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Cubs promote RHP Soriano from Iowa; DFA RHP Jackson

(Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

The Chicago Cubs have selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Rafael Soriano from Triple-A Iowa. Right-handed pitcher Edwin Jackson has been designated for assignment.

Soriano, who will wear uniform number 29, will be available for the Cubs Monday when they begin their four-game series in Cincinnati.

The 35-year-old Soriano is 22-28 with 207 saves and a 2.85 ERA (200 ER/630.2 IP) in 585 big league appearances—all but eight in relief—covering 13 seasons with Seattle (2002-06), Atlanta (2007-09), Tampa Bay (2010), the New York Yankees (2011-12) and Washington (2013-14). Across the last three seasons, Soriano has combined to record 117 saves, an average of 39 per season, with a 9-5 record and 2.84 ERA (62 ER/196.1 IP) in 201 relief outings.

Soriano signed a minor league contract with the Cubs on June 9 and tossed seven scoreless appearances between Double-A Tennessee and Iowa. He struck out seven in 7.0 innings while limiting opponents to a .174 batting average.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound right-hander primarily served as a set-up man the first seven seasons of his major league career before saving 27 games for the Braves in 2009 and recording a career-high 45 saves for Joe Maddon’s Rays in 2010, his first of three seasons with more than 40 saves. He joined the Yankees in 2011 and recorded 23 holds as a set-up man to Mariano Rivera that season and saved 42 games for the Yankees in 2012. He notched 43 saves in 2013 and 32 saves last year with the Nationals.

Soriano went 4-1 with 32 saves and a 3.19 ERA (22 ER/62.0 IP) in 64 relief appearances for the Nationals last season. He has turned in a 3.19 ERA or lower in 10 of his 13 seasons. Soriano is a native of San Jose, Dominican Republic.

Jackson, 31, went 16-34 with a 5.37 ERA (207 ER/347.0 IP) in 82 appearances, including 58 starts, with the Cubs since joining the club on a four-year deal prior to the 2013 campaign. He was 2-1 with a 3.19 ERA (11 ER/31.0 IP) in 23 relief appearances for the Cubs this season.

Cubs Minor League Recap: 7/19/15

Iowa and Myrtle Beach continued winning streaks through the weekend, but all the other affiliates were on the losing end Sunday. Here are some notes from yesterday’s minor league action:

Iowa Cubs (51-43)
Pacific Coast League (Triple-A)
T-Second Place (-9.0)

Iowa swept the four-game series, besting Memphis, 4-2. The I-Cubs have won five straight contests.

  • RHP Carlos Pimentel (3.14) fanned four and gave up two earned runs in 6.0 innings to pick up the win.
  • 1B Christian Villanueva (.273) went 2-for-3 and blasted a three-run homer (12) while marking his fourth straight multi-hit game (8-for-15/.533). He has hit three homers and plated nine runs in that stretch.
  • RF Rubi Silva (.274) homered in his second consecutive game, going 1-for-3 with an RBI (34) and one run scored.
  • LF Junior Lake (.321) went 2-for-4 and scored once, extending his hitting streak to 10 games (16-for-35/.457).
  • SS Jonathan Mota (.252) went 2-for-4, marking his 14th multi-hit game of the season.

Tennessee Smokies (8-14)
Southern League (Double-A)
Third Place (-9.0)

Tennessee dropped its sixth straight game, falling to Montgomery in the series finale, 12-3. The Smokies were swept for the first time this season.

  • 2B Sutton Whiting (.438) went 2-for-4 and picked up his first RBI with the Smokies.
  • 1B Wes Darvill (.181) finished 2-for-3, drew a walk and scored once. It marked his second consecutive multi-hit game.
  • DH Varonex Cuevas (.240) went 1-for-4 and plated one run.
  • RF Bijan Rademacher (.256) recorded a triple, walked once and scored once, finishing the day 1-for-3.
  • C Willson Contreras (.317) went 2-for-4, marking his 25th multi-hit game of the campaign.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (13-11)
Carolina League (High-A)
Second Place (-1.5)

Myrtle Beach won its sixth straight game, blanking Salem in the series-opener, 4-0.

  • RHP Paul Blackburn (4.02) struck out five in 4.2 innings and gave up no earned runs in the no-decision.
  • LF Pin-Chieh Chen (.266) went 2-for-3, plated one (17), drew a walk and swiped a base (12). He has recorded a hit in his last seven contests (8-for-27/.296).
  • SS Chesny Young (.348) went 2-for-5 with an RBI (22) and one run scored. He extended his hitting streak to eight games (16-for-32/.500) with 11 runs scored in that stretch. He has reached base in a league-record 38 straight games.
  • 1B Jacob Rogers (.257) went 1-for-4 and plated two runs. He leads the team with 61 RBI.

