Venezuelan league’s one scheduled game was rained out, and the Mexican league had the day off Monday. Aside from Marcos Mateo earning his third save in four days, there weren’t many Cubs highlights in the Caribbean. But here are some notes from yesterday’s action.
Alberto Cabrera, RHP – Cabrera blew his first save of the winter, allowing one earned run on three hits in a Toros loss.
Junior Lake, OF – Lake struck out four times for Oriente.
Marcos Mateo, RHP – Mateo gave up a hit and a walk, but struck out the side to pick up his eighth save of the winter for Estrellas. He has a 0.98 ERA this offseason.
Edwin Maysonet, SS – Maysonet had a single and a walk as Santurce picked up a win.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Major League Baseball and the Chicago Cubs officially unveiled A Century of Wrigley Field: The Official History of the Friendly Confines, a retrospective book with stories and rare archival images to celebrate 100 years of Wrigley Field.
The book is available today for pre-order at Cubs.com, and 200 advance copies are on sale now at the Cubs Store on Clark and Addison, with additional copies arriving on Dec. 12. The book will have a retail price of $50.
The book features exclusive tributes from Cubs owner Tom Ricketts and an array of other celebrities including Jimmy Buffet, Chris Chelios, Mike Ditka and more.
For more information, visit the link above.
Frank Del Valle and Yoanner Negrin both pitched well in their starts over the holiday weekend, while Junior Lake and Edwin Maysonet contributed offensively for their respective teams. Here’s how the Cubs representatives fared this weekend in the Caribbean.
Alberto Cabrera, RHP – The Cubs reliever gave up an earned run in one inning pitched on Saturday. He struck out one batter.
Marcos Mateo, RHP – Mateo continues to be a reliable arm for Oriente, as he racked up his sixth and seventh saves of the winter on Friday and Saturday.
Junior Lake, LF – On Saturday, Lake went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles, a walk and a run scored for Oriente. The Cubs outfielder added two more hits on Friday.
Edwin Maysonet, SS – In Friday’s game, Maysonet had a pair of hits, including a double and a run scored, for Santurce.
Jonathan Mota, 3B – Mota was hitless in two official at-bats, but he drew a pair of walks and scored a run on Friday for Ponce.
Frank Del Valle, LHSP – Del Valle started for Margarita on Friday, going six innings, giving up two earned runs and striking out seven in a no-decision.
Yoanner Negrin, RHSP – Negrin got the start on Thursday for Caracas and picked up the win, going five innings and giving up no runs on three hits and striking out three.
Hector Rondon, RHP – Rondon pitched the eighth inning for Caracas on Friday, giving up an earned run and striking out one in the win.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The following ran in the November issue of Vine Line.
Last season, the man in the middle of the Cubs’ lineup did most of his talking with the bat. Perhaps in the grand tradition of former President Teddy Roosevelt, Cubs right fielder Nate Schierholtz simply decided to speak softly and carry a big stick.
You probably didn’t hear much about the outfielder’s breakout season in the media, and you certainly didn’t hear anything about it from Schierholtz himself. It’s not that the 29-year-old Reno, Nev., native and San Francisco resident is at all unfriendly or reticent with reporters. It’s just that before games, he was more than likely working on his craft in the batting cages. And after games, he was usually working out or getting treatment for one of the nagging little aches and pains he dealt with this year, mostly in silence.
“I just prefer to fly under the radar,” Schierholtz said late in the season. “I guess I like to lead by example more so than being a loud, vocal guy. I just try to go out there and play hard every day and help the team win. I feel like I’ve learned that over the years, and that’s how a lot of the guys were in San Francisco. It worked that way. Winning’s everything. Winning’s what makes this game fun.”
No, the Cubs didn’t win this year, but Schierholtz was one of the bright spots that may have been overshadowed by other developments. In many ways, it was a career year for the veteran, who has two world championship rings from his time with the Giants and also played for the Phillies at the end of 2012.
In 2013, Schierholtz put up a batting line of .251/.301/.470 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 21 home runs and 68 RBI. Both the home run and RBI totals represented career major league highs for the lefty. He also tied his career high in games played (137), which he first set in 2010 with the Giants, and he set new career highs in at-bats (462) and hits (116).
The key, no doubt, was that Schierholtz finally got an opportunity to play on a regular basis.
“My biggest priority last offseason was finding a team, first of all, that I fit in with and thought had a good future, but also a place where I could play more and get more consistent at-bats,” he said. “That’s something that I’ve never really had since maybe 2008 in Triple-A. I’m fortunate for the opportunity here, and I tried to do the best I could with it. I know I’ve got more to offer the team, but I was happy to get the playing time I’ve gotten.”
