Results tagged ‘ spring training ’

Cubs claim right-hander Guillermo Moscoso

Moscoso

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty)

With the start of the season only five days away, the Chicago Cubs Opening Day roster is coming into focus. The team today claimed right-handed pitcher Guillermo Moscoso off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays.

To make room for Moscoso on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Arodys Vizcaino has been placed on the 60-day disabled list, as he continues to recover from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.

Moscoso, 29, is 11-12 with a 4.16 ERA (89 ER/192.2 IP) in 57 major league appearances (24 starts) covering four seasons with Texas (2009-10), Oakland (2011) and Colorado (2012). He made 23 big league appearances in each of the last two seasons. Twenty-one of his 23 outings occurred as a starter with the Athletics in 2011, and 20 of his 23 appearances were as a reliever last year with the Rockies.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Moscoso went 8-10 with a 3.38 ERA (48 ER/128.0 IP) with the Athletics in 2011 before going 3-2 with a 6.12 ERA (34 ER/50.0 IP) last season with Colorado. He began Spring Training with the Kansas City Royals before being claimed off waivers by Toronto on March 16.

A native of Venezuela, Moscoso was originally signed by the Tigers as a non-drafted free agent in 2003. He is 44-31 with a 3.90 ERA (278 ER/641.0 IP) in 132 minor league appearances, 107 of which have come as a starter.

Rizzo is the key to more runs in 2013

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs star Anthony Rizzo has had a busy spring. After arriving at Spring Training in mid-February, the 23-year-old spent the beginning of March with a totally different group of ballplayers wearing blue and white.

Representing Team Italy in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, the first baseman was called upon to be the lumber in the international squad’s lineup. Rizzo hit just .235 batting in the middle of the order for the European squad, but he also walked five times in 22 plate appearances. He drove in the eventual game-winning runs in the team’s opener against Mexico and propelled the underdog Italians into the second round.

Much like the Italian squad, the Cubs will be looking for Rizzo to provide the pop in the middle of the order in 2013. This year, the North Siders will be getting a full season of the phenom, who hit .285/.342/.463 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 15 homers, 15 doubles and 48 RBI after a late-June 2012 call-up. With a more selective Starlin Castro likely batting in front of him, Rizzo should get more RBI opportunities. And if projected cleanup hitter Alfonso Soriano posts numbers similar to those he put up in 2012, it may result in Rizzo getting better pitches to hit.

Rizzo will be in the lineup Tuesday as the Cubs host division rival Cincinnati in the team’s final night game at HoHoKam Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 9:05 CST, and fans can listen to the game live at Cubs.com. Jeff Samardzija will be on mound for the Cubs, opposite Reds ace Johnny Cueto. Here’s what manager Dale Sveum’s lineup will look like:

CF David DeJesus
SS Starlin Castro
1B Anthony Rizzo
LF Dave Sappelt
RF Nate Schierholtz
C Welington Castillo
3B Luis Valbuena
2B Darwin Barney
P Jeff Samardzija

Battle for final Opening Day spot heats up

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Last week’s roster cuts gave Cubs fans a better view of who will be on the Opening Day roster—a total of 11 players were sent to various minor league squads on Friday, and reliever Rafael Dolis was shipped to Triple-A Iowa later in the weekend—but there is still at least one spot up for grabs.

Zach Putnam, Hisanori Takahashi and Cory Wade all will be vying for the final spot in the bullpen, following the news that Michael Bowden and Rule 5 pick Hector Rondon were likely  in.

The 25-year-old Putnam signed with the Cubs this past Christmas after spending 2012 with Colorado. The right-hander has pitched nine innings this spring, posting a 3.00 ERA, a 1.56 WHIP and notching five strikeouts. In Triple-A last year, he racked up 12 saves in 49 games and posted a 4.15 ERA in 60.2 innings of work.

Takahashi is a 37-year-old veteran who spent most of his career playing in Japan before coming to the U.S. in 2010. The left-hander split time with the Angels and Pirates last year, posting a 5.54 ERA in 50.1 major league innings. With James Russell the only lefty locked into the bullpen, the Japanese native might have the inside track.

Wade comes over as an offseason signing as well, having spent the previous two seasons with the Yankees. The 30-year-old right-hander posted a 6.46 ERA in 39 innings in 2012. That came after a 2011 campaign in which he had a 2.04 ERA in 39.2 innings. This spring, he has a 5.63 ERA in eight innings pitched.

