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Darwin Barney looks to set MLB record

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Darwin Barney’s defense has been the talk of the team this season for the Cubs. As his consecutive games without an error streak has continued to grow, defensive records at second base have fallen at an equally quick pace, all the hands—and glove—of the 26-year-old. Franchise records were topped first, followed shortly by National League marks. But on Friday, it will be Placido Polanco’s MLB single-season mark of 141 games without an error for a second baseman with the target on its back. Barney tied the total on Thursday and will likely be in the lineup to set the new milestone.

Vine Line took a look at some of the records at the other positions around the diamond. Below is a chart mapping both consecutive errorless games in a career and in a season, according to Baseball-Almanac.com.

Deadline dealing

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s first non-waiver trade deadline as members of the Cubs passed at 3 p.m. CST Tuesday with a flurry of activity. The front office made three trades in the last 24 hours, and they waited until the last minute to complete a deal sending away the team’s biggest trade chip, Ryan Dempster. Here’s a recap of the Cubs’ moves and a summary of what they received in the deals.

Cubs send left-handed starter Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson to the Braves for right-handed pitchers Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman

What they got:

Arodys Vizcaino: Baseball America rated the right-hander the Braves’ No. 2 preseason prospect and the 40th best prospect in all of baseball. Vizcaino, who has a live arm with a fastball that touches the high 90s, was the centerpiece of the Braves 2009 deal that sent Javier Vazquez to the Yankees. He’ll miss all of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery, but should be ready to go by early next season.

2011 stats: 5-5, 3.06 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 97 IP at three minor league levels;
1-1, 4.67 ERA, 17 K, 17.1 IP for Braves

Jaye Chapman: The 25-year-old has climbed his way through the minor league ranks since he was drafted in 2006. In two seasons at Triple-A Gwinnett, the reliever has struck out more than one-fourth of the batters he’s faced, and he’s only allowed three home runs in 2012.

2012 stats: 3-6, 3.52 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, 53.2 IP at Triple-A Gwinnett

Cubs send catcher Geovany Soto to the Rangers for right-hander Jake Brigham

What they got:

Jake Brigham: A sixth-round pick in the 2006 draft, Brigham went 5-5 with a 4.28 ERA in 21 starts for Double-A Frisco this season. Baseball America rated him the seventh-best righty reliever in the Texas farm system. Last season, he went 3-1 with a 3.60 ERA in 21 appearances.

2012 stats: 5-5, 4.28 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 124.0 IP at Double-A Frisco

Cubs send right-handed pitcher Ryan Dempster to the Rangers for right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks and infielder Christian Villanueva

What they got:

Christian Villanueva: Baseball America rated Villanueva the Rangers’ eighth-best prospect prior to the season. The publication called him “an easy plus defender with soft hands and easy actions.” The 22-year-old stole 32 bases last season in Low-A and finished with a .278 batting average.

2012 stats: .285/.356/.421, 10 home runs, 59 RBI, 9 SB, 425 PA at Single-A Myrtle Beach

Kyle Hendricks: The 2011 eighth-round draft pick had a 5-8 record with 2.82 ERA in 20 starts for Single-A Myrtle Beach this season, earning him a spot on the Carolina League All-Star team. He spent last season at both Low-A Spokane and Double-A Frisco.

2012 stats: 5-8, 2.82 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 15 BB, 130.2 IP at Single-A Myrtle Beach

Anthony Rizzo has arrived

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Though the Cubs sit in the cellar of the NL Central with a 25-48 record, it would be difficult to find an uninterested person around Wrigley Field Tuesday afternoon. That’s because elite first base prospect Anthony Rizzo will make his Cubs debut tonight as they take on the Mets.

The 22-year-old fielded questions from the media before taking batting practice, where most of the eyes—and cameras—were on him.

“I’m just going to work hard every day, learn, get better, go through the ups and downs of a baseball player,” Rizzo said.

The slugger was hitting .342 with 23 homers and 62 RBI in 70 games for the Triple-A affiliate prior to his promotion.

Red Sox Nation storms into Wrigley

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For just the second time ever during the regular season and first time since 2005, the Red Sox will take to the Wrigley Field grass this weekend. The all-time regular-season series is knotted at 3-all, but the Cubs took two of three at the Friendly Confines back in 2005.

The series marks a reunion of sorts for Cubs baseball president Theo Epstein. Epstein acted as the Red Sox’s general manager from 2002-11 before taking his position with the North Siders and is largely responsible for the current makeup of Boston’s lineup. GM Jed Hoyer and senior vice president Jason McLeod also spent time over the last decade in Sox upper management.

While both squads currently sit at the bottom of their respective divisions, there’s no shortage of excitement when these historic teams get together.

Castro hits way into history

Starlin Castro had a pair of singles Monday, giving the shortstop 400 career hits in just 325 games. Among major leaguers who debuted after 1980, Castro tied Alex Rodriguez as the sixth-fastest player to reach the 400 hit plateau, behind only Ichiro Suzuki (268 games), Nomar Garciaparra (302), Kirby Puckett (310), Hanley Ramirez (317) and Wade Boggs (324). He leads all NL players with 74 multi-hit games since 2011.