South Bend Cubs (13-11)
Midwest League (Low-A)
Fourth Place (-2.5)

South Bend’s three-game winning streak was snapped by West Michigan, as the SB-Cubs fell in the series opener, 10-5.

  • CF Rashad Crawford (.286) went 2-for-4, blasted a home run (2) and a triple (3), plated a season-high four runs (37) and scored twice. He has compiled 10 RBI in the last four games.
  • RF Jeffrey Baez (.224) went 2-for-5 and plated one run (19). It extended his hitting streak to eight games (16-for-32/.500) with 11 RBI in that stretch.
  • C Erick Castillo (.294) went 3-for-4 with two doubles (4) and two runs scored.
  • SS Gleyber Torres (.316) went 2-for-5 and knocked a double (18), extending his hitting streak to six games (12-for-27/.444), including four straight multi-hit games.

Eugene Emeralds (16-15)
Northwest League (Short-Season A)
Third Place (-2.0)

Eugene surrendered a season-high 16 runs to Vancouver, 10 of which came in the first inning. The Emeralds fell to the Canadians, 16-5.

  • CF Ian Happ (.283) went 2-for-4 with a double (8), an RBI (11), a walk and two runs scored. He has knocked a double in five consecutive games, going 9-for-20 (.450) in that stretch.
  • DH Eloy Jimenez (.303) went 2-for-5, hit a double (2) and scored once.
  • C Tyler Alamo (.321) went 2-for-4 and plated one (7).
  • 1B Matt Rose (.243) went 1-for-4 with a RBI double that plated three runs (20).

Mesa Cubs (12-10)
Arizona Rookie League
Second Place (-1.5)

The Mesa Cubs were blanked by the AZL Dodgers, 3-0. They recorded seven hits in the setback.

  • 2B Carlos Sepulveda (.217) went 2-for-3 and drew a walk.
  • 1B Jose Paniagua (.290) went 2-for-4, extending his hitting streak to five games (7-for-19/.368).
  • RHP James Norwood (3.60) tossed 4.0 hitless innings and fanned a season-high six batters.

Cubs recall Kyle Schwarber; place Miguel Montero on 15-day DL

Schwarber_GettyImages-477647284The Cubs today placed catcher Miguel Montero on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to July 12) with a sprained left thumb and recalled catcher Kyle Schwarber from Triple-A Iowa. Schwarber will be available for the Cubs tonight against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.

The 22-year-old Schwarber returns for his second stint with the Cubs this season. He batted .364 (8-for-22) with a triple, home run and six RBI during a six-game run from June 16-21. He made his big league debut as a defensive replacement on June 16 vs. Cleveland and made his first start on June 17 in Cleveland, going 4-for-5 with a triple, an RBI and three runs scored as the designated hitter. He recorded his first big league home run the next night in Cleveland.

Following his big league stint, Schwarber was optioned to Iowa for his first stop at Triple-A and batted .333 (20-for-60) with seven doubles, three homers, 10 RBI and seven walks in 17 games. On Sunday in Cincinnati, Schwarber was named Most Valuable Player of the Futures Game after going 1-for-3 with a two-run triple as the starting catcher and three-hole hitter for the U.S. Team in their 10-1 victory vs. the World Team.

Schwarber was selected by the Cubs in the first round of the 2014 Draft (fourth overall) and has batted .333 with 35 doubles, 34 homers, 102 RBI, 88 walks and a 1.042 OPS in 147 minor league games. He began the season ranked the fourth-best prospect in the organization by Baseball America and was recently ranked the 15th-best prospect in all of baseball by

The left-handed hitting Schwarber began the 2015 season with Tennessee, where he batted .320 with 10 doubles, one triple, 13 home runs and 39 RBI in 58 games to earn Southern League All-Star honors. He turned in a .438 on-base percentage and a .579 slugging percentage, good for a 1.017 OPS, prior to his June 16 call-up to the majors.

Schwarber was drafted by the Cubs out of Indiana University, where he was a two-time First-Team All-American after batting .341 with 40 home runs and 149 RBI in 180 career games. He was named one of three finalists for the 2014 Johnny Bench Award, given to the top Division One catcher in the nation, and was selected as the top catcher in the country by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association in 2013.

The 6-foot, 235-pound Schwarber played across three levels in the Cubs system last year, culminating with 44 games with Single-A Daytona. He hit above .300 at each level and collected three Player of the Week honors along the way. He finished third among Cubs minor leaguers with 18 home runs despite not making his season debut until June 13.

