Results tagged ‘ Ryan Sweeney ’

Cubs recall OF Soler, IF Watkins from Iowa

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Jorge Soler will make his first major league start Wednesday. (Photo by Stephen Green)

The Cubs recalled outfielder Jorge Soler and infielder Logan Watkins from Triple-A Iowa Wednesday afternoon, placing outfielders Justin Ruggiano and Ryan Sweeney on the 15-day disabled list with left ankle inflammation and a left hamstring strain, respectively.

Soler, 22, was the organization’s No. 5 preseason prospect, according to Baseball America and ranked the No. 49 prospect in all of baseball prior to the season. The right-handed batter and thrower combined to hit .340/.432/.700 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 23 doubles, 15 home runs and 57 RBI in 200 at-bats over 62 games this season across three minor league levels.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound player started the 2014 season at Double-A Tennessee, where, despite being slowed by hamstring injuries, he batted .415/.494/.862 in 65 at-bats over 22 games to earn a promotion to Triple-A Iowa on July 24. In just more than a month with Iowa, Soler batted .282/.378/.618 with eight homers and 29 RBI in 32 games.

Soler originally signed a nine-year major league deal with the Cubs in June of 2012 out of Cuba. He entered the 2013 campaign ranked by Baseball America as the No. 3 prospect in the organization and batted .281 (59-for-210) with 13 doubles, eight homers and 35 RBI after being limited to 55 games with Single-A Daytona due to a left shin fracture. He was named to the World Team in the Futures Game that year (though he did not play due to injury) and recovered to participate in the Arizona Fall League with the Mesa Solar Sox, playing in 20 games.

Overall in 151 career minor league games, Soler has batted .307 (167-for-544) with 300 total bases, 108 runs scored, 43 doubles, three triples, 28 home runs, 117 RBI, a .383 on-base percentage, a .551 slugging percentage and a .934 OPS.

Watkins, who turns 25 on Friday, returns to the Cubs for his second stint this season. He hit .300 (3-for-10) with a double and three RBI in four games with the Cubs last week before being optioned back to Iowa after the game on Sunday. At Triple-A this season, he is batting .256 (83-for-324) with 21 doubles, four home runs and 38 RBI in 103 games. He was the organization’s 2012 Minor League Player of the Year.

Ruggiano, 32, is batting .281 (63-for-224) with 13 doubles, six home runs and 28 RBI in 81 games with the Cubs this season.

Sweeney, 29, is batting .251 (52-for-207) with nine doubles, three home runs and 20 RBI in 77 games.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Cubs players reflect on their fathers’ influence

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Cubs reliever James Russell is following in the footsteps of his dad, Jeff. (Photo by Stephen Green)

You grew up watching baseball on TV with your father. Then you played Little League, and your dad was the coach. Later, he started taking you to games, making sure the two of you got there extra early so you could snatch a few stray home run balls during batting practice.

For generations, baseball has been bringing fathers and sons together. Chances are, when you became an adult and had a son of your own, you tried to get him into baseball, coached his Little League team and took him to games too.

To celebrate Father’s Day this month, Vine Line caught up with a few Cubs players to discuss the almost mystical connection the game engenders. Though each person may have attached to the sport in a different way, there’s no denying baseball served as a valuable link between fathers and sons—just like it has in the past and will in the future.

Ryan Sweeney and his dad, Gary
“I think baseball is definitely, of any of the sports, the bonding thing between father and son, especially now that I have a son,” said Cubs outfielder Ryan Sweeney. “Sharing that with him is something that brings [us] closer together.”

Ryan credits his dad, Gary, for the success he’s had in the game, especially early in his life. Gary always pushed his son to excel, even if that meant making him do some extra work when the younger Sweeney wasn’t fully invested.

“My dad pushed me pretty hard to get me where I’m at,” Ryan said. “I might not have liked it at the time, but looking back, I’m glad he pushed me the way he did. He was my coach growing up for a lot of the time too. He never played baseball, but he tried to read up and learn as much as he could so he could teach me to do the right things.”

When Ryan finally did break into the major leagues, Gary happened to be visiting his son in Charlotte (home of the White Sox’s Triple-A affiliate). Ryan was at the stadium when he got the news and promptly called his parents. Though they didn’t believe him at first, they ultimately made the trip to Kansas City to see Ryan put on a major league uniform for the first time.

