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1000 Words: Happy 25th to Anthony Rizzo

Cubs vs. Cardinals

(Photo by Stephen Green)

If you’re coming out to Wrigley Field Friday, make sure to wish Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo a happy 25th birthday. The 2014 All-Star is having a career year so far, posting a .281/.384/.506 (AVG/OBP/SLG) line with 25 home runs and 61 RBI in 111 games.

Cubs Minor League Recap: 8/6/14

Tennessee secured a shutout win, and Kane County recaptured first place Wednesday. Meanwhile Daytona was shut out, and Mesa couldn’t get things going in a loss. Iowa and Boise had the day off. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:

Tennessee Smokies (24-22)
1st Place (+1.5)

Tennessee recorded its eighth shutout of the season, blanking host Mobile, 5-0.

  • RHP Felix Pena fanned eight batters over 5.1 innings, giving up three hits and no earned runs to pick up the win.
  • LF Pin-Chieh Chen (.234) recorded two hits from the leadoff spot, including his second double, and knocked in one run (4). He has hit safely in his last four games (.357/5-for-14).
  • SS Addison Russell (.295) reached base three times, finishing 2-for-4 with a run, a walk, a double (4) and an RBI (19). Russell has tallied 10 multihit efforts in 27 games with Tennessee.
  • Three Smokies relievers recorded holds en route to the combined shutout: RHP Tony Zych (5.36, 4 H), LHP Andrew McKirahan (2.41, 3 H) and RHP P.J. Francescon (3.88, 5 H).

Daytona Cubs (26-17)
1st Place (+4.5)

Daytona was held to two hits by host Clearwater, falling 4-0. In their last five games, the Cubs have been blanked four times and have been outscored by their opponents, 30-3.

  • LF Kyle Schwarber (.239) collected his second double of the season, the lone Daytona extra-base hit.
  • DH Billy McKinney (.312) singled and walked. He has reached safely in 25 of his 27 games with Daytona this season (.312/.402/.452).
  • LHP Austin Kirk (3.57) tossed 2.2 hitless innings of relief. He has posted a 1.17 ERA (2 ER/15.1 IP) in his last eight outings.

Kane County Cougars (27-18)
1st Place (-1.0)

Kane County captured sole possession of first place with a 4-2 win at Peoria.

  • 3B Jeimer Candelario (.255) recorded three singles in four at-bats in his third three-hit game of the campaign.
  • CF Jeffrey Baez (.262) added two singles of his own and drove in one (5). He also contributed defensively, recording an outfield assist in the fourth inning.
  • RHP Jose Arias (1.77) recorded his fifth hold of the season with three scoreless frames of work, fanning five.
  • RHP Tyler Bremer (2.43) earned his 12th save, striking out two in a scoreless ninth.

Mesa Cubs (2-6)
4th Place (-3.0)

The host AZL Reds jumped ahead with a two-run first inning and never looked back, beating Mesa, 10-4.

  • SS Ho-young Son (.310) went 3-for-4 with a run, two RBI (6) and two stolen bases (8). His eight stolen bases in 15 games rank third on the team.
  • RF Ricardo Marcano (.275) singled and doubled (6) to extend his hitting streak to 15 games dating back to July 9 (.310/18-for-58).

 

Cubs Minor League Recap: 8/5/14

Iowa powered its way to a win, Daytona scored three runs late, and Kane County split a doubleheader Tuesday. Boise had a representative in the Northwest League All-Star Game, while Tennessee and Mesa had the day off. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:

Iowa Cubs (63-56)
1st Place (+1.5)

Iowa improved to a PCL-best 28-7 in day games this season, beating host Omaha, 7-4.

  • RHP Dan Staily struck out nine in seven innings, giving up no earned runs in the win. He hasn’t allowed an earned run over his last two starts and has fanned 14 (13.0 IP).
  • 1B Mike Olt (.345) went 2-for-4 with a third-inning grand slam. He’s hit safely in 10-straight games, batting .400 (16-for-40) with five doubles, two home runs and 10 RBI during the stretch.
  • RF Jorge Soler (.286) fell a triple shy of the cycle, going 3-for-5 with two runs, a double (5), a home run and three RBI (12). He’s hit four homers and driven in 12 in his first 14 games with Iowa.
  • 3B Kris Bryant (.321) extended his hitting streak to nine games, going 2-for-3 with two runs. He’s batting .400 (12-for-30) with 14 runs, three doubles, three homers and seven RBI during the streak.
  • LHP Zac Rosscup (2.52) recorded the final out of the game to earn his fourth save of the campaign.