Montero, 32, is batting .230 (50-for-217) with five doubles, 10 home runs and 32 RBI in 73 games during his first season with the Cubs.

Cubs Lineup: 7/17/15

Kyle Hendricks carries his string of 22.1 scoreless innings into Atlanta to kick off the season’s second half.

Cubs @ Braves – Turner Field
First Pitch: 6:35 CST
Cubs Starter: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (4-4, 3.55 ERA)
Braves Starter: Julio Teheran, RHP (6-4, 4.56 ERA)
TV: CSN Chicago; Radio: WBBM 780 AM

1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Kyle Schwarber, C
3. Kris Bryant, 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Jorge Soler, RF
6. Chris Coghlan, LF
7. Starlin Castro, SS
8. Kyle Hendricks, P
9. Addison Russell, 2B

Cubs Minor League Recap: 7/16/15

Iowa, Myrtle Beach, South Bend and Mesa all picked up wins for the Cubs yesterday, while Tennessee and Eugene both struggled with the bats. Here are some notes from yesterday’s minor league action:

Iowa Cubs (48-43)
Pacific Coast League (Triple-A)
Third Place (-9.0)

Iowa opened the season’s second half with a 4-1 victory over the Memphis Redbirds.

  • LHP Tsuyoshi Wada made his second rehab start with Iowa, throwing 71 pitches in 6.0 innings. He walked none and struck out five.
  • RHP Rafael Soriano (0.00) made his first appearance with Iowa, striking out three batters and surrendering one hit in a scoreless inning of relief.
  • LF Junior Lake (.310) extended his hitting streak to seven games (.458/11-for-24), going 2-for-4 with a third-inning solo home run.
  • 3B Christian Villanueva (.261) went 2-for-4 with a double (16) and a run scored.
  • 1B Mike Olt (.219) went 2-for-4 with two doubles (6), one run scored and two RBI (6).

Tennessee Smokies (8-11)
Southern League (Double-A)
Third Place (-8.0)

The Smokies surrendered nine runs on 11 hits as they dropped a 9-2 decision at Montgomery.

  • SS Elliot Soto (.275) reached base three times and scored both of the Smokies’ runs, going 1-for-3 with two walks.
  • RF Bijan Rademacher (.242), C Willson Contreras (.319) and 2B Sutton Whiting (.625) all collected a hit and drew two walks. As a team, the I-Cubs collected nine walks and left 11 runners on base.
  • RHP Starling Peralta (3.00) did not allow any hits or runs in 1.2 innings of relief.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (10-11)
Carolina League (High-A)
T-Second Place (-2.0)

Myrtle Beach scored a run in the fourth inning and held on for a 1-0 shutout win at Potomac.

  • RHP Jonathan Martinez recorded his longest scoreless outing of the season, tossing 7.0 innings with four strikeouts and no walks. He has allowed one or no runs in at least 7.0 innings in three of his last four outings and has won six straight decisions.
  • 3B Jeimer Candelario (.270) went 1-for-4 with the team’s only run.
  • LHP Michael Heesch (1.48) collected his third save of the season, tossing a scoreless ninth inning. He has not allowed a run in his last three appearances (8.2 IP).

South Bend Cubs (11-10)
Midwest League (Low-A)
Fourth Place (-2.5)

South Bend jumped out to a 9-0 lead after four innings and held on for a 10-6 win over Lansing.

  • LF Yasiel Balaguert (.301) extended his hitting streak to 13 games (.396/21-for-53), going 4-for-5 with a double (16), a solo homer and three runs scored. His four hits tied a season high.
  • 2B David Bote (.236) had his third straight multi-hit game, going 3-for-5 with a home run, two runs scored and three RBI (18).
  • SS Gleyber Torres (.308) tallied his 10th game this season with three or more hits, going 3-for-5.
  • RF Jeffrey Baez (.205) went 2-for-5 with a run scored and two RBI (15). He has hit safely in five straight games (.500/9-for-18).

Eugene Emeralds (15-13)
Northwest League (Short-Season A)
Third Place (-1.0)

Eugene mustered just four hits in a 4-0 shutout loss at home against Hillsboro.

  • CF Ian Happ (.269) went 1-for-3 with a walk and a double (5). He is 10-for-25 (.400) in his last six games with four multi-hit efforts.
  • LHP Kyle Twomey has tossed 2.0 scoreless innings in each of his last two outings.
  • RHP Pedro Araujo (3.93) fanned four batters in 2.0 perfect innings of relief.

Mesa Cubs (12-8)
Arizona Rookie League
Second Place (-0.5)

The Mesa Cubs snapped a two-game losing skid, defeating the AZL D-backs, 2-1.

