Cubs

Cubs slug past White Sox in spring matchup

424356.jpg

Cubs slug past White Sox in spring matchup

Thursday, March 24, 2011
CSNChicago.comAssociated Press
MESA, Ariz. (AP) The Chicago Cubs and the White Sox both took steps toward completing their Opening Day rosters on Thursday.The Cubs cut four infielders and an outfielder. Rookie Darwin Barney has made the club as an infielder and possible starting second baseman, as well as veteran non-roster man Reed Johnson.The White Sox named rookie Brent Morel their starting third baseman and reaffirmed that Phil Humber would be their fifth starter.Barney had a big day, hitting a two-run triple and a single in the Cubs' 8-7 victory over their crosstown rivals. He also had a hand in turning two double plays."It's good to know that Phase 1 is done," said Barney, who played in 30 games for the Cubs last year. "The job's done. I worked my (butt) off. I'm breaking with the Chicago Cubs. It's pretty amazing. Now the focus is on the team. It's on winning."The Cubs opened camp with a platoon at second of Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt. However, DeWitt has struggled this spring, batting .167, and will now take grounders at third base in addition to second in preparation for a possible backup role at both spots."He's struggled," said manager Mike Quade. "But we're going to be patient with him. He's 25 years old. He's a .260 lifetime big-league hitter. We're going to expect him to get a lot better. I've asked him to play nothing but second base. We will change that a little bit. We're going to continue his work at second. We're going to ask him to take some balls at third and look at it as that being a possibility as well."I've been thrilled to death with the way Baker and Barney have played. We know what Bake accomplished last year against left-handed pitching, and Barney's a young kid who's on the come. It's still a competition. You've still got to perform."The Cubs jumped on Humber for two runs in the first inning and one in the second. Humber (0-2) worked 4 1-3 innings, giving up five hits and seven runs. He also walked four and struck out four."My command today was terrible," Humber said. "Not just the walks, but falling behind guys. It's hard to expect good results when you're walking guys and falling behind like this."White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he was not disappointed in Humber's performance and that he'd likely start April 6 against the Royals."No, the first inning was a little struggle," Guillen said. "I don't see anybody out there better than what we have. This guy already has the innings."Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza (1-3) worked five innings, giving up eight hits and three runs. He walked two and struck out four.The Cubs got a fourth-inning solo homer from Alfonso Soriano, his third of the spring. The White Sox got homers from Omar Vizquel (No. 2), Alexei Ramirez (No. 4) and Donny Lucy (No. 1).Notes:
The Cubs optioned OF Fernando Perez to Class AAA Iowa. They also assigned non-roster infielders Matt Camp, Scott Moore, Augie Ojeda and Bobby Scales to their minor-league complex. ... White Sox OF Juan Pierre fouled a ball off his right shin in his third plate appearance and left the game after finishing the at-bat. The White Sox said the move was precautionary and that Pierre's injury is not serious.
Box Score

Cubs Talk Podcast: Ryne Sandberg: Part 1

ryne-sandberg-1013.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Ryne Sandberg: Part 1

Luke Stuckmeyer sits down with Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg for a wide-ranging conversation centered around the infamous "Sandberg Game."

Ryne gives insight into his feelings upon being traded to the Cubs (2:00), and discusses the reason he ended up with the No. 23 (5:00). Plus, how the 1984 season changed everything and raised his personal expectations sky-high (9:00) and the "Daily Double" dynamic between him and Bob Dernier (16:00).

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

Subscribe:

'He belongs here': What to expect from top prospect Adbert Alzolay's first major league start

alzolay-621.jpg
USA Today

'He belongs here': What to expect from top prospect Adbert Alzolay's first major league start

A big part of the Cubs’ MO during the Epstein Era has been the team’s reliance on veteran pitchers. Whether it’s Jon Lester’s cutter, Cole Hamels’ changeup, or Jose Quintana’s sinker, it’s been a while since other teams have had to step into the box against a Cubs starter without much of a scouting report. On the surface, uncertainty from a starting pitcher may sound like a bad thing, but it’s that same apprehension that makes Cubs’ prospect Adbert Alzolay’s first major league start so exciting. 

“There’s energy when you know the guy’s good,” Joe Maddon said before Tuesday’s game. “There’s absolutely energy to be derived. But there’s also curiosity. Let’s see if this is real or not. I think he answered that call.” 

The good news for Alzolay and the Cubs is that much of the usual baggage that comes with one’s first major league start is already out of the way. All of the milestones that can get into a young pitchers head -- first strikeout, first hit, first home run allowed, etc -- took place during Alzolay’s four-inning relief appearance back against the Mets on June 20th. 

“I want to believe that that would help,” Maddon added. “It was probably one of the best ways you could break in someone like that. We had just the ability to do it because of the way our pitching was set up, and I think going into tonight’s game, there’s less unknown for him.”

It also helps that Alzolay will have fellow Venezuelan countryman Willson Contreras behind the plate calling his first game. There’s even a sense of novelty from Contreras’ end too. 

“[Catching someone’s debut] is really fun for me,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s a big challenge for me today. I’m looking forward to it. I’m really proud of Alzolay, and I know where he comes from - I know him from Venezuela. It’s going to be fun.”

Tuesday's plan for Alzolay doesn’t involve a specific innings limit. Maddon plans to let the rookie go as long as he can before he “gets extended, or comes out of his delivery,” as the manager put it. On the mound, he’s a flyball pitcher with good control that works quickly. Expect to see a healthy dosage of 4-seamers that sit in the mid-90’s alongside a curveball and changeup that have both seen improvements this year. 

Against the Mets, it was his changeup was the most effective strikeout pitch he had going, with three of his five K’s coming that way. It’s typically not considered his best offspeed offering, but as Theo Epstein put it on Monday afternoon, “[Alzolay] was probably too amped and throwing right through the break,” of his curveball that day.  

It’s obviously good news for the Cubs if he continues to flash three plus pitches, long the barometer of a major league starter versus a bullpen guy. Even if he doesn’t quite have the feel for all three yet, it’s his beyond-the-years demeanor that has those within the organization raving. 

“The confidence he showed during his first time on the mound, as a young pitcher, that’s a lot,” Contreras said. “That’s who he can be, and the command that he has of his pitches is good, especially when he’s able to go to his third pitch.”