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Russell full-steam ahead with '18 goals in mind

Cubs shortstop focused on health for upcoming season
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Addison Russell will celebrate his 24th birthday on Tuesday, and the Cubs' shortstop has big plans for the upcoming year.

"My individual goals are to remain healthy the whole season. Maybe an All-Star Game would be nice," Russell said in an interview with the Cubs' social media crew. "Staying healthy. I think everything else will handle itself."

CHICAGO -- Addison Russell will celebrate his 24th birthday on Tuesday, and the Cubs' shortstop has big plans for the upcoming year.

"My individual goals are to remain healthy the whole season. Maybe an All-Star Game would be nice," Russell said in an interview with the Cubs' social media crew. "Staying healthy. I think everything else will handle itself."

Last year, Russell was limited to 110 games because of a nagging right foot injury. He was sidelined Aug. 3 and in his first game back on Sept. 16 against the Cardinals, Russell made the most of it. He led off the eighth inning with a 437-foot home run to help secure a 4-1 win.

Video: STL@CHC: Statcast™ measures Russell's 437-foot homer

"It was a pretty special moment in my life," Russell said after the game. "Walking up to the plate, I couldn't help but smile inside. I felt like it was pretty fun."

Russell looks healthy as he runs in his hometown of Pensacola, Fla. He starts running and hitting at the start of December to prepare for the upcoming season.

"I like to get out on the beach and run," Russell said in an interview during the Cubs Convention. "I like running by the water and seeing all the sights my hometown has to offer on Pensacola Beach. I just put on my earphones and get lost. I love running, I love exercising, all that good stuff."

The Pensacola tourism folks will be happy about the video as well. Russell is seen making a sandcastle and collecting shells on the beach with his daughter.

"When I'm back home, I like to make sure I see my family and lay low," Russell said. "I love spending time with my family out here, especially on the beach; taking them out to the water. I love fishing, I love what the beach has to offer: the sand, the waves and the great Florida sunshine."

Russell also hopes the focus will be on baseball this year. In an Instagram post in December, Russell looked ahead to 2018, saying, "Absolutely no ceilings. No noise. New heights."

Video: NLCS Gm3: Russell makes a fine backpedaling catch

"I think I'm at a point in my life where I have a pretty good opportunity to reach the goals I want to reach without any distractions," Russell said at the convention. "I'm going to use that and take full advantage of that. I have a good, upbeat, positive feel about the year, and that's what I'm looking forward to."

He's picked up that same vibe with his Cubs teammates.

"It seems the guys are taking full advantage of this offseason," Russell said. "I feel the team itself will be ready coming into Spring Training, ready to hopefully win a World Series. That's the big picture."

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

 

Chicago Cubs, Addison Russell

Gimenez deal indicates Cubs serious about Yu

Adding right-hander's preferred catcher could be strategic move
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- The Cubs' headline move three offseasons ago was signing Jon Lester. It's worth noting that shortly after they got him under control, they returned to the free-agent market to pick up David Ross, Lester's personal catcher in Boston.

That move had been discussed -- if not promised -- while they were pursuing Lester.

CHICAGO -- The Cubs' headline move three offseasons ago was signing Jon Lester. It's worth noting that shortly after they got him under control, they returned to the free-agent market to pick up David Ross, Lester's personal catcher in Boston.

That move had been discussed -- if not promised -- while they were pursuing Lester.

They've reversed the order this time around. The Cubs agreed to a Minor League deal with catcher Chris Gimenez as they try to land Yu Darvish, the top arm on the free-agent market.

Hot Stove Tracker

Not to slight the 35-year-old Gimenez's attractiveness, but it's probably not a coincidence that the Cubs left the job backing up Willson Contreras open until talks with Darvish got serious. A report from The Associated Press says there are "active talks" between the sides, and Gimenez just happens to be Darvish's favorite catcher.

Video: MIA@TEX: Gimenez on Darvish's first career shutout

Theo Epstein is as brilliant as he is thorough in finding advantages in recruiting and empowering players. While the Cubs have resources that most other teams envy, he doesn't count on simply money-whipping them. Epstein finds ways to let them and those around them know how badly he wants them to be part of the clubhouse family.

Gimenez is from the Crash Davis school of catching. He was drafted by the Indians in 2004 and reached the Major Leagues in '09, and he has stuck around for parts of nine seasons. Gimenez had never had more than 130 plate appearances in a season until he reached his mid-30s, stepping up his playing time on playoff teams in Cleveland in 2016 and Minnesota last year, but not exactly establishing himself as essential.

Gimenez wasn't on the Indians' World Series roster two Octobers ago, and he backed up Jason Castro in the American League Wild Card Game last October, entering to catch the bottom of the eighth in the 8-4 loss.

If the lifetime .218 hitter has distinguished himself in any role, it's been with his willingness to pitch in blowouts. Gimenez had done it nine times in his career, including six times last year for the Twins.

Video: CWS@MIN: Gimenez escapes trouble in the 9th inning

Gimenez was with the Rangers in 2014, when Darvish delivered his third consecutive All-Star performance before an elbow injury caused him to be shut down in August (he had Tommy John surgery the next March). Gimenez started the season in Triple-A, but he was promoted in May.

Darvish went seven innings to beat a loaded Tigers team in Detroit the first time that Gimenez caught him. He threw eight one-hit innings to win a pitchers' duel at Washington the next time out.

Gimenez then caught Darvish 12 times in a stretch of 13 consecutive starts, including a shutout of the Marlins and a start in which Darvish threw eight scoreless innings against the Twins. That's the kind of magic the Cubs would love to tap into as they look to add more gravitas with Jake Arrieta in free agency and Lester entering his age-34 season.

Video: Free-agent aces Darvish, Arrieta still available

Epstein was busy adding pitching in the early part of the offseason, with Tyler Chatwood, Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek among eight arms he added through signings or waiver claims. But the Cubs have long been viewed as front-runners to sign Darvish or re-sign Arrieta, and they have been frustrated by their slow-to-develop market.

As much as Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and the spectacular defense, starting pitching was a key to the championship season in 2016. The Cubs had a Major League-best 2.96 rotation ERA, with Kyle Hendricks and Lester leading the way as Arrieta took a step back after his National League Cy Young Award-winning performance the year before.

The Cubs' starters were fourth in the NL with a 4.05 ERA last season. They added Jose Quintana in July, and he helped them win a second consecutive division title and secure a third straight spot in the postseason. But Darvish and the Dodgers stopped them short of a return to the World Series, with Darvish's brilliant start in Game 3 the biggest blow.

It's not that the Cubs don't want to keep Arrieta. They've just known for at least two years that he wants a longer contract than they're comfortable in giving a pitcher entering his age-32 season.

Darvish is only one year younger and threw harder last season than any time in his six seasons with the Rangers; Arrieta lost two mph off his fastball last season (he adjusted nobly, too, registering a 2.28 ERA in the second half). Most projections of future performance favor Darvish over Arrieta, but Arrieta will be eager to prove the Cubs wrong if they do sign Darvish.