  • CF Robert Garcia (.403) went a perfect 4-for-4 with a stolen base (5), extending his hitting streak to four games (9-for-14). This was his second four-hit game of the season.
  • RF Alex Bautista (.255) went 1-for-4 with his first homer of the season, a two-run shot in the fourth inning that accounted for both of the team’s runs.
  • RHP Dylan Cease has tossed 6.0 scoreless innings across his last two outings. He has allowed just one earned run in 11.2 innings this season, striking out 10 batters and walking four.

Cubs Minor League Recap: 7/15/15

Myrtle Beach continued its winning ways, while one big inning was enough to carry Eugene Wednesday. The bats were clicking for South Bend, but it wasn’t enough. Tennessee and Mesa also ended up on the losing end. Here are some notes from yesterday’s minor league action:

Iowa Cubs (47-43)

Iowa returns to action tonight against Memphis. Arismendy Alcantara and Carlos Pimentel represented the I-Cubs at the Triple-A All-Star Game last night in Omaha, Nebraska.

  • RHP Carlos Pimentel was the starting pitcher for the PCL team. He tossed 2.0 innings, allowing two hits and one run, walking none and fanning four batters.
  • CF-2B Arismendy Alcantara earned the start in center field, going 1-for-4 with a double.

Tennessee Smokies (8-10)
Southern League (Double-A)
Third Place (-7.0)

Tennessee opened its five-game series at Montgomery with a 4-1 setback.

  • RF Bijan Rademacher (.241) reached twice, going 1-for-3 with a walk.
  • CF Jacob Hannemann (.227) had the club’s only extra-base hit, going 1-for-4 with a double (14) and a run scored.
  • RHP Tayler Scott (3.52) tossed 2.0 scoreless innings of relief, allowing one hit and fanning one.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (9-11)
Carolina League (High-A)
T-Second Place (-3.0)

Myrtle Beach clubbed three homers in a 5-2 win over host Potomac. The Pelicans have won four of their last five games.

  • RHP Jen-Ho Tseng (3.67) gave up one earned run in 7.0 innings, striking out two batters.
  • DH Kevin Brown (.244) went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and two runs scored. He has six RBI in his last four games.
  • SS Chesny Young (.333) collected his first homer of the season with the Pelicans, finishing 2-for-4. He has three consecutive multi-hit games.
  • 1B Jacob Rogers (.258) went 1-for-4 with his team-leading 11th home run of the season.

South Bend Cubs (10-10)
Midwest League (Low-A)
T-Fourth Place (-3.0)

South Bend collected 11 hits but fell 6-4 in the first of a three-game set at Lansing.

  • RHP Erick Leal (4.97) gave up two earned runs in 6.0 innings in the no-decision.
  • 1B Yasiel Balaguert (.291) extended his hitting streak to 12 games (.354/17-for-48), going 2-for-5 with a run scored.
  • DH Kevin Encarnacion (.299) went 2-for-4 with a run scored.
  • 2B David Bote (.225) had his second straight multi-hit game, going 2-for-4 with a run scored, an RBI (15) and a stolen base (4).
  • RF Jeffrey Baez (.200) went 2-for-3 with an RBI (13) and a stolen base (15). He also threw out two runners at home. He has now hit safely in four straight games (7-for-13).

Eugene Emeralds (15-12)
Northwest League (Short-Season A)
T-Second Place (-1.0)

Eugene scored seven runs in the fifth inning to pull away, defeating visiting Hillsboro, 8-4.

  • CF Ian Happ (.267) went 3-for-4 with a double (4), two runs scored and an RBI (10). He is 9-for-22 (.409) in his last five games with four multi-hit efforts.
  • DH Justin Marra (.204) drove in two runs, going 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.
  • 2B Frandy Delarosa (.309) went 2-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI (15). He has six multi-hit games in his last eight contests.
  • RF Eloy Jimenez (.324), 3B Blake Headley (.239) and SS Ho-young Son (.213) all had multi-hit games.

Mesa Cubs (11-8)
Arizona Rookie League
Second Place (-0.5)

The Mesa Cubs dropped their second straight game, falling 5-3 to the AZL Royals.

  • LHP Zac Rosscup made his first rehab appearance with Mesa, striking out two batters and surrendering no hits or walks. One baserunner reached via a fielding error.
  • CF Robert Garcia (.365) went 2-for-4 and has hit safely in three straight games (5-for-10).
  • RF Michael Foster (.250) went 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI (2).

From the Pages of Vine Line: Rizzo, the leader

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo participated in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game in Cincinnati. The 25-year-old has become the leader both on and off the field and is doing so with a relaxed and positive attitude. The following story can be found in the July issue of Vine Line.

