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Red-hot Baez fuels Cubs' 7-run 6th, rout of Rox

Special to MLB.com

DENVER -- After staring down a potential fourth weather-induced postponement in a single week, the Cubs drove the clouds from Coors Field on Friday night. Javier Baez blasted four hits and drove in four runs, and the Cubs broke open a close game with a seven-run outburst in the sixth inning en route to a 16-5 win over the Rockies in the series opener.

Baez started the offense in the first frame with a two-run homer to right -- his sixth of the season. He singled in the third inning and doubled to left and scored in the Cubs' two-run fifth.

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DENVER -- After staring down a potential fourth weather-induced postponement in a single week, the Cubs drove the clouds from Coors Field on Friday night. Javier Baez blasted four hits and drove in four runs, and the Cubs broke open a close game with a seven-run outburst in the sixth inning en route to a 16-5 win over the Rockies in the series opener.

Baez started the offense in the first frame with a two-run homer to right -- his sixth of the season. He singled in the third inning and doubled to left and scored in the Cubs' two-run fifth.

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"I'm seeing the ball right when [the pitcher] releases it," Baez said of his recent tear that finds him hitting .400 (14-for-35) with three doubles, a triple, six homers, and 16 RBIs over his last eight games. "I'm not trying to go [opposite field], but a lot of hits are being hit that way. I'm just trying to stay to the middle, keep the same approach and keep doing my routine."

Video: CHC@COL: Cubs discuss big 16-5 win over Rockies

The Cubs followed his lead and batted around in the sixth, with the first six batters reaching base before the Rockies could record an out. Addison Russell led off with a single to right and Jason Heyward followed with a triple to left-center. Pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella walked, and Albert Almora Jr. drove in a run with a bloop single to right. Baez's two-run single was followed by a double to center from Kris Bryant and a two-out three-run homer from Kyle Schwarber, his fourth of the season.

Video: CHC@COL: Schwarber's mammoth three-run home run

"When the whole group adopts a method, and they feed off one another, and they're capable ..." manager Joe Maddon said, interrupting himself as he analyzed the offensive outburst over the last two games. "... These guys have been to the World Series, they've won one, they've been in the NLCS every year, they know what's going on. But I've often talked about, the one area -- we have not had mature at-bats. We can't say we're inexperienced anymore. We have experience, but we're still young. We have to get rid of that youth involvement in the at-bat and we'll play some really nice baseball."

The Cubs' mature approach showed, with Maddon citing 13 of their 18 hits were to the opposite field, as they knocked out Rockies Opening Day starter Jon Gray in the sixth, leaving him with seven runs (five earned) on his line. They also knocked out Bryan Shaw in the same inning after tagging him for five runs on four hits and a walk.

Six Cubs -- Almora (4), Baez (4), Schwarber (3), Russell (2), Heyward (2) and Bryant (2) -- all had multihit games, with Almora and Baez going 8-for-12 with six runs and five RBIs from the top two spots in the lineup. Almora's four hits and four runs were career highs.

"We've all seen Javy at his potential," Almora said of his partner at the top of the order. "It's impressive, and I'm just glad that I could be on base for him or be on the top step when he comes back in after hitting a homer. That goes for everybody. We're just feeding off each other. And I'm having a lot of fun."

Video: CHC@COL: Almora Jr. tallies four hits in Coors field

Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks had a solid outing in hitters-friendly Coors Field, holding the Rockies to three runs on five hits over five innings. After the three-run first, he only let one Rockie -- Gray -- get to second base, as he walked none, hit one batter and struck out six before turning it over to Mike Montgomery, who pitched three innings of one-run ball.

"It was still a battle the whole way," Hendricks said. "Deep counts, a lot of pitches, able to get through it, I guess. You saw a lot from our lineup today, really. That's what won the game. They gave me two right away, I give three right back. For them to stay on those at-bats, come back and get that many runs for me, that was the ballgame."

Video: CHC@COL: Hendricks sends down Iannetta looking

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Cubs won a big replay review in a tied game when Baez was initially called out going from second to third on a grounder to short by Bryant in the fifth inning. Shortstop Trevor Story elected to throw to third, hoping Nolan Arenado could tag the lead runner. After the Cubs challenged, the call was overturned when it was determined Baez slid in safely just ahead of Arenado's tag.

Video: CHC@COL: Baez avoids tag, safe at third after review

Baez scored on a grounder to second by Anthony Rizzo, and Bryant scored on Arenado's throwing error a batter later. The Cubs went ahead 5-3, and both runs were unearned.

Video: CHC@COL: Bryant scores on errant throw by Arenado

"To be honest, I forgot K.B. was hitting; I thought it was Rizz," Baez said of his miscalculation on the defensive shift that would have been in place for Rizzo. "I thought the shortstop was behind the bag and saw the first hop was pretty high, and I went for it."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Gray singled to center to lead off the fifth, and DJ LeMahieu followed with a tough grounder up the middle. Russell got to the ball from short and flipped it to Baez, who made a nifty barehanded catch a split second before Gray slid into the bag, killing a potential rally in its tracks as Hendricks retired the next two batters to end the inning.

"His defense and baserunning skills are as good as it gets," Maddon said of the complete package Baez offers his club.

Video: CHC@COLL: Baez makes smooth play on fielder's choice

SOUND SMART
The Cubs scored a season-high 16 runs in the game. It's the most runs they've scored against the Rockies since scoring 17 on July 26, 1996, also at Coors Field.

HE SAID IT
"You can call us the Chicago Bulls right now. We play like every third day, maybe twice a week. We'd like to get back to a regular baseball schedule." -- Maddon, after three Cubs games were postponed by weather this week (and five in three weeks)

UP NEXT
Yu Darvish makes his fourth start of the season Saturday, facing Tyler Anderson and the Rockies in a 7:10 p.m. CT tilt. Darvish has never pitched at Coors Field before, but he faced the Rockies once in L.A. last year, throwing 4 1/3 innings and allowing five runs on five hits.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com.

Chicago Cubs, Javier Baez

Cubs place Butler on DL, recall Farrell

Special to MLB.com

DENVER -- Eddie Butler's homecoming to Colorado -- the team he came up with before a February 2017 trade to the Cubs -- started inauspiciously, as the right-handed pitcher went on the 10-day disabled list with a right groin strain Friday. The Cubs recalled right-hander Luke Farrell from Triple-A Iowa.