A big commitment to Darvish could somewhat limit the Cubs' flexibility at midseason -- but not next offseason, when Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and the mother lode of free agents are there to revive the free-agent frenzy that's been lacking this year.

The Cubs are more than $30 million below the Competitive Balance Tax threshold of $197 million for 2018, but they seem likely to race beyond it in '19. They would pay a 20-percent penalty on the overage if they do stay below it this season.

You know Epstein has a plan. He doesn't do anything lightly, including signing backup catchers.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.

 

Chicago Cubs, Yu Darvish, Chris Gimenez

Source: Cubs ink Gimenez to Minors deal

MLB.com

CHICAGO -- The Cubs may have found a backup catcher in Chris Gimenez.

A source confirmed reports that the Cubs have signed Gimenez, 35, to a Minor League deal with an invitation to big league Spring Training camp. The right-handed hitter played in 74 games last season with the Twins, batting .220 with seven home runs, nine doubles and 16 RBIs.

CHICAGO -- The Cubs may have found a backup catcher in Chris Gimenez.

A source confirmed reports that the Cubs have signed Gimenez, 35, to a Minor League deal with an invitation to big league Spring Training camp. The right-handed hitter played in 74 games last season with the Twins, batting .220 with seven home runs, nine doubles and 16 RBIs.

Willson Contreras, 25, is the Cubs' No. 1 catcher but his only backup was Victor Caratini, 24, who made his Major League debut last season and batted .254 in 31 games.

If Gimenez makes the team, Caratini would most likely open at Triple-A Iowa, where he could get more regular playing time.

Besides the Twins, Gimenez has played for the Indians, Mariners, Rays and Rangers. Not only is Gimenez able to catch, but he made six relief appearances totaling five innings for the Twins last season.

The Cubs did need another catcher, but they also may get free agent Yu Darvish's attention. When Gimenez was with the Rangers in 2014, he made 26 starts and caught Darvish 12 times.

The Cubs have yet to release a list of their non-roster invitees for Spring Training.

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

 

Chicago Cubs, Chris Gimenez

Inbox: Will Montgomery get chance to start?

Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers fans' questions
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Mike Montgomery, Albert Almora Jr., the outfield and pitching prospects are among the topics in the latest Cubs Inbox.

Montgomery has proven to be a reliable starter. Sure, he's good when it comes to the bullpen, but with the Cubs' ever expanding bullpen and farm system, the need for Montgomery to be exclusively in the bullpen is starting to diminish. Do you see Montgomery ever taking a starting role in the upcoming years?
-- Aaron B., Fairport, N.Y.

CHICAGO -- Mike Montgomery, Albert Almora Jr., the outfield and pitching prospects are among the topics in the latest Cubs Inbox.

Montgomery has proven to be a reliable starter. Sure, he's good when it comes to the bullpen, but with the Cubs' ever expanding bullpen and farm system, the need for Montgomery to be exclusively in the bullpen is starting to diminish. Do you see Montgomery ever taking a starting role in the upcoming years?
-- Aaron B., Fairport, N.Y.

Absolutely. And if the Cubs don't add another pitcher this offseason, Montgomery may be starting in April. The lefty was 5-5 with a 4.15 ERA in 14 starts last season and posted a 2.49 ERA in 30 relief appearances. With Brian Duensing returning to the bullpen to join Justin Wilson, the Cubs may feel that's all the left-handed relievers they need. Other lefty options for the 'pen include Dario Alvarez, Randy Rosario and Rob Zastryzny. The Cubs have said Montgomery would get stretched out and start in Spring Training and then go to the bullpen, but the front office may alter those plans if they can't find a fifth starter.

:: Submit a question to the Cubs Inbox ::

Last spring, manager Joe Maddon said he believed Montgomery could be a 10-game winner on an annual basis.

"I've told him that -- 10 to 15 [wins] is within his abilities," Maddon said last February. "That comes with fastball command and knowing what to do with his breaking pitches. He's got really high-quality stuff. If he understands how to utilize the other things he's doing, the sky's the limit."

Video: CIN@CHC: Montgomery fans four in scoreless gem

I don't sense a great deal of excitement about the young arms in the Cubs' system. I know they're trying to develop pitching internally, and I'm hoping they begin to have success there. Please give me three names of current Cubs prospects you believe could be in the big league rotation three years from now.
-- Kyle R., San Antonio, Texas

Three years from now, I believe Duane Underwood Jr., Oscar De La Cruz, and Adbert Alzolay could be in the rotation. Underwood, 23, was 13-7 in 25 games (24 starts) with a 4.43 ERA at Double-A Tennessee. Here's Cubs player development director Jaron Madison on Underwood: "He has Major League weapons and has matured a lot this past year."

Video: Top Prospects: Duane Underwood, RHP, Cubs

De La Cruz, 22, ranked No. 1 by MLB Pipeline among the Cubs' Top 30 Prospects, was 4-3 with a 3.46 ERA in 12 starts last season at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach. No. 3 prospect Alzolay, 22, was 7-1 with a 2.98 ERA at Myrtle Beach and made seven starts at Double-A. By the way, 21 of Chicago's Top 30 Prospects are pitchers.

"I think those waves are coming," Madison said of the Cubs' pitching prospects. "It's just a matter of staying healthy and doing everything we can to develop these guys."

Why isn't Almora seriously considered for the leadoff spot? He has speed and hits for a high average. I've heard he's platooned because he doesn't hit right-handers well, but his stats are better against right-handers than his replacements.
-- Harold H., Greeneville, Tenn.

At this point, everybody is being considered a leadoff candidate. Yes, Almora does have the speed and is a good baserunner. Last season, he batted .342 against lefties compared to .271 against right-handers. I'm not sure which "replacements" you're talking about (Jon Jay batted .289 vs. right-handers, Ian Happ .243), but I know Almora could get more playing time against right-handers this year depending on the final roster makeup and matchups that the stats geeks feel would favor him. He did bat leadoff in 10 games last season, and posted a slash line of .294/.294/.412 with zero walks.

Video: TOR@CHC: Almora Jr. hits a bases-clearing double

Any idea as to what the Cubs' outfield may look like in 2018?
-- Dan W., Germantown, Tenn.

As of today, you've got Almora, Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and Happ in the outfield. What combination will Maddon use? That will depend on several variables, including that day's pitcher, where the Cubs are playing and who's hot. All are versatile, which gives Maddon lots of options.

What is the status of the Cubs' baseball cable TV network?
-- Bud K., Manteno, Ill.

At the Cubs Convention, president of business operations Crane Kenney said they could begin their own television network after the 2019 season when their contracts with NBC Sports Chicago, ABC-7 and WGN-9 end.

