Archive for the ‘ Vine Line ’ Category

Cubs launch updated course for the annual Race to Wrigley 5K

The Chicago Cubs will host the 11th Annual Race to Wrigley Charity Run presented by ATI Physical Therapy Saturday, April 23. This year’s Race to Wrigley 5K route will feature an updated course, allowing runners to race through historic Wrigley Field. Registration for the race is open now through Friday, April 22, at 2 p.m. CDT. Participants can register at

The Race to Wrigley 5K begins at 8 a.m. Race participants will again see and experience the Lakeview neighborhood along the course route before entering the concourse through the Budweiser Bleacher Gate on Sheffield Avenue and crossing the finish line steps away from the Wrigley Field Marquee. The ballpark route will feature Wrigley Field tribute statues, newly painted murals and the opportunity to run through the Friendly Confines.

Proceeds from the race will benefit Cubs Charities, which provides increased access to sports opportunities and targets improvements in health, fitness and education for those at risk. Cubs Charities will donate proceeds from all personal fundraising to support Advocate Children’s Hospital. The top fundraising team and top overall fundraiser will receive tickets to the April 27 game against the Brewers, as well as be recognized during a pregame ceremony on the field. The first 100 fundraisers to raise a minimum of $500 will receive a Kyle Schwarber autographed baseball.

ATI Physical Therapy will provide post-race massages and lead the group in a pre-race stretch.

“We are excited to introduce an updated Race to Wrigley 5K course, which will allow participants to gain more access to the ballpark than ever before,” said Cubs Charities Vice President of Development Connie Falcone. “We look forward to continuing the tradition of our race by celebrating 11 years of promoting fitness and raising money for deserving causes in our community.”

The registration fee for the 5K fun run is $40 and the chip-timed 5K is $45. Packet pick-up will be available at local Sports Authority locations. Registrants will receive details closer to the event.

Participants will receive a Cubs performance race shirt, an ATI Physical Therapy drawstring bag and one beverage (Budweiser, Bud Light or Pepsi product) courtesy of Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi at the post-race celebration. Runners also will have the opportunity to purchase discounted tickets to the April 27 game at Wrigley Field.

Cubs invite 18 non-roster players to major league Spring Training

The Cubs have invited 18 non-roster players to major league Spring Training, which begins Feb. 19 when pitchers and catchers are invited to report in advance of their first formal workout on Feb. 20 at the club’s Under Armour Performance Center in Mesa, Arizona.

Position players are invited to report to camp Feb. 23 with the team’s first full-squad workout Feb. 24.

The following 10 pitchers have been invited to major league camp: right-handed pitchers Stephen Fife, Brandon Gomes, Jean Machi, Felix Pena, Jonathan Pettibone, Armando Rivero, Drew Rucinski and Duane Underwood, as well as left-handed pitchers Luis Cruz and Jack Leathersich.

The list also includes three infielders (Jesus Guzman, Munenori Kawasaki and Kristopher Negron); three outfielders (Albert Almora, John Andreoli and Juan Perez); and two catchers (Taylor Davis and Tim Federowicz).

Gleyber Torres ranked a top 10 shortstop talent

Torres2(Photo courtesy Myrtle Beach Pelicans)

With Javier Baez now in more of a utility role, Starlin Castro wearing a different shade of blue pinstripes, and Addison Russell settled in as the club’s regular shortstop, the organizational middle-infield morass seems to have sorted itself out. But it might pop up again in the not-too-distant future. On Wednesday, unveiled its top 10 shortstop prospects, with 2013 international signee Gleyber Torres coming in at No. 9. Here’s what they had to say:

Chicago’s logjam of talented infielders is only going to get worse when Torres is ready in a couple of years. He has solid-or-better tools across the board, and he ranked as the Class A Midwest League’s top prospect and helped Myrtle Beach win the Class A Advanced Carolina League championship last year as an 18-year-old.

The Venezuela native hit .287/.346/.376 last year between Low-A South Bend and High-A Myrtle Beach. In 487 at-bats, he recorded 24 doubles and swiped 22 bases while playing solid defense. His age likely means he’s farther away from the major leagues than many of the other players on the list, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With a majority of the Cubs’ former high-upside farmhands now at the big league level, Torres could spearhead another wave of players set to arrive in a few years.