Cubs.com’s Carrie Muskat reported that Steve Clevenger is likely going to beat out utility infielder Alberto Gonzalez for the final bench spot on the roster. Clevenger played 69 games for the Cubs in 2012, mostly at catcher. This spring, the organization has tried out the 26-year-old at first base. He’s hitting .395 in 41 plate appearances.

Clevenger will be batting third and playing first Monday as the Cubs host defending World Series champs San Francisco. Lefty Travis Wood will get the start for Chicago, opposite Ryan Vogelsong. The 3:05 CST game can be seen on Comcast SportsNet, or fans can listen in on Cubs.com. Here’s the lineup the Cubs will send out Monday:

CF David DeJesus
SS Brent Lillbridge
1B Steve Clevenger
LF Alfonso Soriano
RF Nate Schierholtz
C Dioner Navarro
3B Luis Valbuena
2B Alberto Gonzalez
P Travis Wood

Cubs assign 11 to minor league camp

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Cubs pitcher Casey Coleman was assigned to minor league camp Friday. (Photo by Stephen Green)

The Cubs assigned 11 players to minor league camp Friday morning, reducing their spring roster from 46 players down to 35.

The list of re-assigned players includes left-hander Chris Rusin; right-handers Drew Carpenter, Jaye Chapman, Casey Coleman, Jensen Lewis and Blake Parker; infielders Edwin Maysonet and Brad Nelson; and outfielders Brian Bogusevic, Johermyn Chavez and Darnell McDonald.

Rusin is the only member of the 40-man roster to be sent to minor league camp. The lefty had an impressive spring, finishing with a 2.50 ERA in 18 innings and striking out seven.

The other 10 players were non-roster invitees.

With these moves, it is believed Rafael Dolis, Zach Putnam, Hisanori Takahashi and Corey Wade are all vying for the final spot in the bullpen.

Chicago’s spring roster, now at 35 players, consists of 18 pitchers (three non-roster invitees), four catchers (one non-roster invitee), seven infielders (two non-roster invitees) and six outfielders.

Lillibridge projected to make Opening Day roster

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Earlier this week, the Cubs announced that third baseman Ian Stewart will begin the season on the disabled list with a lingering quad issue, further weakening a spot in the order that already lacked offensive punch in 2012. Manager Dale Sveum likes what he sees defensively in the multifaceted Luis Valbuena, who was solid with the glove last year and is currently hitting .282 in 42 plate appearances this spring. But it appears his inablilty to hit lefties (.196 in 2012) has opened the door for fellow utilityman Brent Lillbridge.

It sounds as if the 29-year-old right-hander will get his chances against lefties, at least to open the season, as Sveum has already said Lillibridge is a “no brainer” for the Opening Day roster. Despite hitting just .195 for the White Sox, Boston and Cleveland last season, Lillibridge has crushed Spring Training pitching, hitting .458 in 24 plate appearances. His addition will also give the Cubs some defensive flexibility, as he played every position but pitcher and catcher last year.

In 2011, his finest season in the majors, Lillibridge hit .258/.340/505 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 13 homers and stole 10 bases in 97 games. With Wandy Rodriguez in the Pirates’ front three, don’t be surprised to see Lillibridge get the start at least once in the opening series.

Impressive Rusin gets the start Tuesday

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

The starting rotation might already have been announced, but Chris Rusin is giving manager Dale Sveum a reason to second guess himself. The 26-year-old lefty, who played in seven games at the end of 2012 for the Cubs, has been impressive all spring.

In four games and 13.0 innings, the southpaw has a 0.69 ERA, a 0.69 WHIP and has surrendered just one earned run. Should Rusin make the 25-man roster as the team breaks camp, he’ll likely be a swingman out of the bullpen. Based on his strong performance in Arizona, the Cubs could choose to put him in the Triple-A Iowa rotation, where he can continue to work as a starter. He’ll be on the mound Tuesday as the Cubs take on Texas.