Despite having spent the majority of the last seven years at the game’s highest level, Ryan said he still shares the occasional instruction-filled phone call with his father.

“He tries to tell me what to do now, still, and how to play,” Ryan joked. “He’s constantly watching games on TV, saving my games, watching my swings, everything.”

Justin Grimm and his dad, Mark
When Justin Grimm graduated from junior high, he was faced with a difficult athletic decision. Both soccer and baseball were played in the same high school season, so he was forced to choose between the two. Though Justin was ready to put away the glove and bat for good, his dad, Mark, wasn’t in favor of the idea.

“He definitely leaned me toward baseball,” Justin said. “I thought I was a better soccer player at the time than I was baseball. He didn’t say, ‘You’re not playing soccer,’ but he did [say it] at the same time.

“He was a football fan, he loved football. He played at East Tennessee State in college, and he had a love for football, especially when I was growing up. Even to when I was 9, I was playing football, and I think it kind of crushed him when I definitely decided I wasn’t going to play anymore.”

Despite straying from his dad’s favorite sport, Justin said his father always supported his decisions and was somebody he could confide in growing up—even on topics he wouldn’t discuss with his close friends.

“[He] helped keep me encouraged, always feeding me positive thoughts instead of the negative ones,” Justin said. “He was pretty good with that growing up. Him and my mom both. They kept me on the right path, kept me going in the right direction, helped me stay into the right things and out of the wrong things.”

These days, the reliever said he gets a kick out of how excited his dad gets when he visits the clubhouse or throws the ball around with Justin in a major league outfield.

“He enjoys it probably 200 times more than I do,” Justin said. “He loves just going places, especially to different [venues]. Every time he comes into town, he wants to go see the park and what I do every day. And he wants to go to the team shop and get a bunch of gear, so he can support me back home. He’s definitely one of my biggest fans.”

James Russell and his dad, Jeff
Though James Russell is the son of former big league closer Jeff Russell, there was never any pressure for him to follow in his father’s footsteps. Still, between playing baseball every day and spending countless afternoons and nights in major league locker rooms growing up, the left-hander quickly formed an affinity for the game.

“He never really pressured me into it,” James said of his father, who spent 14 seasons in the majors, including 10 with the Rangers. “It was just something that I was good at, and I enjoyed playing. I loved all sports. I played everything growing up—football, basketball and baseball being the bigger three of the sports.

“Fortunately, I grew up in clubhouses that are a little bigger than ours at Wrigley, but it was fun getting into trouble. There were always a bunch of other kids that I [got] to hang out with. We’d find our ways and [make] little batting cages and stuff, so we could just mess around until security came and kicked us out.”

As James got older, he’d go to the ballpark virtually every day with his dad. While the Cubs reliever credits those trips for stoking his desire to play professional ball, he also knows how important those moments were for his father.

“That was some of the most memorable stuff out of his career,” James said.

With the roles now reversed, James has been informed his dad can be a tough guy to watch a game with.

“I’ve always heard he’s a real nervous guy whenever I’m throwing,” Russell said. “He can never sit down in a seat. He’s always walking around. He’s usually drinking a couple of beers to ease his nerves. If he’s not around a TV, he’s got it on his phone.”

John Baker and his dad, Dave
Entering Spring Training, journeyman catcher John Baker was on the outside looking in when it came to finding a spot on the Cubs’ 25-man roster. However, after a strong preseason showing in which he consistently provided outstanding effort, the North Siders found room for the 33-year-old backstop. Baker can thank his dad, Dave, for his solid work ethic.

“He was the biggest baseball influence I had [growing up],” John said. “There are still a lot of things I think in my head that my dad told me. His favorite line was ‘It takes no talent to hustle.’ That was his favorite thing to say. That … and ‘The most important position is the ready position.’

“He was always about being prepared, hustling and playing the game the right way—developing a strong work ethic. I got to see that as a kid, watching him go to work every single day. He’d get up with me at five in the morning and flip me baseballs in the side yard.”

Though many people were surprised to see John make the team over veteran free agent George Kottaras, one person never doubted it for a second.

