Archive for the ‘ Vine Line ’ Category

Hot off the Presses: The May issue offers an inside look at the real Kris Bryant

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I had one guiding concept in mind when I set out to report the cover feature on Cubs star Kris Bryant for this month: Do not write a hagiography. There are plenty of St. Kristopher stories out there. I figured the world didn’t need another one.

I’d certainly talked to Bryant before—several times, in fact, from his initial signing through the final days of last season. And, cards on the table, I like the guy. But I’d never done anything in-depth with him. My goal as a writer was to stay impartial, impassive and honest. Yes, I work for the Cubs, but I still wanted to let the story tell itself without bias.

Soooo … that was my goal.

But here’s the rub: Kris Bryant is an excellent baseball player. Sure there are a few knocks on his game. He struck out a lot last season and likely will always pile up the K’s. His defense is still evolving, although he finished strong last season. And I suppose he got stuck on 99 RBI for a while. Anything else is nitpicking.

But the reason it’s so difficult to avoid writing a puff piece about him is that he’s also a genuinely nice fellow. I had only a short window to interview him at Spring Training in March, so I checked in with him on my first full day there—a Monday. He was literally dressed and walking out of the clubhouse, but he politely said he couldn’t do anything substantive until that Friday because he was booked solid with photo shoots, commercial shoots, interviews and, well, baseball.

For many players, “Try me tomorrow” is the sporting equivalent of saying, “It was fun; I’ll give you a call sometime,” after a bad date. Still, we checked in with each other throughout the week, and he held firm on Friday. I told him that was fine with me, but in reality I was nearly panicked because Friday was my second-to-last day there. No Bryant, no story.

But once that day arrived, I didn’t have to track him down (or beg, which I was prepared to do). He walked straight over to me, shook my hand, apologized for making me wait and then asked if I wanted to get out of the clubhouse so we could avoid the inevitable media scrum that surrounds him. That kind of behavior is not unheard of, but it definitely stands out enough that you notice. After a very respectful and engaging 20 minutes, I had what I needed and made my peace with what kind of story this was going to be.

What I really wanted to uncover was how Bryant handled the titanic expectations that were heaped upon him last year and what kind of an impact that would have on his sophomore campaign.

One of the first people I talked to for some insight was Cubs assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske, a two-time World Series champion with his own Rookie of the Year trophy, from 2002. I figured if anyone can relate to what Bryant will be going through this season, it’s him. When asked what the 24-year-old is like as a student, Hinske, who pretty much saw it all over his 12-year major-league career, seemed a bit flustered.

“Honestly, he’s far along in the process,” Hinske said. “He really doesn’t have to be a pupil that much. It’s more of just maintaining his swing. He’s so mechanically right. He’s a bright kid, a good character guy. He takes instruction well if he needs it, and he’s just a pleasure to work with every day.”

Our feature paints a picture of a very talented, grounded and decent human being—one who is likely to terrorize opposing pitchers for the next decade-plus. In the May issue, we also talk to hitting coach John Mallee about his expectations for the season and the work he’s doing with an incredibly potent offensive group. Finally, we look back at one of the most memorable games ever pitched at the Friendly Confines, even if there might not be a person alive who actually remembers seeing it—the remarkable dual no-hitter spun by Hippo Vaughn and Fred Toney in 1917.

For more insight into the players and team you love all season long, subscribe to Vine Line at cubs.com/vineline.

Let’s go!

—Gary Cohen

Cubs Lineup: 5/2/16 vs. Pirates

Cubs vs. Pirates —  PNC Park
First Pitch: 6:05 CST
Cubs Starter: Jason Hammel, RHP (3-0, 0.75 ERA)
Pirates Starter: Gerrit Cole, RHP (2-2, 2.78 ERA)
TV: CSN, ESPN (out-of-market only), MLB Network (out-of-market only); Radio: 670 The Score

1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Tommy La Stella, 3B
3. Kris Bryant, LF
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
6. Addison Russell, SS
7. Matt Szczur, RF
8. David Ross, C
9. Jason Hammel, P

Cubs Minor League Report: 5/1/16

Rain dampened most of the action for Cubs affiliates, with only Iowa getting the opportunity to play. Tennessee’s game will be made up Monday as part of a doubleheader, Myrtle Beach will be rescheduled for a date in June, and no make-up date has been scheduled for South Bend. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s action.

Iowa Cubs (9-12)
Pacific Coast League (Triple-A)
T-Third Place (-4.5)

Iowa dropped a seven-inning game against Colorado Springs, 4-3. Game 2 of the scheduled doubleheader was postponed due to inclement weather and unplayable conditions.

  • LF John Andreoli (.216) went 2 for 4 with a run scored, an RBI (11) and a stolen base (7). He has gone 6 for 17 with six runs scored, five RBI and five walks in his last five games.
  • C Willson Contreras (.359) finished 2 for 3 with an RBI (9) and two doubles (6).
  • RHP Armando Rivero (2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 SO) tossed two scoreless innings of relief. He has not allowed a run in five of his seven relief outings.