"The groin is bothering him a little bit, so we just had to do something," manager Joe Maddon said. "We had to protect ourselves lengthwise in the bullpen."

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DENVER -- Eddie Butler's homecoming to Colorado -- the team he came up with before a February 2017 trade to the Cubs -- started inauspiciously, as the right-handed pitcher went on the 10-day disabled list with a right groin strain Friday. The Cubs recalled right-hander Luke Farrell from Triple-A Iowa.

"The groin is bothering him a little bit, so we just had to do something," manager Joe Maddon said. "We had to protect ourselves lengthwise in the bullpen."

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Butler entered Thursday's 8-5 victory over the Cardinals in the seventh inning and allowed four runs (three earned) on two hits and two walks without retiring a batter. He said he started feeling something right before he went out and tried to pitch through it.

"It ended up affecting my finish -- it didn't have the late life it should have had," Butler said of the groin's effect on his pitching. "It just tightened up on me, felt like it wouldn't loosen up. Obviously four hitters in a row got on, let's go ahead and make a change."

Butler said he had never experienced a groin issue before.

"We just decided it was better to sit down a few days and get it right before we make this long haul," Butler said. "We want to make sure we nip it now and don't let it linger the whole year. That's the main thing, just getting back to full capacity where I really attack the guys. No point in stressing here in April when you've got six months left in the season."

Butler is 0-1 with a 4.30 ERA in six games covering 14 2/3 innings. He has walked five and struck out 10.

Video: CHC@MIA: Butler throws seven strong innings in relief

Farrell, 26, will take Butler's place as the long man in the 'pen. He has been starting for Iowa, where he is 0-1 with a 5.91 ERA in two starts. He made his Major League debut last season with Kansas City before joining Cincinnati in August, combining to post a 5.54 ERA in 10 appearances (one start) spanning 13 innings. Farrell had a 2.61 ERA in nine relief outings with the Reds last year.

"I was [relieving] in Spring Training, and last year I ended up relieving in Cincinnati, so it's something I'm looking forward to getting back to, especially just being here," Farrell said of his callup before the game. "You try to take advantage of every opportunity you get. That's my intention coming here -- relax, go about my work and do everything I can to help the team."

Farrell was scratched from his scheduled Triple-A start Thursday, heading instead to Colorado to meet up with the Cubs.

"We had a couple choices," Maddon said of the decision to promote Farrell. "Luke made a great impression at Spring Training. He's been in the big leagues, he's got a great pedigree and he's also a wonderful human being. I really like being around him. I guess he hasn't had the best of times in Triple-A yet, but this guy knows what to do on the Major League level, so we're excited to have him here."

Farrell was originally selected by the Royals in the sixth round of the 2013 Draft out of Northwestern University. He is the son of former Major League manager John Farrell and the brother of Jeremy, the Cubs' Minor League infield coordinator, and Shane, a regional crosschecker for the Cubs.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver.

Chicago Cubs, Eddie Butler, Luke Farrell

Alzolay leads top prospect performers

Cubs' No. 1 makes impressive Triple-A debut
MLB.com @wboor

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Friday.

Adbert Alzolay's 2018 season got off to a late start, but his debut with Triple-A Iowa was certainly worth the wait.

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Friday.

Adbert Alzolay's 2018 season got off to a late start, but his debut with Triple-A Iowa was certainly worth the wait.

After suffering an ankle injury in Spring Training, Alzolay began the 2018 campaign in extended spring training, but he was added to the Iowa roster on Friday and was lights out in a win over Nashville.

The 23-year-old, who fired 50 of his 75 pitches for strikes, was perfect through four innings and carried a no-hitter into the sixth before giving up a solo homer. However, Alzolay was able to limit the damage as that was the only run he surrendered.

Video: Top Prospects: Adbert Alzolay, RHP, Cubs

The right-hander finished the sixth and was lifted after striking out six and giving up the one run on two hits.

Other top prospect performances from Friday's action:

No. 3 overall prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays' No. 1) and No. 13 Bo Bichette (Blue Jays' No. 2) provided all of the offense for Double-A New Hampshire in a loss to Reading. Guerrero went 0-for-4 at the plate, but he drove in two runs via groundouts, while Bichette, who also drove in a pair, collected two hits a day after his 10-game hitting streak came to a close.

• No. 25 overall prospect Brendan McKay (Rays' No. 3) broke out of his slump and collected a career-high four RBIs in Class A Bowling Green's win over Lake County. McKay, who had been hitless over his past four games (11 at-bats), went 2-for-4, including RBI hits in the seventh and eighth.

Video: Top Prospects: Brendan McKay, 1B, Rays

• No. 55 overall prospect Matt Manning (Tigers' No. 2) got off to a particularly fast start in his 2018 debut with Class A West Michigan. Manning, a first-round pick from the 2016 Draft, struck out nine batters over the first three innings, including eight in a row, and ultimately finished with 10, a career high. However, after cruising through three innings, Manning ran into trouble in the fourth and was lifted after giving up three runs on two hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings.

Manning notches 10th K

• No. 62 overall prospect Jo Adell (Angels' No. 2) and Brandon Marsh (Angels' No. 5) were at the center of Class A Burlington's offensive explosion in a 28-7 win over Quad Cities. The duo, hitting third and fourth in the Bees' lineup, combined to go 6-for-11 with 15 RBIs and six runs scored. Adell went 4-for-6 with a double, a grand slam and eight RBIs, while Marsh drove in seven and also hit a grand slam in a 2-for-5 effort.

Athletics' No. 6 prospect Austin Beck hit his first homer of the season and posted another multi-hit performance, going 2-for-5 with three RBIs for Class A Beloit. Beck, the A's first-round pick from 2017, has an RBI in three straight games and five hits in his past 10 at-bats.

Brewers No. 4 prospect Lucas Erceg pushed his average to .362 and set a season high with four hits (4-for-5) in Double-A Biloxi's win over Mobile. The 22-year-old also drove in four runs via a solo homer in the first, a two-run single in the fifth and a base hit in the eighth.

Video: Top Prospects: Lucas Erceg, 3B, Brewers

Cardinals No. 25 prospect Johan Oviedo spun his best start of the season for Class A Peoria. After giving up nine runs in five innings over his first two starts, Oviedo threw six scoreless in a win over Wisconsin. The right-hander struggled with command -- walking five -- but notched eight strikeouts and gave up just three hits.