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

 

Chicago Cubs, Albert Almora Jr., Mike Montgomery

Duensing, Cubs complete two-year deal

Veteran left-hander worked in 68 games for Chicago last season
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- The Cubs welcomed Brian Duensing back on Monday, signing the left-handed reliever to a two-year, $7 million deal.

Duensing, who turns 35 next month, ranked second among Cubs relievers last season in innings pitched (62 1/3) in his first season with the team. He posted a 2.74 ERA in 68 appearances, striking out 61. He became a free agent after the season. The agreement on a deal was first reported last week.

CHICAGO -- The Cubs welcomed Brian Duensing back on Monday, signing the left-handed reliever to a two-year, $7 million deal.

Duensing, who turns 35 next month, ranked second among Cubs relievers last season in innings pitched (62 1/3) in his first season with the team. He posted a 2.74 ERA in 68 appearances, striking out 61. He became a free agent after the season. The agreement on a deal was first reported last week.

His return gives the Cubs at least three lefties in the bullpen, joining Mike Montgomery and Justin Wilson. However, Montgomery may be in the rotation if the Cubs don't add another starter this offseason. The Cubs have been linked to free-agent starters Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb, all of whom remain unsigned.

So far this offseason, the Cubs have focused on pitching, signing relievers Dario Alvarez, Brandon Morrow, and Steve Cishek and adding starters Tyler Chatwood and Drew Smyly, although Smyly is coming back from elbow surgery and is not expected to contribute in 2018.

Duensing reportedly had other offers but wanted to remain with Chicago. He began last season on the disabled list with a back problem and gave up six runs in his first five appearances, but pitched to a 2.05 ERA in his final 63 outings, limiting opponents to a .232 batting average and .299 on-base percentage while recording a 1.18 WHIP.

Duensing took to Twitter on Monday to share his excitement:

Tweet from @BrianDuensing52: My family and I are excited to be back in Chicago to try and win a ring with the @Cubs Thank you for all the kind words from everybody. #youcandanceifyouwantto #oryoucanleaveyourfriendsbehind

The two hashtags are reference to the Cubs' relievers celebratory dancing in the bullpen after one of their teammates hits a home run.

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

 

Chicago Cubs, Brian Duensing

Caratini among top 10 catcher prospects

Maddon impressed by youngster's defensive skills in 2017 debut
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have yet to add a backup catcher to Willson Contreras. They may have that person already on the roster in Victor Caratini.

Caratini, 24, was named one of the top 10 catching prospects in baseball by MLB Pipeline, and he has definitely impressed the Cubs so far.

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have yet to add a backup catcher to Willson Contreras. They may have that person already on the roster in Victor Caratini.

Caratini, 24, was named one of the top 10 catching prospects in baseball by MLB Pipeline, and he has definitely impressed the Cubs so far.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Last season, Caratini was promoted to the big league team in late June. Contreras handled the majority of games, but on July 30 in Milwaukee, Anthony Rizzo was a late scratch and Caratini was needed to play first base. He hit a tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning of the Cubs' 4-2 win over the Brewers. It also was his last game with the big league team until mid-August because the Cubs had acquired Alex Avila from the Tigers.

"It's a good moment for us, it's a good moment for him," Rizzo said at the time of Caratini's blast.

Video: CHC@MIL: Caratini hits his first Major League homer

It was the only homer he hit for the Cubs in 31 games -- he belted 10 homers and 27 doubles while batting .342 at Triple-A Iowa -- but the Cubs are counting on Caratini's defense more than his bat. The young catcher has not been shy to ask for more work with the Cubs' catching instructors to get better, and his defensive skills impressed manager Joe Maddon in his seven starts at catcher.

"He asks a lot of questions and he wants to learn," Rizzo said of Caratini. "He's a big student of the game. He's really quiet but also a really good observer. He's been nice for us, and he's learned a lot fast up here."

Caratini ranked 10th on MLB Pipeline's list, which was led by the Indians' Francisco Mejia. Cardinals prospect Carson Kelly was No. 2, and he may get more playing time soon, now that Yadier Molina has announced he will retire after the 2020 season.

Rounding out the top 10 are the Dodgers' Keibert Ruiz, the Athletics' Sean Murphy, the Tigers' Jake Rogers, the Phillies' Jorge Alfaro, the Orioles' Chance Sisco, the Blue Jays' Danny Jansen and the White Sox's Zack Collins.

Even though Contreras says he'd start all 162 games, the Cubs are a little more realistic. The question in 2018 will be whether Caratini can continue to progress if he's a backup in the big leagues or if he would be better off starting at Iowa. In five Minor League seasons, he's compiled a .289 batting average.

Video: Caratini named Cubs' Pipeline hitter of the year

When Caratini hit his first Major League home run in July, he was asked if he was trying to take Rizzo's job.

"No," Caratini said.

Cubs coach Henry Blanco, who was interpreting for Caratini, corrected him.

"The answer should be 'yes,'" Blanco said.

For now, Caratini will focus on catching.

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

 

Chicago Cubs, Victor Caratini

'Respect the ranks': Yadi responds to Contreras

Cardinals' veteran catcher posts photo of All-Star trio from 2016
MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina appears to be taking exception to recent comments from Cubs catcher Willson Contreras about how he plans to be a better backstop than perennial All-Stars Molina and Buster Posey.

"In my mind, I want to be the best catcher in the game for a long time -- like it was with Yadier Molina, like it is with Buster Posey," Contreras told the Chicago Sun-Times at the Cubs Convention over the weekend. "I used to watch a lot of those guys, but now I'm watching myself because I know that I'm going to be better than them. That's my plan. That's my [mindset]."

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina appears to be taking exception to recent comments from Cubs catcher Willson Contreras about how he plans to be a better backstop than perennial All-Stars Molina and Buster Posey.

"In my mind, I want to be the best catcher in the game for a long time -- like it was with Yadier Molina, like it is with Buster Posey," Contreras told the Chicago Sun-Times at the Cubs Convention over the weekend. "I used to watch a lot of those guys, but now I'm watching myself because I know that I'm going to be better than them. That's my plan. That's my [mindset]."

That sentiment made it back to Molina, who reacted on Instagram by posting a photo of himself alongside Posey and Salvador Perez from the 2016 All-Star Game. Below it, he wrote: "Respeten los rangos NOVATOS!! aqui con los q si han probao que son los duros!!"

That loosely translates to "respect the ranks" of those who have already proven themselves.

A few hours later, Contreras sent out a series of three tweets in which to clarify what he believed to be a misinterpretation of his original comments.

"Many people have misinterpreted what was said during a recent interview," Contreras said. "I see no wrong in taking the best players as personal goals and exceedance [sic]. What player doesn't want to be the best at their position? I know I am lacking in many years of experience and only time will tell.

"In my mind I aim to be the best and like I mentioned during the interview, I have enormous respect for these players," he said. "I honor and learn so much very [sic] time I play against Molina and Posey. I simply used them as examples of achievement in my professional career.

