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Rizzo moved by response to high school tragedy

Donning Stoneman Douglas cap, first baseman notes youth effort
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was wearing his high school baseball cap again on Friday, but it wasn't for the reasons he would like.

All Major League Baseball teams were wearing Marjory Stoneman Douglas caps on Friday to honor the victims killed at the Parkland, Fla., high school on Feb. 14. Rizzo, who is not scheduled to play in the Cubs' Spring Training opener against the Brewers, was wearing it for the workout on Friday. The Cubs will wear the caps again on Saturday for the home opener against the Rangers, and Rizzo will be in the lineup then.

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MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo was wearing his high school baseball cap again on Friday, but it wasn't for the reasons he would like.

All Major League Baseball teams were wearing Marjory Stoneman Douglas caps on Friday to honor the victims killed at the Parkland, Fla., high school on Feb. 14. Rizzo, who is not scheduled to play in the Cubs' Spring Training opener against the Brewers, was wearing it for the workout on Friday. The Cubs will wear the caps again on Saturday for the home opener against the Rangers, and Rizzo will be in the lineup then.

View Full Game Coverage

Was there much of a difference between his high school cap then and now?

"Ours were fitted," Rizzo said. "It's the same logo. Not much has really changed there over the years."

Tweet from @ARizzo44: #MSDStrong pic.twitter.com/1tcv6UzK0D

A lot changed on Feb. 14 when a gunman shot and killed 17 people at the high school. Rizzo went back to be with family and friends, and he spoke at a prayer vigil the day after the shooting.

Rizzo was impressed by the efforts by Stoneman Douglas students who have met with lawmakers this week.

"It's our future, it's our youth," Rizzo said. "It's what our country will run on in years to come. It's people who have a voice, and they're using it -- whether it's fighting for this or that. When a lot of people come together, it's amazing the power they have."

He's been approached by people who have shown their support.

"This is a big-time subject," Rizzo said. "Everyone has come out of the woodwork to show their love and support for the community I live in, the school, the kids. It's been really nice to see people come out and approach me and go out of their way. It's much appreciated."

Video: Baseball pays tribute to Stoneman Douglas victims

Cubs manager Joe Maddon addressed the caps prior to Friday's game.

"It's unfortunate that we're wearing them, but we're showing our support," Maddon said. "We're not just wearing them, we're on board. None of us ever want to see anything like that happen again. We have to do everything possible to prevent that from happening again. I love the activism by the kids [in Parkland]."

Maddon knows Rizzo may be asked about the topic often this spring.

"Of course, it's going to be difficult," Maddon said. "The crazy, wonderful thing about our game is once you're here, for whatever reason, you're able to stay here. There might be a lull in the action, somebody might remind him, but regardless of your questions before and after, he'll get this respite during the game.

"We could not be more proud of the way he's handled himself," Maddon said.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Anthony Rizzo

Bote, Vosler thrilled to work with Trammell

Cubs prospects take instructions from soon-to-be Hall of Famer in AFL
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- When Cubs prospects David Bote and Jason Vosler reported to the Arizona Fall League, they didn't expect to get some encouragement from a soon-to-be Hall of Famer.

The Cubs prospects played on the Mesa Solar Sox along with players from the Tigers' organization last fall. Alan Trammell, who will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in July, was a guest instructor for a short time with the Mesa team and made a huge impression.

MESA, Ariz. -- When Cubs prospects David Bote and Jason Vosler reported to the Arizona Fall League, they didn't expect to get some encouragement from a soon-to-be Hall of Famer.

The Cubs prospects played on the Mesa Solar Sox along with players from the Tigers' organization last fall. Alan Trammell, who will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in July, was a guest instructor for a short time with the Mesa team and made a huge impression.

"He came out, and he was super nice, great guy," said Bote, an infielder and the Cubs' No. 15 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. "He started hitting fungoes and shagging batting practice and came up and talked to everyone. He was there to be a mentor -- not even a mentor, he was there to have fun, it felt like.

"It was so cool, and a humbling experience to be with him," Bote said. "To see him get into the Hall of Fame, it was a really cool moment. That guy was out there shagging my BP, and he's a Hall of Famer."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

The Hall of Fame announcement didn't happen until December, so the Cubs pair had no idea Trammell was headed to Cooperstown. Trammell, who turned 60 on Wednesday, didn't call the kids together for a lecture. That's not his style.

