Now Playing: The Lighter Side of the Cubs, Part Three

Everyone who has ever played baseball has had it happen—a misjudged pop fly that lands one foot behind you, a weak grounder that goes right through your legs or a moment of indecision on the basepaths that makes you look foolish. Major leaguers are no different.

In Part Three of our Lighter Side video series, we ask Travis Wood, Nate Schierholtz, Justin Grimm and others about their most embarrassing moments on a baseball field.

We’ll be posting videos and stories from Cubs Park throughout the spring, so watch the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline. Later this week, we’ll give you an inside look at the new Cubs Park facility in Mesa.

Check out the other videos from our Spring Training series:

Cubscast Mesa with Rick Renteria and the 2014 coaching staff
Cubscast Mesa with the top prospects
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part One
Cubscast Mesa: Meet the new guys
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Two

Cubs add former pitcher Ted Lilly to front office

Lilly

(Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)

The Cubs named Ted Lilly as Special Assistant to President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer on Tuesday.

The former Cubs left-hander spent nearly four seasons with the club, from 2007-10, and was a key contributor to both of the organization’s NL Central titles in 2007 and 2008.

In his new role with the organization, Lilly will spend time with the club during Spring Training, visit the minor league affiliates during the season, evaluate amateur players leading up to the draft and perform professional scouting assignments.

Earlier this year, Lilly announced his retirement as a player after 15 seasons with Montreal (1999), the New York Yankees (2000-02), Oakland (2002-03), Toronto (2004-06), the Cubs (2007-10) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (2010-13). He finished his big league career with a 130-113 record and a 4.14 ERA (913 ER/982.2 IP) in 356 appearances, including 331 starts.

Baseball Prospectus checks in on Cubs prospects over the weekend

Bryant,-Kris

Kris Bryant is one of the big prospects currently at Cubs camp. (Photo by Aldrin Capulong/Daytona Cubs)

Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks checked out Cubs Park over the weekend, and he keyed in on some of the top prospects that made the organization his second best farm system in baseball. On Tuesday morning, the prospect guru delivered his Notes from the Field, and, to no one’s surprise, he came away impressed. In the article, he discussed the Cubs’ three most recent No. 1 draft choices in Javier Baez (2011), Albert Almora (2012) and Kris Bryant (2013).

The whole post is definitely worth a read, but here are some of the highlights of Parks’ evaluations:

Albert Almora -

The 19-year-old looked bigger and stronger than I recall, standing every bit of 6-foot-2—if not slightly taller—with a lean but not lanky physique. He showed quick hands at the plate, tapping into his pull-side power and launching several bombs into the grassy disappearance behind the left-field fence. He showed an explosive hip rotation that was impressive for its fluidity and speed and not its violence; that allowed him to throw the bat head out and really turn on the baseball without losing his balance, hitting with authority and making hard/loud contact. After his rips, he returned to his comfortable swagger, which is probably an acceptable mixture of extremely cocky and extremely confident, both of which are characteristics I expect to see in top talents.

Kris Bryant -

The raw power is easy to see and not news to anybody reading this. He uses his hands more than most bombers, but he also uses his lower half very well, and when he shifts his weight and fires his hips, he doesn’t open up too much and he can stay on the baseball. This puts him in a good position to track the ball from release and cover all quadrants of the zone with his swing. The bat speed is very good, and the leverage he creates with his long body doesn’t make the swing long to a fault.

Javier Baez -

Baez has the best bat speed I’ve seen since I started evaluating talent at the minor-league level, and it might be some of the best bat speed I’ve seen period. It’s violent—no doubt—and I’m not always sold that he can control the bat after he triggers. But when he unsheathes that weapon and it finds the ball, the cowhide screams in what I believe to both ecstasy and agony. … The violence in the swing and the confidence at the plate (almost sanguine at times) are both positive and negative qualities for Baez. You don’t want to change the hitter but you want him to refine a bit, and if he does, this is a superstar and a potential role 8 player at the major-league level. This is what elite looks like when it’s young. But learning to find his game and make adjustments will be vital if he is to come close to that lofty, spectacular ceiling. It’s anything but a sure thing, but of all the players in the minors—and this includes Buxton, Taveras, Bogaerts, et al.​—Baez has a higher all-around ceiling.

1000 Words: Cage work in black and white

Cage work

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Photographer Stephen Green gives you a sneak peek inside the covered batting cages at Cubs Park, where players are fine-tuning their mechanics before the start of the season on March 31.

Cubs agree to terms with 19 players

CASTILLO W

Welington Castillo was one of 19 players to agree to a deal with the Cubs Monday afternoon. (Image by Stephen Green)

The Cubs have come to terms with 19 players on their 40-man roster with zero-to-three years of major league service time. The terms of the contracts were not disclosed.