Indians No. 20 prospect Eric Haase extended his hitting streak to five games with his first homer of the season, a three-run blast, in the first inning of Triple-A Columbus' loss to Rochester. Haase, who is batting .341 through 11 games, added a pair of singles later in the game, finishing 3-for-4.

Nationals No. 4 prospect Erick Fedde lowered his ERA to 1.80 with his second scoreless start for Triple-A Syracuse. Fedde, who yielded just two hits, retired 11 of the first 12 batters he faced as he cruised through five scoreless frames. The 25-year-old threw 40 of his 75 pitches for strikes, walked one and struck out seven.

Video: Top Prospects: Erick Fedde, RHP, Nationals

Marlins No. 11 prospect Brian Miller matched his career high with four hits for Class A Advanced Jupiter. Batting atop the Hammerheads order, Miller, who went 4-for-5, has hits in 11 of the 13 games he's played and is slashing .311/.354/.361.

Phillies No. 23 prospect McKenzie Mills put together another strong start for Class A Advanced Clearwater. The 22-year-old lefty gave up one run on three hits over seven innings and has now fanned 10 and given up two runs over his past 13 frames (two starts).

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.

Cubs ride balanced attack to win over Cards

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- The snow days gave the Cubs more time to work on their hitting approach in the batting cages, and that seemed to pay off on Thursday. Javier Baez provided the spark and Jason Heyward the power with a two-run homer to back Jon Lester and lead the Cubs to an 8-5 victory at Wrigley Field, snapping the Cardinals' winning streak at five.

All nine starters recorded at least one hit for the Cubs, with Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber driving in two runs each. The Cubs were playing just their second game this week after weather-related postponements. Thursday's game was a makeup of Wednesday's postponed contest, and the 47-degree game-time temperature and sunshine were welcome after snow at Wrigley Field. Manager Joe Maddon called it "balmy."

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CHICAGO -- The snow days gave the Cubs more time to work on their hitting approach in the batting cages, and that seemed to pay off on Thursday. Javier Baez provided the spark and Jason Heyward the power with a two-run homer to back Jon Lester and lead the Cubs to an 8-5 victory at Wrigley Field, snapping the Cardinals' winning streak at five.

All nine starters recorded at least one hit for the Cubs, with Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber driving in two runs each. The Cubs were playing just their second game this week after weather-related postponements. Thursday's game was a makeup of Wednesday's postponed contest, and the 47-degree game-time temperature and sunshine were welcome after snow at Wrigley Field. Manager Joe Maddon called it "balmy."

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Video: STL@CHC: Schwarber hits a two-out RBI single in 2nd

"It takes time to gel with that and it takes time for us to gel," Heyward said. "Moving pieces, things like that early in the season, and an inconsistent playing schedule, that will happen."

The Cubs' players kept hitting coach Chili Davis busy, even if there weren't any games.

Video: STL@CHC: Maddon glows over Cubs' win over Cardinals

"Good approach, good at-bats," Maddon said of the Cubs' 14-hit attack, which involved using the entire field. "It is so fun to watch. Keep your launch angles, keep your exit velocities, give me a good at-bat. Those were really good at-bats. Staying inside the ball, using the whole field -- I promise you if they stay on that path, balls will still go out of the ballpark at the pace they're capable of. With that, you'll see better situational hitting, you'll see higher batting averages, on-base percentages. I loved our approach today."

The weird week may have contributed to the sloppy play to begin the game. Lester hit Harrison Bader with one out in the first and Bader then stole second and reached third on a throwing error by Willson Contreras before scoring on a wild pitch.

Video: STL@CHC: Bader speeds home on Lester's wild pitch

"When you don't play consistently, the feel, the nuance, that escapes you," Maddon said. "Throwing and fielding in general was off just a little bit."

The Cardinals totaled two hits over six innings off Lester, who struck out seven and didn't allow a hit until the fifth. He even contributed to the Cubs' offense with a single in the fifth after Heyward's homer.

What helped Lester settle in?

"A four-run [second] inning," Lester said. "When you score four, it kind of opened it up and it makes things easier."

Video: STL@CHC: Lester fans seven, allows no earned runs

"He's a competitor," Maddon said of Lester. "He sizes up each situation. He wanted to go back out [in the seventh]. I said, 'Jon, this is not the time to go 110 [pitches] today.' If it was a closer game, I would've put him back out there."

Baez, moved up in the lineup for the first time this season, had two hits, including a triple, to increase his total of extra-base hits this season to 11.

"It seemed to work," Schwarber said of Baez batting second. "The guy's an exciting ballplayer. I feel we're always talking about Javy Baez. I'm not going to get tired of it. He's a heck of a ballplayer and a lot of instincts and he's a leader and he's fun to watch."

Video: STL@CHC: Morrow strikes out Bader to cap a Cubs win

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Baez provides spark: Maddon tweaked the lineup, moving Baez up to No. 2 in hopes he could provide some "energy." Baez did that in his first at-bat with a triple to the gap in right-center with one out. He then scored on Bryant's single that third baseman Jedd Gyorko deflected.

"That's good to know," Baez said when told of Maddon's plan. "I was trying to stay focused on the same approach, same swings. I didn't get excited, but that's one of my goals is to end up there in the lineup. I feel great, I'm still seeing the ball really good. I chased a few pitches today, but I took good at-bats." More >

Video: STL@CHC: Baez dives in for a triple in the 1st

Cubs bat around: The Cubs sent nine batters to the plate in the second. Heyward singled to lead off and moved up on Lester's sacrifice. Albert Almora Jr., who got a rare start against a right-hander, Luke Weaver, then hit an RBI single and reached third on Baez's single. Almora tallied on Bryant's sacrifice fly and Anthony Rizzo and Schwarber each added RBI singles for a 6-1 lead.

"We're just focusing on the work and the process besides results," Schwarber said. "That's more the thing. We've been doing some pretty good work in the cage. It's pretty much what we did in spring and we're continuing to work well."

