Cubs vs. Brewers @ Sloan Park
First Pitch: 3:05 CST
Cubs Starter: Jason Hammel, RHP
Rangers Starter: Kyle Lohse, RHP
Broadcast: CSN, Listen live at MLB.com
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Chris Coghlan, LF
3. Jorge Soler, RF
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Starlin Castro, SS
6. Miguel Montero, C
7. Arismendy Alcantara, 3B
8. Jason Hammel, RHP
9. Tommy La Stella, 2B
All winter long, we couldn’t wait for Spring Training to arrive so we could catch our first glimpse of Jake Arrieta, Starlin Castro, Dexter Fowler, Jon Lester, Miguel Montero, Anthony Rizzo and the rest. Add in Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, C.J. Edwards, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler, and it portended to be a hot time in the desert.
But just how much more exciting this team really is became readily apparent on our second day with the club at Sloan Park. Like all Spring Training complexes, the Cubs’ beautiful facility in Mesa, Arizona, has a number of practice fields in addition to the main stadium field. Most of the veteran major leaguers—or, as manager Joe Maddon called them, the “varsity squad”—took batting practice in the stadium, while the high-level prospects did their work on Fields 1 and 2.
Though it’s certainly easy to get from one field to the other, there is a bit of distance between them so you need to allot a few minutes for travel.
We were making our usual series of Spring Training videos (check them all out at here on the blog), so we needed to capture footage of several different players. To figure out where we should set up camp that day, we checked the batting groups, which Maddon had posted in the clubhouse. On Field 1 was uber-prospect (and world’s nicest future superstar) Bryant. Well, we had to see him. But Field 2 boasted Almora, Russell and Schwarber. We definitely wanted to catch them too. Of course, there was also the stadium field, where players like Baez, Castro, Fowler, Montero, Rizzo and Soler were taking their hacks.
This posed a bit of a dilemma because, as of this spring, we still hadn’t figured out a way to be in three places at one time.
We ran into this same quandary all through spring camp. It’s not that the Cubs didn’t have exciting players scattered throughout the practice fields in previous years. There just wasn’t quite this volume. And it’s not like you didn’t believe Cubs personnel when they said they felt the playoffs were a possibility in, say, 2014—spring is a time of boundless optimism. But this year, when person after person, without hesitation, said his goal for 2015 was to win the division—or, better yet, the World Series—there was a different intensity to it.
These guys know they are good, and they expect to win. Anything less would be a disappointment.
“The goal is always to win the World Series,” Maddon said. “I don’t understand how a team goes to Spring Training and doesn’t believe that. We have a young core group with some really nice veterans. I want our guys to believe we’re getting to the playoffs and going to the World Series and winning it.”
For the April issue, we got our first chance to meet new center fielder and leadoff man Dexter Fowler, acquired in an offseason trade with the Astros. For a Cubs team that struggled to get on base, lacked a leadoff hitter and was short on everyday outfielders last year, he might just be the perfect acquisition.
We also sat down with new bench coach—and familiar face—Dave Martinez, who was drafted by the Cubs in 1983 and has spent the last seven years by Maddon’s side in Tampa Bay. He spoke with us about returning to Wrigley Field, working with the Cubs’ new manager and setting lofty goals for 2015.
Finally, as the team embarks on a new relationship with CBS Radio WBBM-AM 780, we go back in time to look at the Cubs’ storied history on the dial. The organization was one of the first to see the value of broadcasting games to a wide audience and has remained at the forefront of the medium for nearly a century.
So there you have it—postseason or bust. We like the sound of that. Stick with us for the entire journey in print, on the blog and on Twitter at @cubsvineline. It should be an exciting ride.
The Cubs are just a few days away from kicking off the 2015 season in grand fashion with a nationally televised Opening Night matchup against the division-rival Cardinals at Wrigley Field. The evening will begin with a tribute to late Hall of Famer, “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks, who passed away at the age of 83 in January and will also include an on-field performance by local rock group Fall Out Boy.
Here are the other guests and promotions you’ll find at the Friendly Confines during the three-game opening set.
Opening Homestand Recap, April 5-8
Sunday, April 5, Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 7:05 p.m.
- Special tribute: Ernie Banks pregame ceremony, moment of silence and in-game tributes
- Promotions: Commemorative No. 14 pin (all fans); Cubs Magnet Schedule presented by Giordano’s (first 30,000 fans)
- Pregame entertainment: Fall Out Boy
- National Anthem: Wayne Messmer; God Bless America: London Lo
- First pitches and seventh-inning stretch: Ernie Banks’ sons, Joey and Jerry Banks
- Broadcast: ESPN2-TV, WBBM Newsradio 780-AM, Cubs.com
Tuesday, April 7, Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 7:05 p.m.
- Promotion: Cubs Magnet Schedule presented by Jack Daniel’s (first 30,000 adults age 21-and-older)
- National Anthem: Members of Chicago-based ‘60s band The Buckinghams
- Seventh-inning stretch: Lombard, Illinois-native band Plain White T’s
- Broadcast: WGN-TV, WBBM Newsradio 780-AM, Cubs.com
Wednesday, April 8, Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 1:20 p.m.
