Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

Happy 48th birthday to Cubs great Greg Maddux

MadduxHOF

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Happy 48th birthday to the Cubs newest Hall of Famer, Greg Maddux. The Professor pitched 10 years on the North Side in two different stints, piling up a 133-112 record, a 3.61 ERA and picking up one Cy Young Award.

During his 23-year major league career, the right-hander amassed 355 wins, won four Cy Young Awards, went to eight All-Star games, led the NL in ERA and WHIP four times, and won 18 Gold Gloves. On Jan. 8, the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced Maddux was headed to Cooperstown, after receiving 555 votes out of a possible 571 (97.2 percent) in his first year of eligibility.

The Cubs selected Maddux in the second round of the 1984 draft, and he made his big league debut on Sept. 3, 1986, at Wrigley Field, not as a pitcher but as a pinch-runner in the 17th inning of a game that had been suspended the previous evening after 15 innings because of darkness. He stayed in to pitch the 18th, but gave up a one-out homer to Houston’s Billy Hatcher to take the loss.

He picked up his first career win four days later against the Reds at Riverfront Stadium, pitching a complete-game, 11-3 gem. Thanks to MLB Cut4, you can watch that first win here (and revel in the 20-year-old Maddux’s glorious mustache).

If you missed our tribute to Maddux in the March issue of Vine Line, you can check it out here.

Cubs stars Castro and Rizzo off to fast starts

Rizzo_Starlin

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Most of the Cubs offseason was dedicated to speculation about whether young stars Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo could bounce back from disappointing 2013 campaigns. Through the first two weeks of the season, things are looking good, as both have gotten off to fast starts. While the team’s record might not be indicative of their strong play, the Cubs’ two most important offensive names have played to the level that earned them each seven-year extensions before their 24th birthdays.

Rizzo, who has batted in the heart of the order this season, is hitting .319/.389/.489 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with a pair of home runs, two doubles and eight RBI in 54 plate appearances. Power wasn’t an issue last year, as he was fifth in the National League in extra-base hits, but his abysmal .191 batting average with runners in scoring position limited a lot of the Cubs run-scoring opportunities. This season—in, admittedly, a very small sample—he’s hitting .400 in with runners in scoring position and giving life to the offense.

“I think you try to eliminate the stress that comes in that particular situation,” said Cubs manager Rick Renteria. “The reality is the pitcher’s the one on the ropes at that time. It’s tough to hit in the big leagues. It’s not the easiest thing to do. You’ve got a guy out there on the hill who’s trying to get you out and has a mix of pitches. Then you have yourself, trying to stay within yourself, trying to do what you can do and allow the situation to dictate the type of approach you should be taking. It’s just through trial and error and experience and continuing to talk about it [that we get better].”

Castro, who is two full seasons removed from a 2011 campaign in which he led the NL in hits, looks to be regaining his old form. The 24-year-old’s .300/.327/.460 line is well above where he finished in 2013 (.245/.284/.347), and he looks to be more comfortable at the plate. The shortstop has been batting mainly second or sixth so far and seems to be comfortable in either role.

“When you talk to all the guys, they’re not worried so much about where they’re hitting in the lineup,” Renteria said. “He’s comfortable wherever we put him. The player who ends up putting himself in the position where he believes he should only be hitting in a particular spot, puts himself in trouble.”

 

 

Emilio Bonifacio is blazing hot

bonifacio

(Photo by Stephen Green)

It’s a leadoff man’s job to set the tone for the offense and get on base. Newcomer Emilio Bonifacio has taken that role to heart and started the season at a record-setting pace.

The 28-year-old became the first player in National League history to record nine hits in the first two games of a season. But he didn’t stop there. Through the first nine games, he recorded 19 hits, batted better than .450 and scored nine runs—or nearly one-third of the team’s total. The sample size is still very small, but when your leadoff man is getting on base at a .500 clip, something is going very right.

“I try to select good pitches,” Bonifacio said. “I try to swing at a strike in the zone, and I have [had] good results.”