"To use the best players as a model or standard and want to exceed them, I don't believe is any disrespect simply motivation and inspiration. Have a great night. God bless you all."

Tweet from @WContreras40: Many people have misinterpreted what was said during a recent interview, I see no wrong in taking the best players as personal goals and exceedance. What player doesn���t want to be the best at their position? I know I am lacking many years of experience and only time will tell.

This is not the first time that Molina has used Instagram to express his displeasure. Last summer, he took to the social media site to correct manager Mike Matheny's assertion that Molina was tired.

Video: Molina plans to retire after three-year deal is up

Contreras, who made his Major League debut in 2016, should have at least three more years to go head-to-head in the National League Central against Molina -- who plans to retire after the 2020 season. Contreras has yet to make an All-Star roster, while Molina has been on eight in his 14-year career.

The Cubs and Cardinals will meet for the first time this season on April 16 at Wrigley Field.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Yadier Molina

Cubs announce spring broadcast schedule

MLB.com

Nearly every Chicago Cubs Spring Training game will be available to Cubs fans via television, radio or internet radio broadcast as the club today announced its 2018 Spring Training broadcast schedule.

In total, a Cubs game will be available every game day of the spring schedule via one or more broadcast mediums, and 34 of the 36 games are scheduled to be available to Cubs fans overall.

Nearly every Chicago Cubs Spring Training game will be available to Cubs fans via television, radio or internet radio broadcast as the club today announced its 2018 Spring Training broadcast schedule.

In total, a Cubs game will be available every game day of the spring schedule via one or more broadcast mediums, and 34 of the 36 games are scheduled to be available to Cubs fans overall.

The schedule features six games televised by Cubs broadcast partners (four by WGN-TV and two by NBC Sports Chicago), 10 on the 670 The Score Cubs Radio Network and 24 via internet radio broadcast on www.cubs.com. Fans will be able to access the Cubs Webcasts on Cubs.com and MLB.com for free by registering for a log-in account with the website.

670 The Score will air its first game on Sunday, February 24, the club's home opener at Sloan Park, when the Cubs play Texas Rangers. Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer return as the radio voices of the Chicago Cubs. WGN-TV will televise its first game when the Cubs host the Chicago White Sox on February 27. Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies return to call all Cubs TV games. NBC Sports Chicago's first game will occur on Sunday, March 18, when the Cubs play the Cleveland Indians in Las Vegas.

Kasper will again join Mick Gillispie, radio broadcaster for Chicago's Double-A Tennessee affiliate, for most of the cubs.com internet radio broadcasts.

All games start at 1:05 p.m. Arizona time unless otherwise noted. Chicago is one hour ahead of Arizona through Saturday, March 10 before moving to two hours ahead on Sunday, March 11.

DATE / OPPONENT / SITE / BROADCAST

Friday, Feb. 23 / Milwaukee Brewers / Maryvale / CUBS.COM

Saturday, Feb. 24 / Texas Rangers / SLOAN PARK / 670 The Score

Sunday, Feb. 25 / San Francisco Giants / Scottsdale / CUBS.COM

Monday, Feb. 26 / Seattle Mariners / SLOAN PARK / CUBS.COM

Tuesday, Feb. 27 / Chicago White Sox / SLOAN PARK / WGN-TV/CUBS.COM

Wednesday, Feb. 28 / Oakland Athletics / SLOAN PARK / CUBS.COM

Thursday, March 1 / Colorado Rockies / SLOAN PARK / CUBS.COM

Friday, March 2 / Los Angeles Angels / Tempe (1:10 PM) / CUBS.COM

Saturday, March 3 / Cincinnati Reds / SLOAN PARK / 670 The Score

Sunday, March 4 / Arizona Diamondbacks / Scottsdale (1:10 PM) / 670 The Score

Monday, March 5 / Colorado Rockies / Scottsdale (1:10 PM) / CUBS.COM

Tuesday, March 6 / Los Angeles Dodgers / SLOAN PARK / CUBS.COM

Wednesday, March 7 / Cleveland Indians / Goodyear (6:05 PM) / WGN-TV/CUBS.COM

Thursday, March 8 / San Diego Padres / SLOAN PARK / CUBS.COM

Friday, March 9 / Los Angeles Angels / SLOAN PARK / CUBS.COM

Saturday, March 10 / Chicago White Sox (ss) / SLOAN PARK / 670 The Score

  Los Angeles Dodgers (ss) / Glendale (7:05 PM) / CUBS.COM

Sunday, March 11 / Oakland Athletics / Mesa / 670 The Score

Monday, March 12 OFF DAY                                                                                                    

Tuesday, March 13 / San Francisco Giants / SLOAN PARK (7:05 PM) / 670 The Score

  San Diego Padres / Peoria (1:10 PM) / CUBS.COM

Wednesday, March 14 / Kansas City Royals / Surprise / CUBS.COM

Thursday, March 15 / Arizona Diamondbacks / SLOAN PARK / CUBS.COM

Friday, March 16 / Chicago White Sox / Glendale / CUBS.COM

Saturday, March 17 / Cleveland Indians (ss) / SLOAN PARK / CUBS.COM

  Cleveland Indians (ss) / Las Vegas (4:05 PM PT) / WGN-TV/670 The Score

Sunday, March 18 / Kansas City Royals / SLOAN PARK                                     

  Cleveland Indians / Las Vegas (1:05 PM PT) / NBCSCH/670 The Score

Monday, March 19 / Cincinnati Reds / Goodyear (6:05 PM) / CUBS.COM

Tuesday, March 20 Off Day                                                                                                      

Wednesday, March 21 / Texas Rangers / Surprise / CUBS.COM

Thursday, March 22 / San Francisco Giants / Scottsdale (7:05 PM) / CUBS.COM

Friday, March 23 / Milwaukee Brewers / SLOAN PARK / CUBS.COM

Saturday, March 24 / Colorado Rockies (ss) / SLOAN PARK (7:05 PM) / NBCSCH/670 The Score

  Seattle Mariners (ss) / Peoria (6:40 PM)                               

Sunday, March 25 / Kansas City Royals / Surprise (12:05 PM) / WGN-TV/670 The Score

Monday, March 26 / Boston Red Sox / Fort Myers, FL (6:05 PM ET) / CUBS.COM

Tuesday, March 27 / Boston Red Sox / Fort Myers, FL (1:05 PM ET) / CUBS.COM

    

- CUBS -

 

By the book: Maples seeks 'pen role with Cubs

Right-hander advanced from Class A to Majors in 2017
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Dillon Maples was sitting at a Starbucks in Memphis on Aug. 31, reading about George Washington, when Cubs player development director Jaron Madison interrupted him. Triple-A Iowa's game against the Redbirds had been called because of the weather. An avid reader, Maples' plan was to hunker down in one of the coffee shop's comfortable chairs for the day.