“When I called [my dad] and told him I made the team here, he told me, ‘Son, I believed you were going to make the team, so two weeks ago, I went ahead and bought a ticket to Chicago,’ which was a really cool, validating feeling for me, knowing that he really believed in me without even telling me,” John said.

Dave played a lot of baseball growing up, so he had a good idea of how much effort it was going to take to make a career out of the game.

“There were days where I didn’t want to go [out to the field to practice], where he made me go,” John said. “And there were days where he came home from work, and I probably said, ‘Dad, can you throw me some balls?’ and he kind of went, ‘Yeah, let me take you to the batting cage. Let’s go do it.’ So it was give and take, but I was never turned down.”

Mike Olt and his dad, George
Early in Mike Olt’s career, his father, George, served as a sort of “baseball whisperer” for his son. As a former college player, the elder Olt had spent a fair amount of time around the diamond and knew a thing or two about the game. But if there was one thing he knew better than baseball, it was Mike.

“He knows I’m a head case, so he usually would tell me one little thing, which I probably wasn’t doing any differently [anyway],” Mike said. “Like, ‘Hey, raise your hands’ or something small that meant nothing.

“But he knew that was the only thing I’d think about and not what the pitcher was throwing. Next thing you know, I’m 4-for-4, 4-for-5, it was crazy. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Mike grew up in Connecticut, listening to his dad tell stories about traveling to Yankee Stadium with his own father. Years later, Mike enjoyed taking those same trips to the Bronx with George.

“We always went to a ton of games at Yankee Stadium, me and him,” Mike said. “Those are the kind of memories you don’t forget.”

These days, the third baseman enjoys bringing his dad with him to Wrigley Field as often as possible. When Mike made his major league debut with the Rangers in 2012, George was in attendance, and his excitement was something Mike will never forget.

“Those are experiences that he’s going to be really proud of, and he’ll remember those forever,” Mike said. “I would do anything for him, anything for my family. To have him at the game and watching the highlights, seeing him and how happy he is, it does make me really happy. It’s kind of cool to see how excited he is for me and what’s to come.”

—Phil Barnes

Now Playing: Cubscast Mesa, The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Five

Playing professional baseball is a dream job, but it’s not the most likely career choice. So what would your favorite players be doing if their big league dreams hadn’t come true? We talked to Cubs personnel about some other possible career choices.

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: Positive Energy in Cubs Camp
Cubscast Mesa: Inside Cubs Park
Cubscast Mesa with Rick Renteria and the 2014 coaching staff
Cubscast Mesa with the top prospects
Cubscast Mesa: Meet the new guys
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part One
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Two
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Three
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Four

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

Now Playing: Cubscast Mesa, The Lighter Side of the Cubs, Part One

Major league baseball players have a tendency to make things look easy. That’s because they’re the best at what they do. But getting to the pinnacle of the sport takes countless hours of practice and hard work—and even the best of the best make mistakes sometimes.

As part of our Spring Training video series, Vine Line talked with Anthony Rizzo, Jason Hammel and several others to find out about some of the moments they aren’t overly proud of. Check back later this week for more in our Lighter Side video series.

We’ll be posting videos and stories from Cubs Park all week long, 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

From the Pages of Vine Line: Q&A with Ryan Sweeney

SweeneyAstros

(Photo by Stephen Green)

The 2013 season marked Ryan Sweeney’s second stint as a major leaguer in Chicago. Originally drafted by the White Sox in 2003, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native spent two seasons on the South Side before being traded to Oakland and then Boston. Prior to last year, Sweeney was signed by the Cubs, where he enjoyed a successful, though injury-riddled, campaign. The following can be found in the December issue of Vine Line.

MOVING UP  I started off in Triple-A. I had to go there for a few weeks and then come up here. But I loved it. Obviously [the Cubs] gave me an opportunity to play every day. Being from the Midwest and being able to play in Chicago, I’m excited to be here.

BACK HOME  People always ask [if it was fun to play close to home with Triple-A Iowa]. It was fun, but that wasn’t my goal to go play for the Iowa Cubs. I knew I had to go there to get some at-bats before I came up, because I got nontendered so late by the Red Sox. I mean, it was cool, but it was snowing and cold the first couple of weeks, so it wasn’t really that great of an experience.