Despite having just a .326 on-base percentage this season, the 22-year-old shortstop leads the Cubs in hitting (.316), RBI (25) and is tied for the lead in stolen bases (12). He also has a .333 average with runners in scoring position.

Vote for the all-time best Cubs roster

Dawson or Sosa? Sutter or Smith? Grace or Lee? Friends have waged verbal wars over questions like this for years. But now the debates can be put to rest. For the July All-Star issue, Vine Line is letting you determine the All-Time best Cubs roster. Vote for who you think the best Cubs players were, position by position, and the results will be featured in July’s issue of Vine Line.





















Minors tracker: Week one prospect report

We’re only a week into the minor league season, but some young stars already are starting to blossom. A few of the Cubs affiliates are playing better than others, but there’s no denying some individuals left Spring Training ready to go.

High-profile corner infielders Josh Vitters and Anthony Rizzo have powered Triple-A Iowa to a 5-3 start. Vitters (.458/.500/.500) has racked up 11 hits in 24 at-bats, driving in six runs. Rizzo, who the Cubs acquired from the Padres for Andrew Cashner, has been just as impressive (.387/.424/.677), smacking three home runs and driving in 10.

Welington Castillo, a backstop who narrowly missed a spot on the Cubs Opening Day roster, is hitting .357 with a 1.214 OPS in 14 at-bats.

Top prospect Brett Jackson has recorded a .276 average with four RBI.

Ace Randy Wells is 1-0 in two starts, posting a 5.25 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and seven strikeouts.

Double-A Tennessee, resting at .500 with a 4-4 record, has plenty of bright spots in both the lineup and on the bump. Shortstop Elliot Soto has a .476 OBP and is slugging .500. Michael Burgess (.333/.417/.524) has a home run and 11 total bases.

Nicholas Struck (1-1, 2.25 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 15 K, 12 IP), Dallas Beeler (1.64 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 11 IP) and Trey McNutt (0.00 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 8 K, 7.2 IP) have all been consistent members of the rotation early on.

Despite Daytona’s 1-6 record, a few individuals still have something to smile about. First-round pick Hayden Simpson has a 3.60 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP in two starts, and outfielder John Andreoli has a .429 average with a .600 OBP, drawing six walks in 20 total at-bats.

Pitching has been the key for Class-A affiliate Peoria. The Chiefs, who sit at 3-4, have gotten two solid outings each from Michael Jensen (2-0, 2.45 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 11 IP) and Patrick Francescon (0-1, 3.48 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 12 K, 10.1 IP).

Cactus Notes: Cubs reduce roster to 31 players

Mesa, Ariz. — The Cubs are closer to finalizing their Opening Day roster after sending nine players to minor league camp Thursday, trimming their ranks from 40 players to 31.

Left-handed pitchers Scott Maine and Travis Wood, righty Randy Wells, outfielder Dave Sappelt and catcher Welington Castillo have all been optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Infielders Edgar Gonzalez and Matt Tolbert, righty Blake Parker and catcher Blake Lalli—all non-roster invitees—were assigned to minor league camp.

Manager Dale Sveum announced his Opening Day rotation will consist of Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm.

Wood and Wells were in the rotation mix heading into Spring Training, but were outpitched by Volstad and Samardzija. Wood struggled in Mesa, with a 17.28 ERA in 8.1 innings, surrendering 16 earned runs and three home runs. Wells, on the other hand, didn’t give up a run in his 7.1 spring innings, surrendering just four hits.

Castillo spent much of the spring battling Steve Clevenger for the backup catcher position. Though the 23-year-old Castillo hit .324 in 37 at-bats in the preseason, including a pair of home runs, the Cubs ultimately liked Clevenger’s lefty, line-drive bat and poise.

The roster, which needs to be cut down to 25 by next Thursday, currently sits at 16 pitchers, two catchers, seven infielders and six outfielders.

Cactus Notes: Camp in, Miller out

Mesa, Ariz. — The Cubs made a pair of minor moves Monday, signing right-hander Shawn Camp and releasing lefty reliever Trever Miller.

Camp signed a minor league deal five days after being released by the Mariners. The 36-year-old posted a 4.21 ERA in 66 innings of relief for the Blue Jays last year, but was not offered arbitration despite his Type-B status. He recorded a 2.16 ERA in 8.1 innings for the Mariners this spring, striking out six.

Miller, 38, had a 5.40 ERA despite his 1.08 WHIP in 8.1 innings in Mesa for the Cubs. The former first-round pick signed a minor league deal as free agent with the squad on Jan. 30.

Cactus notes: Dempster to start Opening Day

Mesa, Ariz. — Cubs manager Dale Sveum named veteran right-hander Ryan Dempster the club’s Opening Day starter over the weekend.

The 34-year-old will start his second consecutive opener for the Cubs and fourth Opening Day start overall (Florida 2001-02) when he takes the Wrigley Field mound April 5 against Washington.

His 2011 totals of 10 wins and a 4.80 ERA are his lowest since the Cubs moved Dempster into the rotation in 2007, but Sveum ultimately picked the veteran for his consistency. The two-time All-Star fanned 191 batters last season, good for 11th in the NL. He also started a league-best 34 games and pitched 202 innings, good for top 20 in National League.

Dempster will face off against 23-year-old Nationals’ phenom Stephen Strasburg.

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