Cubs Minor League Report: 4/28/16

Iowa powered past its opponent Thursday, but Tennessee couldn’t overcome a bad inning and South Bend dropped both games of the doubleheader. Myrtle Beach was rained out. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league Cubs action:

Iowa Cubs (8-11)
Pacific Coast League (Triple-A)
T-Third Place (-5.0)

Ryan Kalish finished a homer shy of the cycle as the I-Cubs topped Colorado Springs, 10-5.

  • RF Ryan Kalish (.413) went 3 for 4 with a double (4), a triple (2), an RBI (4), a walk and four runs scored. His four runs marked his best output since Aug. 9, 2009.
  • C Willson Contreras (.368) was 0 for 1 with four walks, an RBI (8) and two runs scored.
  • CF Albert Almora (.362) finished 3 for 5 with a three-run homer (3). He has had three-straight multi-hit games.
  • RHP Spencer Patton (IP, BB, 2 SO) has not allowed a run in his eight innings of work this season.

Tennessee Smokies (11-10)
Southern League (Double-A)
Third Place (-2.5)

Tennessee could not recover from Biloxi’s four-run fourth inning and fell 6-5.

  • CF Jacob Hannemann (.247) was 2 for 5 with a solo home run (4) and two runs scored.
  • RF Billy McKinney (.219) went 2 for 4 with a pair of RBI (5).
  • 1B Taylor Davis (.339) added a multi-hit game, going 2 for 4 with a double (3) and an RBI (10).
  • 2B Chesny Young (.384) finished 2 for 5 with an RBI (7) and a run scored.

South Bend Cubs (12-8)
Midwest League (Single-A)
Third Place (-1.5)

The SB-Cubs fell in a pair of seven-inning games to Quad Cities. The doubleheader was played to make up for Wednesday’s postponed game (rain). South Bend committed three errors en route to an 11-2 setback in Game One. The SB-Cubs outhit Quad Cities in Game Two, but lost 3-0.

  • DH P.J. Higgins (.310) was 2 for 3 in the first game and had three hits overall on the day.
  • SS Bryant Flete (.296) went 2 for 6 on the day with a double in Game One.
  • Three SB-Cubs hit doubles in Game Two.
  • DH Eloy Jimenez (.288) was 1 for 3 in the second game with his fifth double of the season.
  • 3B Jesse Hodges (.444) and 1B Matt Rose (.140) both went 1 for 3 with their first doubles of the season.
  • South Bend was 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position in Game Two.

Bricks and Ivy Ball raises $1.65 million for Cubs Charities

RickettsBricksIvy(Photo courtesy Chicago Cubs)

On Thursday night, guests gathered at Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom to show their support for Cubs Charities at the sixth annual Bricks and Ivy Ball. The event raised more than $1.65 million, a fundraising record since the inception of the event, to support Cubs Charities’ programs. The sold-out benefit featured 2016 Chicago Cubs players, owners, alumni and executives who mingled with the more than 800 guests in attendance.

Cubs Charities sponsors three Signature Programs to further its mission to increase access to sports opportunities and target improvements in health, fitness and education for those at risk. The Cubs on the Move Fitness Program promotes a fitness plan and healthy eating campaign while encouraging kids to “Play Every Day.” The Cubs Charities Diamond Project expands opportunities for children to play baseball by creating or preserving green space and baseball facilities. Finally, the Cubs Scholars Program has enrolled 20 scholars and committed $400,000 in scholarships to these Chicago-area high school students, coupled with mentorship by Cubs associates and a program that promotes academic achievement and encourages post-secondary educational advancement.

“The generosity of our fans, players and corporate friends at this year’s sold-out Bricks and Ivy Ball is truly amazing,” said Cubs Charities Board Chair Laura Ricketts. “We are proud of the impact we continue to make in the community by helping to build and improve ballparks, provide academic scholarships and engage children in fitness programs across Chicago. This has been a very productive year, and we look forward to building an even brighter future for Chicago’s next generation of All-Stars.”

Last year, the Cubs, Cubs Charities and Cubs Care combined to support donations of more than $3.4 million and thousands of autographed items, experiences and tickets to deserving nonprofit organizations. For more information, please visit cubscharities.org.

Cubs Lineup: April 29 vs. Braves

Cubs vs. Braves — Wrigley Field
First Pitch: 1:20 p.m.
Cubs Starter: Jon Lester, LHP (2-1, 1.98 ERA)
Braves Starter: Aaron Blair, RHP (0-1, 5.06 ERA)
TV: CSN; Radio: 670 The Score

1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jason Heyward, RF
3. Ben Zobrist, 2B
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Jorge Soler, LF
6. Javy Baez, 3B
7. Addison Russell, SS
8. David Ross, C
9. Jon Lester, P

Cubs Lineup: 4/28/16 vs. Brewers

Cubs vs. Brewers — Wrigley Field
First Pitch: 1:20 p.m.
Cubs Starter: Jake Arrieta, RHP (4-0, 0.87 ERA)
Brewers Starter: Tyler Jungmann, RHP (0-3, 8.47 ERA)
TV: CSN; Radio: 670 The Score

1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jason Heyward, RF
3. Kris Bryant, LF
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
6.  Tommy La Stella, 3B
7.  Addison Russell, SS
8. David Ross, C
9. Jake Arrieta, P

Arrieta, Cubs players honored for latest no-hit effort

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Jake Arrieta is a prime example of how history can repeat itself.