He has been seen with an empty bubblegum bucket on his head as a rally cap and does a “bear dance” in the dugout after home runs. But he’s also the first to reprimand one of his Cubs teammates whenever it’s necessary and has become the captain of the infield. In his youthful, exuberant way, Anthony Rizzo is already the leader of the Cubs at just 25 years old, and his teammates are taking notice.

“He sets the example of how we want to play baseball on an everyday basis,” Cubs veteran catcher David Ross said of Rizzo. “For me, he’s obviously the most valuable player on our team, bar none. He’s the center of our lineup, and he jokes around out there and has fun. He’s learned how to be ‘the guy,’ and I think it’s been nice for him to have some veteran presence around him so he sees what professionals are.”

Ross is new to the Cubs this year, but he’s heard how Rizzo stepped up in the second half of last season.

“Whether that’s maturity or just finding your stride in the game, he’s done it,” Ross said. “He may be one of the most unappreciated guys, in my mind, not knowing how good a player he was. He is a very, very good player—and young still.”

But the fact that Rizzo is a leader certainly doesn’t mean he’s boring. The Florida native, who has been near the top of NL leaderboards in on-base percentage and on-base plus slugging all season, likes to have fun and is often the ringleader when it comes to postgame celebrations or picking music for batting practice. So what’s different for Rizzo this season?

“It’s the comfort of being here in this organization,” he said. “I feel like I’m really here. This is my home. This is kind of all I know now, the Cubs, the city of Chicago. I’m all in. I’m invested all in, from top to bottom.”

The investment he’s made goes beyond spending six months playing at Wrigley Field every year or having his Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation host events in Chicago. He thought he would stay with the Red Sox when they drafted him in 2007. Then, he figured he’d call San Diego home after he was traded there. But now he has a long-term contract that could keep him in Chicago through the 2021 season, which means he can settle down as much as an eager-to-win young athlete can.

“It’s just loving the situation, being comfortable with where we’re at, having Joe [Maddon], having the front office, and really being in the same place for three, four years—there’s that comfort,” Rizzo said.

Doing his homework

Rizzo and Maddon first met at the manager’s Italian restaurant, Ava, in Tampa last December, when Rizzo and a friend, pitcher Casey Kelly, had dinner there. Maddon kept bringing platters of food and bottles of wine as he got to know his All-Star first baseman.

“The conversation was a lot about philosophically what I think and how I like to do things,” Maddon said. “He listened a lot. From him to me, I got that he was pretty mature for his age and a guy who understands his role within this organization and within the game of baseball.
“I think he understands the bigger picture too. He wants to win, and he’s a guy who embraces a more free-spirited approach to life and the game. We’re on board with the same thing there.”

In parts of five big league seasons, Rizzo has earned a reputation as someone who will do anything he can to improve his game. And that includes much more than just taking extra cuts in the batting cage and studying video of opposing pitchers.

“I constantly pick guys’ brains. I’m constantly talking to [Jon] Lester about the playoffs and David Ross and [Jason] Motte,” Rizzo said. “My big thing is when people who are older than you and have been there and done it and tell you something more than once—and you hear from different sources all the time—it’s usually right. I try to take all that information and process it, and try to pass it along now.”

And the veterans learn from Rizzo too. On the road, Rizzo, Ross and strength coach Tim Buss have a daily routine in which they go to a gym to work out and then grab breakfast. Who started it?

“I’m jumping on his program,” Ross said. “That’s the kind of example he sets. He’s fun to be around. He’s easy to talk to. He asks good baseball questions. I enjoy talking baseball with him—and we talk about everything. He genuinely wants to learn and make himself better for the betterment of the group, not just himself. That’s fun for me. It’s fun for me to be a part of and talk about and give some of the lessons I’ve learned over my career.”

Give Rizzo’s parents, John and Laurie, credit for the player’s positive, life-affirming attitude.
“You’ve got to have fun,” Rizzo said. “That comes from my parents, living it up. We play a game of baseball, but it’s a lot of fun. We’re going to make this as fun as we can possibly make it. We only have a short window to play this game. Everyone in here has fun, and that’s what the game is all about. It’s just like when we were kids.”

That youthful enthusiasm has likely helped Rizzo relate to rookies Kris Bryant and Addison Russell in a way some of his older teammates, like the 38-year-old Ross, cannot.

“That’s what you need to do as a leader is relate to all of your teammates,” Ross said. “[Rizzo] does a very good job of that. He can be silly, fun and young, and he also can be mature and professional.”