Daytona Cubs (26-16)
1st Place (+5.0)

Daytona scored three runs in the top of the eighth inning to sneak past host Clearwater, 3-1.

  • LHP Rob Zastryzny gave up one earned run over five innings, striking out five.
  • CF Jacob Hannemann (.279) went 2-for-5 with a run and a stolen base (4).
  • DH Billy McKinney (.308) went 1-for-4 with a game-high two RBI (25).
  • RHP Stephen Perakslis (3-0, 4.47) tossed three scoreless innings to earn his third win of the year.
  • RHP Zack Godley (4.26) worked a scoreless ninth inning to pick up his fourth save.

Kane County Cougars (26-18)
T-1st Place (–)

GM 1: Kane County dropped the first game of a doubleheader at Peoria, 4-1.

  • 3B Chesny Young (.389) went 2-for-4 with an RBI and his first stolen base of the season.
  • 2B Daniel Lockhart (.281) went 2-for-3 with his 14th double of the year.
  • RHP Jen-Ho Tseng allowed just one run on two hits and fanned two in 6.1 innings of work.

GM 2: Kane County limited Peoria to just four hits in the second game, beating the Chiefs, 4-1.

  • RHP Ben Wells pitched six innings, giving up one earned run, to pick up the win.
  • CF Jeffry Baez (.237) went 1-for-3 with a seventh-inning, solo home run.
  • LF Shawon Dunston (.283) and 2B Chesny Young (.410) had two hits apiece.
  • RHP Tyler Bremer (2.50) worked a scoreless seventh inning for his 11th save of the season.

Boise Hawks (6-7)
4th Place (-3.0)

The North and South teams combined for just nine hits in a 0-0 tie in the Northwest League All-Star Game Tuesday at Swede Johnson Stadium. Boise’s Mark Zagunis doubled for one of the South’s four hits and finished 1-for-2 in a game that was called after 10 innings.

1980s Homestand Promotions and Guests: 8/8/14-8/14/14

First-Night

The first night game at Wrigley Field on Aug. 8, 1988. (Photo by Stephen Green)

The 1980s brought Ryno, Dawson, the Boys of Zim and the first night game at historic Wrigley Field. Starting Friday, Aug. 8, the Cubs welcome the Tampa Bay Rays and Milwaukee Brewers to town for a 1980s-themed celebration. Fans can relive the decade along with Jody Davis, Bill Bonham, Fergie Jenkins and many more.

Here are the other guests and promotions you’ll find at the Friendly Confines during the seven-game set.

1980s Homestand Recap, August 8-14

Friday, Aug. 8, Chicago Cubs vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 3:05 p.m.

  • Promotion: First Night Game Bobblehead presented by Las Vegas (first 10,000 fans)
  • First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: Jody Davis, former Cubs catcher
  • Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

Saturday, Aug. 9, Chicago Cubs vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 3:05 p.m.

  • Promotion: Cubs Retro Headphones presented by Athletico (first 10,000 fans)
  • First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: Digger Phelps, former Notre Dame men’s basketball coach and retired ESPN college basketball analyst
  • Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

Sunday, Aug. 10, Chicago Cubs vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 1:20 p.m.

  • Promotion: ‘80s Throwback Cubs Rubik’s Cube presented by Comcast SportsNet (first 5,000 kids 13-and-under)
  • First pitch: Bill Bonham, former Cubs pitcher
  • Seventh-inning stretch: TBD
  • Broadcast: CSN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

Monday, Aug. 11, Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 7:05 p.m.

  • First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: Fergie Jenkins, Hall of Fame Cubs pitcher
  • Broadcast: CSN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com

Tuesday, Aug. 12, Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 7:05 p.m.

  • Special Event: Cubs Scout Night
  • First pitch: Willy Roy, two-time champion Chicago Sting coach
  • Seventh-inning stretch: Members of the Chicago Sting 1981 championship team
  • Military recognition: U.S. Navy Leap Frogs
  • Broadcast: CSN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, WRTO 1200-AM Spanish Radio, Cubs.com

Wednesday, Aug. 13, Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 7:05 p.m.

  • Throwback uniforms: Retro 1988 home uniform
  • Special Event: ‘80s Rock Night/Zubazpalooza 2
  • First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: Steve Trout, former Cubs pitcher
  • Broadcast: CSN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

Thursday, Aug. 14, Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 1:20 p.m.