INJURY BUG  It always seems like when you’re doing good, that’s when the injury comes. It’s never when you’re doing terrible. It was definitely frustrating to be hitting decently well and [then to fracture my rib in June]—and to be playing every day at the time when I had the injury. I just looked at it as, “When I come back, I have to finish strong and show them that I can still play every day against lefties and righties.”

TV TIES  [Growing up] I was a Braves fan because of TBS, but my grandparents are huge Cubs fans. They watch the Cubs every single day. When I got drafted by the White Sox, they were like, “All right, well, we’ll root for you.” But now that I’m over here, they love it. They can just watch it on WGN every day.

GOOD DIRECTION  I felt like this was the right fit. I like the direction the organization is headed as far as getting young. I’m still fairly young for being a guy that has some time in. I just thought it would be a good opportunity, and playing here at Wrigley Field—there are worse places to play.

FENWAY VS. WRIGLEY  They’re both different. Being a part of the 100-year anniversary of Boston [in 2012], and then next year’s going to be the 100-year anniversary here, will be pretty cool. I like both places. They’re both great atmospheres to play in, and the fans are great.

SWING CHANGE  I went and hit with Rod Carew for a couple of weeks this last offseason and just learned some stuff from him, and [there were] some different keys I took away from it. I struggled a little bit with it in Spring Training. I was doing great hitting off the tee and flips and everything, but once you get into the game, transferring it over [can be difficult]. I feel like once I started the regular season, I was kind of where I wanted to be with my swing, not changing much throughout the entire year and just staying consistent.

OFF THE FIELD  I basically just play golf. I don’t golf much around here. I played at Cog Hill [a few months ago]. I’ve got a buddy that’s a part of a country club around here, so I play out there every once in a while. But I’ll probably golf a little more once I’m here a little bit more.

Cubs extend OF Ryan Sweeney

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(Photo by Dave Durochik)

On Thursday, the Cubs officially announced they have come to terms with outfielder Ryan Sweeney on a two-year deal, originally reported to be worth $3.5 million, with a team option for 2016 worth $2.5 million.

The 28-year-old signed with the Cubs in April of this year after being released by the Red Sox at the conclusion of Spring Training. Sweeney spent the first month of the season playing for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, where he hit .337/.396/.627 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with six homers in 83 at-bats before a May 6 call-up.

In 70 games with the Cubs, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native hit .266/.324/.448 with six homers, 13 doubles and 19 RBI. Before breaking a rib during a June 29 game in Seattle, he had a .295/.342/.527 line in 121 plate appearances.

Sweeney played all three outfield positions, but spent 45 games in center (vs. 10 in left and four in right) and will likely compete for a starting outfield spot heading into Spring Training.

1000 Words: Sweeney’s Career Day

SweeneyAstros

(Photo by David Banks/Getty)

Outfielder Ryan Sweeney is taking full advantage of the chance to play every day as a result of David DeJesus’ unfortunate shoulder injury. In Sunday’s 14-6 home win over the former division rival Houston Astros, Sweeney had a career day, going 3-for-5 with a double, a three-run home run and six RBI. In 39 games this season, the versatile outfielder has put up a .309/.356/.521 (AVG/OBP/SLG) slash line.

Cubs bring up OF Sweeney, RHP Dolis

Sweeney

The Cubs selected outfielder Ryan Sweeney from Triple-A Iowa Monday. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

They might only be minor league numbers, but Cubs fans should still be impressed with what outfielder Ryan Sweeney accomplished in the Pacific Coast League this season.

The 28-year-old outfielder spent the first month of 2013 ripping the cover off the ball to the tune of .337/.396/.627 (AVG/OBP/SLG). In 83 at-bats, the lefty had six home runs, 16 RBI and an OPS of 1.022, good for eighth in the league. Now he’ll get a chance to see if he can keep that up at the major league level, as the Cubs selected him today from Triple-A Iowa.

