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Maddon sees no better time for Classic

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- Anthony Rizzo played for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic in 2013, but is sticking with the Cubs this spring. On Tuesday, the Cubs played the Italian squad in an exhibition game at Sloan Park, and manager Joe Maddon was asked if there was some way to get more of the star U.S. players to participate in the World Baseball Classic.

"I think it's as good as it can be under the circumstances," Maddon said. "The time of the year inhibits a lot of the better players or best players playing en masse. There's probably not an adequate time to do it other than this."

MESA, Ariz. -- Anthony Rizzo played for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic in 2013, but is sticking with the Cubs this spring. On Tuesday, the Cubs played the Italian squad in an exhibition game at Sloan Park, and manager Joe Maddon was asked if there was some way to get more of the star U.S. players to participate in the World Baseball Classic.

"I think it's as good as it can be under the circumstances," Maddon said. "The time of the year inhibits a lot of the better players or best players playing en masse. There's probably not an adequate time to do it other than this."

As much as Maddon likes the idea of promoting the game worldwide, it's difficult to find the right time in the season.

"If [Jon] Lester or [Jake] Arrieta went, especially after a World Series, that would be a little bit of a concern trying to push it that quickly after playing so long," Maddon said. "I think it's as good as it can be under the circumstances."

The Cubs tried to get in the spirit of the day as coach Brandon Hyde included a quote from Leonardo da Vinci on the lineup sheet in Italian. The motivation for the day was "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication," which is a similiar theme to a Maddonism.

"It's nice to know that Leonardo da Vinci thought that 'Do simple better' was appropriate," Maddon said. "To know that I'm thinking along the same lines as Leo did, the guy who invents canals and all kinds of art, Mona [Lisa], and all that stuff, is pretty sweet."

• The Cubs assigned six pitchers to Minor League camp to trim the roster to 60. The six included Andury Acevedo, Gerardo Concepcion, Daniel Corcino, Manny Parra, Fernando Rodriguez and Ryan Williams. Maddon said the six will get more work in Minor League games than they were in the Cactus League games.

• On Monday, Kyle Schwarber hit a triple against the Angels, and Jason Heyward ended his 0-for-15 start this spring with a home run and RBI double. Those are good signs, Maddon said.

"It'd be interesting to see [Schwarber] play an entire season and then look at the numbers at the end of the year to see what he's capable of doing," Maddon said of the outfielder, who missed last season after tearing two ligaments in his left knee. "It's going to be spectacular. ... This kid hasn't even gotten near his potential yet."

As for Heyward, his two hits were good signs after spending the winter reworking his swing.

"All along, his at-bats have been pretty good, he just hasn't had any hits," Maddon said. "I like what they're doing, what he's doing, and it's going to keep getting better."

• After an off-day Wednesday, Casey Kelly will start a "B" game Thursday at 10 a.m. MT on Field 1 against the Angels. Chicago plays host to Seattle in Mesa that day in a Cactus League game, and Mike Montgomery will start that game for the Cubs.

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.

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