The players who have reached agreements include right-handed pitchers Jake Arrieta, Dallas Beeler, Alberto Cabrera, Justin Grimm, Blake Parker, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon and Arodys Vizcaino; left-handed pitchers Zac Rosscup and Chris Rusin; catcher Welington Castillo; infielders Arismendy Alcantara, Mike Olt, Christian Villanueva and Logan Watkins; and outfielders Brett Jackson, Junior Lake, Matt Szczur and Josh Vitters.

Now Playing: The Lighter Side of the Cubs, Part Two

Think you know everything about your favorite Cubs players?

While you may be able to talk OBP, WHIP and VORP with the best of them, did you know Jeff Samardzija is a big fan of birds or that Travis Wood might be trying to read your mind? Every spring, we get personal with Cubs personnel to dig up some facts that you can’t find anywhere else. In the second part of our Lighter Side series, we ask Cubs players which talent or superpower they wish they had.

We’ll be posting videos and stories from Cubs Park throughout the spring, so watch the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.

Check out the other videos from our Spring Training series:

Cubscast Mesa with Rick Renteria and the 2014 coaching staff
Cubscast Mesa with the top prospects
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part One
Cubscast Mesa: Meet the New Guys

1000 Words: Happy 100th Harry!

HarryTux

Holy cow! Saturday would have been Harry Caray’s 100th birthday. What was your favorite moment or call from the legendary broadcaster?

1000 Words: Fireworks over Cubs Park

Fireworks Cubs Park

(Photo by Stephen Green)

First-time major league manager Rick Renteria and his Chicago Cubs faced off Thursday against Kirk Gibson and the Diamondbacks at the opening of Cubs Park in Mesa, Ariz. The game kicked off with comments by Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts and Mesa Mayor Scott Smith and was followed by fireworks over the left-field berm. The Cubs set a Cactus League attendance record with a crowd of 14,486, breaking the previous record of 13,721, set by the White Sox and Dodgers last spring.

Cactus Notes: Cubs take on the Angels; doubleheader set for Saturday

The Cubs are looking to get manager Rick Renteria his first win as they head to Tempe this afternoon to take on the Angels in their first road game of the Cactus League season. While the Cubs will get reacquainted with Albert Pujols and get a chance to see superstar Mike Trout, the Angels will get their first look at phenom Javy Baez. The 21-year-old, who hit .282/.341/.578 with 37 home runs and 111 RBI last season between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, gets the start at short today.

Left-hander Chris Rusin is on the mound, taking on the Angels Jared Weaver. Rusin will be backed up by lefties Jonathan Sanchez and Tommy Hottovy, and righties James McDonald and Carlos Pimentel.

Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer will have the game on WGN Radio at 2 p.m. CST. It will also be webcast on Cubs.com. In case you missed it, here’s the lineup for Friday’s game.

1. Chris Coghlan DH
2. Darwin Barney 2B
3. Ryan Sweeney CF
4. Nate Schierholtz RF
5. Donnie Murphy 3B
6. Casper Wells LF
7. Javier Baez SS
8. George Kottaras C
9. Chris Valaika 1B
Chris Rusin P

The Cubs also announced lineups for Saturday’s day-night doubleheader. They start the day at home versus the Giants at 2:05 p.m. CST, and finish up against the Diamondbacks in Scottsdale at 8:05 CST. All-Star Travis Wood will take the hill against the Giants, while Edwin Jackson gets his first start of the spring in the nightcap. Rain is currently in the forecast for Saturday, so the games could be threatened. If the weather cooperates, both will be broadcast on Cubs.com. Here are Saturday’s lineups.

Game One
1. Arismendy Alcantara 2B
2. Luis Valbuena 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo 1B
4. Justin Ruggiano CF
5. Welington Castillo C
6. Chris Valaika SS
7. George Kottaras DH
8. Darnell McDonald LF
9. Aaron Cunningham RF
Travis Wood P

Game Two
1. Emilio Bonifacio 2B
2. Junior Lake CF
3. Starlin Castro SS
4. Ryan Roberts 1B
5. Kris Bryant 3B
6. Jorge Soler RF
7. Mike Olt DH
8. Chris Coghlan LF
9. Eli Whiteside C
Edwin Jackson P

1000 Words: Samardzija delivers the first pitch at Cubs Park

First Pitch Cubs Park

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija delivers the first official Cactus League pitch ever thrown at Cubs Park in Mesa, Ariz., to Diamondbacks leadoff hitter Gerardo Parra. The Shark walked Parra on four pitches and allowed a quick single to third baseman Martin Prado, but he settled down after that.

“It must have been the fireworks,” Samardzija said. “I think it was the first time the Cubbies ever had fireworks.”

In 2.0 innings pitched, Samardzija allowed no runs on two hits, walked one and struck out two. Despite RBI from Luis Valbuena and Starlin Castro, the Cubs dropped the opener 5-2.

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