The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native is a career .280 hitter (481-for-1,719) with 102 doubles, 12 triples, 14 home runs and 185 RBI in 535 games covering all or part of seven big league seasons with the White Sox (2006-07), Athletics (2008-11) and Red Sox (2012). He has a .338 on-base percentage and a .378 slugging percentage, good for a .715 OPS. Sweeney has spent time at all three outfield positions, and his .994 fielding percentage ranks third-best among all major league outfielders since the start of the 2006 season.

Sweeney’s best season came in 2009, when he hit .293/.348/.407 in 134 games for Oakland. He was originally drafted by the White Sox in the second round of the 2003 draft.

The Cubs also recalled right-handed reliever Rafael Dolis to help the struggling bullpen. This will be Dolis’ second call-up to the major league level this season. He also threw 1/3 of an inning on April 14. The 25-year-old was on the major league roster for most of 2012, recording a 6.39 ERA over 38 innings and fanning 24. He had a 3.52 ERA in 7.2 innings in Iowa this season.

To make room for the pair, reliever Kameron Loe was designated for assignment, while outfielder Dave Sappelt was optioned to Triple-A Iowa.

Iowa roster full of major league experience

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Josh Vitters will man the hot corner for the Iowa Cubs. (Photo by Stephen Green)

By just scanning down the 2013 Opening Day roster, it’s apparent that the Iowa Cubs have some major league experience. Though the lineup doesn’t include a top prospect of Anthony Rizzo’s pedigree and Jeff Samardzija’s days of shuttling back and forth between Chicago and Des Moines are a thing of the past, this Iowa side has enough talent and experience (17 of the 26 players on the Opening Day roster played in the majors last year) to make things interesting in the Pacific Coast League this season.

Center fielder Brett Jackson will be the centerpiece to this season’s squad. The organization’s No. 4 overall prospect (according to MLB.com) struggled putting the ball in play last season, striking out 217 times combined in Triple-A and in the majors. He spent the offseason reworking his swing, with the hopes of cutting his K total down. If it works, he’ll receive a call-up, or—at worst—there could be an increase in his 15 homers and 47 RBI in 106 Triple-A games from a year ago.

Josh Vitters also returns to the fray after struggling with an August 2012 call-up. He crushed Triple-A pitching last season though, hitting .304/.356/.513 in 110 games, with 17 homers and 68 driven in. He spent much of the offseason working on his patience at the plate, looking to see more pitches and be more selective.

Ryan Sweeney will give the organization a boost as well. The new Cub (signed April 2) has spent seven seasons in the majors, and owns a career .280 average, including hitting .260 with the Red Sox in 2012. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa native will get an opportunity to play in front of his home fans before a hopeful return to the bigs.

Much like the other minor league affiliates, the pitching staff doesn’t have a top-level arm. But that’s not to say there aren’t intriguing pitchers.

The rotation boasts three players with 2012 big league experience in lefties Chris Rusin, Brooks Raley and right-hander Drew Carpenter. Rusin’s numbers are the most notable of the three, starting eight games last year and compiling a 6.37 ERA. But during the spring, the 26-year-old surrendered just five runs during 23.1 innings.

The organization’s minor league pitcher of the year Nick Struck and Barret Loux both received promotions from Double-A, and round out the rotation. Struck went 14-10 in Double-A Tennessee last year, with an ERA of 3.18 in 155.2 innings, fanning 123. Loux, a former first round pick, recorded a 14-1 record with a 3.17 ERA in 25 starts for Double-A Frisco of the Rangers’ system.

Marty Pevey will take over as manager of the I-Cubs. Here’s the full roster he’ll have to start the season:

PITCHERS
Esmailin Caridad RHP
Drew Carpenter RHP
Jaye Chapman RHP
Casey Coleman RHP
Rafael Dolis RHP
Jensen Lewis RHP
Barret Loux RHP
Yoanner Negrin RHP
Blake Parker RHP
Zach Putnam RHP
Brooks Raley LHP
Chris Rusin LHP
Nick Struck RHP
Cory Wade RHP

CATCHERS
J.C. Boscan
Luis Flores

INFIELDERS
Edwin Maysonet
Donnie Murphy
Brad Nelson
Josh Vitters
Logan Watkins

OUTFIELDERS
Brian Bogusevic
Brett Jackson
Darnell McDonald
Ryan Sweeney
Ty Wright

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