Cubs announce 2016 Spring Training broadcast schedule

The Cubs announced their 2016 Spring Training broadcast schedule on Wednesday, and nearly every game will be available to fans via television, radio or internet radio broadcast.

The schedule features nine games televised by Cubs broadcast partners (six by Comcast SportsNet Chicago and three by WGN-TV), nine on the 670 The Score Cubs Radio Network and 21 via internet radio broadcast on There are also two games scheduled to be nationally televised on ESPN. Fans will be able to access the Cubs Webcasts on and for free by registering for a log-in account with the website.

The club’s new radio rights-holder, 670 The Score, will air its first game on March 5 when the Cubs host the Reds. Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer return as the radio voices of the Cubs. Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s first game will air on March 16 when the Cubs play at the Royals. WGN-TV has its first game on March 20 when the Cubs host the Royals. Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies return to call all Cubs TV games.

Kasper will again join Mick Gillispie, radio broadcaster for Chicago’s Double-A Tennessee affiliate, for most of the internet radio broadcasts.

All games start at 1:05 p.m. Arizona time unless otherwise noted. Chicago is one hour ahead of Arizona through Saturday, March 12 before moving to two hours ahead on Sunday, March 13.


Candelario ranks among top 10 third base prospects

Candelario_MB1(Photo courtesy Myrtle Beach Pelicans)

The 2014 season was not a great one for high-upside infielder Jeimer Candelario. But after some positive reinforcement from the front office and an altered mindset, Candelario drastically improved his performance in 2015. Among those to take notice was, which on Tuesday rated the Cubs farmhand the seventh-best third base prospect in baseball. Here’s some of what they had to say:

Signed for $500,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, Candelario more than held his own last season in his first taste of the Double-A level and then opened eyes in the Arizona Fall League, where he ranked among the league leaders in several offensive categories. The 22-year-old switch-hitter makes consistent contact from both sides of the plate, leading scouts to project him to hit for average and power. He has all the necessary tools to stick at third base, including soft hands and above-average arm strength.

In 525 plate appearances between High-A and Double-A, Candelario hit .277/.339/.431 with 49 extra-base hits. His batting average was a 54-point improvement over his 2014 numbers. The third baseman had such a productive season in 2015, he was invited to the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .329 in 89 plate appearances against some of the top prospects in all of baseball. It will be interesting to see which level Candelario starts at in 2016, but it appears he’ll stick at third base for the time being.

Cubs Happ ranked one of MLB’s top second base prospects

Happ-2(Photo courtesy Eugene Emeralds)

The Cubs have demonstrated a unique ability to find young hitting talent, even if it doesn’t come from one of the top few picks in the amateur draft. On Tuesday, unveiled its top 10 second base prospects, and recent first-round pick Ian Happ came in at No. 3 on the list. Here’s some of what MLB Pipeline had to say about the 2015 draftee:

There isn’t much that Happ can’t do offensively. A switch-hitter, he exhibits a quick stroke and good balance from both sides of the plate, and he owns deceptive strength and solid speed. Happ should post high batting averages and on-base percentages, and he has the upside of a 20-20 player.

Undrafted out of high school, Happ played all over the diamond in his three seasons at the University of Cincinnati. The ninth-overall selection in the 2015 draft played exclusively in the outfield during his time in Short-Season Eugene and Low-A South Bend, but the Cubs front office worked him primarily at second base this offseason, a position at which he feels most comfortable, according to his draft day press conference. Regardless of where he plays in the field, the 21-year-old provides a lot offensively. Though he only hit .259 in his first pro stint, he managed an .822 OPS with nine homers and 17 doubles to go along with 40 walks in 295 plate appearances.

Cubs Contreras tops among catching prospects

Contreras(Photo by Jeff Waymire)

Out with one catching prospect, in with another. A year after backstop prospect Kyle Schwarber shot up the charts—and into the major leagues—after being selected in the 2014 draft, the Cubs have another young player rising in prospect polls. According to, Cubs farmhand Willson Contreras is the top catching prospect in all of baseball, which is a quick ascent for a player largely unknown as recently as a season ago. Here’s some of what had to say:

Contreras has a good chance of sticking at catcher. Signed for $850,000 out of Venezuela as a third baseman in 2009, he moved behind the plate in 2012. Contreras is quicker and more athletic than most backstops, and he owns a strong arm and has made progress with his receiving.