After being released by the Royals prior to Spring Training, Bonifacio signed with the Cubs as a nonroster invitee. But after a solid preseason, the veteran played his way onto the major league squad.

His defensive versatility has made him very valuable to a platoon-oriented team. Depending on the pitcher, Bonifacio has gotten starts in both center field and at second base.

“He gives you the flexibility to be able to play so many different positions,” said Cubs manager Rick Renteria. “I could play him in probably every outfield position and any infield position from second all the way through third base. I haven’t used him at first, but I’m sure if you said, “Can you put this [first-base glove] on?” he’d go over there.”

He’s also the first true leadoff man the Cubs have had in years. In the first three series, he swiped seven bases. That speed should be a huge boost to a lineup that stole only 63 bags last season, 13th in the National League.

“It’s been really good to have that feeling, especially with a new team and being in the leadoff spot,” Bonifacio said. “That’s the job—to try to get on base. Hopefully I can keep doing it like that.”

Cubs Minor League Notebook: 4/10/14

Iowa wrapped up their series with a win, and Kane County also pulled off a victory Thursday. The bats were quiet in losses for the Smokies and D-Cubs. Here are the highlights from yesterday’s action:

Iowa Cubs (4-4)
T-2nd Place (-2.0)

Iowa defeated Nashville 5-1, and won three of four games in the series.

  • RHP Kyle Hendricks picked up the win, going 7.0 innings, giving up one earned run on five hits and a walk while striking out five.
  • SS Javier Baez (.154) went 1-for-4 with a sixth-inning, two-run homer.
  • 1B Chris Valaika (.263) went 2-for-4 with a double (2) and two RBI (3).
  • CF Matt Szczur (.233) and 2B Arismendy Alcantara (.280) recorded two hits apiece.
  • RHPs Neil Ramirez (10.80) and Blake Parker (0.00) both tossed a scoreless inning of relief.

Tennessee Smokies (2-5)
T-4th Place (-4.0)

Chattanooga scored a run in the ninth inning to beat the Smokies 1-0.

  • RHP Jake Arrieta made his second start with the Smokies as part of a major league rehab assignment, tossing 3.2 scoreless innings while fanning four. Arrieta threw 66 pitches (44 strikes), and has allowed just three hits while striking out seven in two starts (6.2 IP).
  • 1B Dustin Geiger (.280) reached base twice, going 1-for-3 with a walk.
  • RHP Dae-Eun Rhee (0-1, 3.12) suffered the loss despite allowing just one run in 4.0 innings of relief.

Daytona Cubs (1-6)
T-5th Place (-5.0)

Dunedin tallied 18 hits en route to sweeping the three-game set in Daytona, beating the Cubs 12-2.

  • LF Bijan Rademacher (.455) recorded three of Daytona’s seven hits, going 3-for-3 with a run scored and a walk.
  • DH Tim Saunders (.211) went 1-for-4 with his third RBI of the season.
  • RF Oliver Zapata (.273) went 1-for-3 with a run scored, a walk and one RBI (1).

Kane County Cougars (4-3)
T-2nd Place (-1.0)

Kane County pulled into a second place tie with a 7-5 victory over visiting Fort Wayne.

  • RHP Tyler Skulina picked up the win, pitching 5.2 innings and striking out six.
  • 2B Daniel Lockhart (.167) and SS Carlos Penalver (.259) combined to go 4-for-10 with five runs scored.
  • RF Yasiel Balaguert (.300) went 1-for-4 with a walk and a game-high three RBI (7).
  • RHP Justin Amlung (0.00) tossed 2.1 scoreless innings of relief to record his first hold of the year.
  • RHP Tyler Bremer (0.00) worked the ninth inning to convert his first save of the campaign.

Cubs Minor League Recap: 4/7/14

Christian Villanueva powered Triple-A Iowa to victory, but both Tennessee and Daytona lost one-run games Monday night. Kane County had the day off and resumes action Tuesday. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action.