On April 21, the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner tossed a no-hitter in a 16-0 victory against the division-rival Reds. The no-hit effort was the second of the right-hander’s career—and the second in his last 11 regular-season starts.

To commemorate his historic outing, Cartier honored the Cubs ace with a watch, as well as an engraved case. The rest of the team received some bling as well in the form a Shinola watch, which was sitting in each player and personnel member’s locker prior to yesterday’s game.

Though he’d be the first to admit he wasn’t as crisp this time around as he was in his Aug. 30, 2015, no-no against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, Arrieta still managed to fan six hitters despite four walks. He even helped his cause on the offensive side with a pair of hits and a walk in five plate appearances. Prior to his start Wednesday, he was 4-0 on the year with a 0.87 ERA and a 0.66 WHIP.

Cubs Lineup: 4/27/16 vs. Brewers

Cubs vs. Brewers — Wrigley Field
First Pitch: 7:05 CST
Cubs Starter: Jake Arrieta, RHP (4-0, 0.87 ERA)
Brewers Starter: Tyler Jungmann, RHP (0-3, 8.47 ERA)
TV: WGN; Radio: 670 The Score

1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jason Heyward, RF
3. Kris Bryant, LF
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
6.  Tommy La Stella, 3B
7.  Addison Russell, SS
8. David Ross, C
9. Jake Arrieta, P

Cubs Minor League Report: 4/26/16

Tennessee rolled and South Bend extended its winning streak Tuesday, while Iowa and Myrtle Beach couldn’t do enough to secure wins. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s Cubs minor-league action.

Iowa Cubs (7-11)
Pacific Coast League (Triple-A)
Fourth Place (-5.0)

The I-Cubs outhit Oklahoma City but were not able to overcome a three-run Dodgers homer in the third inning, dropping the final game of the series, 4-2.

  • LF Matt Murton (.250) was 2 for 4 with a pair of RBI (6). It was his second straight two-hit game.
  • 1B Dan Vogelbach (.362) added a multi-hit effort, going 2 for 4 with a double (5).
  • CF Albert Almora (.344) was also 2 for 4.
  • RHP Miguel Mejia (1.1 IP, 3 SO), RHP Felix Peña (2 IP, 3 SO) and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser (1 IP) combined to throw 4.1 hitless innings to finish the game. Mejia and Peña fanned six batters in their 3.1 innings of work.

Tennessee Smokies (11-9)
Southern League (Double-A)
Third Place (-1.5)

Led by Jeimer Candelario’s six-RBI performance, the Smokies triumphed over Mobile, 11-2.

  • 3B Jeimer Candelario (.217) led the way, going 2 for 3 with a double (5), a three-run homer (2), two walks and two runs scored. He tied a career-high with six RBI (April 28, 2014 with Single-A Daytona).
  • 2B Chesny Young (.382) went 3 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored.
  • RF Anthony Giansanti (.231) was 1 for 1 with a solo homer (1), a walk and two runs scored.
  • C Victor Caratini (.259) finished 2 for 3 with a double (4), two RBI (8), two walks and a run scored.
  • RHP Jen-Ho Tseng (5.82) picked up his first win of the season, giving up two earned runs in five innings.
  • RHP Starling Peralta (2 IP, 1 H, 2 SO), RHP Juan Paniagua (1 IP, 1 H, 1 SO) and RHP Josh Conway (1 IP, 1 BB) combined to toss four scoreless innings.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (10-9)
Carolina League (High-A)
Second Place (-1.0)

Myrtle Beach went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position and fell to Potomac, 7-4.

  • DH Daniel Lockhart (.185) went 2 for 3 with a double (2), a triple (1), two runs scored and a walk. It’s his second two-hit game of the season.
  • RF Jeffrey Baez (.246) was 1 for 4 with an RBI (8) and managed to accumulate three outfield assists as well.
  • LHP Jordan Minch (1 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 1 SO) tossed a scoreless eighth inning.

South Bend Cubs (12-6)
Midwest League (Single-A)
Second Place (-0.5)

The SB-Cubs extended their winning streak to six games as they topped Quad Cities, 7-5. The streak is the longest since South Bend became a Cubs affiliate in 2015.

  • DH Daniel Spingola (.377) went 2 for 4 with a double (4), two RBI (7), a HBP and a run scored. It extended his hitting streak to nine games.
  • CF Donnie Dewees (.357) was 1 for 5 with a triple (6) and an RBI (14). He leads the Midwest League in extra-base hits (13).
  • LF Eloy Jimenez (.286) collected a multi-hit game, going 2 for 4 with an RBI (12) and a run scored. It extended his hitting streak to six games.
  • RHP Casey Bloomquist (3.0 IP, 1 H, 2 SO) tossed three frames of one-hit, no-run ball.
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