The 23-year-old organizational Minor League Player of the Year led the Double-A Southern League in hitting last year with a .333 average and reached base at an impressive .413 clip. He hit eight homers and drove in 75 runs in 454 at-bats while playing solid defense behind the plate. Contreras backed up his strong 2015 campaign with a solid stint in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .283/.361/.547 in 53 at-bats, with three homers and eight doubles. Though the Cubs are mostly set at catcher for 2o15, some believe the third baseman-turned-catcher could be ready for major league action as soon as this year.

ESPN ranks Cubs as the top MLB club heading into 2016

RizzoHighFive(Photo by David Banks/Getty)

In the last week, Buster Olney and ESPN have broken down their top 10 unit rankings for major league clubs. The Cubs found themselves in the top five in five of the six lists, and were ranked the best infield in baseball. On Tuesday, the publication released its top 10 clubs heading into the season. Given the lofty spots the organization earned on previous lists, it should come as no surprise that ESPN ranked the North Siders as the best team in the game. Here’s what they had to say:

The addition of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist makes the Cubs even better and deeper, both at the plate and in the field, and they also added a reliable rotation plow horse in John Lackey. Their greatest challenge might be doing everything they can to win the National League Central over the course of the long season, because they’ve witnessed first-hand how a great team like the Pittsburgh Pirates can be reduced to a one-night-stand wild-card game and subsequently eliminated.

The Cubs are the early pick here to take another step forward this year and do something they haven’t done since 1908: win the World Series.

In 2016, the Cubs return some of the best players in baseball, including NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant and two-time All-Star Anthony Rizzo. The club will also open up the campaign expecting a full season of action out of Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler—a trio of 2015 rookies. Add defending NL Manager of the Year Joe Maddon to the mix, coupled with a 2015 NLCS run, and there are plenty reasons to expect the Cubs to be playing meaningful October baseball in 2016.

2016 Cubs Convention: Down on the Farm

The Cubs’ minor league system continues to be viewed as one of the best in baseball. The organization churned out several stars in 2015, including Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber. Who will make an impact in 2016? Hear from Director of Player Development Jaron Madison, Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod, and players Jeimer Candelario, Carl Edwards Jr., Eric Jokisch and Dan Vogelbach as they dive into the Cubs’ current farm system. This panel is hosted by Tennessee Smokies broadcaster Mick Gillispie.

Mick Gillespie kicks off the last panel of the 2016 Cubs Convention by talking about how many superstars have sat in this same Down on the Farm panel over the last few years.

McLeod talks about why he wants to stay with the Cubs even though he is often rumored to be up for GM jobs. He says he looks forward to the challenge here. He remembers what it was like when he was with the Red Sox and they won that first championship. Now he wants to be part of the greatest challenge in sports in Chicago. He talks about how rewarding it was to stand on the field with Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell after a postseason series win. He remembers drafting those guys and is impressed with their quick development since then.

Madison talks about how the makeup of a player is the separator for them in the draft and trades. Players need to have the work ethic and desire to work their way to the big leagues and also have to be up for the grind of the minor leagues. They look for guys who are mature, focused and team-oriented.

Edwards talks about the transition from a starter to a reliever. He says he took the same mentality to the mound as a reliever so the transition wasn’t that hard. He was able to just let it go and try to blow it by people as a reliever. The trick was finding his routine. That’s much easier to do as a guy who pitches every five days.

Jokisch jokes about how he was listed as an infielder during the opening ceremonies. He says he’s really had to work hard to get people’s attention because he doesn’t throw that hard. But he feels like the work the club does in the minors really prepares Cubs prospects for life in the majors—and for success in the majors.

Vogelbach, who is lauded for his plate approach, talks about how he prides himself on not striking out. His goal is to get on base and let the guy behind him drive him in. He just wants to stick to his plan and not let the pitcher take him out of that.