Iowa Cubs (2-3)
4th Place (1.5 Games Back)

3B Christian Villanueva supported a strong start by LHP Tsuyoshi Wada with a go-ahead, three-run home run with two outs in the sixth inning to lift Iowa over visiting Nashville, 4-1.

  • RF Brett Jackson (.143) notched his first two hits of the season, including a fifth-inning triple, finishing 2-for-2 with a run scored, a walk and a stolen base.
  • LHP Wada earned his first win in his debut with the I-Cubs. His eight punchouts have him tied for fifth place in the Pacific Coast League this season.
  • RHP Blake Parker (0.00) earned the save, striking out two in a scoreless ninth. His 42 career saves are tops in the organization.

Tennessee Smokies (1-4)
5th Place (3 Games Back)

Tennessee fell at Pensacola, dropping a 3-2 decision and finishing the five-game series with a 1-4 record.

  • RHP Matt Loosen went five innings, giving up three earned runs, walking three and striking out two in the loss.
  • 1B Dustin Geiger (.278) went 2-for-4 with his second solo home run in as many days.
  • SS Jeudy Valdez (.375) went 2-for-3 including an eighth-inning double that drove in his first run of the season.
  • RHP Ryan Searle (2.08), LHP Hunter Cervenka (0.00), and RHP Tony Zych (9.00) combined for five strikeouts over three perfect innings of relief.

Daytona Cubs (1-3)
T-4th Place (2 Games Back)

Daytona surrendered an early three-run lead at home vs. Brevard County, losing 5-4 and committing three errors.

  • LHP Rob Zastryzny gave up four runs in four innings, striking out six and walking two in a no-decision.
  • LF Rock Shoulders (.200) went 2-for-4 with a run scored, a double, two RBI and two strikeouts.
  • 3B Jeimer Candelario (.286) added two hits, going 2-for-4 with a run scored, a triple and one RBI.
  • RHP Yao-Lin Wang (0-1, 0.00) suffered the loss on an unearned run that scored on a fielding error by SS Marco Hernandez in the top of the fifth inning.

 

Now Playing: The Cubs kick off the Party of the Century at Wrigley Field

Despite typical April temperatures in Chicago and a 7-2 loss to the visiting Phillies, the Cubs still managed the kick off the Party of the Century in style. Friday’s home opener began a yearlong celebration of Wrigley Field, which turns 100 years old on April 23. The gametime temperature hovered in the high 30s—and a strong wind made it feel colder than that—but that didn’t stop 38,283 fans from packing the Friendly Confines. Cubs Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg and Billy Williams were on hand to throw out the first pitch, and Ernie, Fergie and Billy sang the stretch (Sandberg was otherwise occupied with his job as Phillies manager).

Vine Line talked to Cubs players and personnel about Opening Day at Wrigley Field and celebrating the venerable stadium the Cubs have called home for 98 years. There’s no better place to be than Wrigley Field—in April or September.

Cubs Minor League Recap: 4/3/14

Vitters_ST

Josh Vitters homered for the I-Cubs Thursday. (Photo by Stephen Green)

Kane County’s offense was on full display early, capturing a win in the season opener. Iowa and Daytona both struggled to put some runs on the board while Tennessee let a five-run lead slip away in a loss. Here are some highlights from action around the minor leagues.

Iowa Cubs (0-1)
T-3rd Place (1 game back)

Iowa dropped its season opener vs. Memphis, 10-2. The Redbirds scored three first-inning runs off I-Cubs starter, Chris Rusin.

  • LHP Chris Rusin (0-1) gave up five earned over 3.2 innings, fanning two in the loss.
  • LF Josh Vitters was 2-for-4 and hit a third-inning solo home run.
  • 3B Christian Villanueva had two hits with a double and a run scored.
  • RHP Yoanner Negrin followed Rusin and spun 3.1 shutout innings, allowing one hit while striking out four.

Tennessee Smokies (0-1)
T-3rd Place (1 game back)

The Smokies had a 5-0 lead through three innings at Pensacola, but fell to the Blue Wahoos, 6-5, in their season opener.

