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Cubs bet their future on Rizzo, deal Cashner to Padres

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Cubs bet their future on Rizzo, deal Cashner to Padres

Kerry Wood once waved off the comparisons to Andrew Cashner, another Texan who could go 100 mph, by telling the media: Dont do that to him.

Anthony Rizzo was supposed to replace Adrian Gonzalez in San Diego. Now hell be the first baseman the Cubs targeted instead of Prince Fielder.

Its never quite that simple, and probably unfair to the centerpieces in Fridays four-player trade between the Cubs and Padres. But as Cashner was saying over the phone on Friday night: Everything happens for a reason.

The Cubs dropped so many hints they werent going to be handing out a megadeal this winter. Theo Epsteins plan is to collect as many young players as possible, and the rebuilding process will take years.

One year ago, the marketing machine had Cashner, Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro as the Cubs of the future. Colvin like Cashner, a former first-round pick has already been traded to the Rockies. Castros camp was responding to Fridays reports about an alleged sexual assault.

Back home in Texas, Cashner had finished his workout when he was surprised by a phone call from assistant general manager Randy Bush. Cashner and minor-league outfielder Kyung-Min Na were traded to San Diego for Rizzo and another prospect, right-hander Zach Cates.

The Cubs will always be in my heart, Cashner said. Things would be different had I not gotten hurt last year, but I cant control that. Its a business.

A rotator cuff strain wiped out almost all of Cashners 2011 season, though he says hes now 100 percent. The Cubs projected him as a power arm out of the bullpen not a frontline starter and were willing to trade that piece for a potential left-handed run producer in Rizzo.

While the new administration wasnt as attached to Cashner, Cubs executives are in love with the 22-year-old Rizzo, a sixth-round pick by the Red Sox in the 2007 draft.

Back then scouting guru Jason McLeod and general manager Jed Hoyer worked for Epstein in Boston. They moved on to San Diego and brought over Rizzo in the Gonzalez deal 13 months ago.

Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma in 2008 and beat that while developing into one of the games top prospects.

Overcoming cancer was incredibly impressive, Hoyer said, but I think its a mistake if you just allude to his makeup (that way). Hes a very strong person. Hes a leader and hes someone (who can) help put our team on the right path as far as our culture.

It sounds like that wont come by Opening Day 2012. Hoyer expects Rizzo to begin the year at Triple-A Iowa, which right now would make Bryan LaHair your first baseman.

Rizzo began the 2011 season by hitting .365 with 16 homers and 63 RBI in his first 52 Triple-A games to earn the promotion. In 128 at-bats in the big leagues last season, he hit .141 with 46 strikeouts.

To be candid, I dont think I did Anthony any favors when I was GM of the Padres, Hoyer said. We called him up because we werent getting any first-base production in San Diego and it was too early and it was a mistake on my part.

Rizzo became expendable when the Padres acquired Yonder Alonso from Cincinnati in the Mat Latos deal last month. He will be given every opportunity in Chicago, along with Ian Stewart, Travis Wood and Chris Volstad. Well see if Cubs fans have the patience for this.

Theres no doubt that with young talent comes an adjustment period, Hoyer said. The best players get through (it) and they take off. (Once they) get past that, they can really explode. Young players (have) growing pains, theres no question about that. (But) thats something were prepared to deal with.

The only way to be a really great organization is to be willing to go through (it) to get the reward at the end of that tunnel.

Willson Contreras, expert at going viral, tells hilarious profanity-laced story from 2019

Willson Contreras, expert at going viral, tells hilarious profanity-laced story from 2019

Willson Contreras and viral moments at Cubs Convention go hand-in-hand.

At the team’s annual fan festival in 2018, Contreras stole the show with a story from the 2017 season. During a mound visit against the Cardinals, the Cubs catcher gave profanity-laced advice to Jon Lester, the Cubs starter who rarely throws pickoffs due to a serious case of the yips.

"I went out there and I said, 'Hey motherf--ker, throw the f--king ball to first,'” Contreras recalled in January 2018.

Contreras stole the show again Saturday, telling a story about a moment against the Cardinals — this time from the 2019 season.

“So last year, we were facing the Cardinals and I started talking to [Marcell] Ozuna,” Contreras said. “He told me ‘Just call a fastball right down the middle.’ [And I said] ‘Yeah okay, I will.’ Then I called the fastball and he took it.

“I told him ‘What the f— are you talking about? Just hit the ball, just hit it.’

“He asked me ‘Just call it again.’ And I did it. He took it. Swing the [bat]. I called a third pitch and it was a strikeout. And then next time it was like just ‘Shut up,” or something."

Warning: graphic language

How Contreras will top this at 2021 Cubs Convention is uncertain, but considering he now has two viral moments on his resume, we can be sure the next one will be just as amazing.

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Cubs announce plans for extended protective netting at Wrigley Field for 2020

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USA TODAY

Cubs announce plans for extended protective netting at Wrigley Field for 2020

Baseball fans will be more protected than ever at Wrigley Field this season.

Saturday, Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney announced the club is extending protective netting at Wrigley Field to the elbows of the ballpark. Essentially, it will stretch a bit past where the old on-field bullpens were and stop before the walls in the left and right field corners.

Kenney added the extensions will be ready by Opening Day.

Last month, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced all 30 ballparks will extend their netting for the 2020 season. Manfred didn’t specify which teams would do what, but he said netting at each stadium would extend “substantially beyond the end of the dugout.”

With pitchers throwing harder than ever and batter exit velocities are through the roof, fans have little time to react in the stands when a ball is launched their way. It’s nearly impossible to avoid getting hit, even for those paying attention.

The Cubs have experienced this firsthand. In a game against the Astros last season, an Albert Almora Jr. foul ball struck a 2-year-old at Minute Maid Park. That young girl has a permanent brain injury, her family’s attorney announced earlier this month, an injury that affects her body similar to how a stroke would.

Almora was visibly shaken after the incident and said Friday at Cubs Convention it weighed heavily on him for the first couple of days.

“After that I had no other choice but to move forward,” Almora said. “But I always have that in the back of my mind. Every update that does come up, I am on there and I am seeing all of this."

Almora said he’s tried reaching out to the family but is respecting their privacy. As a father of two himself, he said there’s no reason to even think of his sons getting hurt while attending a game.

“Obviously prayers go out to the family. It’s unfortunate, and like I said before, that should never happen on a baseball field."

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