Next up is the question and answer session:

  • McLeod talks about the loss of Tim Wilken, who drafted most of the guys on the stage today. Wilken has moved on to Arizona. When teams have success, other teams want to poach those good employees. McLeod says if there is ever a scouting Hall of Fame, Wilken deserves to be in it.
  • McLeod talks about the advantages of picking high in the draft. It’s not just about the pick; it’s about the pool money teams get that allow them to sign more quality guys. The goal is to acquire as much young talent as possible. The more money you have available, the easier that is.
  • McLeod talks a bit about the team’s draft strategy this year. They don’t have a pick until late this year because of the Lackey and Heyward signings, plus the success they had on the field. But the process is still the same. It’s to look for quality guys with quality makeup. You don’t always need to have a high pick to find high-quality guys. He mentions selecting Dustin Pedroia in Boston.
  • McLeod and Madison talk about three under-the-radar players: Bard Markey, Chesny Young and Eddy Julio Martinez. Markey really opened some eyes this year at Myrtle Beach. He started as a reliever but got moved into the rotation because of an injury to someone else. He was so good, they could never move him back. Young has a great approach at the plate and doesn’t deviate from it. He’s a very mature hitter who really knows his strengths. Martinez is a very toosly Cuban player who they are still learning about. They’re very excited about his talent, but need to see more of him on the field.
  • McLeod talks about where Edwards will be in the long term. He says you have to balance the short term and the long term. As a team that expected to have success last year, the Cubs felt Edwards could really help them more out of the bullpen. How can you help this team now versus what the team will need in the future? They haven’t ruled out putting him back in the rotation, but there is a need in the pen now. Edwards says he’s happy in either role as long as he’s helping the team.
  • Madison talks about the Cubs’ preference for positional versatility. A lot of that came from organizational talks with Joe Maddon. It’s something he likes. They now try to challenge all the minor leaguers to try a different position. The team maps this out for the players. The goal is to make guys more useful at the major league level.
  • McLeod talks about international signings and how tricky they are. That’s mostly about volume because those players are drafted so young, generally at 16 or 17 years old. It’s hard to know what you have when players are that young. They are so far away from the major leagues. Even Gleyber Torres is still a long way away at just 19 years old this year.
  • Jokisch says “rehab is awful.” He’s never really dealt with an injury before the oblique injury he had last June. He thought he had a shot at the big leagues last year, but he spent much of the year rehabbing. He’s healthy now and ready to go, but it was bad timing last season with the injury.
  • McLeod talks about how much information is out there now. The Cubs have a research and development department. They know what they think is important, and they try to incorporate that into how they develop guys. But they shield players from some of that info because it can handicap them. Paralysis by analysis. Jokisch says he likes to have as much information as he can get. He likes to know how his stuff works and how other similar pitchers get outs. He says he looks at guys like Dallas Keuchel who have similar stuff to him. Vogelbach doesn’t dive too far into the numbers but does analyze other players’ at-bats and approach.
  • McLeod talks about the development of Arismendy Alcantara. The player had a bad setback in terms of confidence last year. He got off to a tough start and never could get out of it. He could always hit the fastball, but he lost some confidence and worried too much about offspeed stuff, so he got behind on the heater.
  • McLeod says most of the impact pitchers in the system, No. 1 types, are still in the lower levels. But they have a lot of more polished guys like Jokisch who could help out sooner.
  • Vogelbach talks about how he’s really worked to stay in shape. He came into the organization overweight. He says he could get away with that in high school. The organization told him he didn’t have a choice, so he took that to heart. He wants to do whatever he can to play. He changed his eating habits and started working out a lot more. He says it’s helped him in every aspect of his game.
  • Madison talks about some names to watch. They were lucky to have Schwarber, Bryant and Russell last year. Those are exceptional players. He also talks about Willson Contreras and how good his bat was last year. He likes Jeimer Candelario, Duane Underwood, Billy McKinney, Mark Zagunis and some younger guys—Ian Happ, Gleyber Torres, Eloy Jimenez. Then there are the young pitchers—Dylan Cease, Carson Sands, Justin Steele and Oscar de la Cruz. He thinks a lot of these guys will take a big step forward this year. They also really like 2015 draftee DJ Wilson. He’s young, athletic and has great tools.
  • Edwards jokes about his one at-bat last year against Aroldis Chapman. It was exciting but scary at the time. He didn’t swing at the first two. By the time he swung at the third, he had already heard the ball hit the mitt.
  • Jokisch says his confidence comes from preparation. He prepares like crazy. He wants to know he’s studied more than the guy he’s facing in the box. Vogelbach says he simply doesn’t like to lose. There are plenty of little games inside every big game. Every time he faces a pitcher, it’s a game between him and the pitcher. He hates to lose and is naturally a pretty confident guy. He’s not big into video because it makes him overthink things. He just wants to win each little game. If he doesn’t, he’s confident he’ll win the next one.
  • There’s a lot of talk about the development of catchers and how demanding that position is. The catchers really have to learn and listen and take their lumps. Jokisch talks about how demanding he is with his catchers. Guys like him and Hendricks are so prepared, they want their catchers to be just as prepared and know what it is they want to throw. Jokisch will tell catchers where to set up, how he likes them to set up, sequencing, etc. It’s a give and take, but catcher is the most demanding position to learn and be good at. Catchers need to be really selfless to succeed.
  • McLeod talks about Dylan Cease’s development plan. Cease had Tommy John surgery in the summer of 2014. He got back on the mound in the instructional league last year. He’s very far away, but they sky is the limit. He’s 20, throws hard and has worked really hard on his delivery. He looks like he’s playing catch at 96-97 mph. He also has a solid curve. He’s upside is tremendous, but he has a long way to go.