On Monday, Sveum said the lineup for today’s game will likely be the same one he employs on Opening Day, aside from Jeff Samardzija pitching and Dioner Navarro as the designated hitter. Alexi Ogando will start for the Rangers. The game kicks off at 3:05 CST and can be heard on Cubs.com. Here’s the lineup Ogando will face:

CF David DeJesus
SS Starlin Castro
1B Anthony Rizzo
LF Alfonso Soriano
RF Nate Schierholtz
C Welington Castillo
3B Luis Valbuena
2B Darwin Barney
DH Dioner Navarro

Baez and Soler optioned to minor league camp

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

It had to happen sometime, but Cubs fans in Arizona will definitely miss seeing Javier Baez and Jorge Soler play on a regular basis. The Chicago Cubs have assigned seven players—including many of the organization’s top prospects—to minor league camp, reducing their spring roster from 53 to 46 players.

Infielders Junior Lake and Josh Vitters have been optioned to Triple-A Iowa, while infielder Christian Villanueva has been optioned to Double-A Tennessee. Outfielder Jorge Soler has been optioned to Single-A Daytona.

Three non-roster invitees have been assigned to minor league camp: right-handed pitcher Barret Loux, infielder Javier Baez and catcher Rafael Lopez.

“I’ll be honest, [at Spring Training] I look forward to the sixth through ninth innings more than I look forward to the first five innings,” said Cubs GM Jed Hoyer. “We’ll watch the veteran guys all year. … Getting a chance to see the young players up close is something we cherish because we can’t do that all season.”

Chicago’s spring roster now consists of 24 pitchers (eight non-roster invitees), four catchers (one non-roster invitee), nine infielders (four non-roster invitees) and nine outfielders (three non-roster invitees).

Cubs split squad, visit White Sox, host Japan

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Even the biggest Cubs die-hard can get a little tired of Spring Training baseball—especially this year, with 39 games on tap. But sometimes all it takes is a high-profile match-up to get fans back in the swing of spring.

Cubs fans are in luck Friday, as the North Siders take on a pair of interesting opponents. Half the team will be traveling to Camelback Ranch to face the White Sox, while the other half will stay at HoHoKam to host Team Japan.

Throwing for the Cubs against the Sox will be right-hander Scott Feldman. In three starts this spring, he’s gone 7.0 innings, owns a 9.00 ERA, and has struck out six. Opposite the 30-year-old will be Sox starter Gavin Floyd.

The game starts off at 2:05 CST and will be broadcast on MLB.TV and locally on WGN. Here’s the lineup Floyd will be facing:

3B Luis Valbuena
2B Darwin Barney
SS Starlin Castro
RF Nate Schierholtz
DH Scott Hairston
C Dioner Navarro
LF Brian Bogusevic
CF Darnell McDonald
1B Brad Nelson

With Anthony Rizzo not yet back from his stay with Team Italy, prospect Dan Vogelbach will man first base as the other half of the Cubs host Team Japan. Named one of the top 10 first base prospects by MLB.com this offseason, the power-hitting Vogelbach had a great 2012 campaign, hitting .322/.410/.641 with 17 homers in 61 games of rookie and Short-Season ball. He’ll be batting eighth.

Having already wrapped up a spot in the World Baseball Classic semifinal (March 17 in San Francisco), the Asian team is looking for a little extra work. Unlike previous Japanese WBC sides that were led by high-profile big league names like Ichiro and Daisuke Matsuzaka, this squad has no players currently on a major league roster.

Travis Wood will be starting for the Cubs. The game kicks off at 3:05 CST. Here’s the lineup Japan will be facing:

CF David DeJesus
SS Javier Baez
C Welington Castillo
DH Alfonso Soriano
LF Dave Sappelt
3B Josh Vitters
RF Jorge Soler
1B Dan Vogelbach
2B Alberto Gonzalez

1000 Words: He’s Back!

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

In his first game back since Feb. 27, when he injured his hamstring, shortstop Starlin Castro was 1-for-1 with a single and a walk. He’s now batting .500 in four Spring Training games.

From the Pages of Vine Line: The Cubs say goodbye to HoHoKam

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When the Cubs defeated the Seattle Mariners 6-2 in their Cactus League home opener on February 28, 1997, it was something of an event.

Cubs ace Kevin Tapani was hurting, so Turk Wendell got the start and went two scoreless innings to earn the win. Ryne Sandberg and Sammy Sosa both homered, and rookie Kevin Orie tallied three hits.

But the real fanfare wasn’t about the box score. It was about the Cubs’ new spring home in Mesa, Ariz., HoHoKam Stadium, built on the same site (and given the same name) as the team’s previous facility. More than 8,800 fans were on hand on an uncharacteristically gloomy Arizona afternoon to check out the gleaming new venue, designed by HOK Architects of Kansas City, Mo.—the company behind Baltimore’s Camden Yards, Cleveland’s Jacobs Field and Denver’s Coors Field. The rebuilt HoHoKam was the biggest ballpark in the Cactus League at the time, seating 12,500 fans, and the first in the area to feature a Jumbotron.