  • Promotion: Cubs Fathead presented by Pepsi (first 10,000 fans)
  • First pitches: Miss Illinois, Marisa Buchheit, and actor Joel Murray
  • Seventh-inning stretch: Joel Murray, actor
  • Broadcast: WGN-TV, WGN 720-AM Radio, Cubs.com

For more information on Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday celebration, please visit www.wrigleyfield100.com.

 

Cubs activate RHP Fujikawa; designate OF Schierholtz for assignment

FUJIKAWA_K-051713-SG-09

(Photo by Stephen Green)

The Cubs today activated right-handed pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa from the 60-day disabled list Wednesday. To make room on the 40-man roster, outfielder Nate Schierholtz has been designated for assignment.

Fujikawa will be available for the Cubs Wednesday night against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.

Fujikawa, 34, returns to the Cubs following an almost 14-month recovery from Tommy John surgery on June 11, 2013. He made his major league debut with the team last season after pitching 12 years for the Hanshin Tigers in Japan’s Central League. Fujikawa appeared in 12 games in 2013, recording the save on Opening Day, and went 1-1 with two saves and a 5.25 ERA (7 ER/12.0 IP) overall. He twice landed on the disabled list, first on April 13 with a right forearm strain and again on May 27, the day after walking off the mound due to injury. Soon after, he underwent Tommy John surgery.

The right-hander combined to make 12 rehab appearances with three minor league clubs during the past month, posting no record and a 0.77 ERA (1 ER/11.2 IP). He struck out 13, walked three and limited opponents to a .171 batting average.

Schierholtz, 30, batted .192 (60-for-313) with six homers and 33 RBI in 99 games for the Cubs this season. He signed with the team prior to the 2013 campaign, when he went on to hit a career-high 21 home runs.

Cubs honor the 1980s with decade-inspired giveaways, events and food

Sandberg

Ryne Sandberg was a staple for the Cubs in the 1980s. (Photo by Stephen Green)

The 1980s in Wrigleyville will be remembered for Ryne Sandberg’s elite play, the start of Greg Maddux’s Hall of Fame career, a pair of postseason appearances and, maybe most notably, the introduction of night games at Wrigley Field. During the upcoming seven-game homestand against Tampa Bay and Milwaukee, the Cubs will honor the ’80s with throwback uniforms, giveaways and promotional concessions as part of the season-long celebration of the ballpark’s 100th birthday.

The Cubs’ promotional schedule includes four giveaway items, including a light-up bobblehead commemorating Wrigley Field’s first night game, plus two special events that offer fans a chance to attend a game with others who share similar interests. The team will host Cubs Scout Night in partnership with the Boy Scouts of America Chicago Area Council, as well as ’80s Rock Night/Zubazpalooza 2 featuring Zubaz pants for guests and opportunities for prizes from iconic rock bands KISS and Def Leppard.

Throwback Uniforms:
On Sunday, Aug. 10, the Cubs will wear a throwback uniform from 1988, which was the year the team first played under the lights at Wrigley Field. The visiting Rays have developed a retro-inspired road uniform to participate in the throwback day as well.

Promotional Giveaways:
Fans coming to the ballpark will have the chance to collect unique promotional items throughout the homestand, beginning with an impressive First Night Game Bobblehead with working lights for the first 10,000 fans Friday, Aug. 8. On Saturday, Aug. 9, the first 10,000 fans will receive Cubs Retro Headphones. On Sunday, Aug. 10, the first 5,000 kids 13-and-under will receive an ’80s Throwback Cubs Rubik’s Cube. The first 10,000 fans in the park Thursday, Aug. 14, will receive a Cubs Fathead.

Special Events:
The Cubs have collaborated with the Boy Scouts of America Chicago Area Council to host Cubs Scout Night Tuesday, Aug. 12, for Scouts, family and friends. Attendees will receive a commemorative Cubs-themed Scout patch, and $3 per each ticket sold will be donated back to the Boy Scouts of America Chicago Area Council.

On Wednesday, Aug. 13, ’80s Rock Night/Zubazpalooza 2 attendees will receive a pair of Cubs Zubaz pants featuring Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday logo. Thanks to a collaboration with rock bands KISS and Def Leppard, up to 100 attendees can win a pair of tickets to one of two local shows—August 15 at Alpine Valley Music Theatre and August 16 at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre—if they attend the game wearing KISS makeup or Def Leppard branded clothing (spiked apparel not permitted). Attendees may also win one of dozens of prizes including KISS and Def Leppard CDs, MLB-licensed T-shirts or concert tickets. Tickets for both concerts are still available for purchase.