Video: STL@CHC: Rizzo singles up the middle to plate Baez

SOUND SMART
Lester, who was making his 100th career start for the Cubs, improved to 5-1 with a 1.88 ERA (12 earned runs over 57 1/3 innings) in nine starts against the Cardinals since the start of the 2016 season.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Heyward's home run registered a 110.7 mph exit velocity, his highest on a homer since Statcast™ began tracking in 2015. The ball sailed 423 feet, which is tied for his second-longest home run. Plus, Heyward made a three-star catch on Matt Carpenter's deep flyout in the fourth, covering 116 feet in 6.3 seconds on a ball with a 55-percent catch probability.

HE SAID IT
"It's good, quality at-bats. We had good at-bats all day. That's nice to see. What people forget -- and I go back to this -- is that guys are still young and maturing at the big league level. In some other organizations, these guys would not be up here or they'd be knocking on the door to get here. [The young Cubs players] have been here three years, and some longer. Every day's a learning process, every day is figuring out something about themselves. We've had some good offensive games for the most part. If we can keep people off the basepaths, we'll be going in the right direction." -- Lester

Video: Cubs players discuss 8-5 victory over Cardinals

UP NEXT
Kyle Hendricks will open the Cubs' three-game series in Denver against Jon Gray and the Rockies on Friday at 7:40 p.m. CT. Hendricks posted a quality start in his last outing against the Pirates but took the loss, serving up a pair of home runs for the second straight outing. The problem was fastball command, and the right-hander said that would be his focus between starts.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Javier Baez, Jason Heyward

Baez an immediate spark atop Cubs' lineup

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Manager Joe Maddon was hoping Javier Baez could provide a spark at the top of the lineup, and the Cubs' second baseman did just that in the first inning of Thursday's eventual 8-5 win over the Cardinals.

Baez tripled with one out in the first, lining the ball into the gap in right-center, then scored on Kris Bryant's single to tie the game at 1. He hit a single in his second at-bat as part of a four-run second that helped put the Cubs ahead, 6-1.

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CHICAGO -- Manager Joe Maddon was hoping Javier Baez could provide a spark at the top of the lineup, and the Cubs' second baseman did just that in the first inning of Thursday's eventual 8-5 win over the Cardinals.

Baez tripled with one out in the first, lining the ball into the gap in right-center, then scored on Kris Bryant's single to tie the game at 1. He hit a single in his second at-bat as part of a four-run second that helped put the Cubs ahead, 6-1.

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Baez has racked up his share of extra-base hits. He has 14 hits this season, and only three are singles.

"I wanted to get some energy at the top," Maddon said about why he moved Baez up. "He's been doing well. I could have left him at six or seven [in the order]. I'm just shuffling the chairs up a little. There's nothing brilliant about it whatsoever. It's just to provide some energy at the top of the batting order."

Video: STL@CHC: Maddon glows over Cubs' win over Cardinals

"That's good to know," Baez said when told about Maddon's motives. "I was trying to stay focused on the same approach, same swings. I didn't get excited, but that's one of my goals is to end up there in the lineup. I feel great, I'm still seeing the ball really good. I chased a few pitches today, but I took good at-bats."

Baez has shown the ability to use the whole field more, which has helped his offense.

"He might take that out-of-control swing, but then he comes back to reality," Maddon said. "I think he's making in-at-bat adjustments. The moment he stops laying off the down-and-away slider, he'll become Manny Ramirez."

Baez wasn't ready to put himself on that level -- and acknowledged that he has things to work on.

"I've been hitting good," Baez said. "I haven't been playing good defense. I have to go back and work on my defense and keep doing the same things at the plate."

Video: STL@CHC: Bader continues AB after Cubs miss catch

He nearly collided with first baseman Anthony Rizzo chasing Harrison Bader's popup in the third inning. Neither caught the ball, and Baez was charged with an error.

"That's me -- it was his ball," Baez said. "I didn't call the ball. At the last second, I thought he lost the ball and I just went for it and we didn't talk. We're both really good at fly balls. I just went for it because I thought he lost it."

Baez finished the Cubs' seven-game homestand with two doubles, one triple, five home runs, nine runs scored and 12 RBIs. That's a good start.

"The guy's an exciting ballplayer," Chicago's Kyle Schwarber said of Baez. "I feel we're always talking about Javy Baez. I'm not going to get tired of it. He's a heck of a ballplayer and a lot of instincts and he's a leader and he's fun to watch."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Javier Baez

Checking in on NL Central new guys: Darvish

MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

Corey Dickerson never expected to be "The New Guy." But two months after a surprise move to the Pirates, he is one of the National League Central's most impactful fresh faces.

While other division newcomers are still searching for their footing, Dickerson has been productive from the start for the Bucs. That's impressive, given that the phone call from the Rays informing him he'd been designated for assignment on Feb. 18 was utterly unexpected.

Corey Dickerson never expected to be "The New Guy." But two months after a surprise move to the Pirates, he is one of the National League Central's most impactful fresh faces.

While other division newcomers are still searching for their footing, Dickerson has been productive from the start for the Bucs. That's impressive, given that the phone call from the Rays informing him he'd been designated for assignment on Feb. 18 was utterly unexpected.

After all, Dickerson was coming off a .282/.325/.490 season with Tampa Bay, with 27 homers in 150 games, plus an appearance on the American League All-Star team. A trade would not have totally shocked him. But designated for assignment?

"It's hard to stomach," Dickerson said. "At the time, I was caught off guard."

The Rays eventually traded Dickerson to Pittsburgh to be the Pirates' regular left fielder.

"Whenever it finally happened, I was just excited," he said. "All I'm worried about is competing. I'm a very competitive person. I always try to turn the page quickly."

Here's a look at how other notable page-turners are doing so far.

Brewers
Who's the new guy?
Outfielder Christian Yelich

Video: MIL@SD: Yelich lights it up at plate with five hits

How's it going so far? Yelich was off to a terrific start, including a five-hit game in San Diego in the third game of the season and a game-tying home run with two strikes and two outs in a stunning come-from-behind win over the Cardinals in the Brewers' second home game. But he suffered a right oblique injury the next night and landed on the disabled list until his return to the starting lineup Wednesday against the Reds. After fielding questions all spring about Milwaukee's crowded outfield, the depth has proven useful so far.

What's on deck? Some familiar faces. Yelich returned to action in time for a one-game tune-up before his first four games against the Marlins, who drafted him in the first round in 2010 and gave Yelich his break in the big leagues. Miami opens a four-game series at Miller Park on Thursday night.