When Cubs pitchers and catchers reported to HoHoKam for Spring Training this year, it kicked off their 17th—and final—season at their longtime Cactus League home. Though the team won’t be going far—a new spring palace is set to open in the Riverview area of Mesa for the 2014 spring slate—the venerable ballpark has seen its share of Cubs history, from Mark Grace, Sandberg and Sosa to Matt Garza, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo.

“The ballparks in Mesa have evolved over the last 60 years along with the team,” said Michelle Streeter, director of communications with Visit Mesa. “This last season at HoHoKam Stadium is actually one of celebration because it’s not goodbye.”

Except for one year in 1966, the Cubs have trained continuously in Arizona since 1952. Spring 2013 marks the Cubs’ 35th consecutive and 49th overall spring camp in Arizona, and that stretch will only continue with the new stadium. Thanks to the city’s long relationship with Cubs baseball and the national reach of WGN television, the Mesa community has embraced the team and helped grow the organization’s fan base westward.

“HoHoKam has become a famous landmark in Mesa,” said Mark Gallo, stadium manager at HoHoKam. “Everyone hears the name HoHoKam Stadium, and the first thing they think of is the Chicago Cubs. The bond that has been built between the city of Mesa and the Cubs is very special.”

The Namesake

The original HoHoKams were an Indian tribe that flourished in central Arizona until they mysteriously disappeared around the year 1450—hence the literal translation for HoHoKam: “those who are gone” or “the old ones.”

In 1951, the HoHoKams were reborn as a civic organization dedicated to bringing Spring Training baseball to Mesa. Led by rancher Dwight W. Patterson, the 34-member committee succeeded in its task when it lured the Cubs away from Catalina Island in California, where they had trained since 1917.

At the beginning of their Arizona tenure, from 1952 to 1965, the team played at tiny, 3,000-seat Rendezvous Park, which was built in 1921 and featured a community pool beyond the left-field wall that provided a great target for right-handed hitters. After that, they had a brief dalliance with Scottsdale before moving into the original HoHoKam Park in 1979, where they stayed until 1996.

But the Cubs’ huge popularity in Arizona was actually at the root of the original park’s demise. HoHoKam Park seated only 8,900 fans. By the mid-’90s, the team, which was regularly setting Cactus League attendance records, had outgrown the facility and was looking for more space.

Suitors from other cities attempted to lure the Cubs away with the promise of a new stadium, but the city of Mesa ultimately agreed to build the team an $18 million complex for spring 1997 (the cost of the original HoHoKam, opened in 1977, was just $507,000). The deal also included a $10 million renovation of the Fitch Park practice facility just a few blocks away.

According to the terms of the lease, the Cubs were obliged to train in Mesa for 20 years, with eight one-year options that would allow the team to buy out the remaining term for $850,000 per year.

Since the new stadium opened in 1997, the Cubs have continued to lead the Cactus League in attendance. HoHoKam Stadium and the Cubs hold the Spring Training single-season attendance record of 203,105 fans, set in 2009. This mark topped the previous spring record of 193,993, also set by the Cubs at HoHoKam in 2005. The team’s 2005 spring average of 12,125 fans per game for 16 games is the all-time highest average spring attendance in major league history.

“For me, it has always been an event when you go to a game at HoHoKam Stadium,” said Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper. “The stadium is always sold out or close to capacity, and almost everyone has Cubs gear on. I really appreciate the dedication of the HoHoKams as well. They have taken a lot of pride in hosting the Cubs at the park over the years and are great hosts to us during Spring Training.”

Today the HoHoKams are responsible for running the ballpark that bears their name. The volunteer organization even includes the mayor of Mesa, who serves as an usher for the right-field bleacher section.

New Beginnings

When the final game was played at the original HoHoKam Park on March 26, 1996, the park was immediately torn down to accommodate the new structure. That won’t happen this time around. Though the Cubs are saying goodbye after 2013, the still modern-feeling ballpark will be renovated to become the new spring home of the Oakland Athletics.

The A’s will inherit a park not known for its character—when then-Cubs GM Larry Himes first conceived of the project, he envisioned a scaled-down version of Wrigley Field, but that idea was eventually rejected—but rich in Cubs tradition and scenic beauty.