"It wasn't like he sat down and talked to us, but more on-the-field stuff," Vosler said Friday. "He was kind of cool because right when he got [to Mesa], he immersed himself into the whole thing, right on the field, introducing himself to everybody. Most of the coordinators who came from other teams worked with their own guys, and he worked with the whole team, which was awesome."

Vosler and Bote both knew who Trammell was.

"He introduced himself, and it's like, 'Oh my God, who better to learn from?'" Vosler said.

Video: Trammell reflects on his Hall of Fame election

During batting practice, Trammell would be on the field near second base to talk footwork, glove work.

"He was just like a regular guy out there with us," Vosler said.

"He was saying, 'Hey, nice work, nice feed, nice flip,'" Bote said. "He wasn't giving any real instruction, he was just kind of there. He'd say, 'Good hands, good feet.' He said, 'I don't want to step on toes for what the Cubs have you doing, but you look really good.' It was a humbling experience, for sure."

On Friday, Bote had another Hall of Fame experience. He was doing some early work in Mesa, and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg came over to watch.

"He said, 'I have to pull out my phone and video you,'" Bote said. "A Cubs Hall of Famer and one of the most famous Cubs players in the world is watching my early work and videotaping it. That's something special, a really cool thing to be a part of."

Last season, Vosler batted .241 at Double-A Tennessee and Bote hit .272. This is their first big league camp, and they're soaking it all in.

"It's awesome, and it's especially awesome to get a chance to learn from players like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo," Bote said. "To me, it's just watching the routine and their work ethic. Every single one of them has been really open, but for me just watching them go about their day is very cool."

Who knows? Maybe one day, Bryant or Rizzo will be headed to Cooperstown.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, David Bote, Jason Vosler

Top 30 Prospects list reflects focus on pitching

MLB.com @JimCallisMLB

In 2017, the Cubs squeezed the last drops out of what had been the best group of position prospects baseball had seen in years. Ian Happ hit 24 homers as a rookie as he joined fellow fully homegrown products Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber in Chicago's lineup. The Cubs also used elite outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez to bolster their rotation, making him the centerpiece of a trade for Jose Quintana.

Cubs Top 30 Prospects list

In 2017, the Cubs squeezed the last drops out of what had been the best group of position prospects baseball had seen in years. Ian Happ hit 24 homers as a rookie as he joined fellow fully homegrown products Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber in Chicago's lineup. The Cubs also used elite outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez to bolster their rotation, making him the centerpiece of a trade for Jose Quintana.

Cubs Top 30 Prospects list

In the three years since MLB Pipeline rated its farm system as the game's best, Chicago has made three consecutive National League Championship Series and ended a 108-year World Series title drought. They should continue to contend for a while but will do so without much immediate help from a system that now ranks near the bottom.

:: Team Top 30 Prospects lists ::

After graduating all those talented hitters to the big leagues -- and trading two of the top five prospects on MLB Pipeline's current Top 100 list in Jimenez and Gleyber Torres -- the Cubs are trying to develop some pitching. Three of their best four prospects are international right-handers: Adbert Alzolay, Oscar de la Cruz and Jose Albertos. They also took college arms with 13 of their first 14 Draft picks in 2016 and their top five in 2017, including first-rounders Brendon Little and Alex Lange last June. The Cubs have a whopping 21 pitchers on their Top 30 list, more than any other organization.

Biggest jump/fall
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2017 preseason list to the 2018 preseason list.

Jump: Adbert Alzolay, RHP (2017: NR | 2018: 1)
Fall: Trevor Clifton, RHP (2017: 8 | 2018: 28)

Best tools
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses also have the same grade.

Hit: 55 -- Victor Caratini (Aramis Ademan, Mark Zagunis)
Power: 55 -- Nelson Velazquez
Run: 65 -- D.J. Wilson
Arm: 55 -- Miguel Amaya (Aramis Ademan, Wladimir Galindo, Zack Short, Nelson Velazquez)
Defense: 60 -- Miguel Amaya
Fastball: 75 -- Dillon Maples
Curveball: 65 -- Alex Lange
Slider: 65 -- Dillon Maples
Changeup: 65 -- Jose Albertos
Control: 55 -- Michael Rucker (Adbert Alzolay, Oscar de la Cruz, Alec Mills, Keegan Thompson, Jen-Ho Tseng, Erich Uelmen)

How they were built
Draft: 18
International: 10
Trade: 2

Breakdown by ETA
2018: 7
2019: 7
2020: 11
2021: 5

Breakdown by position
C: 2
1B: 0
2B: 1
3B: 1
SS: 2
OF: 3
RHP: 17
LHP: 4

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Chicago Cubs

Cubs release details for regular-season tickets

Mastercard presale Feb. 20-21; single-game tix on sale Feb. 23
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs today announced details for purchasing single game tickets for the 2018 season. Single game tickets go on sale Friday, February 23, at 10 a.m. CST, and will be available on www.cubs.com or by calling 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).

