Results tagged ‘ Opening Day ’

1000 Words: Happy Opening Day 2014!

PNC-Park

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty)

At 12:05 CST, the Cubs will kick off the season against the Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Jeff Samardzija will get his second straight Opening Day nod—and his second straight season kick-off in Pittsburgh—against Pirates lefty and 2013 Comeback Player of the Year Francisco Liriano.

Last season, Samardzija gave up only two hits in eight shutout innings to beat then-Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett, 3-1. This will also mark Rick Renteria’s first official game as a major league manager.

Happy Opening Day. Here’s to six more months of Cubs baseball.

Here’s the Cubs lineup for the opener:

1. Bonifacio CF
2. Lake LF
3. Castro SS
4. Rizzo 1B
5. Olt 3B
6. Castillo C
7. Schierholtz RF
8. Barney 2B
9. Samardzija P

Smokies primed for a competitive run

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The Smokies return slugger Justin Bour. (Photo by Rodger Wood)

Coming off of a 2011 Florida State League title, many believed the Tennessee Smokies were destined to repeat in 2012. But that didn’t happen, as the team hovered around .500 for much of the year, finishing 72-68.

This year’s Smokies might not have the hype of the 2012 squad, but after retaining 17 players and adding a few highly touted prospects, a league title could again be in their sights.

The 2013 offense is fronted by a few key returnees in Justin Bour and Matt Szczur. Bour, a 24-year-old first baseman, was the rock in the middle of the order last season, hitting .283/.360/.455 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 17 homers and a franchise-record 110 driven in. If he’s not moved up, he could near that RBI total again, especially considering Szczur and newcomer Arismendy Alcantara will bat ahead of him in the lineup.

Former fifth-round pick Szczur was all over Single-A hitting before his call-up last season. Though he struggled at Double-A (.210/.285/.357 in 35 games), he performed well in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .264 and drawing 14 walks in 105 at-bats. He also stole nine bases.

The 21-year-old Alcantara was promoted after a stellar 2012 in Daytona, where he hit .302/.339/.447 with 13 doubles and swiped 25 bags. The versatile infielder will likely line up at short, and he’s a tough out at the plate.

Alberto Cabrera is a Tennessee newcomer who will head a rotation that features three returnees. The 24-year-old Cabrera pitched in relief for the first time in his career last season and reached the majors, where he went 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 21.2 innings. Eric Jokisch, Dae-Eun Rhee, Dallas Beeler and call-up Kyle Hendricks round out the starting staff.

Buddy Bailey returns to manage the Smokies, who play Friday night at 7 p.m. CST. Here’s the roster Bailey will have to work with to start season:

PITCHERS
Frank Batista RHP
Dallas Beeler RHP
Alberto Cabrera RHP
Marcus Hatley RHP
Kyle Hendricks RHP
Eric Jokisch LHP
Trey McNutt RHP
A.J. Morris RHP
Kevin Rhoderick RHP
Dae-Eun Rhee RHP
Zach Rosscup LHP
Brian Schlitter RHP
Tony Zych RHP

CATCHERS
Jair Fernandez
Rafael Lopez

INFIELDERS
Arismendy Alcantara
Justin Bour
Anthony Giansanti
Jonathan Mota
Elliot Soto
Tim Torres
Christian Villanueva

OUTFIELDERS
Johermyn Chavez
Jae-Hoon Ha
Rubi Silva
Matt Szczur

Daytona’s offense packs a punch

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Javier Baez will be Daytona’s shortstop to start the 2013 season. (Photo by Stephen Green)

If there’s any Cubs minor league affiliate that’s going to attract attention at the start of 2013, it’s the organization’s High-A Daytona squad. Daytona season ticket holders will likely see an increase in occupied seats, thanks to the heart of the Cubs’ order.

Sitting third and fourth in the lineup are Javier Baez and Jorge Soler, two of Baseball America‘s top 34 prospects in baseball heading into the year. The talented shortstop Baez crushed Single-A pitching in 2012, hitting .333/.383/.553 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 12 home runs and 33 RBI in 235 plate appearances. He did struggle in 23 games at Daytona to end the season, but after a strong Arizona Fall League and an even better Spring Training—spent mainly with the big league club—his late-summer slide seems like a distant memory.

Likely batting right behind Baez will be hulking Cuban expat Jorge Soler. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound right fielder signed a nine-year, $30 million free agent deal in early July. Though he played just 20 games for Single-A Peoria last year, he hit .338 with three homers and 15 RBI. A member of the 40-man roster, Soler was invited to big league Spring Training, where he hit .222 in 36 at-bats, but also flashed some impressive leather and showed Cubs management he’s more than just a big bat.

Other notable offensive weapons include John Andreoli, Stephen Bruno, Zeke DeVoss, Dustin Geiger and Tim Saunders. Former Florida State wide receiver Taiwan Easterling could also be an exciting player to watch. After hitting .307 in 2011, the 23-year-old’s average slipped to .243 last year in Peoria.