“From the press box where I’m at, which is pretty much directly behind home plate, I get a panoramic view of the mountains. It’s really beautiful,” said Tim Sheridan, the public address announcer at HoHoKam since 1984 and creator of boysofspring.com. “I can look from my left to my right, going all the way across, and it’s one different mountain range after another. … I get to have that view, and the Cubs are down on the field right below me—it’s pretty amazing.”

No matter how beautiful a stadium is, it’s not the bricks and mortar that give it its worth. The real value of a ballpark is derived from the history that occurred there and the memories that are associated with it. And HoHoKam has seen its share of both, from Sosa putting the first dent in the outfield scoreboard with a mammoth homer against Oakland on March 1, 1997, to country music star Garth Brooks going 0-2 and committing an error as a Padres non-roster invitee on March 22, 1999.

“On a personal level, it means a lot, because the first game I ever called as the Cubs’ announcer was at HoHoKam in March 2005,” Kasper said. “[It was] Angels-Cubs. I remember an early Nomar Garciaparra double for some reason. And this was a meaningless exhibition game.”

PA announcer Sheridan has more than a few memories of both HoHoKam facilities. When he started in 1984, Spring Training was much different. There was no fanfare associated with Cubs games—no Jumbotrons, no music between innings, nothing but baseball and the Arizona sun. As a young man just out of college, Sheridan learned to do his job quietly, shoehorned between two Cubs broadcasting greats.

“The old [HoHoKam Park] had a wide-open press box,” said Sheridan, who was married at the newer HoHoKam in 2005. “It was basically like one long bench, and everybody was all lined up. I was right behind home plate. WGN to one side, WGN Radio to the other. Harry Caray was in one seat, and later on Ron Santo was in the other seat on the other side. So it was one of those ‘pinch me’ situations where I couldn’t believe that here I was sitting between these legends of the Chicago Cubs.”

Likely the biggest difference between HoHoKam Stadium and a major league ballpark like Wrigley Field (other than the weather) is the unrivaled access Spring Training offers fans. The stadium is smaller and things are more relaxed. Fans can get up close and personal with the Cubs before and after games, because players have a different mindset at Spring Training than they do once the regular season starts. They’re more at ease and having fun—it’s not do or die at that point. Plus, the demands on their time are fewer. It’s not uncommon to see Cubs management roaming the park or for fans to have a chance encounter with alumni like Rick Sutcliffe in the parking lot after a game.

“One of the best attributes of HoHoKam Stadium is the proximity of the fans to the field,” Streeter said. “You really feel like you’re part of the ballgame with how close fans can get to the players. If you’re sitting on the first-base line, you can overhear conversations from the dugout—you’re that close. HoHoKam Stadium is special because of the intimate feeling that catches you right upon arrival.”

In with the New

On January 25, 2010, the Mesa City Council approved a proposal to spend $84 million for a new, 15,000-seat Spring Training complex for the Cubs, thus marking the beginning of the end for the Cubs-HoHoKam partnership. From the preliminary designs, the new park will be modeled after Wrigley Field and will be built to the home park’s dimensions.

“Just as player conditioning has changed over the years, so has the fan conditioning. The new stadium is poised to offer some exciting elements not yet seen here in other stadiums that make up the Cactus League,” Streeter said. “Accommodating the Cubs fan has been just as much a part of the design and thought process with the new complex as it has been for the athlete.”

The Cubs will operate the new complex, which will be built east of HoHoKam Stadium on the site of the old Riverview Golf Course. Construction began on the project last year, and the basic structure of the new complex is already taking shape.

But Cubs fans will be leaving a lot behind when they walk away from HoHoKam Stadium at the end of March. They’ll be leaving a history that includes players from Banks to Barney, Santo to Samardzija. They’ll also be opening an exciting new chapter in their long history with the city of Mesa. Stadium manager Mark Gallo didn’t miss a beat when asked what he will miss most about the old ballyard.

“The Cubs fans—not only in February and March, but year-round,” he said. “I called them the three I’s. Cub fans from Illinois, Iowa and Indiana show up at HoHoKam at all times of the year just wanting to take pictures and walk around the stadium. Being able to open up the ballpark to the public is one of the great parts of my job. … Without a doubt, I have the best job in Mesa, thanks to Cubs fans.”

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