Rizzo makes an effort to reach out to everyone on the team. This offseason, he called Starlin Castro a few times to check up on the shortstop when he was in the Dominican Republic. On off days during the season, Rizzo and Castro often eat together. And if something needs to be said to one of the Latin players, Rizzo will do that too.

“He’s not afraid to say anything to anybody,” Castro said. “I tell him, ‘If you see me do something wrong, tell me.’ I’ll do the same thing.

“When he’s a little bit struggling at the plate, he’ll tell me, ‘I can’t hit right now.’ In San Diego, he went 0-for-4 in the last game [of a late-May series], and he said, ‘Man, I can’t hit right now.’ I said, ‘Don’t tell me that. You’re the best hitter here.’ I said, ‘If you tell me that again, I’ll get mad at you.’ We wake up every day with one goal—to come here and have fun and help the team. We know that together we can do some special things with this team.”

Rizzo and Castro dismiss the idea that their importance to the club is somehow based on the contract extensions they both received in 2013.

“It’s more the comfort. I feel this is my home,” Rizzo said. “It feels good. It feels good to be part of something where you feel they’re committed to me, and I’m committed to the team and the city.”

Learning on the fly

Years ago, when Lester was coming up with the Red Sox, he would shadow older players and talk to them about preparation. That’s where he learned about the ups and downs of the game.

“Then, when you get put in situations where you’re depended on, whether it’s leading or performance or whatever, you know who you are as a man, you know who you are as a baseball player,” Lester said. “It makes those things easier.”

During his first few years in Chicago, Rizzo didn’t have many proven veteran players to lean on. Now, the first baseman finds young players looking to him as a leader on an upstart Cubs team.

“[Rizzo and Castro] didn’t have anybody [to guide them], and, at the same time, there’s a lot of expectations,” Lester said. “I definitely wouldn’t want to have been in their shoes, but saying that, they’ve done a great job. Riz has done a great job of commanding the respect, commanding everybody’s attention as far as what he does on a day-to-day basis.”

Lester first met Rizzo shortly after the first baseman was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2008. Rizzo, the Red Sox’s sixth-round pick in 2007, was playing for Single-A Greenville at the time and was in Boston to be examined. But Lester said that meeting didn’t give him a clear impression of who the youngster really was.

“Just the little I’ve seen and the little I saw back then, there’s a huge jump,” Lester said of Rizzo’s growth as a player and as a person. “It was one of those deals where you either swim or you sink. I know we’re talking about Riz, but I go back to [Castro] too, because they are kind of in the same boat. There was no, ‘Help me, help me.’ It was, ‘I’ve got to figure this out, or I’m going to go home.’

“Riz has done a great job, and to see where he’s at now as far as being the central figure in this clubhouse, that’s a lot for a 25-year-old. He’s done a great job with it, and he continues to do a great job with it.”

While even the veteran players view Rizzo as a leader, he laughs at the idea that Ross could have anything to learn from him.

“Anything he learns from me, it’s one-fifth of what I’m learning from him,” Rizzo said. “I constantly ask him stuff and pick his brain. He holds me responsible for the infield, and I take that responsibility. It’s little things that no one notices, like turning routine double plays.”

Maddon has said some of the Cubs’ mistakes are a product of youth. Look at the infield—Rizzo, Russell, Castro and Bryant are all 25 years old or younger. But no Cubs player, Rizzo included, is willing to use that as an excuse.

“The cool thing about our game is when we’re not playing, we can talk about age, but when you get on the field, nobody really cares,” Lester said. “It’s all about performance. It’s all about numbers. You look at Mike Trout. He’s 21, 22, and back-to-back runner-up [Most Valuable Player] and then wins an MVP. Age doesn’t define you as a player.

“I think Riz has learned a lot over the last couple years playing here. You can see it. It’s fun to see guys mature on their own. As they mature, they get plans and they believe in their plan, whether it works or not. They’ll still have that plan the next time. It’s not a superstition. It’s not all these weird baseball quirks. It’s his plan and what he wants to do and what he thinks is right.”

Settling in

Rizzo does have a daily routine. He’s not eating chicken before every contest à la Wade Boggs, but he will work out in the morning prior to night games. He calls the sessions “therapeutic” and said they help him “get the blood flowing.” He also plays a little game at first base during batting practice with coach Mike Borzello that helps him work on his throws. And Wrigley Field fans know Rizzo always ducks into the batting cage less than two hours before game time so he can take some late swings.

Those things help him stay on track for the physical part of the game, but what Lester and others really praise is his mental maturity.

“You can see his confidence,” Lester said. “Obviously, when you have Addison and [Bryant] coming up and a lot of hype on this team, now he gets to be one of those guys who gets to go play. It doesn’t seem like he has the everyday pressure like Kris and Addy do. I think that’s nice for him, and he gets a little break.”