- First pitch and seventh-inning stretch: Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kristian Bush from Sugarland
- Broadcast: WLS-TV, WBBM Newsradio 780-AM, Cubs.com
- Cubs Charities Bricks and Ivy Ball post-game at Union Station
The 2015 Major League Baseball season will officially kick off at Wrigley Field this Sunday, April 5, at 7:05 p.m., as the Cubs host Opening Night vs. the Cardinals. The Cardinals remain in town for a three-game series through April 8, when the Cubs conclude their opening homestand, then head to Union Station for Cubs Charities’ annual Bricks and Ivy Ball.
The Cubs will begin their season by honoring the late Hall of Famer “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks, who passed away at the age of 83 in January. Mr. Banks will be honored with a pregame ceremony Sunday evening and his sons, Joey and Jerry, will throw the game’s ceremonial first pitches and lead the seventh-inning stretch. The team will wear a commemorative No. 14 patch on both its home and away jerseys this season, and the bases used on Opening Night will be adorned with Ernie Banks tribute base jewels. These game-used bases and jerseys will be available for purchase through Cubs Authentics with proceeds benefiting Cubs Charities. Each fan attending Opening Night will receive a commemorative No. 14 pin in his honor as they enter the gates. Fans will see many other tributes paying homage to Mr. Banks’ remarkable life and career throughout the evening.
Fans attending Opening Night at Wrigley Field will want to arrive early following Major League Baseball’s announcement that Chicago-born, award-winning rock band Fall Out Boy will headline MLB Opening Night’s first-ever live musical performance as part of the pregame festivities. Fall Out Boy will perform three songs live on the field, and the band’s platinum hit “Centuries” will be televised live to a national audience on “Baseball Tonight,” airing on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. CST. With Fall Out Boy’s performance taking place pregame, batting practice for both the Cubs and Cardinals will be moved earlier by approximately 30 minutes. Gates at Wrigley Field will open at 4:35 p.m. CST as a result. The first 30,000 fans entering the ballpark will receive a Cubs magnet schedule.
Tickets remain available for the upcoming three-game homestand and Bricks and Ivy Ball at cubs.com or 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).
Cubs vs. Rangers (SS) @ Surprise
First Pitch: 3:05 CST
Cubs Starter: Eric Jokisch, LHP
Rangers Starter: Derek Holland, LHP
Broadcast: MLB Network (delay), Listen live at MLB.com
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jorge Soler, RF
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Starlin Castro, SS
5. Welington Castillo, C
6. Mike Olt, 3B
7. Matt Szczur, LF
8. Eric Jokisch, LHP
9. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B
The Chicago Cubs today selected the contract of left-handed pitcher Phil Coke. The club’s 40-man roster now stands at 40 players.
Coke, 32, joined the Cubs on a minor league contract on March 5 after spending the last seven seasons with the New York Yankees (2008-09) and Detroit Tigers (2010-14), going 22-27 with 80 holds, eight saves and a 4.16 ERA (184 ER/398.1 IP) in 383 major league appearances. He has turned in nine scoreless appearances this spring, covering 7.2 innings pitched.
The left-hander went 5-2 with a 3.88 ERA in 62 relief appearances for the Tigers last season. In his career, he has limited left-handed hitters to a .243 batting average, a .297 on-base percentage and a .648 OPS. Coke had 21 holds with the Yankees in 2009 and 20 holds with Detroit in 2012.
The Cubs have assigned three high-profile players to minor league camp, reducing their spring roster from 38 to 35 players.
Infielder Javier Baez has been optioned to Triple-A Iowa.
Two nonroster invitees have been assigned to minor league camp: infielders Kris Bryant and Addison Russell.
Chicago’s spring roster of 35 players consists of 18 pitchers (one nonroster invitee), four catchers (one nonroster invitee), six infielders (one nonroster invitee) and seven outfielders.
First Pitch: 3:05 CST
Cubs Starter: Kyle Hendricks, RHP
Giants Starter: Tim Hudson, RHP
Broadcast: CSN, Listen live at MLB.com
7. David Ross, C
The Chicago Cubs today reduced their spring roster to 38 players by optioning left-handed pitcher Eric Jokisch to Triple-A Iowa and granting left-handed pitcher Felix Doubront his unconditional release.
Chicago’s spring roster of 38 players consists of 18 pitchers (one nonroster invitee), four catchers (one nonroster invitee), nine infielders (three nonroster invitees) and seven outfielders.
One of the best things about hanging around the Cubs is you get to know the players off the field. While the team is serious and focused about 2015, there are also some great personalities, and they like to cut loose. During Spring Training, we asked the guys to recall the best prank they have ever pulled—or seen—during their careers.
We’ll be posting videos and stories from Sloan Park all spring, so make sure you’re watching the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.
Check out the other videos from our Spring Training series:
Cubscast Mesa: Spring sit-down with manager Joe Maddon
Cubscast Mesa: The Lighter Side, If I weren’t a ballplayer …
Cubscast Mesa: Checking in with the 2015 Cubs coaching staff
Cubscast Mesa: The Lighter Side, If I could have one talent or superpower
Cubscast Mesa: The Cubs are setting a positive tone in camp
Cubscast Mesa: The Lighter Side, What the Cubs are watching on TV
Cubscast Mesa: The next wave of Cubs talent
Cubscast Mesa: The Lighter Side, The best thing I did this offseason
Cubscast Mesa: Goals for the 2015 season