Schierholtz began the 2012 season with the Giants but was traded to the Phillies on July 31, just before the trade deadline expired. (The Giants won the World Series and presented the outfielder with his second championship ring.) The Phillies didn’t tender Schierholtz a contract following that season, so he signed a one-year deal with the Cubs just before Christmas.
“That was a pretty hectic week, but I had quite a few teams calling,” he said. “In the end, I sorted through everything and decided that the Cubs were probably the best fit for me to come and win a job in right field.
“I feel like I contributed to both World Series. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of the two rings I’ve gotten. Being from the Bay Area, it meant a lot. It still does. It was tough to leave at first, but I also realized I’m getting a little bit older.”
Although people may have been surprised by the outfielder’s success—as a left-handed batter, he’s gotten most of his playing time and done most of his damage against right-handed pitching—Schierholtz was not one of them.
“I haven’t been surprised by anything, to be honest with you,” he said. “I think I’ll get better over time. I feel like my body’s still young in the sense that I’ve been like a fourth outfielder the past five seasons. For me, it’s just working hard this offseason and making a couple of little adjustments. I feel I’ve learned a lot this year playing every day in the sense that I have a better idea of what I have to do to prepare for next year, both physically and mentally.”
Regardless of whether the Cubs were surprised by Schierholtz’s good season, they were more than happy to get it. In a lineup that often lacked the necessary pop, the veteran outfielder provided a solid middle-of-the-order bat.
“No question he fulfilled what a lot of us and our scouts [thought],” said former Cubs manager Dale Sveum. “We thought if he could get that many plate appearances, he’d be able to hit 15-25 home runs and do some things with the bat. He runs well. He’s played a really nice right field. He’s done probably more than what we expected, really.
“He’s that guy you dream of as a manager. You don’t have to worry about him. You don’t have to worry about him playing hard, preparing. He tries to make himself a better player every day. He’s played with some nagging stuff. Obviously, he’s picked us up and had a really, really nice year.”
But Schierholtz brought much more than offense to the table this season. He also played a solid right field, and at Wrigley, that’s no easy trick. The wind, the brick wall, the configuration of the park and the occasional 3:05 p.m. start, which leaves the right fielder looking directly into a blinding sun, have humbled their fair share of outfielders.
“There’s a lot of different factors that go into it, from the sun to the wind and the whole playing surface,” he said. “It’s a little tougher than most big league parks. It’s something you have to work on and remind yourself to grind it out to do the best you can.
“It’s definitely [difficult], only because it’s the sun field, and the wind can change from an inning or two. It can change from blowing out to blowing across. The wind, the sun—there are a few factors here that make it more difficult than most places.”
Former first base coach Dave McKay, who worked with Cubs outfielders the past two years under Sveum, lauded Schierholtz’s work in right.
“I think Nate’s done a really good job,” McKay said. “He had a couple of little nagging leg things. He’s a tough guy. He had some issues where most guys probably wouldn’t have played. There might be times where he wished he could have gotten a better jump or continued hard after something, but we’ve been real careful with him.
“He’s a real pro. He knows how the game is played. He goes over the scouting reports on guys. You watch him out there, and he knows where I am [in the dugout positioning outfielders], and he adjusts to the count. As far as his defense in the outfield, I’ve been really, really pleased.”
As a player with five-plus years of major league service, Schierholtz has one year of eligibility for salary arbitration remaining. So if the Cubs want him to remain in Chicago, he’ll be back for at least one more season.
“I look forward to coming back next year,” he said. “Beyond that, I’m not quite sure. I’ve enjoyed my time here. I have only positive things to say. Yeah, I’d like to be part of the future. I’ve said that for a while. I’ve also got things to work on to improve my game to help the team.”
Schierholtz mentioned the word “improvement” on several occasions. He has an interesting baseball résumé and a tremendous background of success. In addition to playing parts of two seasons with world championship teams, Schierholtz was a member of the bronze medal-winning U.S. Olympic baseball team at the 2008 Beijing Games, where he played with future big leaguers such as Dexter Fowler, Stephen Strasburg and Jake Arrieta. These experiences have given him a sense of what he needs to do to get better and compete at the highest levels.
But if he wants to improve and earn even more playing time next season, he needs to work on his splits. He batted .262 against right-handed pitching but just .170 in limited action (53 at-bats) against lefties in 2013. He also did most of his damage in the first half of the season, batting .269 before the All-Star break compared to .230 after it.
“The grind of the season gets to you sometimes,” he said. “I feel like the mental game’s a little tougher than it is physically. That’s just something that I’ll keep in the back of my mind for next year. It’s good to know as a player that you’re going to go through ups and downs. It’s just part of baseball.
“I worked out a lot last offseason. I learned a lot over the years as far as how to play the game. I just try to work with the coaches on the little things, making those little adjustments. I feel I got a lot done this year. There’s always more to do.”