The pitching staff doesn’t have as many headline names, but getting right-hander Starlin Peralta back, after initially losing him to Arizona in the Rule 5 draft, helps. Austin Kirk returns after going 7-3 last year with a 3.13 ERA in 21 starts. Eduardo Figueroa was the club’s go-to reliever last season, appearing in 37 games and posting a 2.90 ERA.

Here are the players manager Dave Keller will have on his roster as Daytona opens its season Thursday:

PITCHERS
Yeiper Castillo, RHP
Zach Cates, RHP
Frank Del Valle, LHP
Eduardo Figueroa, RHP
P.J. Francescon, RHP
Austin Kirk, LHP
Luis Liria, RHP
Sheldon McDonald, LHP
Starlin Peralta, RHP
Austin Reed, RHP
Ryan Searle, RHP
Yao-Lin Wang, RHP
Ben Wells, RHP

CATCHERS
Taylor Davis
Micah Gibbs
Chad Noble

INFIELDERS
Javier Baez
Stephen Bruno
Ben Carhart
Zeke DeVoss
Dustin Geiger
Tim Saunders

OUTFIELDERS
John Andreoli
Taiwan Easterling
Jorge Soler

Cubs announce 25-man roster

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Hisanori Takahashi won a spot on the Opening Day roster. (Photo by Stephen Green)

The Cubs made their final selections for the 25-man roster to open up the season Monday morning. Lefty pitcher Hisanori Takahashi officially won the final reliever spot while Alberto Gonzalez replaces Darwin Barney, who went on the DL after suffering a lacerated knee.

Outfielder Brett Jackson was optioned to Triple-A Iowa and right-handed pitcher Robert Whitenack was designated for assignment. The Cubs kick off the season Monday in Pittsburgh, with first pitched scheduled for 12:35 CST. Here are the options Dale Sveum will have at his disposal:

PITCHERS
32-Scott Baker, RHP (60-Day DL)
28-Michael Bowden, RHP
54-Shawn Camp, RHP
46-Scott Feldman, RHP
11-Kyuji Fujikawa, RHP
22-Matt Garza, RHP (15-Day DL)
36-Edwin Jackson, RHP
49-Carlos Marmol, RHP
56-Hector Rondon, RHP
40-James Russell, LHP
29-Jeff Samardzija, RHP
47-Hisanori Takahashi, LHP
33-Carlos Villanueva, RHP
41-Arodys Vizcaino, RHP (60-Day DL)
37-Travis Wood, LHP

CATCHERS
53-Welington Castillo
51-Steve Clevenger
30-Dioner Navarro

INFIELDERS
15-Darwin Barney (15-Day DL)
13-Starlin Castro
6-Alberto Gonzalez
20-Brent Lillibridge
44-Anthony Rizzo
2-Ian Stewart (15-Day DL)
24-Luis Valbuena

OUTFIELDERS
9-David DeJesus
21-Scott Hairston
17-Dave Sappelt
19-Nate Schierholtz
12-Alfonso Soriano

Series 1 Preview: Cubs at Pittsburgh

Burnett

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

cubs_at_pirates

The Cubs open up the season in Pittsburgh, where a team desperately trying to get over the hump awaits. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen is the star of this team and a complete threat on both sides of the ball. He’s just part of a homegrown offensive core—including second baseman Neil Walker and third baseman Pedro Alvarez—that’s under 27 and hoping to break an 20-year spate of losing seasons.

On the other hand, the pitching staff has been pieced together through trades and free agency. Right-handers A.J. Burnett and James McDonald, and lefties Wandy Rodriguez and Jeff Locke were all collected in deals over the last few seasons. They’re joined by newly signed southpaw Jonathan Sanchez. Meanwhile, veteran Mark Melancon was added to bring games home to closer Jason Grilli, after a season in which an excellent Pirates bullpen faltered badly down the stretch.

[PITCHER TO WATCH] A.J. Burnett

2012 STATS: 202 IP, 3.51 ERA, 20 K%, 7.2 UBB%, 57 GB%

At age 35, A.J. Burnett revived his career with the Pirates after two consecutive down seasons in New York. Though his stuff didn’t really change much, he had better control and got more out of it than in several years. He’ll lead Pittsburgh out of the gate on Opening Day.

PLAN OF ATTACK: Aggressively go after batters

Burnett’s pitch sequencing is relatively typical, but it’s where he locates his pitches that can make life difficult for batters. He leverages his heat in the top third of the zone far more than the average major leaguer. In 2012, he also traded about half of his four-seamers for his sinking two-seamer. As a result, he kept the ball on the ground at his highest rate in seven seasons. The two-seamer is a weapon he’ll increasingly use to avoid barrels when behind in the count. Righties also have to guard against him sneaking it back over the low/away corner of the zone. Against lefties, Burnett will pull out a straight change-up, though it doesn’t have much velocity or movement separation from his two fastballs.

PUTAWAY PITCH: Curve

Once Burnett gets ahead of a batter, he turns to a hard, low-80s curve that he uses nearly 60 percent of the time. It’s a nasty pitch that has sharp, two-plane movement. What makes the pitch exceptional is his ability to drop it at the bottom of the zone, coaxing hitters into chasing borderline pitches. Hitters may know it’s coming, but it’s another matter to figure out if the pitch is going to cross the zone or break out of reach. Batters who did swing at the curve in 2012 ended up whiffing on it nearly half the time.