Fans may once again participate in the online Mastercard® Presale to secure tickets prior to the general on-sale. Starting Tuesday, February 20, at noon CST, single game tickets will be available at www.cubs.com for a 20 percent premium, or a 15 percent premium for fans using a Mastercard.

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs today announced details for purchasing single game tickets for the 2018 season. Single game tickets go on sale Friday, February 23, at 10 a.m. CST, and will be available on www.cubs.com or by calling 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).

Fans may once again participate in the online Mastercard® Presale to secure tickets prior to the general on-sale. Starting Tuesday, February 20, at noon CST, single game tickets will be available at www.cubs.com for a 20 percent premium, or a 15 percent premium for fans using a Mastercard.

"Following our third consecutive NLCS appearance and recent roster signings, our fans are excited about the 2018 season and our chances to compete in another deep postseason run," said Colin Faulkner, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Chicago Cubs. "Given the significant demand for Cubs tickets, we encourage fans to buy early to ensure they are able to experience everything Wrigley Field has to offer this season."

Tickets for each regular season home game are available for purchase during the Mastercard Presale and general on-sale, including the Home Opener vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates, summer holiday games, Kids Sundays, rivalry contests with the Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals, as well as Interleague matchups with rare visits by the Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers.

Fans can look forward to another full schedule of more than 40 promotional items, including a Cubs "Dancing Bullpen" Beverage Tumbler, Cubs Cap-Shaped Umbrella, six #BudFridays giveaways, six #KidsSundays items and a series of bobbleheads, which features a "Fan Vote" Bobblehead. This final bobblehead of the season will be decided by Cubs fans who will have the opportunity to vote for the bobblehead design on Cubs social media channels.

Details for each single game purchasing option follow:

ONLINE MASTERCARD PRESALE: The Cubs will once again offer the online Mastercard Presale starting Tuesday, February 20, at noon CST through Wednesday, February 21, at 11:59 p.m. CST. Fans using a Mastercard can purchase single game tickets in advance of the general on-sale at a 15 percent premium, while fans using other forms of payment may purchase tickets at a 20 percent premium. Mastercard Presale tickets may be purchased at www.cubs.com.

SINGLE GAME GENERAL ON-SALE: Via the Internet: On Friday, February 23, fans can purchase tickets at www.cubs.com. A virtual waiting room will begin accepting customers at 9:30 a.m. CST. At 10 a.m. CST, customers will be randomly selected from the virtual waiting room to begin purchasing tickets. All internet customers will need a valid Cubs.com account. Customers are encouraged to register for an account prior to their desired presale or the on-sale.

By Telephone: Tickets can be purchased by telephone beginning Friday, February 23, at 10 a.m. CST by calling 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).

At Wrigley Field: The Cubs will offer in-person single game ticket sales beginning at 8 a.m. CST Monday, February 26. Fans can purchase tickets at Wrigley Field's Budweiser Bleacher ticket windows located on Waveland Avenue near the main entrance of the Budweiser Bleachers. The Budweiser Bleacher ticket windows will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays prior to the Cubs home opener.

There is a four-ticket purchase limit for Diamond and Marquee games per household, credit card or email address, and 14-ticket limit for all other games. There is a maximum of 40 total tickets per order. For more information, please contact the Chicago Cubs Ticket Office at 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).

Chicago Cubs

Schwarber, Happ expected for Cubs' ST opener

Maddon thrilled by 'spectacular' Lester so far this spring
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ are expected to play in the Cubs' first Cactus League game on Friday against their National League Central rivals, the Brewers (live on MLB.TV at 2:05 p.m. CT). Left-hander Michael Roth, a non-roster invitee who has pitched for the Angels and Rangers, is scheduled to start.

The Cubs will wear caps both Friday and Saturday in honor of Anthony Rizzo's alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were shot and killed last week.

MESA, Ariz. -- Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ are expected to play in the Cubs' first Cactus League game on Friday against their National League Central rivals, the Brewers (live on MLB.TV at 2:05 p.m. CT). Left-hander Michael Roth, a non-roster invitee who has pitched for the Angels and Rangers, is scheduled to start.

The Cubs will wear caps both Friday and Saturday in honor of Anthony Rizzo's alma mater, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were shot and killed last week.

Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule | Gear

The Cubs begin Cactus League play with the 25-man Opening Day roster pretty well set, so the focus will be more on preparing for the season and evaluating their options for depth.

"The biggest thing about job battles is the contributing factor to alter things would be injury, which we don't want," manager Joe Maddon said Thursday. "You can pretty much write down what you're seeing [regarding the 25-man roster] and be pretty accurate. Often times, when you're a pretty good ballclub, that's the case. When you're not so good, you're always getting additions."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Maddon said it was a little different in his early years with the Rays.

"That was a casting call, trying to figure it out and you had very few settled positions when you walked in the door," Maddon said.

Worth noting

• Maddon wasn't ready to name his Opening Day starter, but he did say Jon Lester looked the part. The left-hander, who is entering the fourth year of his six-year contract with the Cubs, seems right at home.

"Go back to the first day he was here a couple years ago," Maddon said. "Didn't today look better than that? He was hurt a little bit when he first arrived [in 2015]. Conversationally, he wasn't as settled. He was coming from another spot, [and there were] high expectations, big contract. He's definitely good in his own skin.

"I'm seeing the best version of Jon who I've witnessed as a person and how he goes about his business," Maddon said. "His leadership -- believe me, it's coming out. It's a couple years removed from the signing, and we've all gotten comfortable with one another and he's definitely comfortable in his Cubs skin."

Video: Outlook: Lester a strong candidate to rebound in '18

Maddon saw a different Lester, 34, during a meeting between pitchers and catchers. The veteran spoke up, shared his opinions and was demonstrative. He threw his second live batting-practice session on Thursday, and anyone within earshot could hear the effort.

"The work today was spectacular and I told him so," Maddon said. "I said, 'You could've been pitching the first game of the season the way you looked.'"

But that's not official. Maddon said they like to talk to all of the starters first.

Ben Zobrist continued to get treatment and did not take part in Thursday's workout because of some back soreness. He has not been on the field for any of the Cubs' workouts, which began Monday.

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

Chicago Cubs, Jon Lester, Kyle Schwarber

Can Caratini crack Cubs as backup catcher?

Alvarez, Bourjos also in mix for roster spots as spring games begin
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- Manager Joe Maddon joked that this Spring Training will be more about the coaches than the players as new staff members Jim Hickey, Chili Davis and Brian Butterfield match faces to names and learn the roster. But there are roster decisions to be made as well and some players to keep an eye on.

The Cubs begin Cactus League play on Friday when they travel to Phoenix to face their National League Central rivals, the Brewers. Left-hander Michael Roth, 28, a non-roster invitee who has pitched with the Angels and Rangers, will start Friday while right-hander Eddie Butler, 26, will start in the Cubs' first home game at Sloan Park on Saturday against the Rangers.

MESA, Ariz. -- Manager Joe Maddon joked that this Spring Training will be more about the coaches than the players as new staff members Jim Hickey, Chili Davis and Brian Butterfield match faces to names and learn the roster. But there are roster decisions to be made as well and some players to keep an eye on.

The Cubs begin Cactus League play on Friday when they travel to Phoenix to face their National League Central rivals, the Brewers. Left-hander Michael Roth, 28, a non-roster invitee who has pitched with the Angels and Rangers, will start Friday while right-hander Eddie Butler, 26, will start in the Cubs' first home game at Sloan Park on Saturday against the Rangers.

Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule | Gear

It's been a seamless transition for the new coaches so far.

"There's an immediate comfort level," Maddon said. "Part of it is with these guys, their ego doesn't get in the way."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

While the position players are set and will use the spring games to prepare for the season, there are a few players battling for a spot on the 25-man roster. Here are some names to keep an eye on.

Victor Caratini
Even though Willson Contreras would start all 162 games if given the chance, the Cubs need a backup catcher. Caratini made a good first impression in his brief time with the big league team last season, and he moved to Arizona this offseason to train at the team complex. The question the Cubs face is whether to have Caratini play once or twice a week in the big leagues or every day with Triple-A Iowa. What's better for his development? Maddon does like to use everyone on the roster, but he also doesn't want to hurt a player's development by having him on the bench too much. Caratini, 24, batted .342 in 83 games at Iowa last season. The other option in camp is veteran Chris Gimenez, a non-roster invitee.

