Cubs

Dempster, Cubs defeat Diamondbacks

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Dempster, Cubs defeat Diamondbacks

It wasnt all Ryan Dempster that helped the Cubs to a 4-1 victory over Arizona on Saturday. Throwing six shutout innings sure helped. But so did some rare two-out clutch hitting, strong defense, and steady nerves.
Dempster (5-3) extended his shutout streak to 33 innings as the Cubs clinched a series victory with their second straight win over the Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field. Luis Valbuena had two hits, an RBI and scored a run to lead the offense.
The Cubs extended their season-high home winning streak to five games, moving above the .500 mark at Wrigley for the first time since they were 6-5 on April 23.
Dempster, the constant subject of swirling trade talks, worked six innings, allowing four hits and three walks with five strikeouts in his second start since returning from a disabled-list stint. His scoreless inning pitched streak is the longest for a Cubs starter since Ken Holtzman also went 33 innings in 1969.
Its pretty crazy, said Dempster, whose previous career high shutout streak was 30 innings, which he did as a reliever. As a reliever when you do something like that, it seems a little more realistic because youre going out there one inning at a time. To go out there start after start and not give up any runs is pretty humbling. Im just trying to get outs and win ballgames.
Dempster allowed runners on base in every inning but this last, yet no Arizona runner reached third base against him. That in large part came from the defense, which turned two double plays for Dempster and another for closer Carlos Marmol to end the game.
Rookie Anthony Rizzo started two of them, and also made a nice unassisted play on a hard ground ball to get the Cubs and Dempster out of third-inning trouble.
The Cubs have turned at least one double play in nine consecutive games, their longest stretch in a single season since 1994.
Every one of our players is playing as good as he can defensively right now, from the guys on the bench to the everyday guys, manager Dale Sveum said. Defensively its -- knock on wood -- about as good as it can get right now.
Chicago built a 4-0 lead with a two-run fourth and single runs in the third and sixth. The runs in the fourth came from consecutive two-out hits with runners in scoring position, a a rarity this year for the Cubs.
After Alphonso Soriano led off with a single and moved to second a wild pitch, Darwin Barney scored Soriano with a double into the left-field corner. Barney then scored on a hard single to center by Valbuena, who scored the games first run in the third.
The Cubs entered the game hitting .209 with two outs and runners in scoring position, good for 11th in the National League. They were 15th in RBI in those situations with 80.
Weve been working hard all year to give our pitchers some support, especially a guy like Demp, Barney said. Early we struggled to get him some runs, so it feels good to get him a little bit. Right now he just needs one. Just get him one and youre feeling pretty good about yourselves.
Leading 3-0 in the sixth, the Cubs tacked on an unearned run when Jeff Baker scored after reaching on a two-base throwing error from Stephen Drew.
In Dempsters only perfect inning, he retired the Diamondbacks in order, striking out Justin Upton and Miguel Montero before Paul Goldschmidt popped out to Barney at second.
The Diamondbacks didnt score until Chris Young hit a one-out home run off James Russell, who pitched the seventh in relief of Dempster.
Marmol earned his ninth save, and his eighth consecutive, in a scary final inning. After Drew doubled to right-center to start the inning, Marmol walked Young. Geoff Blum then hit a deep fly ball to right, but Reed Johnson made the catch crashing into the wall.
Pinch-hitter Jason Kubel then grounded into the game-ending double play, which was started by Rizzo.
The double plays all came at the right time, Sveum said. That one at the end was real good. Rizzo didnt panic or anything. He gave Castro a perfect feed so where he could get off a strong throw, too.

Even with an entire spring schedule to go, guessing the Cubs' 25-man roster is pretty easy

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USA TODAY

Even with an entire spring schedule to go, guessing the Cubs' 25-man roster is pretty easy

MESA, Ariz. — The frequent mission of spring training is to iron out a 25-man roster.

But at Cubs camp, that mission seems to already be completed.

With an entire Cactus League schedule still to play, the Cubs’ 25-man group that will leave Arizona for the season-opener in Miami seems pretty well set.

The starting rotation: Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood.

The position-player group: Willson Contreras, Victor Caratini, Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, Tommy La Stella, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist.

The bullpen: Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr., Mike Montgomery, Brian Duensing, Justin Wilson and Justin Grimm.

Boom. There’s your 25.

Joe Maddon, do you agree?

“You guys and ladies could probably write down what you’re seeing and be pretty accurate,” Maddon said Thursday. “I can’t deny that, it’s true. Oftentimes, when you’re a pretty good ball club, that is the case. When you’re not so good, you always get auditions during spring training.

“I think what the boys have done is they’ve built up a nice cache in case things were to happen. The depth is outstanding. So you could probably narrow it down, who you think’s going to be the 25, and I won’t argue that.”

It’s the latest example in a camp that to this point has been full of them that the Cubs are one of baseball’s best teams and that only a World Series championship will fulfill expectations. Had the front office stuck with a starting rotation of Lester, Hendricks, Quintana, Chatwood and Montgomery, then there would’ve been a spot open in the bullpen. But the statement-making signing of Darvish jolted the Cubs into “best rotation in the game” status, sent Montgomery back to the bullpen and further locked the roster into place.

Guys like Grimm and La Stella have been forced off the 25-man roster at points in recent seasons, though even their spots seem safe. Maddon even said that a huge spring from someone else wouldn’t mean as much at what guys have done at the major league level in recent memory.

“Spring training performance, for me, it’s not very defining,” Maddon said. “You’re going to be playing against a lot of guys that aren’t going to be here, more Triple-A guys, even some Double-A guys. Some guys come in better shape, they normally look better early. The vibe’s different. You play a couple innings, you don’t get many at-bats, the pitcher doesn’t see hitters three times and vice versa. So I don’t worry about that as much.

“It’s more about, guys that might be fighting for a moment, what do they look like, does it look right, does it look good, how do they fit in? Is there somebody there that you scouted? Because what matters a lot is last year and what you did last year and the last couple months of last year.

“So of course guys that have been here probably have a bit of an upper hand, but we’re very open-minded about stuff. And I think when you look at the guys, you’re right, it’s probably pretty close to being set. But stuff happens.”

Could the recently signed Shae Simmons give Grimm an unexpected challenge for the final relief spot? Maddon said guys who have been with the Cubs in the recent past have a leg up. Could Chris Gimenez turn his experience with Darvish into a win over Caratini for the backup catcher spot? Maddon threw cold water on the "personal catcher" narrative last week.

Of course, Maddon left the door open the possibility of an injury that could open up a roster spot and even shake up the depth chart. But barring the unforeseen, this 25-man group looks locked into place.

That gives the Cubs an edge, perhaps, in that they can specifically find ways to tune up those guys rather than focus on getting enough at-bats for players who are fighting for roster spots. But most of that edge came during the winter, and in winters and summers past, when the front office built this team into a championship contender.

There have been plenty of years when the fans coming to Mesa to watch the Cubs play in spring training saw the blossoming of a big league player thanks to a monster spring or a surprise tear during March. That’s going to be unlikely this spring, a reflection of just how far this team has come.

“It’s easy for me to reflect on this because when I started out with the Rays, wow,” Maddon said. “That was a casting call trying to figure it out. You had very few settled positions when you walked in the door. And then as we got better, it became what we’re talking about. As we moved further along, you were pretty much set by the time (you got to spring training) except for one or two spots.

“So I think the better teams are like that.”

The Cubs are most definitely one of those better teams.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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KELLY CRULL

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before the boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.