—Sean Ahmed

PITCHf/x data from Baseball Prospectus and BrooksBaseball.net.

Opening Day Countdown: No. 1 Jose Cardenal

Opening Day is just one day away. As Cubs fans prepare for pitcher Jeff Samardzija and the rest of the squad to kick off the regular season, we here at Vine Line are counting down the days in a unique way. For every day remaining until the season starts—today’s number is one—we’ll commemorate some of the best players to wear that number for the Cubs.

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Jose Cardenal (and his incredible hairstyle) wore the No. 1 from 1972-77 with the Cubs. A fan favorite, the outfielder hit .296/.363/.424 (AVG/OBP/SLG) and stole 129 bases in his six seasons on the North Side. Two of his finest years came in 1972 and 1973, when he received MVP votes.

After his 18-year playing career with nine different teams, Cardenal moved into coaching. He was the first base coach on the Yankees World Championship teams in 1996, 1998 and 1999.

Other notables to wear the No. 1 include:

Charlie Grimm, Larry Bowa and Kosuke Fukudome.

Opening Day Countdown: No. 2 Gabby Hartnett

Opening Day is just two days away. As Cubs fans prepare for pitcher Jeff Samardzija and the rest of the squad to kick off the regular season, we here at Vine Line are counting down the days in a unique way. For every day remaining until the season starts—today’s number is two—we’ll commemorate some of the best players to wear that number for the Cubs.

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Gabby Harnett is arguably the organization’s best catcher of all time. The Hall of Famer and 1935 NL MVP wore the No. 2 from 1937-40 and had 19 successful seasons as both a player and manager of the Cubs. Hartnett amassed 231 home runs in his Cubs career and tallied 1,153 RBI. He also carried a batting average of .297 with the franchise.

From 1938-40, Hartnett was also a player/manager. He took over the club midway through the 1938 season and led them to a pennant.

During his long career, Hartnett wore a few different Cubs jerseys, including Nos. 7 and 9.

Other Notables to wear the No. 2 include:

Billy Herman, Leo Durocher and Rick Wilkins. Third baseman Ian Stewart currently sports the number.

Opening Day Countdown: No. 3 Kiki Cuyler

Opening Day is just three days away. As Cubs fans prepare for pitcher Jeff Samardzija and the rest of the squad to kick off the regular season, we here at Vine Line are counting down the days in a unique way. For every day remaining until the season starts—today’s number is three—we’ll commemorate some of the best players to wear that number for the Cubs.

356-Cuyler-K-Ca.-1931P-Swinging

Kiki Cuyler spent eight seasons manning the outfield for the North Siders from 1928-35 and wore the No. 3 for the final four of those seasons. He was a constant threat on the basepaths, leading the league in stolen bases four times (three with the Cubs). He posted a .325/.391/.485 (AVG/OBP/SLG) line in Chicago and hit 128 home runs during his 18-year career with the Pirates, Cubs, Reds and Dodgers. Cuyler was inducted into the National baseball Hall of Fame in 1968 by the Veterans Committee.

Opening Day Countdown: No. 4 Don Zimmer

Opening Day is just four days away. As Cubs fans prepare for pitcher Jeff Samardzija and the rest of the squad to kick off the regular season, we here at Vine Line are counting down the days in a unique way. For every day remaining until the season starts—today’s number is four—we’ll commemorate some of the best players to wear that number for the Cubs.

Zim

(Photo by Getty Images)

Former Cubs coach and manager Don Zimmer has been in professional baseball since 1949. He played for the Cubs as a backup infielder from 1960-61 and managed the team from 1988-91. Zim, known as much for his personality as his on-field exploits, led the 1989 Cubs to a 93-69 record and an NL East title. Unfortunately the Boys of Zimmer were ousted by San Francisco in five games.

Zimmer went on to win four World Series titles with the Yankees dynasty of the late 1990s. He is currently a senior advisor for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Other notable Cubs to wear the No. 4 include:

Billy Williams (1959), Randy Hundley (1977) and Lee Elia

Opening Day Countdown: No. 5 Lou Boudreau

Opening Day is just five days away. As Cubs fans prepare for pitcher Jeff Samardzija and the rest of the squad to kick off the regular season, we here at Vine Line are counting down the days in a unique way. For every day remaining until the season starts—today’s number is five—we’ll commemorate some of the best players to wear that number for the Cubs.

1545-Boudreau-L--P-dugout

Lou Boudreau was probably better known for his success with the Indians, but the World Series champion did spend the 1960 season at the helm of the Cubs. The skipper sported the No. 5 with the North Siders in that lone season, and the team finished with just 54 wins.

The Harvey, Ill., native was the 1948 AL MVP during the Indians’ last World Series title run. He was a seven-time All-Star, won the batting title in 1944 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1970.

Other notable Cubs to wear the No. 5 include:

Jim Riggleman and Nomar Garciaparra. Josh Vitters currently wears No. 5.

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