2016 Cubs Convention: Once a Cub, Always a Cub

Start your Sunday morning with a collection of stories by Cubs alumni. Jose Cardenal, Bobby Dernier, Lee Smith and Rick Sutcliffe all will be on hand to answer questions and tell stories of their playing days. Led by Wayne Messmer.

Although Rick Sutlcliffe was unable to attend the Sunday morning panel, the trio of Jose Cardenal, Bobby Dernier and Lee Smith kept everybody entertained with stories of their playing days, as well as some off-field tales.

Dernier was able to spend the entire 2015 season in Chicago as an ambassador for the club, where he got to enjoy the season. He got to see the new clubhouse and came away wildly impressed. When he joined the team in 1984, the team had recently moved into the now-old clubhouse, which the players felt was huge in comparison to what they were previously using. He described the original clubhouse to be about as big as Smith. Dernier firmly believes that renovations of this nature are part of the key to the Cubs signing players like Jason Heyward this offseason.

Smith had his own story about the first time he walked into Wrigley Field. After landing at the airport, he went looking for a ride, fully expecting a limo to pick him up. After settling for a cab, he was dropped off at the Friendly Confines, where he then had to find the clubhouse. Holding onto all his Cubs gear, he walked into what he thought was the locker room, only to see Cincinnati Reds–the afternoon’s opponent–getting changed into their gear. Realizing he was in the wrong spot, he marched through a crowded concourse with his equipment in tow (he admitted people probably thought he was homeless given his quantity of bags) before finding the home clubhouse. Given the size of the changing room, he still wasn’t entirely certain he was in the right spot. He eventually found his locker, which he had to share with two other teammates.

Cardenal explained that he really started enjoying the game when he got to Chicago in the early 1970s, implying that up until that time it had been more of a job. He loved playing in the outfield in front of the bleacher bums, who took a liking to his abilities. Cardenal noted that he hasn’t played in Chicago in 40 years, yet he is still loved and remembered by Cubs fans.

Dernier explained that a winning mindset can often be the difference to having success. He had won in Little League and in high school. Then he got to the majors and won a World Series with the Phillies. So when he and Gary Matthews Sr. came over in a trade to the Cubs prior to 1984, the two agreed that they weren’t going to settle for losing.

A few other notes include:

Dernier recently reminded former teammate and friend Ryne Sandberg that if it weren’t for inferior players like himself, there wouldn’t be a Hall of Fame. If all the best played each other, it wouldn’t have been as much fun.

Cardenal remembers being a member of the Phillies during the 23-22 final score at Wrigley Field. What he remembers most about that game was that he was the only player on both rosters not to get into the action.

Smith played for the Angels, where current Cubs manager Joe Maddon was a bench coach. He said even in the mid-90s, more people were coming to Maddon for advice than the team’s skipper.

Dernier was always intimidated by former Cubs GM Dallas Green, but felt that he was always liked by the big figure. Smith said Green would tell it like it is, but he genuinely cared about his guys, even when they were done playing.

Dernier said the most important move for the franchise was Tom Ricketts’ takeover in 2011. He believes it’s important for the organization to have a figure at the top, and his hiring of baseball president Theo Epstein is as good as it gets. Dernier later explained that when he talks to current players, the most important thing to do is learn how Wrigley Field plays. The former outfielder said the home-field advantage with the ballpark comes in the ability to play solid defense, which can be tricky with the wind and sun.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 10,370 other followers