Number to know: Five. That's how many seasons the Brewers have contractual control of Yelich, which explains why they were willing to part with four premium prospects -- outfielders Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison, infielder Isan Diaz and pitcher Jordan Yamamoto -- to get him. Brinson is off to a slow start for Miami (.316 OPS through his first 16 games and 66 plate appearances), but he will get a chance to do some damage against his former team this weekend.

Cardinals
Who's the new guy?
 Outfielder Marcell Ozuna

Video: STL@MIL: Ozuna crushes a monster 479-ft. home run

How's it going so far? Ozuna's .673 OPS through his first 16 games with the Cardinals says he is off to a slow start, but at least he has been steady, with a .271 batting average and at least one hit in 12 of those games. What has not come yet is the power. In 11 games after a monstrous home run at Miller Park on April 3, Ozuna had only two extra-base hits.

What's on deck? History says the power will come with warmer weather. May is traditionally Ozuna's strongest month, with his best home run total (24) and OPS (.871) of any month.

Number to know: 48.1 percent, which was Ozuna's hard-hit percentage through his first 16 games. It was 39.1 percent last season, when Ozuna drilled 37 home runs for the Marlins, won an NL Silver Slugger Award and garnered NL MVP Award votes. The extra-base hits will come.

Cubs
Who's the new guy?
Right-handed pitcher Yu Darvish

Video: CHC@MIL: Darvish dazzles in second start

How's it going so far? Not great, but we are talking about three starts. Darvish spun a gem against the Brewers on April 7 at Miller Park, when he struck out nine and limited Milwaukee to one run on two hits and a walk in six innings of a win. But in his other two starts -- against the Marlins and Braves -- Darvish surrendered nine earned runs on 14 hits in nine innings, with a pedestrian ratio of eight strikeouts to six walks.

What's on deck? Warmer weather, hopefully. Darvish's most recent start against the Braves was his home debut, and he wore short sleeves for a 42-degree first pitch. His next scheduled start on Saturday in Denver won't be much warmer, and then it's back to Wrigley Field for a rematch with the Brewers.

"I was surprised how cold it was, but I told myself I'll perform better if the weather is colder," Darvish said. "When I was on the mound, I didn't feel any cold."

Number to know: 94.3 mph, the average velocity of Darvish's first 120 four-seam fastballs in 2018, according to Statcast™. That's identical to his average in '17 -- a positive sign, considering it is so early in the season, and Darvish's most recent start came in the cold.

Pirates
Who's the new guy?
Dickerson

Video: CIN@PIT: Dickerson lifts a home run to right in 5th

How's it going so far? Considering that Dickerson has been one of the most valuable players in the league so far, pretty well. He entered play Thursday leading the NL in Baseball-Reference.com's version of wins above replacement and third in Fangraphs' version. Dickerson was a perfect fit for the Pirates after they traded Andrew McCutchen to the Giants, and he has posted an .878 OPS through 15 games.

What's on deck? Since Dickerson has spread his production around -- he's had multihit games against the Twins, Reds, Cubs and Marlins -- there is hope that his production is sustainable. But the Bucs start a four-game series in Philadelphia on Thursday against a Phillies team that ranks fifth in the NL with a 3.46 ERA.

Number to know: 1.0. That's Dickerson's NL-leading defensive WAR, according to Baseball-Reference, through 15 games. That qualifies as a surprise, since Dickerson is not known for his defense.

Reds
Who's the new guy?
Right-hander Jared Hughes

Video: CIN@PHI: Hughes gets out of a jam with big K

How's it going so far? The NL Central journeyman has been a nice addition so far, with a 2.25 ERA in a team-high 10 appearances for the Reds. That he is their only new addition (another relief pickup, David Hernandez, is on the DL) speaks to Cincinnati's commitment to developing their own young players during something of a rebuilding period.

What's on deck? A heavy workload, if history holds. Hughes has pitched in at least 63 games for the Pirates and Brewers in five of the past six seasons, including 67 appearances in each of the past two years. After appearing in 10 of the Reds' first 18 games, he's well on the way to doing it again.

Number to know: Zero. That's how many home runs Hughes has surrendered so far, a positive sign for a pitcher known for his good sinker.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Yu Darvish, Corey Dickerson, Jared Hughes, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich

De La Cruz among top prospect performers

Brewers duo impresses on both sides of the ball
MLB.com @wboor

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Thursday.

The Brewers' top two prospects showed a bit of why they are so highly-touted on Thursday night.

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Thursday.

The Brewers' top two prospects showed a bit of why they are so highly-touted on Thursday night.

Milwaukee's No. 1 prospect Keston Hiura (No. 56 overall) hit his first homer of the season in a 2-for-5 showing with Class A Advanced Carolina while Corbin Burnes (Brewers' No. 2, No. 69 overall) spun a scoreless start and picked up the win for Triple-A Colorado Springs.

Hiura, who hit .371 in 42 games after he was picked in the first round a season ago, got off to a slow start this season, but he appears to be finding his rhythm. The 21-year-old has hits in four of his past five games, raising his average from .143 to .220 over that timeframe.

Hiura's first homer of 2018

Burnes was impressive from start to finish as he struck out the side in the first inning, setting the tone for things to come. The right-hander notched at least one strikeout in five of his first six innings, ultimately finishing with nine.

Burnes faced one batter in the seventh, got a flyout, then was lifted after yielding three hits over 6 1/3 innings.

Burnes rings up ninth strikeout

Other top prospect performances from Thursday's action:

• No. 3 overall prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays' No. 1) is hitting .362/.411/.596 after going 2-for-4 with Double-A New Hampshire. Guerrero has hits in 10 of 12 games this season and has notched multiple hits in five of his past six games. While Guerrero was contributing on the offensive end, Jordan Romano (No. 27) kept Binghamton in check with seven innings of one-run ball.

• No. 23 overall prospect Austin Hays (Orioles' No. 1) was responsible for half of Double-A Bowie's offense in a 6-1 win over Richmond. Hays finished just 1-for-4, but he drove in three runs via a sacrifice fly in the first and a two-run homer in the ninth. Cedric Mullins (Orioles' No. 7) collected a season-high three hits, going 3-for-5, and Keegan Akin (Orioles' No. 9) picked up his first win of the year as he struck out seven over six innings of one-run ball.