"Jaron comes over and says, 'Hey, why don't you ride back with me to the hotel?'" said Maples, who was pitching in relief for Iowa, his third Minor League stop in 2017. "I said, 'You know, I'm probably going to get my drink refilled and hang out here for another hour.' He said, 'No, no, no, I think you need to come back with me.'

CHICAGO -- Dillon Maples was sitting at a Starbucks in Memphis on Aug. 31, reading about George Washington, when Cubs player development director Jaron Madison interrupted him. Triple-A Iowa's game against the Redbirds had been called because of the weather. An avid reader, Maples' plan was to hunker down in one of the coffee shop's comfortable chairs for the day.

"Jaron comes over and says, 'Hey, why don't you ride back with me to the hotel?'" said Maples, who was pitching in relief for Iowa, his third Minor League stop in 2017. "I said, 'You know, I'm probably going to get my drink refilled and hang out here for another hour.' He said, 'No, no, no, I think you need to come back with me.'

"I thought, this is a little weird," Maples said. "We get back to the hotel and he tells me, and I was ecstatic."

Madison's message was the news every Minor League player wants to hear: Maples was being called up to the big leagues. After six seasons in the Minors, including several stops, injuries and frustrations to the point where he nearly quit pitching, Maples was headed to the show.

Ranked 14th on MLB Pipeline's list of Top 30 Cubs prospects, Maples made his Major League debut on Sept. 3 against the Braves and walked one and struck out one in one inning. The Pirates roughed him up in his next outing the next day, scoring five runs on three hits and two walks, but he settled down in his final four outings. In six games with the Cubs, he struck out 11 over 5 1/3 innings and showed off an impressive slider.

Tweet from @MLBPipeline: #Cubs No. 14 prospect Dillon Maples notched his first @MLB strikeout during his debut. 🎥 https://t.co/cxENXmqCDn pic.twitter.com/E2IWCXOoLP

When the right-hander, who was a 14th-round pick in 2011, returned home for the offseason, he took about two weeks to reflect on what he had done. Maples began the year with Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach, was promoted to Double-A Tennessee then Iowa before reaching the Cubs.

"The first few weeks after the season ended, you're not doing too much. You're just relaxing, and I let it hit me," Maples said Sunday. "I thought about how crazy it was and all the people who have been supporting me through thick and thin. It's been really awesome, and I'm grateful to be surrounded by so many great people.

"Last year was pretty crazy, but I've moved on," he said. "That's why I had that two-week period to sit back and let it soak in. Now, it's, 'All right, let's go. Let's have a good camp and work on what I need to work on. Last year is irrelevant.'"

Maples will be invited to the Cubs' big league Spring Training camp, which will give him a chance to learn from the veteran pitchers.

"[For him], it's about being more consistent and efficient with his pitches," Madison said. "As long as he continues to do that, he'll stay healthy."

This offseason, the Cubs have added arms to the bullpen, including Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek and Dario Alvarez. Maples has learned a lot about pitch sequencing in the Minors, and even if he's not on the big league roster on Opening Day, he's someone to keep an eye on.

"He has a slider that no one can hit and he can throw it in any count," Madison said.

By the way, Maples did finish the Washington biography.

"I love reading about battles and wars and people who lead people into battle," he said. "George Washington did everything. He formed this great nation, he was a leader of a bunch of rag tags. It's just awesome. His leadership and stoicism and everything he took on and was able to propel this nation. I enjoyed it."

The book was about 700 pages and a little intimidating, Maples said. He expected to need a year to read it. Getting to the big leagues can be intimidating, too.

"I'm trying to read about all of the people who were the glue to this country," he said. "They're all pretty interesting. I've got [Alexander] Hamilton lined up."

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

 

Chicago Cubs, Dillon Maples

During the Cubs Con kids press conference, a young fan asked Anthony Rizzo to be her valentine

The Cubs Convention took place this past weekend, providing fans with player meet-and-greets, baby news (?) and autograph sessions from current and former players. One of the more fun activities was a panel led by Anthony Rizzo -- although, this wasn't your typical Q&A session.

Cubs set training staff, Minor League coaches

MLB.com

The Chicago Cubs today announced their major league training staff and minor league managers/coaching staffs for the 2018 season. The organization this season has added a second Arizona Rookie League team in Mesa, giving the Cubs seven minor league clubs domestically and two in the Dominican Republic.

PJ Mainville begins his sixth season as the Cubs major league athletic trainer, and his 23rd year as an athletic trainer in professional baseball. Nick Frangella, in his 15th year with the organization, joins the major league staff as assistant athletic trainer following four seasons as head minor league athletic training and performance coordinator. Matt Johnson begins his 17th season in the organization and his seventh on the big league staff as assistant athletic trainer. Tim Buss begins his 18th season as the major league strength and conditioning coordinator since joining the major league staff in 2001. Ed Halbur, an assistant athletic trainer at the big league level since 2005, this year will return to his hometown in Des Moines to serve on the Iowa Cubs staff, where he previously was as an athletic trainer in 2003 and 2004.

The Chicago Cubs today announced their major league training staff and minor league managers/coaching staffs for the 2018 season. The organization this season has added a second Arizona Rookie League team in Mesa, giving the Cubs seven minor league clubs domestically and two in the Dominican Republic.

PJ Mainville begins his sixth season as the Cubs major league athletic trainer, and his 23rd year as an athletic trainer in professional baseball. Nick Frangella, in his 15th year with the organization, joins the major league staff as assistant athletic trainer following four seasons as head minor league athletic training and performance coordinator. Matt Johnson begins his 17th season in the organization and his seventh on the big league staff as assistant athletic trainer. Tim Buss begins his 18th season as the major league strength and conditioning coordinator since joining the major league staff in 2001. Ed Halbur, an assistant athletic trainer at the big league level since 2005, this year will return to his hometown in Des Moines to serve on the Iowa Cubs staff, where he previously was as an athletic trainer in 2003 and 2004.

Marty Pevey begins his sixth season as Triple-A Iowa's manager after serving as Chicago's catching coordinator for three seasons from 2010-12. Pevey served as the Single-A Peoria manager in 2009, his first season with the organization. Pevey has a over 30 years of professional experience, beginning with 13 years as a player, and was named the 2009 Midwest League co-Manager of the Year. Joining Pevey at Iowa will be Rod Nichols, who begins his third season as the team's pitching coach after three years (2013-15) as the Philadelphia Phillies major league bullpen coach. Originally selected by Cleveland in the fifth round of the 1985 draft, he appeared in seven big league seasons, going 11-31 with a 4.43 ERA (203 ER/412.2 IP) in 100 games (48 starts). Desi Wilson and Chris Valaika will handle hitting coach duties for Iowa. Wilson begins his second season with Iowa and is in his 11th season with the organization. Valaika begins his first season with Iowa after beginning his coaching career last season with rookie league Mesa. He had a 10-year pro career, including time with the Cubs in 2014. Ed Halbur returns to Iowa as an athletic trainer after 13 seasons with the major league club. He will be joined by Mike McNulty, who begins his fifth year in the organization and first with Iowa. Ryan Clausen returns for his fifth season as the team's strength and conditioning coach.