Specialty Food Offerings:
Levy Restaurants continues its decade-inspired menu at the Decade Diner, located inside Gate D near Section 142. The 1980s homestand features a Sloppy Joe topped with Kraft Cheese served on a toasted bun. Fans can also try the Blackened Tilapia Po’ Boy, which includes blackened tilapia seasoned with Cajun spices and served on a toasted hoagie roll with shredded lettuce, tomatoes and Cajun aioli.

The Decade Dogs stand near Section 123 is serving the 1980s Nacho Dog; a Vienna Beef hot dog topped with tortilla strips, nacho cheese, salsa and pickled jalapenos.

Adults 21-and-over can enjoy an Electric Ryno Margarita. The cocktail features Don Julio Tequila, Blue Curacao, lime juice and agave nectar, served with a light-up straw.

Historic Moments:
Wrigley Field witnessed several noteworthy baseball events during the 1980s, including the Tribune Company’s purchase of the team and Wrigley Field, the installation of lights and the retirement of two Hall of Famers’ uniform numbers.

In 1981, the Tribune Company announced the purchase of the team from William Wrigley and 800 stockholders for $20.5 million. Three months after the sale, the Tribune went on to purchase Wrigley Field for a reported $600,000.

That same year, the Chicago Sting of the North American Soccer League beat the Cosmos, 6-5, before 30,501 fans, the largest crowd at Wrigley Field that year aside from the Cubs’ home opener. Later that year, Jack Brickhouse made his final Wrigley Field broadcast as the regular play-by-play announcer.

On April 9, 1982, Harry Caray led the Wrigley Field faithful in his rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for the first time. Four months later, fans packed Wrigley Field as uniform No. 14 was retired in honor of Mr. Cub, Hall of Famer Ernie Banks.

On June 23, 1984, in what is now known as the Sandberg Game, Ryne Sandberg hit two game-tying home runs off Bruce Sutter as the Cubs beat St. Louis, 12-11, at Wrigley Field. Later that year, Wrigley Field hosted its first postseason game in 39 years as the Cubs beat San Diego, 13-0, in the first game of the National League Championship Series.

On Aug. 13, 1987, uniform No. 26 was retired in honor of Cubs Hall of Famer Sweet Swinging Billy Williams.

On Aug. 8, 1988, night baseball came to Wrigley Field for the first time as the Cubs played the Philadelphia Phillies under the lights. Rick Sutcliffe made the start for Chicago, but the game was called in the fourth inning due to rain, resulting in the first official game being played one day later (a 6-4 win over the Mets). In September of that same year, Ronald Reagan visited Harry Caray for an inning in the booth at Wrigley Field.

To learn more about these historic moments and others, visit wrigleyfield100.com.

General tickets for the Rays and Brewers series remain available at cubs.com or 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).

Cubs Minor League Recap: 8/4/14

Iowa and Tennessee both picked up wins, but Mesa couldn’t keep it together Monday. Daytona, Kane County and Boise all had the day off. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:

Iowa Cubs (62-56)
1st Place (+0.5)

Iowa recorded its league-leading 12th shutout of the season, beating host Omaha, 6-0.

  • 3B Kris Bryant (.314) reached base four times, going 2-for-3 with two walks, two runs, a double (13), two RBI (36) and two stolen bases (7).
  • 1B Mike Olt (.333) went 2-for-5 with his seventh double of the year and two RBI (9).
  • LHP Eric Jokisch picked up the win, giving up five hits and no earned runs, striking out seven and walking none. He has not allowed a run in his last 15.0 innings of work.

Tennessee Smokies (23-22)
1st Place (+0.5)

Tennessee won for the third time in its last four games, beating visiting Pensacola, 3-2.

  • C Taylor Davis (.311) went a perfect 3-for-3 with three RBI (22) and a fifth-inning, solo home run.
  • RHP Lendy Castillo (1-1, 3.44) tossed a scoreless sixth to earn his first win of the season.
  • RHP Frank Batista (1.33) worked a scoreless ninth inning to pick up his ninth save of the year.

Mesa Cubs (2-5)
4th Place (-4.5)

The AZL Giants scored 10 runs over the final four innings to beat the visiting Cubs, 10-5.