Dario Alvarez
On Tuesday, Alvarez had his first live batting-practice session, and Maddon made a point of running over to see the left-hander pitch. Alvarez, 29, has pitched in relief for the Mets, Braves and Rangers, totaling 48 innings over 56 games. The Cubs are expected to carry eight relievers and Alvarez is a dark-horse candidate to make that list. The reason? His slider. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein noted how nasty a pitch it was after the team signed the lefty.

Video: KC@TEX: Alvarez strands runner at second

Peter Bourjos
The Cubs appear to have plenty of outfielders with Jason Heyward, Albert Almora Jr., Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist. However, Bourjos has a reputation for being a solid defensive player and has speed. Those are two qualities Maddon likes. A right-handed hitter, Bourjos, 30, batted .223 in 100 games with the Rays last season. He's also played for the Angels, Cardinals and Phillies, and has played almost exclusively in center field. In 2013, he was considered one of the top center fielders in the game. Could that be enough to make the Cubs? It'd be a nice homecoming for Bourjos, who was born in Park Ridge, Ill.

Video: TB@NYY: Bourjos hits a two-run triple to left-center

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

Chicago Cubs, Dario Alvarez, Peter Bourjos, Victor Caratini

Contreras earning respect as young leader

Cubs confident catcher will adjust to new pace of play rules
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- When Cubs pitcher Jon Lester got off to a slow start last season, Willson Contreras was worried.

"I started asking him so many questions. 'What do I need to do to get him better?'" Contreras said. "He said, 'Don't worry about it. We've got this.' He had a decent season, but not as good as he is. I think this year we'll have a better season."

MESA, Ariz. -- When Cubs pitcher Jon Lester got off to a slow start last season, Willson Contreras was worried.

"I started asking him so many questions. 'What do I need to do to get him better?'" Contreras said. "He said, 'Don't worry about it. We've got this.' He had a decent season, but not as good as he is. I think this year we'll have a better season."

Former catcher David Ross, now a special assistant on the Cubs staff, wasn't surprised to hear how concerned Contreras was about one of his pitchers.

Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Gear

"That speaks to his character and why he is a leader because he has that mentality," Ross said. "When you have the, 'How can I make you better?' mentality, that's great. One of the key pieces for this team last year and this year will be Willson and his ability to work this pitching staff. It's such a talented pitching staff.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I promise there's not a harder worker I've been around in the catching group who is as young and dedicated as he is."

Now, Contreras, 25, just needs more experience and someone to keep track of how many visits he makes to the mound. Contreras is well aware of Major League Baseball's pace of play rules that will limit clubs to six mound visits per game.

"It's my team. We just care about winning," Contreras said. "If they're going to fine me for the number seven mound visit, I'll pay the price."

Said Ross: "I think it will be harder for Willson than it would for me, and I went a lot."

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer expects Contreras to make the adjustment.

"He's only had a year and a half [in the big leagues]," Hoyer said. "He doesn't have a lot of habits to break. I don't think it will be hard."

It's just a matter of picking the right spots.

"You always want your pitcher and catcher to be on the same page, right? So when you're not, you need to talk about it," Ross said. "I have a reason why I'm calling what I'm doing, and I'm sure the pitcher has a reason why he wants to throw what he wants to throw. The conversation goes a long way."

Video: Willson Contreras is the No. 3 catcher right now

Cubs manager Joe Maddon said they have to make sure to use the visits to improve communication instead of worrying about whether the opposition is picking up their signs. The Cubs' preparation each game day is very detailed, and Contreras often has made trips to get the pitcher back on track.

"Willson studies well, really well," Maddon said. "Blame [the mound visits] on us, because we're big on that and we think it's a big part of our success. That's what concerns me the most is that we're unable to communicate a thought that's necessary, not necessarily about changing signs."

It's all part of Contreras' development.

"I think the sky's the limit," Hoyer said of Contreras' potential. "He can throw, he can block, he's super athletic, he plays with an edge. I'm glad he's on our side. I do think there's a lot more levels to go, as far as his performance."

Lester has seen a difference, too, saying this Spring Training is so much easier.

"I love everything he does back there," Lester said. "He's not afraid. As a young guy, he calls people out when he needs to, and behind the plate, he's not afraid to get in an umpire's face. He's not scared. I loved his preparation and how he prepared for every single game, and it wasn't just for himself but for who was on the mound. That's hard to teach."

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

Chicago Cubs, Willson Contreras

Baez attentive to Maddon's wisdom

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- When Joe Maddon talks, Javier Baez listens.

Baez told the Cubs manager that a conversation they had last year stuck with the infielder.

MESA, Ariz. -- When Joe Maddon talks, Javier Baez listens.