Rizzo is still learning, which means he has plenty of room to grow. For example, watch when Maddon goes to the mound to make a pitching change. Rizzo does.

“When Joe comes out—and I’ve noticed this—he’s so calm,” Rizzo said. “He comes out, [it’s] no big deal, even if we’re in a tough jam. He comes out, says we’re going to do this and this and get the win. It’s comforting to see how he handles it.”

There was an early-May game in St. Louis in which Ross was catching. In the late innings, the Busch Stadium fans were roaring and the music was blaring, and Rizzo noticed Ross happily bouncing and bobbing to the tune.

“That made me feel loose, and I tried to feed that to Addy,” Rizzo said.

If there is one thing the Cubs don’t always agree on, it’s music. Rizzo seems to favor house music before games, and he’s involved in creating the batting practice mix. But he’ll also put on some mellow Motown hits on Sunday mornings.

“I’m a fan of all music,” Lester said. “I like [Rizzo’s picks] occasionally, and we’ll leave it at that. He’ll say the same thing about mine. He’s not the biggest country fan. Every once in a while, he’ll listen to some.”

Remember, Rizzo is still young and learning. He can only get better.

—Carrie Muskat/

Cubs Minor League Recap: 7/13/15

Myrtle Beach recorded a shutout win, and South Bend rolled to a victory Monday. Meanwhile, Tennessee, Eugene and Mesa were all dealt losses. Here are some notes from yesterday’s minor league action:

Iowa Cubs (47-43)

Iowa is off until Thursday due to the All-Star break. Arismendy Alcantara and Carlos Pimentel will represent Iowa at the Triple-A All-Star Game on Wednesday.

Tennessee Smokies (8-9)
Southern League (Double-A)
T-Second Place (-6.0)

Tennessee dropped the series finale to Biloxi, 9-2. The Smokies open a five-game series at Montgomery on Wednesday.

  • 1B Wes Darvill (.168) went 1-for-4 with a double (2) that plated one (15).
  • LF Bijan Rademacher (.239) went 1-for-4 and brought in a run for the Smokies (28).
  • SS Elliot Soto (.274) went 1-for-3, knocked a double (7), drew a walk and scored once. He extended his hitting streak to nine games (14-for-36/.389) and has drawn a walk in five straight games.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (8-11)
Carolina League (High-A)
Third Place (-3.0)

Myrtle Beach blanked Carolina, 5-0, to close out a five-game series. The Pelicans recorded 10 hits.

  • 1B Jacob Rogers (.258) went 3-for-4, clubbed a double (16) and drove in three runs (54).
  • 3B Chesny Young (.330) went 2-for-4 and scored twice.
  • DH Jeimer Candelario (.274) went 1-for-4 with a double (23) and two runs scored.
  • 2B Daniel Lockhart (.228) went 1-for-4, swiped a base (5) and drove in one (21).
  • RHP Brad Markey (0.84) earned his first win with the Pelicans after tossing 4.2 scoreless innings of relief, scattering just two hits and fanning four batters.

South Bend Cubs (10-9)
Midwest League (Low-A)
T-Third Place (-2.0)

South Bend cruised past Lake County in the series finale, 8-1. Eight Smokies recorded a hit, and four picked up an RBI for the team.

  • RF Jeffrey Baez (.193) went 3-for-4, crushed a double (6) and a home run (3), drove in a season-high three RBI (12), swiped a base (14) and scored twice.
  • 2B David Bote (.218) went 2-for-4 and scored twice.
  • CF Charcer Burks (.275) finished 2-for-5 with a triple (3) and scored twice, extending his hitting streak to five games (6-for-20/.300).
  • 1B Gioskar Amaya (.274) compiled two hits and walked once.
  • SS Gleyber Torres (.305) went 1-for-3 with an RBI (45), a walk and one run scored.
  • RHP Zach Hedges (3.64) earned his second straight win and fanned a season-high seven batters against three walks. He has tossed quality starts in four of his last five outings.

Eugene Emeralds (14-12)
Northwest League (Short-Season A)
T-First Place (–)

Eugene dropped its fourth straight game at Tri-City, falling to the Dust Devils, 5-4.

  • 3B-1B Matt Rose (.250) went 1-for-4, knocked a double (3) and plated one (14).
  • 2B Frandy Delarosa (.304) finished 2-for-4 and walked once.
  • RF Eloy Jimenez went 2-for-4 and scored once.
  • LF Donnie Dewees (.281) went 1-for-5, swiped a bag (2) and scored once.