Mark Johnson begins his third season as Tennessee's manager, and his eighth in the Cubs organization. Johnson's teams have reached the postseason in four of his first seven minor league managerial seasons, including a Midwest League title with Single-A Kane County in 2014 and a Mills Cup Championship with Single-A Myrtle Beach in 2015. Terry Clark begins his third season as Tennessee's pitching coach after spending the 2014-15 seasons as the minor league pitching coordinator for the Seattle Mariners. Clark appeared in parts of six big league seasons, going 10-23 with one save and a 5.54 ERA (143 ER/232.2 IP) in 91 games. Jesus Feliciano joins the staff as a hitting coach after managing Single-A Eugene the past two seasons. He earned Northwest League Manager of the Year honors in 2016 and is entering his fifth season in the organization. Ben Carhart also joins the staff after beginning his coaching career as a rehab coach with Mesa last season. He had a five-year playing career in the Cubs minor league system. Toby Williams enters his fifth year as a trainer in the Cubs organization and first with Double-A Tennessee, while Jason Morriss takes over the role as strength coach. Morriss spent the last three seasons with Myrtle Beach and is in his sixth season with the Cubs.

Buddy Bailey begins his third season as manager of Myrtle Beach and his 30th year as a minor league manager. In 2017, he became the 11th minor league manager ever to reach 2,000 wins. Prior to Myrtle Beach, he guided Single-A Daytona (2006, 2009-11), Iowa (2007) and Tennessee (2008, 2012-15). Anderson Tavarez will handle the team's pitching coach duties for the third-straight season. He served as Single-A Eugene's pitching coach in 2015 after two seasons with Rookie League Mesa. Tavarez played in the Cubs system from 2000-05 and worked as a pitching coach with the Cubs Dominican Summer League team from 2007-12. Ty Wright begins his first season as hitting coach with the Pelicans after serving as an assistant coach with the club last season. He began his coaching career in 2015 after an eight-year playing career, seven of which came in the Cubs system. Carlos Rojas joins Myrtle Beach's staff as an assistant coach after spending two seasons with the DSL Cubs and one with the Venezuela Cubs. Logan Severson enters his third season as a trainer in the Cubs organization and first with Myrtle Beach, while Keegan Knoll joins the organization as the club's strength coach.

Jimmy Gonzalez begins his fifth season as a manager in the organization, his fourth with South Bend. Gonzalez made his managerial debut in 2014 with Rookie League Mesa after serving as hitting coach with the club in 2013. A former catcher, he played 14 minor league seasons after he was selected in the first round of the 1991 Draft by Houston. Brian Lawrence enters season two with South Bend as the team's pitching coach, having served in the same role in 2016 at Eugene. Lawrence made his coaching debut in 2012 in the Independent Frontier League after the former righthander went 50-63 with a 4.19 ERA during a six-year big league career with the Padres and Mets. Ricardo Medina returns to South Bend as the club's hitting coach after spending 2016 with the club. He spent last season with Double-A Tennessee and has been in the Cubs system as a coach, manager or scout since 1999.Paul McAnulty joins the organization as an assistant coach after previously serving as a coach in the Angels system in 2016.James Edwards begins his second season as a trainer in the Cubs organization and first with South Bend after spending last season with Eugene. Ryan Nordtvedt enters his sixth season in the organization and his second as South Bend's strength and conditioning coach.

Steve Lerud joins the organization as Eugene's manager, his first coaching stint. A former catcher, he had a 13-year playing career, including appearing in nine major league games with the Phillies during the 2012-13 seasons. He will be joined on staff by new pitching coach Armando Gabino. Gabino is in his fourth year in the organization after serving as a pitching coach with Mesa last season and with the club's DSL team from 2015-16. Osmin Melendez joins the club as hitting coach after serving in the same role with Mesa last season. He enters his sixth year in the organization after a two-year minor league playing stint with the Orioles.Jacob Rogers joins the organization as an assistant coach after playing in the Cubs organization from 2012-16. He spent 2017 in the Rangers organization, his final season as a player. Sean Folan begins his fourth full season as a trainer and first with Eugene, while Dallas Lopez enters his second season as Eugene's strength coach, his fourth season with the Cubs.

Carmelo Martinez begins his 21st season in the Cubs organization, and returns to manage Rookie League Mesa for the fourth-straight year. The club has reached the Arizona League playoffs each of the last three seasons. Martinez is a former outfielder/first baseman who played in the majors from 1983-91, seeing action with the Cubs in 1983. He will be joined on staff by assistant coachLeo Perez, who is in his 10th season in the organization and second-straight with Mesa. Ike Ogata joins the organization as the club's trainer after previously serving as an assistant athletic trainer at Marquette University. Mike Megrew is in his sixth year with the Cubs, and first as strength coach with Mesa. He spent the previous four seasons with Double-A Tennessee.

Jonathan Mota begins his first year as a manager, taking over the club's second rookie league team in Mesa. He was a coach with Single-A South Bend last year and enters his third year overall as a coach following a 12-season run as a player in the Cubs organization. Claudio Almonte joins him on staff as the club's hitting coach. He spent last season as a hitting coach with the club's DSL team after serving as the manager in 2016.

Lance Rymel is the manager of the first of the Cubs two Dominican Summer League teams for the second-straight season after he served as Mesa's rehab coach in 2016. He is a former catcher selected by the Cubs in the 28th round of the 2012 Draft. Eduardo Villacis begins his fourth season as a pitching coach in the organization and his third in the Dominican Summer League. He played six seasons of minor league baseball, including one outing for the Royals in 2004. Antonio Valerio enters his third season as a coach in the Cubs organization after a four-year playing career in the minors. Jose Zapata begins his first season in the Cubs organization as a coach. He spent the previous 10 seasons as the Red Sox Latin American Field Coordinator and has been a minor league coach since 1994.

Pedro Gonzalez will manage the second Dominican League club for the third-straight year after managing the Venezuela Cubs the previous two campaigns. Jose Cueto returns for his third season as a coach in the Cubs organization (all with the club's DSL teams) after a six-year minor league playing career from 1999-2004. Jovanny Rosario and Carlos Ramirez return as assistant coaches with the DSL team. Rosario begins his fourth full season in the organization, while Ramirez enters his third campaign.

 

Chicago Cubs

Batting Bryant leadoff makes sense for Cubs

Slugger has skills that would prove beneficial from top of lineup
MLB.com

Cubs manager Joe Maddon carries a reputation for outside-the-box thinking, and it shows up in his lineup construction.