  • RHP Dae-Eun Rhee pitched four innings, giving up two earned runs on two hits and four walks while striking out four in a no-decision.
  • 3B Kris Bryant clubbed a two-run homer in his first at-bat off RHP Mat Latos, who was on a rehab assignment. Bryant went 1-for-3 with two runs scored, the home run and one stolen base.
  • CF Zeke DeVoss went 2-for-5 with a triple and one RBI from the leadoff spot.
  • LF Rubi Silva and RF Jorge Soler each recorded a double. Soler left the game following his double due to hamstring tightness.
  • RHP Ryan Searle allowed just one run on one hit while fanning five in three innings of relief.

Daytona Cubs (0-1)
T-4th Place (1 game back)

Daytona opened its 2014 campaign with a 1-0 loss at Brevard County.

  • RHP Felix Pena had a solid outing, giving up one run on three hits while striking out three over six innings despite picking up the loss.
  • 2B Gioskar Amaya recorded Daytona’s lone multi-hit effort, going 2-for-2 with a stolen base.
  • 1B Dan Vogelbach and 3B Jeimer Candelario both went 1-for-3 with a walk.
  • RHP’s Zach Cates and Arodys Vizcaino each tossed a scoreless inning of relief.

Kane County Cougars (1-0)
T-1st Place ( — games back)

Kane County kicked off its 2014 season with an 8-4 victory at Quad Cities.

  • RHP Paul Blackburn gave up four runs over four innings, striking out three.
  • RF Yasiel Balaguert went 4-for-5 with three doubles and two RBI.
  • SS Carlos Penalver was a perfect 3-for-3 with a walk, a run scored, one RBI and two stolen bases.
  • CF Jacob Hannemann batted leadoff and went 2-for-5 with two runs scored.
  • LHP Nathan Dorris tossed two scoreless innings of relief to earn the victory.

 

1000 Words: Olt powers Cubs to first 2014 win

Olt-Blast

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty)

The Cubs helped Rick Renteria to his first win as a major league manager Thursday, behind a strong effort from veteran right-hander Jason Hammel. The new Cubs starter, who signed a one-year, $6 million deal in February, limited the Pirates to one run and two hits over 6.2 innings and struck out five.

Cubs third baseman Mike Olt, acquired last season in the Matt Garza trade with the Rangers and making his third start, hit his first major league home run in the second inning off Pirates starter Wandy Rodriguez. With a thin bullpen following last night’s marathon 16-inning loss, Pedro Strop closed the door in the ninth to preserve the 3-2 victory.

The Cubs return to Chicago tonight and open the home slate at Wrigley Field against the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday at 1:20 CST.

1000 Words: Happy Opening Day 2014!

PNC-Park

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty)

At 12:05 CST, the Cubs will kick off the season against the Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Jeff Samardzija will get his second straight Opening Day nod—and his second straight season kick-off in Pittsburgh—against Pirates lefty and 2013 Comeback Player of the Year Francisco Liriano.

Last season, Samardzija gave up only two hits in eight shutout innings to beat then-Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett, 3-1. This will also mark Rick Renteria’s first official game as a major league manager.

Happy Opening Day. Here’s to six more months of Cubs baseball.

Here’s the Cubs lineup for the opener:

1. Bonifacio CF
2. Lake LF
3. Castro SS
4. Rizzo 1B
5. Olt 3B
6. Castillo C
7. Schierholtz RF
8. Barney 2B
9. Samardzija P

1000 Words: Junior Lake turns 24

JuniorLakeswing

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs outfielder Junior Lake turns 24 years old Thursday. Though hitting just .229 this spring, the Dominican native has enjoyed a power surge, hitting four home runs and two doubles in 51 plate appearances. Most of that power has come in the past week. After enjoying a three-homer game on Sunday, the outfielder slugged another on Tuesday.

Lake played 64 games in 2013, hitting .284/.332/.428 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with six homers and 16 RBI in 254 plate appearances.

 

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