Mesa Cubs (11-7)
Arizona Rookie League
Second Place (-0.5)

The Mesa Cubs surrendered six runs on 13 hits, falling to the AZL Royals, 6-1.

  • RF Robert Garcia (.356) went 2-for-5 and scored once, marking his seventh multi-hit game.
  • LF Alex Bautista (.255) recorded the team’s only RBI (5), despite going 0-for-4.
  • The Mesa Cubs went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

Cubs Minor League Recap: 7/12/15

Tennessee tallied another win to move to .500 while Mesa picked up a 1-0 victory Sunday. Myrtle Beach split a doubleheader, but South Bend and Eugene couldn’t get it going in losses. Here are some notes from yesterday’s minor league action:

Iowa Cubs

Iowa is off until Thursday due to the All-Star Break. C Kyle Schwarber and RHP C.J. Edwards participated in Sunday’s 2015 Futures Game in Cincinnati, where Schwarber was named Most Valuable Player after throwing out a runner and smacking a two-run triple to lead Team USA to a 10-1 victory. Edwards struck out one in a scoreless eighth inning of relief.

Tennessee Smokies (8-8)
Southern League (Double-A)
T-Second Place (-5.0)

Tennessee won its second straight game, beating visiting Biloxi, 8-2.

  • RHP Pierce Johnson (1.26) picked up the victory, pitching 5.0 innings and striking out four batters while allowing just one earned run. He also recorded a career-high three RBI at the dish.
  • 3B Bryant Flete (.169) drove in his seventh run of the year and walked three times.
  • RHP Rafael Soriano (0.00) tossed a scoreless seventh inning of relief. He’s allowed an unearned run on just three hits in 4.0 innings with Tennessee this season.
  • C Cael Brockmeyer (.286) drove in two (4) with a pinch-hit double.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (7-11)
Carolina League (High-A)
Fourth Place (-3.5)

GM 1: Myrtle Beach beat visiting Carolina, 9-0, in the completion of Friday’s suspended game.

  • DH Kevin Brown (.242) went 2-for-5 with a home run and a season-high-tying four RBI (15).
  • C Victor Caratini (.251) and CF Trey Martin (.250) had two hits apiece.
  • 3B Jeimer Candelario (.274) and 1B Jacob Rogers (.254) had two walks apiece.
  • LHP Michael Heesch (6-0, 1.51) earned the win after tossing 2.2 scoreless innings of relief.
  • RHP David Garner (0.00) struck out three and allowed one hit in 2.0 scoreless innings.

GM 2: Myrtle Beach couldn’t complete the doubleheader sweep, falling to Carolina, 2-1.

  • DH Chesny Young (.293) recorded two of Myrtle Beach’s five hits, going 2-for-3 with a double (8).
  • 3B Jeimer Candelario (.274) went 1-for-3 with his 36th RBI of the campaign.

South Bend Cubs (9-9)
Midwest League (Low-A)
T-Third Place (-2.5)

South Bend managed just five hits in a 3-1 loss to visiting Lake County.

  • RHP Trevor Clifton (4.73) fanned eight in 6.2 innings despite getting credited for the loss.
  • CF Rashad Crawford (.277) went 2-for-3.
  • LF Charcer Burks (.273) went 1-for-4 with his 31st RBI of the campaign.
  • RHP Dillon Maples (3.24) struck out two in 2.1 scoreless innings of relief.

Eugene Emeralds (14-11)
Northwest League (Short-Season A)
T-First Place (–)

Eugene dropped its third straight game at Tri-City, falling to the Dust Devils, 15-2.

  • CF Ian Happ (.259) went 2-for-4 with a run scored and his first career triple.
  • DH Ian Rice (.300) and 1B Joe Martarano (.500) had two hits apiece.

Mesa Cubs (11-6)
Arizona Rookie League
T-First Place (–)

The Mesa Cubs snuck past the AZL White Sox, 1-0.

  • RHP Austyn Willis struck out four in 5.0 innings, giving up no earned runs.
  • DH Shawon Dunston Jr. (.417) went 1-for-4 and tallied his second RBI of the season.
  • RHP Mark Malave (0.00) converted his second save of the year with a scoreless ninth.

Cubs Lineup: 7/10/15

Cubs vs. White Sox – Wrigley Field
First Pitch: 3:05 CST
Cubs Starter: Kyle Hendricks, RHP
White Sox Starter: Carlos Rodon, LHP
TV: CSN Chicago; Radio: WBBM 780 AM

1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
3. Kris Bryant, 3B
4. Jorge Soler, RF
5. Chris Denorfia, LF
6. Starlin Castro, SS
7. Taylor Teagarden, C
8. Kyle Hendricks, P
9. Addison Russell, 2B


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