Baez told the Cubs manager that a conversation they had last year stuck with the infielder.

Cubs Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule

"What I talked to him about was when he had to play shortstop, please make the routine play routinely, and permit your athleticism to play," Maddon said Wednesday. "When the play requires craziness, you're there, you can do that. But the straight-up ground ball, three-hopper to shortstop, come get the ball, play through it, make an accurate throw in a routine manner. Apparently that stuck."

Baez, who filled in at shortstop when Addison Russell was injured, told Maddon that he used that mantra and it helped him slow things down.

"You don't realize something that simple made an impact on him," Maddon said.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

-- Left-hander Michael Roth, and right-handers Eddie Butler and Jen-Ho Tseng will start the Cubs' first three Cactus League games. Roth, 28, a non-roster invitee who has pitched with the Angels and Rangers, will start the opener on Friday against the Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park. Butler will face the Rangers on Saturday in the Cubs' home opener at Sloan Park, and Tseng, who was the organization's Minor League pitcher of the year last season, will go Sunday against the Giants in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The Cubs' projected starting rotation of Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood are expected to make their spring debuts next week.

-- Ben Zobrist continued to get treatment and did not take part in the Cubs' workout for a third straight day because of some minor back soreness. Maddon said they're just being careful.

-- It's tough to get Anthony Rizzo to take a day off. If he does get a breather, he wouldn't mind sitting in the bleachers to watch a ballgame.

"I think you have to be smart," Rizzo said Wednesday about playing time. "If they know I'm starting to grind a little bit and need a day off, we'll prepare for it. The way I plan for a season is 162 [games], especially with a few more off days. At the same time, I can sit here and say I want to be a big tough guy and want to do that. Days off are necessary. My mind is telling me 162, but there will be days when I'm sure something is going on and you need to take a day. A day off then pays dividends down the line."

He likes being able to sit back, relax and watch a ballgame.

"I'll be honest, when I'm on the bench, I wish sometimes I was in the stands and able to kick back and watch from the stands," Rizzo said. "It's definitely nice to get a day off and be able to kick back and watch the game at a slower pace."

-- Darvish said he talked to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts after the pitcher had decided to sign with the Cubs. Darvish told Roberts that now he wanted to beat the Dodgers.

"He said he was going to beat us," Roberts said. "We had a great conversation. I wished him well and I reciprocated what he said. I feel the same way."

The Cubs acquired not only Darvish, but also Brandon Morrow, who was a late-inning setup pitcher for the Dodgers, and will now be a closer.

"They got better, the Cubs," Roberts said. "Those are two guys we relied on -- but we like our club, too."

Video: Roberts at Cactus League media day on Cubs, Dodgers

-- The Cubs will be one of the Major League Baseball teams to wear caps on Friday honoring Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed on Valentine's Day.

"I think it's awesome, I think it's cool," Rizzo said of the tribute to his alma mater. "Obviously, it's deeper ties for me than the rest of the league, but it's really neat that Major League Baseball is recognizing what happened in the country."

Players will sign the caps, which will be auctioned off to raise money for the Broward Education Foundation, which will benefit the official Stoneman Douglas Victims' Fund.

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

Cubs hosting Daley Plaza event for free tickets

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

Cubs fans in downtown Chicago on Thursday can spend their lunch hour trying to win tickets to 2018 games. At the Daley Plaza in Chicago, the Cubs will host a #PitchIn popup activation from 12-1 p.m. CT, during which which fans can pitch at targets to win tickets to a home game.

There will be varying levels of difficulty, with the most challenging target representing some of the better matchups of the season.

Cubs fans in downtown Chicago on Thursday can spend their lunch hour trying to win tickets to 2018 games. At the Daley Plaza in Chicago, the Cubs will host a #PitchIn popup activation from 12-1 p.m. CT, during which which fans can pitch at targets to win tickets to a home game.

There will be varying levels of difficulty, with the most challenging target representing some of the better matchups of the season.

Former Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster will be on hand Thursday to provide pitching instruction and take photos with fans.

Single-game tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m., and will be available on www.cubs.com or by calling 800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827).

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

Chicago Cubs

Cubs coach Buss wears wild outfit to camp

You know the type of person who owns a room upon entering it? Whether due to that person's robust personality or unique sense of fashion, we all know somebody who fits the bill.

Those who frequent Cubs Spring Training in recent years have been treated to random acts of flair thanks to strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss, who showed up at camp Wednesday morning in this getup, as captured for the masses by MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. 