(Photo by Stephen Green)
You don’t have to tell General Manager Jed Hoyer how difficult the Cubs’ 2013 season was. He was there for every pitch, hit and out. And no one in the organization—from the groundskeepers to the players to the men in charge—is happy with 96 losses.
But the GM also knows the organization has made a great deal of progress since he took the helm. The plan was clear from the get-go: Hire the best player development team in the business, stockpile as much high-ceiling talent as possible as quickly as possible, and develop a young, talented team that has the ability to compete year in and year out.
For the November issue, Vine Line caught up with the head man to discuss the 2013 season, improvements in the organization, changes within the club and what to look forward to in 2014. This is the final installment of a three-part conversation we had with the Cubs GM. For the entire conversation or more Cubs information, be sure to check out the November issue of Vine Line.
VL: You mentioned some of the young guys who are putting up good offensive numbers in the minor leagues. Javier Baez hit 37 home runs this year. Kris Bryant hit 31 home runs in college and continued to hit in the minor leagues. How difficult is it for you to be patient with those guys, especially when you need help at the major league level?
JH: There’s no question it’s fun to look at our minor league box scores now, and it’s great that those guys are performing. But they’re not finished products, and they need to keep developing. I always think the easiest way to remain patient is to look at the careers of other really good players and realize that being rushed, giving up all those developmental minor league at-bats [can be harmful]. You have to learn how to hit in professional baseball. You have to learn how to pitch in professional baseball. Rushing a guy through, at some point, the lack of development is going to catch up with him. We want to teach these guys how to play the right way in the minor leagues, so when they come up here, they’re as ready as possible.
VL: High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee had good postseason runs. You moved both Bryant and Dan Vogelbach up to High-A to get them some playoff action. How important is it for young players to experience high-pressure baseball and to learn to win together at the lower levels?
JH: That’s the biggest focus and what you really want. We were going to send [Albert] Almora there also before he got hurt. You want them to have that experience of bonding together, playing in a playoff environment when every run is really important, every defensive play is really important. Playoff baseball is so much more focused than the games over the course of the whole season. When a player can experience playoff baseball, I think it helps them not only in future playoff games, but also in how they prepare for regular season games in the future. I think it’s really important, and hopefully we’ll have some really good minor league teams in the next couple of years so more players can get that experience.
VL: During the two years you’ve been here, the Cubs have gone from being ranked as one of the weaker minor league systems to one of the top three, according to most experts. How difficult is it to turn a system around quickly given some of the restrictions imposed by the new collective bargaining agreement?
JH: It’s certainly more challenging than it had been. There was no question what our playbook was going to be coming in here. We were going to do exactly what we did in Boston and what I was doing in San Diego, which is really emphasizing spending on scouting and player development. You try to spend as much money on young players as possible. There’s so much more impact to your dollars when you’re spending them at that level, because if you’re successful with those players, they can give you exponential value. There was no doubt we were planning to do that, and obviously the CBA restricts us. So as I said before, within the rules that have been given to us, we’ve been as aggressive as possible, and we’ll continue to be.
VL: After losing clubhouse leaders like Alfonso Soriano and David DeJesus, do you worry that there will be a leadership void in the clubhouse, or do you feel like you have guys ready to step up and assume that role?
JH: It’s something that we’re focused on. We need to add some guys who can help teach our young players the right way to do things. No coach can do what a player can do. Player-to-player teaching, player-to-player coaching is so valuable. When you have really good veteran players who can take these guys under their wing and show these guys what they’ve done—as hard as coaches work, it’s difficult for them to have that same sort of relationship. So we know we have to add some leadership to the clubhouse, and certainly that will be a priority.
VL: If you could get one message out to the fans about where this organization is going or what to expect in the coming seasons, what would it be?
JH: From where I sit, I think we’re about to enter an incredibly exciting time for the Cubs. We have a new Spring Training home this year. We’re going to have a renovated Wrigley. The fans who follow us closely can see how much young talent we’ve added and how much we’ll continue to add. I think all of those things are going to come together at roughly the same time, and when they do come together—when that baseball plan and that business plan come together at the same time—I think we have a chance to stay on top and be a really competitive team that has a chance to go to the playoffs every year for quite a while.
That’s something Cubs fans haven’t had in a really long time is a young, talented team that is competitive every year. That’s what we’re trying to build. We feel really good about where we’re going. We’ve asked for a lot of patience. We’ll probably still ask for some more. But I think everything is going to come together really nicely at the same time, and when it does, it’s not going to be a one-year type situation where you’re putting all your eggs in one basket. I think it’s going to be the kind of thing where we can have that sustained success that everyone is looking for.