Following the departure of Dexter Fowler, the Cubs' leadoff hitter in 2015 and '16, Maddon started 11 different players in the top spot in '17. Current free agent Jon Jay led the way with 51 starts, but the eclectic group also included plenty of players who go decidedly against the traditional prototype, including Kyle Schwarber (36), Anthony Rizzo (14) and Willson Contreras (2).

Cubs manager Joe Maddon carries a reputation for outside-the-box thinking, and it shows up in his lineup construction.

Following the departure of Dexter Fowler, the Cubs' leadoff hitter in 2015 and '16, Maddon started 11 different players in the top spot in '17. Current free agent Jon Jay led the way with 51 starts, but the eclectic group also included plenty of players who go decidedly against the traditional prototype, including Kyle Schwarber (36), Anthony Rizzo (14) and Willson Contreras (2).

Not included on that list was Kris Bryant -- but it's possible that could change in 2018.

Speaking over the weekend at Cubs Convention, Maddon was noncommittal about who will fill that role, saying that the club will "go to camp and sit down and try to evaluate everybody." For his part, Bryant volunteered for the gig, citing his experience as a leadoff hitter at the University of San Diego. "I'd love to," he recently told the Chicago Tribune.

Should this idea take hold, it wouldn't be a dramatic change for Bryant and the Cubs. After all, in 149 starts in 2017, he batted second 110 times and third 38 times.

Video: CHC@ARI: Bryant knocks three hits in big day at plate

Installing Bryant atop his lineup would be a sensible course of action for Maddon this season, with no obvious alternative in place. Here are three reasons why:

1. It would maximize his plate appearances
Obviously, the higher a batter is placed in the lineup, the more chances he will get. Cubs leadoff hitters, for example, got 15 more plate appearances than their No. 2 hitters in 2017, 27 more than their No. 3 hitters and 39 more than their cleanup men. Those aren't major differences, but you still would prefer those extra opportunities go to a hitter of Bryant's caliber.

The 2015 National League Rookie of the Year and '16 NL MVP -- who just turned 26 on Jan. 4 -- has been one of the 10 or so best hitters in the Majors since his arrival. His 146 weighted runs created-plus (wRC+) last season roughly matched the previous year's output and ranked sixth in the NL, solidly ahead of Rizzo (133).

2. He's an on-base machine
While Bryant's homer total dropped from 39 to 29 last year, he increased his walks from 75 to 95 and his on-base percentage from .385 to .409. That OBP ranked fourth among NL qualifiers, and again, Rizzo (.392) was the only Cubs hitter to come close.

In contrast, the Cubs' collection of leadoff men combined for a mediocre .325 OBP last year to rank 18th in MLB. Apply a .400 OBP to those plate appearances instead, and that's nearly 60 extra times on base at the top of the lineup over the course of a season. If Rizzo then slotted in behind Bryant, it would give the Cubs two excellent on-base threats atop their lineup.

The tradeoff, of course, would be fewer opportunities for Bryant to bat in RBI situations. On the other hand, Maddon has no qualms about putting his pitcher eighth and a position player ninth, having pulled off that maneuver 55 times last season. Such a setup would perhaps help alleviate the issue, and having Bryant bat first would provide Rizzo and other capable Cubs with more of those juicy chances.

Video: CHC@BOS: Statcast™ analyzes Bryant's sprint on double

3. He's a multi-dimensional offensive player
The above reasons could apply to Rizzo nearly as well as they apply to Bryant, and Rizzo actually thrived in the leadoff spot last season, with a 1.053 OPS and five home runs in his 14 starts there. But there is one significant difference between the two.

According to Statcast™, Bryant's average baserunning sprint speed of 28.2 feet per second on "max-effort" plays was third on the Cubs in 2017, just behind Ian Happ (28.5) and Javier Baez (28.3). Rizzo trailed far behind at 25.7 feet per second, well below the MLB average of 27 feet/second.

And while Bryant stole only seven bases, his speed manifests itself in other ways when combined with his instincts and reads. Bryant took an extra base (first to third on a single, for example) on a team-high 60 percent of his chances last year to tie for fourth among all players with at least 500 plate appearances. His mark of plus-4.8 runs via FanGraphs' Ultimate Base Running (UBR) metric -- which focuses on plays other than steal attempts -- tied for fifth in MLB.

In other words, Bryant is an asset on the basepaths, especially compared with sluggers such as Rizzo and Schwarber. That makes him a solid compromise as a leadoff hitter, with the patience to get on base, the power to do damage and the wheels to carry himself home.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

 

Chicago Cubs, Kris Bryant

Hughes named Illinois co-sportscaster of year

Longtime Cubs play-by-play announcer honored for 11th time
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Cubs radio play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes was named the 2017 Illinois co-sportscaster of the year by the National Sports Media Association on Tuesday.

"I'd like to dedicate this award to three special parties," Hughes said. "First, I have the best announcing partner in baseball in Ron Coomer. We both work for the finest executive producer in America, and that is Mitch Rosen. And the Chicago Cubs fans are the sweetest listening audience on the planet."

CHICAGO -- Cubs radio play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes was named the 2017 Illinois co-sportscaster of the year by the National Sports Media Association on Tuesday.

"I'd like to dedicate this award to three special parties," Hughes said. "First, I have the best announcing partner in baseball in Ron Coomer. We both work for the finest executive producer in America, and that is Mitch Rosen. And the Chicago Cubs fans are the sweetest listening audience on the planet."

This is Hughes' 11th sportscaster of the year honor and his eighth in Illinois, having previously won it in 1996, 1999, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2014 and 2015. Hughes was Wisconsin Sportscaster of the Year in 1990, 1991 and 1992.

The 2018 season will be Hughes' 36th consecutive campaign of broadcasting Major League Baseball, his 23rd season with the Cubs and his fifth year with Coomer.

This year, Hughes shared the NSMA Illinois honor with Mark Giangreco, the sports director and lead sports anchor of WLS-TV.

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

 

Chicago Cubs

Cubs announce Minor League coordinators

MLB.com

The Cubs on Thursday announced the club's Minor League coordinators for the 2018 season.

Tim Cossins returns for his sixth season as the organization's Minor League field and catching coordinator following 10 years in the Marlins' farm system, including the final six as the Minor League catching coordinator. He was also a manager in Miami's Minor League system from 2003-07. Cossins began his coaching career in 2000 and spent two seasons as the Major League bullpen catcher for Kansas City. The former catcher played eight Minor League seasons (1993-2000) in the Rangers', Yankees' and Expos' organizations.

The Cubs on Thursday announced the club's Minor League coordinators for the 2018 season.

Tim Cossins returns for his sixth season as the organization's Minor League field and catching coordinator following 10 years in the Marlins' farm system, including the final six as the Minor League catching coordinator. He was also a manager in Miami's Minor League system from 2003-07. Cossins began his coaching career in 2000 and spent two seasons as the Major League bullpen catcher for Kansas City. The former catcher played eight Minor League seasons (1993-2000) in the Rangers', Yankees' and Expos' organizations.