Darvish impresses teammates with first live BP

Right-hander says he fits in 'naturally with the team'
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish and Kyle Schwarber squared off for the first time since the National League Championship Series during a live batting practice session on Tuesday. In October, Darvish was on the Dodgers, but now he and Schwarber are teammates.

"It definitely reminded me of the NLCS, but he didn't swing," Darvish said of Schwarber, who did not take a swing at any of the five pitches from the right-hander. "I hope to face him again soon in practice games."

MESA, Ariz. -- Yu Darvish and Kyle Schwarber squared off for the first time since the National League Championship Series during a live batting practice session on Tuesday. In October, Darvish was on the Dodgers, but now he and Schwarber are teammates.

"It definitely reminded me of the NLCS, but he didn't swing," Darvish said of Schwarber, who did not take a swing at any of the five pitches from the right-hander. "I hope to face him again soon in practice games."

Actually, only Willson Contreras took a swing during the 25-pitch session. It seemed the Cubs players wanted to see what their new starting pitcher could do. Darvish was OK with that.

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"If [Schwarber] swung, it would probably go over the fence," Darvish said of the Cubs slugger, who hit a solo home run off him in Game 3 of the NLCS last October. "It's a good thing he didn't."

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The right-hander, who signed a six-year deal with the Cubs a week ago, said his new teammates have been very friendly.

"It seems like I fit in naturally with the team," he said.

The Cubs are pretty impressed.

"He's insane," Contreras said, referring to Darvish's pitches. "The movement he has on the baseball, on the breaking balls and the fastball command he has is crazy."

Tweet from @CarrieMuskat: #Cubs hitters waited to give Darvish fist pump after session pic.twitter.com/DgIuIe6Zrw

"It's Feb. 20 -- wow," Cubs manager Joe Maddon of Darvish's first live batting practice. "My impression from the side as an opponent has always been that when he's right on, he has this low fastball with great carry. I walk up and that's all [the hitters] are talking about. Obviously, he's feeling pretty good about himself. His delivery looks clean, the ball was coming out of his hand well.

"I know it's early, I'm certain his adrenaline was flowing a little bit, but he threw the ball great -- great with great conviction," Maddon said. "I'm more of a purist. I looked at the delivery and how the ball was reacting at home plate and it was outstanding."

Video: Maddon discusses Darvish's bullpen session

Obviously, the pitchers have an edge during the live batting practice because they've been in camp longer. Still, Maddon liked what he saw.

"It's just that he's got that low carry working already," Maddon said, before explaining, "Low carry -- when a pitcher is able to start the ball out low in the strike zone, normally as a hitter, you process that it's going to drop more and become a ball. His pitch has the rotation on it so well, it hits that plane and stays on it. Your mind thinks it's going to go below. Guys who are able to do that -- I used to catch Mark Langston and he was like that. There are certain guys who spin it low and keep the plane and those guys are tough."

Even though he did pitch an extra month because of the World Series last year, Darvish said he's treating this Spring Training like any other one. The Cubs will be careful with his Cactus League outings. Contreras has some work to do, too. How will he call seven different pitches?

"I have to figure that out," Contreras said, laughing.

Have any of the Cubs players tried to learn Japanese?

"Not one," Darvish said. "I think [former Cubs infielder Munenori] Kawasaki got them too tired learning Japanese."

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

Chicago Cubs, Yu Darvish

Children's hospital patients join Cubs at camp

'It's a special moment for them and special moment for us also,' Maddon said
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs signed four new players for one day on Tuesday, welcoming patients from Advocate Children's Hospital in Chicago. The new additions were surprised with a trip to Spring Training.

"It's pretty amazing to meet all of these people and give them high-fives," said Izabella Marin, 14, of Chicago.

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs signed four new players for one day on Tuesday, welcoming patients from Advocate Children's Hospital in Chicago. The new additions were surprised with a trip to Spring Training.

"It's pretty amazing to meet all of these people and give them high-fives," said Izabella Marin, 14, of Chicago.

Cubs' Spring Training information

The four joined Cubs players on the field for the early stretch work then watched some of the workout. Later, manager Joe Maddon signed each of them to a one-day contract with the Cubs.

"You see their faces as they come through there -- it's a really special moment," Maddon said. "It's a special moment for them and special moment for us also."

Zach Lum, 17, who lost part of his right leg to cancer in September, could not contain his excitement.

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"My personal favorite is Ben Zobrist," Lum said. "I idolize all of them. Ben Zobrist is kind of on top. He was the MVP of the World Series, he hit the winning [RBI] double. He's incredible and so humble, which I love."