Hays goes the other way

• No. 38 overall prospect Jack Flaherty (Cardinals' No. 2) spun the first complete game of his career (seven innings) and moved to 3-0 as he led Triple-A Memphis to a win over Omaha in Game 1 of a doubleheader. The 22-year-old right hander gave up two runs (one earned) on two hits and struck out six while throwing 67 of his 95 pitches for strikes.

Flaherty finishes complete game

• No. 97 overall prospect Austin Riley (Braves' No. 8) is swinging a scorching-hot bat for Double-A Mississippi. The 21-year-old, who went 3-for-3, is hitting .408 after his fourth straight multi-hit effort. Over those four games, Riley is 10-for-15 with six extra-base hits and five RBIs.

• No. 99 overall prospect Blake Rutherford (White Sox No. 7) continued his hot start and extended his hitting streak to six games, going 4-for-5 with Class A Advanced Winston-Salem. Rutherford, who is batting .404 through 11 games, also set a career high with four RBIs. Micker Adolfo (No. 10) also contributed to the win, hitting his third homer of the year.

Rutherford's two-run single

Athletics No. 8 prospect Sean Murphy pushed his average to .409 with his fourth consecutive multi-hit performance for Double-A Midland. Murphy, who hit just .209 in 53 games with Midland last season, went 4-for-5 and is off to a particularly fast start at the plate. The 23-year-old has hits in nine of the 11 games he's played in and has also racked up nine RBIs.

Murphy knocks out four hits

• Braves No. 10 prospect Joey Wentz was once again dominant for Class A Advanced Florida. Wentz retired the first five batters he faced on his way toward hurling five scoreless innings. The 20-year-old hasn't given up a run in either of his past two starts (10 innings) and has allowed just one run all season. Wentz struck out six, including the final two batters he faced, and has now fanned 15 in 14 innings.

Cubs No. 3 prospect Oscar De La Cruz bounced back from a couple rough starts to spin a gem for Double-A Tennessee. The right-hander gave up 11 earned runs over six innings in his first two starts, but he showed no signs of struggle against Montgomery. De La Cruz dominated through six scoreless frames, surrendering just one hit and striking out six.

De La Cruz fans six

• Pirates prospects Calvin Mitchell (No. 16) and Travis MacGregor (No. 25) led Class A West Virginia to a 3-0 win over Asheville. Mitchell, who finished 2-for-4, provided all the offense with a three-run homer in the third while MacGregor did his part by pitching six scoreless innings. MacGregor, who struck out six and yielded three hits, has given up just one earned run over three starts this season.

Red Sox No. 11 prospect Josh Ockimey picked the perfect time -- waiting until the bases were loaded -- to hit his first homer of the season. The 22-year-old went 3-for-4 for Double-A Portland and put the game out of reach with a grand slam in the seventh.

Royals No. 25 prospect Chase Vallot snapped an 0-for-17 skid with a first-inning grand slam for Class A Advanced Wilmington. Vallot picked up a fifth RBI via a bases-loaded walk in the fourth, but is still having a tough time at the plate as he finished 1-for-5.

Angels No. 29 prospect Joe Gatto gave up five runs in three innings in his last start with Class A Advanced Inland Empire, but he bounced back in a big way against Lancaster. The 22-year-old right-hander fired 53 of his 79 pitches for strikes as he struck out nine and yielded three hits over six scoreless frames. Gatto struck out the side in the first and notched at least one strikeout in five of his six innings.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.

Maddon giving Happ time to work through woes

Zobrist bothered by back issues; top prospect Alzolay joins Triple-A Iowa
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Ian Happ homered on the first pitch of the Major League season on March 29, but it's been a struggle for him since then. The switch-hitting outfielder was batting .204 in his first 13 games, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Thursday he's seeing encouraging signs.

Happ was not in the Cubs' lineup for the finale against the Cardinals, and part of that was to give him time to focus on the lessons.

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CHICAGO -- Ian Happ homered on the first pitch of the Major League season on March 29, but it's been a struggle for him since then. The switch-hitting outfielder was batting .204 in his first 13 games, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Thursday he's seeing encouraging signs.

Happ was not in the Cubs' lineup for the finale against the Cardinals, and part of that was to give him time to focus on the lessons.

View Full Game Coverage

"I've talked to [hitting coach] Chili [Davis] a lot about it," Maddon said. "[Happ] feels much better on the right side of the plate than the left side, which is normally not the case. Hopefully, he can maintain that as he works through the left-handed problems he's got. I really like the way this guy is. He'll work through it. I like the plan Chili has set forth for him."

Happ was 4-for-13 (.308) from the left side with six strikeouts, and 6-for-36 (.167) from the right side with 19 K's. His 47.2 strikeout percentage (25 K's in 53 plate appearances) is the highest of any qualified hitter in the Majors this season. Will Maddon pick his spots for Happ?

"Probably a little bit," Maddon said. "My main thought is to talk to Chili every day and Ian to see how they're feeling about things. If I hear from both of them that they feel strongly about what's going on, then I'll start pushing it again."

Last season, Happ batted .253 in 115 games, hitting 24 home runs.

"First of all, I believe in Ian a lot," Maddon said. "He's really a unique young man. He's introspective, he's bright. He has a really high emotional IQ. He understands and accepts and works through moments, as opposed to becoming overly emotional about them."

Video: ATL@CHC: Zobrist races to third for an RBI triple

Ben Zobrist did not start Thursday because of back problems that Maddon thought were similiar to what kept the versatile veteran sidelined most of Spring Training. However, Zobrist said it's a different problem.

"In Spring Training, it was stuck," Zobrist said of his back. "It was stuck when I got in certain spots. It's not stuck at all [now]. In certain spots, it's just a little uncomfortable. That's why they held me out. Today was a 'Hold me out again and tell us how you feel' kind of thing."

Zobrist did work in the batting cages during Thursday's 8-5 win, but wasn't needed to pinch-hit.

"It was a step in the right direction," Zobrist said. "These things, you have to be more cautious when you have a little history."

Zobrist would've been leading off against the Cardinals if he was available, Maddon said. Instead, Maddon went with Albert Almora Jr. against right-hander Luke Weaver and moved Javier Baez into the No. 2 spot for the first time this season.