Jacob Cruz begins his second season in the Cubs' organization, and first as the club's Minor League hitting coordinator. He served as Double-A Tennessee's hitting coach in 2017, his first season with the Cubs. He spent the previous six seasons as a Minor League hitting coach in Arizona's farm system (2011-16). The former outfielder played nine Major League seasons from 1996-2005 with the Giants, Indians, Rockies, Tigers and Reds.

• Complete Cubs Minor League coverage

Brendan Sagara joins the organization as the club's pitching coordinator. He previously spent six seasons in the Marlins' organization, including most recently as the assistant pitching coordinator last season. Overall, he has served as a pitching coach for 17 seasons with various teams, beginning with the Dubois County Dragons of the Frontier League in 2001. A native of Hawaii, he attended the University of Hawaii at Hilo. 

Tom Beyers returns for his 19th season with the Cubs' organization, and his fourth as the Minor League assistant hitting coordinator, following two seasons as Class A Kane County's hitting coach. He was the Short-Season hitting coordinator in 2012 following one season as the Minor League hitting coordinator in 2011. Beyers joined the Cubs in 2000 and was a Minor League manager or coach for 11 seasons, including manager of Class A Boise in 2004, a season in which he led the club to the Northwest League title and earned league Manager of the Year honors. A former outfielder, he spent his first 21 seasons in professional baseball with the Dodgers as a player, coach or manager after he was selected by Los Angeles in the 15th round of the 1979 Draft.

Mike Mason begins his fifth season as assistant pitching coordinator after spending the previous six years as Triple-A Iowa's pitching coach. He has over 25 years of coaching experience following a seven-year big league playing career with the Rangers (1982-87), Cubs (1987) and Twins (1988). Prior to joining the Cubs, he served as Kansas City's Minor League pitching coordinator (2004-07), while also handling interim pitching coach duties at the Major League level in 2004. Mason served as pitching coach for Philadelphia's Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre club in 2002-03 after serving as Kansas City's Minor League pitching instructor the previous two seasons (2000-01). He began his coaching career in Kansas City's Minor League system from 1991-99.

Steve Merriman joins the organization as an assistant pitching coordinator. He most recently served as a pitching coach with Class A Lexington in the Royals' organization in 2014 and has also been a part of the Tigers', Rockies', Mets' and Diamondbacks' organizations. A graduate of Central Michigan University, he has served three stints as a coach with the University of Michigan, most recently as the pitching coach in 2012.

Jeremy Farrell is in his first year as the club's Minor League infield coordinator and his third year as a coach in the Cubs' organization. He served as South Bend's hitting coach last season and in the same role with Mesa in 2016. He became a coach following a seven-year Minor League career with the Pirates (2008-12) and White Sox (2013-15). He is joined in the organization by his brothers, Luke Farrell (pitcher) and Shane Farrell (area scout).

Doug Dascenzo begins his fourth year as the organization's Minor League outfield and baserunning coordinator. Dascenzo has 19 years of coaching experience following a career that saw him play in parts of seven seasons in the Majors, including five with the Cubs from 1988-1992. Prior to joining the Cubs, Dascenzo spent the previous three seasons with Atlanta, including serving as the third-base coach for the Major League club in 2014. After retiring from baseball, he coached in the Padres' farm system from 1999-2011, including six seasons as a Minor League manager.

Dave Keller enters his his 15th year in the Cubs' organization and his fourth as Minor League Latin America field coordinator. He managed Class A Daytona in 2013-14 and led the club to the 2013 Florida State League title after he served as Iowa's hitting coach in 2012. In 2011, he was the Cubs' Major League staff assistant after seven years (2004-10) as the organization's Minor League hitting coordinator. Keller was a Major League staff assistant and bullpen catcher for Cleveland from 2001-03 following two years as the organization's Minor League hitting coordinator. He managed in the minor leagues in the Cincinnati (1987-89), Cleveland (1990-94) and White Sox (1996) organizations, and was named the 1993 Carolina League Manager of the Year with Class A Kinston. The former first baseman played in the Reds' organization for three seasons (1982-84).

Chuck Baughman enters his 18th year with the Cubs' organization and his first season as the head Minor League athletic training coordinator. He spent the past four seasons as assistant athletic training coordinator and before that spent eight seasons as a rehabilitation coordinator. He joined the organization as Class A Boise's athletic trainer in 2001. His career in professional baseball began in 1999 when he was the athletic trainer for Class A Clinton in Cincinnati's system.

Doug Jarrow begins his 11th season as Chicago's Minor League strength and conditioning coordinator. He previously spent five years in the Dodgers' organization, including 2003-05 as the Minor League strength and conditioning coordinator and 2006-07 as the Major League strength coach. Jarrow began his career as a Minor League strength and conditioning coach with Tampa Bay in 1998 and Pittsburgh in 1999.

Jonathan Fierro is in his seventh year with the organization and his first as the club's rehab coordinator. He spent last season as the athletic trainer with Iowa and previously served as the athletic trainer with Double-A Tennessee in 2016 and with the Cubs' Class A Short-Season affiliate from 2013-15. Originally joined the organization as a trainer with the Cubs Domincan Summer League team in 2012.

Ron Villone is in his seventh season as a coach in the Cubs organization, returning as the team's Minor League rehab pitching coordinator. He served as pitching coach for Mesa in 2015-16 following stints at Class A Daytona (2014), Class A Kane County (2013) and Class A Peoria (2012). A left-handed pitcher, he played in all or part of 15 Major League seasons from 1995-2009, going 61-65 with eight saves and a 4.73 ERA.

Josh Lifrak returns for his fourth season with the Cubs as the club's director, mental skills program. He is tasked with the development, implementation and supervision of the Cubs' mental skills training program for all levels of the organization. Prior to joining the Cubs, he spent 10 years as the senior mental conditioning consultant for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Lifrak earned his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Rhode Island in 1994 and earned a Masters of Science, Exercise Science with a concentration in Sports Psychology from Ithaca College in 2005.

Rey Fuentes begins his sixth season with the organization and fourth as Latin Coordinator, mental skills program, following two years as cultural programs coordinator. In this role, he oversees all educational classes and mental skills programs for the Cubs' Latin American players. Prior to joining the Cubs, he coached and taught physical education in the Orlando, Fla., area. Fuentes graduated from Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla., in 2002 with a degree in Exceptional Student Education.

Darnell McDonald begins his fourth season as the organization's mental skills program coordinator, working with players throughout all levels of the farm system. McDonald served as a Cubs baseball operations assistant in 2014 following his retirement in April after 16 professional seasons. He was selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 1997 Draft and played for the Cubs in 2013. 

John Baker enters his second season as a mental skills coordinator after joining the Cubs front office in November of 2015 as a baseball operations assistant. He played seven Major League seasons with Florida (2008-11), San Diego (2012-13) and the Cubs (2014).

 

Chicago Cubs