Knowing that he was going to Arizona gave Lum time to forget about his struggles with osteosarcoma.

"Throughout treatments and such there have been dark times," Lum said, "but to get a moment where I'm incredibly ecstatic is great.

"The Cubs are my favorite team because they are the absolute underdog," he said. "It was 108 years of not [winning] a World Series. It was incredible to see that they pulled it out in 2016."

The quartet was allowed to bring his or her best friend and family members to Arizona. Marin was giddy after meeting Anthony Rizzo. He is a cancer survivor; she is dealing with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Video: Rizzo, Cubs participate in Laugh-Off for Cancer event

"[Rizzo] inspires everyone," Marin said.

Here and there

• Zobrist did not take part in the Cubs' workout for a second day because of some minor back soreness. Maddon said they're just being cautious.

"I'm not trying to conceal anything -- he's fine," Maddon said. "I don't want us to have to push right there. He wanted to get some early at-bats, too. We'll morph him back in there. I'll check with him [Wednesday], and he's fine. I just don't want to push right now."

• One of the reasons the Cubs liked having John Lackey on the team last year was that the veteran right-hander had a little bit of an edge to him. Who has that now? Maddon says the young pitchers might have learned something from Lackey.

"I see it in [Tyler] Chatwood's makeup and abilities," Maddon said. "Talk to Kyle Hendricks now, and he's a totally different cat than a couple years ago. [Jose] Quintana -- did you see his face in his little 10-minute [live BP on Tuesday]?

Video: Outlook: Hendricks looks to build off big second half

"I think we've developed that [edge] over the last couple years," Maddon said. "We've got the right guys. John Lackey will always be missed off a team, but I like the names right now and I like how we're going about our business.

"At some point we have to grow up. You're mentored for a bit, and eventually you become the mentors."

• The Cubs have yet to announce who will start their first Cactus League game Friday against the Brewers.

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

Chicago Cubs

All clubs to don Douglas caps for ST openers

MLB.com @_dadler

All 30 Major League teams will wear Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School baseball caps before their Spring Training games this weekend to show support for the Parkland, Fla., community and the Stoneman Douglas student body after the tragic shooting at the school on Feb. 14.

Players across MLB will then be signing the caps and auctioning them to raise money for the Broward Education Foundation, which will benefit the official Stoneman Douglas Victims' Fund. Seventeen people were killed in the shooting, including 14 students and three staff members.

All 30 Major League teams will wear Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School baseball caps before their Spring Training games this weekend to show support for the Parkland, Fla., community and the Stoneman Douglas student body after the tragic shooting at the school on Feb. 14.

Players across MLB will then be signing the caps and auctioning them to raise money for the Broward Education Foundation, which will benefit the official Stoneman Douglas Victims' Fund. Seventeen people were killed in the shooting, including 14 students and three staff members.

Video: Teams to wear Stoneman Douglas hats for ST openers

"It's a tragedy. It was a tragedy that hit the state of Florida, where we have two teams, but obviously has very specific baseball connections," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "Really a very strong sentiment among the clubs that this was the appropriate thing to do immediately."

MLB teams will wear the caps pregame on Friday and will also be allowed to wear them during their games. Since they're off on Friday, the Royals and Rangers will don the hats on Saturday.

The Commissioner approved the use of the caps during all games on Friday, the Spring Training openers for most of the clubs.

The effort started with a few Grapefruit League teams, which wanted to wear the caps pregame, and it quickly spread across camps in Florida and Arizona. Soon all 30 teams had decided to join in the support and fundraising effort for the school community.

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo attended Stoneman Douglas, and spoke at a prayer vigil at Pine Trails Park the day after the shooting. 

"It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," Rizzo said Monday about meeting with families of the victims of the shooting. "You don't know what to say, there's nothing you can say. When people get shot, you're grateful they're alive. When they pass away, you're grateful you knew them. Just to see how real it is, it's sad and it's why I'm so proud of what they're doing back in Parkland and how everyone is coming together. They're going to turn this tragedy into something positive.

"The caps made for the fundraising effort will be provided to all players, coaches and umpires."

The Stoneman Douglas High School caps are reminiscent of how the Mets wore NYPD and FDNY caps following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. The Mets donned the caps to honor the first responders in their first game after the attacks, in Pittsburgh on Sept. 17, and again in their return to New York four days later. In that memorable game at Shea Stadium, Mike Piazza hit the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning to lead the Mets to an emotional win over the Braves.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.