  • 2B Andrew Ely (.391) went 3-for-5 with a fifth-inning, solo blast.
  • 1B Ronny Alcala (.273) and LF Ricardo Marcano (.265) each had three hits apiece.
  • SS Gleyber Torres (.300), RF Eloy Jimenez (.247) and 3B Adonis Paula (.250) all had multihit efforts.

Hot Off the Presses: August Vine Line featuring Anthony Rizzo

001_VL1408_Cover_newstand

Last month, the Cubs kicked off the annual trade deadline frenzy with some big Fourth of July fireworks, sending starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics for infielder Addison Russell, outfielder Billy McKinney, right-handed pitcher Dan Straily and a player to be named later.

In some ways, the trade was difficult for Cubs fans to stomach, as they lost two of the top pitchers from a team that was suddenly looking, dare I say, formidable. But it might also be the move that finally puts the team over the hump and on the path to sustained excellence at the big league level.

In exchange for a right-hander who was only under contract through 2014 (Hammel) and another under contract through 2015 and seemingly eager to test the free agent waters (Samardzija), the Cubs received the A’s top two prospects, including one of the best in the game, and an arm that could see time in the big league rotation this season.

No one likes trading proven talent, especially a longtime Cub like Samardzija. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein made it clear several times in his press conference following the blockbuster deal how hard it was to part ways with the Shark.

“Nothing would make us happier than being in the position Oakland is in, which is to aggressively add to the big league team and enhance the team’s chances of making the postseason and winning the World Series,” Epstein said. “Being sellers is not what we want to do, so if we’re going to do it, we need to make it count. And we need to get a player back who significantly impacts the organization, helps change the landscape, helps make our future a heck of a lot better.”

In the past, Epstein has said there are two great currencies in baseball: deep reserves of young talent and massive amounts of payroll flexibility. The Cubs now have both.

Admittedly, most of this talent is still percolating in the minor leagues, but it’s coming fast. A year ago, it was the Big Three: Albert Almora, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler. This year—thanks to strong trades, draft picks and development—the Cubs have a Magnificent Seven of gifted hitters, with Arismendy Alcantara, Kris Bryant, Russell and Kyle Schwarber added to that mix.

Since the end of the steroid era, the big league pendulum has swung back toward pitching dominance, and hitting is becoming a rarer commodity. In other words, the Cubs are stockpiling the most precious resource in baseball—and they’ve got more of it than almost anyone else. With this trade, the organization now owns the No. 2 (Bryant), No. 5 (Russell) and No. 7 (Baez) prospects in the game, as ranked in the Baseball America midseason top 50.

Let me repeat that—the Cubs now have three of the top seven prospects in the game—and Baez is making his big league debut tonight in Colorado. Of course, prospects have a nasty habit of not always panning out as expected. But it’s important to remember all of these minor leaguers are essentially funneling into eight everyday major league spots. Two of those spots are already filled by 2014 All-Stars Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, while Alcantara and Baez are auditioning for two more.

This month, we look at cornerstone major leaguer Rizzo, who is having a terrific season on both sides of the ball and has taken a huge developmental step forward this year. We also say goodbye to Don Zimmer, a man who left an indelible mark on Cubs—and baseball—history over his 66 years in the dugout. Finally, we move off the diamond to the gridiron to remember what the Chicago Bears accomplished in their 50 years at the Friendly Confines, including Wrigley Field’s most recent championship in 1963.

To keep track of Cubs history—including history in the making—subscribe to Vine Line today and follow us on Twitter at @cubsvineline. With the way things are coming together for the team, the next championship season may not be far off.

—Gary Cohen

Now Playing: Keeping Score with Lennie Merullo, the oldest living Cub

Despite hailing from the Boston area, Lennie Merullo is a Cub through and through. The spry, 97-year-old former shortstop is the last surviving link to the team’s most recent World Series appearance in 1945 and is the oldest living Cub. After his seven-year playing career ended, Merullo remained with the organization for decades as a scout and said he truly bleeds Cubbie blue. He still watches every game, and his house is filled with memorabilia from his years on the North Side.

Vine Line caught up with Merullo when was honored at the park in early June. To read the complete interview, pick up the August issue.

1000 Words: Javy Time

Baez_tattoo

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs’ 2011 first-round draft pick Javier Baez is slated to make his major league debut Tuesday, as the Cubs kick off a three-game set in Colorado. After a slow start in Triple-A Iowa, MLB.com’s No. 5 prospect was hitting .260/.323/.510 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 23 home runs and 80 RBI at the time of the recall. Twelve of his home runs have come in the last 32 games.

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