"I wanted to get some energy at the top," Maddon said of Baez. "He's been doing well. I could have left him at six or seven [in the order]. I'm just shuffling the chairs up a little. There's nothing brilliant about it whatsover. It's just to provide some energy at the top of the batting order."

• After 15 games, the Cubs' starting pitchers ranked 14th in the National League with a 5.31 ERA. That's not what they expected, but Kyle Hendricks said part of the problem has been because the schedule keeps getting interrupted by the weather. The Cubs have had five games postponed.

"This has been weird," Hendricks said. "I've never been through anything like this. Once this weather clears up, we'll be ready to go."

There was plenty of sunshine on Thursday. Hendricks, who will open the Cubs' three-game series in Colorado on Friday, said he's pitched in the cold before.

"In college, I pitched in a game April 5 and it was snowing, and that was the worst I'd seen until now," Hendricks said. "It's out of our control. You just have to get your work in and whenever we can play, we'll play."

• Cubs top prospect Adbert Alzolay will make his first start of the season on Friday, pitching for Triple-A Iowa. Wednesday's game was postponed, so Luke Farrell will start on Thursday and Alzolay will go Friday.

Alzolay, ranked No. 1 on MLB Pipeline's list of the Top 30 Cubs prospects, was 7-1 with a 2.98 ERA in 15 starts at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach last season, then went 0-3 with a 3.03 ERA in seven starts for Double-A Tennessee. He was in extended spring camp before joining Iowa.

• The Cubs raised $1.8 million on Wednesday night at the Bricks and Ivy Ball, including $50,000 from the sale of one of the paintings Maddon revealed during Spring Training.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Ian Happ

Cubs, Braves to honor Jackie at May 14 game

With Sunday's game rained out, clubs postpone Jackie Robinson Day celebration to makeup date
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- The Cubs and Braves are expected to delay their celebration of Jackie Robinson Day to May 14, when the two teams will play a makeup game at Wrigley Field.

Sunday's game between the Cubs and Braves was postponed because of the weather, and a Braves spokesman said the two teams would honor Robinson in the makeup game.

CHICAGO -- The Cubs and Braves are expected to delay their celebration of Jackie Robinson Day to May 14, when the two teams will play a makeup game at Wrigley Field.

Sunday's game between the Cubs and Braves was postponed because of the weather, and a Braves spokesman said the two teams would honor Robinson in the makeup game.

It would be fitting to honor Robinson at Wrigley Field, the only remaining Major League stadium that he played a game in. In 93 games at Wrigley, Robinson batted .295 (99-for-336) with 22 doubles, seven triples, five homers, 43 RBIs and a .400 on-base percentage.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon has done his own research on Robinson, listening to stories about him from Don Zimmer, Al Campanas and Preston Gomez.

"It's great he's being honored -- I'm a big fan," Maddon said of Robinson, the first modern player to break Major League Baseball's color barrier.

"He added so much life to the game," Maddon said, specifically citing Robinson's baserunning skills. "I think people showed up just to see this guy play, regardless of skin color. This guy was a good, energetic, entertaining baseball player. Beyond that, he spoke, and spoke well. He's one of those guys you wish you had met."

As has been tradition each April 15 since 2009, Major League Baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson Day with all players and on-field personnel wearing Jackie's iconic number 42. This year, there will be additional on-field uniform elements, including a commemorative patch on all team caps and jersey sleeves, socks emblazoned with "42," and a brand-new, lightweight hooded fleece for batting practice and dugout wear, also featuring the "42" logo. MLB will donate all proceeds from the sale of such items to the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves

Baez's bat not enough to bail out Chatwood

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Right-hander Tyler Chatwood had good stuff on Tuesday night. He just had a hard time commanding it.

Javier Baez finished a triple shy of the cycle, hitting a two-run homer in the eighth inning, but it wasn't enough to help Chatwood in a 5-3 loss to the Cardinals.

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CHICAGO -- Right-hander Tyler Chatwood had good stuff on Tuesday night. He just had a hard time commanding it.

Javier Baez finished a triple shy of the cycle, hitting a two-run homer in the eighth inning, but it wasn't enough to help Chatwood in a 5-3 loss to the Cardinals.

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In his first two games with the Cubs, Chatwood issued seven walks over 11 innings. On Tuesday night he walked that many in 4 2/3 innings.

"I feel my stuff is always going to be there," Chatwood said. "I just have to command it. My ball had a lot of life, a lot of movement. Early on, I had both breaking balls working. It's just a matter of getting ahead so I can use that stuff as the game goes on.

"They spoiled some good pitches and then I would just get erratic. I think I just have to be more competitive throughout the at-bat. I have to make good pitches throughout."

Video: STL@CHC: Chatwood K's Wainwright, side in 2nd

Said Cubs manager Joe Maddon: "He just has to figure out where the ball is going more consistently, because the stuff plays really well."

Matt Carpenter hit an RBI double off Chatwood and added a two-run single in the eighth to back Adam Wainwright and lead St. Louis to victory in the first meeting between the National League Central rivals this season.

Cubs starters began the day ranked third in the NL in walks, and a pair of free passes set up the Cardinals' two runs in the third. Chatwood walked the first two batters he faced that inning, prompting a visit from pitching coach Jim Hickey. Carpenter then doubled for the Cardinals' only hit off Chatwood, and another run scored on Marcell Ozuna's groundout for a 2-0 lead.

The Cubs' starting pitchers have totaled six quality starts in the first 15 games, and their inability to go deep has kept the bullpen busy. Maddon predicts better days ahead.

"It's going to happen," he said. "I'm fully confident it's going to happen. The bullpen has done a wonderful job, and the starters are really good. There's a lot to look forward to with the starters because they're really good, and as things settle in, they'll really start piling up the innings. I mean that, I'm not just saying it."

Baez has been playing as though it's summertime, not chilly April. He doubled in the second, singled in the fifth and hit his fifth home run in the eighth off Greg Holland. Baez has 12 hits, and all but two have gone for extra bases; he's totaled 12 RBIs on the homestand.

"He's seeing the ball well, he's hitting the ball well, and it's fun to watch," Anthony Rizzo said.

Rizzo, back from the disabled list, went 0-for-3 with a walk in his first game since April 5. He shrugged off the gametime temperature of 35 degrees.

"You can't let it make you miserable," Rizzo said. "You know the sunny days are coming, both on the field and as a group. We'll just keep playing through it."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Chance missed, chance grabbed: The Cubs had a scoring opportunity in the third when they loaded the bases with two out against Wainwright, but he got Kyle Schwarber looking at a 75.7-mph curveball for strike three. With one out in the fourth, Addison Russell hit a bouncer to Wainwright, who overthrew first for an error. Russell reached second on the miscue, then scored on Jason Heyward's single to pull the Cubs within a run.

"We gave ourselves a couple chances today to drive some runners in, and we didn't get the job done," Rizzo said. "The more we keep having good at-bats and guys taking their walks and getting on base, this team is going to come through sooner or later. It's just a matter of time."

Video: STL@CHC: Heyward grounds RBI single to right

Cishek denies Cards: The Cubs' bullpen has been solid this season, and Steve Cishek came through in the sixth. The Cardinals loaded the bases with one out, but Cishek struck out Dexter Fowler and got Tommy Pham to ground out and end the inning. Carl Edwards Jr. also had a good outing in relief, striking out the side in the seventh.

Video: STL@CHC: Cishek works out of trouble in 6th

SOUND SMART
Chatwood is the first Cubs pitcher with seven strikeouts, seven walks and two or fewer hits in a start since Kerry Wood did so July 13, 2001, against the White Sox.

Baez is the first Cubs player to have 10 of his first 12 hits go for extra bases since Sammy Sosa in 2004.

HE SAID IT
"Our guys have to get back in [the dugout] and hit, and I'm leaving them out there standing in the cold for a while. Wainwright is really good. That's not a good recipe for success." -- Chatwood, on wanting quick innings to help his teammates

Video: STL@CHC: Maddon talks Chatwood, cold weather

UP NEXT
Left-hander Jon Lester will start on Wednesday opposite Luke Weaver in the series finale against the Cardinals. He did not get a decision in his last outing, against the Pirates, giving up four earned runs on seven hits over five innings. He was most bothered by the walks -- he issued three -- and said he needs to "clean that up." Lester was 2-1 with a 2.93 ERA in five starts vs. St. Louis last season. First pitch will be 1:20 p.m. CT.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs

Zobrist a late scratch with tightness in back

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- The Cubs got Anthony Rizzo back on Tuesday, but Ben Zobrist was scratched prior to the game against the Cardinals because of tightness in his back.

Zobrist was to lead off and play right field, but instead Ian Happ got the start in center, and Jason Heyward was moved from center to right field.

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CHICAGO -- The Cubs got Anthony Rizzo back on Tuesday, but Ben Zobrist was scratched prior to the game against the Cardinals because of tightness in his back.

Zobrist was to lead off and play right field, but instead Ian Happ got the start in center, and Jason Heyward was moved from center to right field.

View Full Game Coverage

Zobrist was limited this spring because of tightness in his back, and totaled 34 at-bats.

Rizzo was activated from the 10-day disabled list after being sidelined with tightness in his lower back.

• Cubs manager Joe Maddon introduced new artwork on Tuesday, part of his season-long campaign to link art and the sport. This month's painting, which was done by Tampa Bay-area artist Jason Skeldon, features Uncle Sam with inspirational messages.

One of the original paintings that featured Skeldon's take on the Mona Lisa will be auctioned Wednesday at the Bricks and Ivy Ball, which is Cubs Charities' primary fundraising event.

"The original thought was to create a theme for the season," Maddon said. "Beyond that, yes, I do want to make money for the [Respect 90] Foundation. The money that comes back to me personally is all for charity."

Money raised from the sale of prints of the paintings will go to either Respect 90 or Cubs Charities, or one of the Cubs players' charities.

Maddon also has an idea to create a program through which he can answer questions from students via Skype or Facetime for 30 minutes.

"I'm having a coffee, we're in Cincinnati ... Why wouldn't I do something like this?" Maddon said.

"You sit in a classroom, a young group of journalists, 10th grade, and they sit there and ask me questions for a half an hour and we talk about what's going on with the Cubs or baseball in general," he said, adding that other teams and players could take part as well. "I think once that connection is made, whoever was in that class is a Cubs fan forever or a Pirate fan forever. Even if they're not a fan of baseball, they become attached because of that technological connection."

Adbert Alzolay, the Cubs' No. 1 prospect as ranked by MLB Pipeline, will make his 2018 debut on Thursday with Triple-A Iowa. Alzolay has been in extended spring training to build up arm strength. Alzolay was 7-1 with a 2.98 ERA in 15 starts at Class A Myrtle Beach last year.

• The Cubs and Braves will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day on May 14, when the two teams meet in a makeup game at Wrigley Field. Their game on Sunday, which was Jackie Robinson Day around MLB, was postponed because of the inclement weather. Both teams will wear the No. 42 jerseys to honor Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs

Cubs activate Rizzo to face Cardinals

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- First baseman Anthony Rizzo was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday and back in the Cubs lineup for the start of a two-game series against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

"Definitely the last three or four days for sure [I've been ready]," Rizzo said Tuesday. "I've been swinging a little harder, ramping it up, trying to take as close to game swings as I could. I think being smart with it, hopefully this is the end of it."

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CHICAGO -- First baseman Anthony Rizzo was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday and back in the Cubs lineup for the start of a two-game series against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

"Definitely the last three or four days for sure [I've been ready]," Rizzo said Tuesday. "I've been swinging a little harder, ramping it up, trying to take as close to game swings as I could. I think being smart with it, hopefully this is the end of it."

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Rizzo has been sidelined since April 6 because of stiffness in his lower back. He already had an exercise routine but has added some more exercises as part of what he called a maintenance program.

"[I have to] do a little more stretching, a little more maintenance before I get going and do my workouts and whatnot to make sure my body is nice and loose," Rizzo said.

He's not going to cut back on his pregame hitting or work on the field.

"I have a pretty simple routine when it comes to hitting and taking grounders," Rizzo said. "If I do any less, I'd probably just have to stop doing anything."

The Cubs sent first baseman Efren Navarro back to Triple-A Iowa to make room on the active roster for Rizzo. Navarro was 1-for-6 in four games, and subbed at first base for four innings on Saturday. The Cubs also have had Victor Caratini, Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant start at first base in Rizzo's absence.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Anthony Rizzo