Cubs

LIVE: Cubs trailing Pirates 6-3

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LIVE: Cubs trailing Pirates 6-3

Friday, April 1, 2011
Posted: 9:27 a.m.

CHICAGO (AP) Kerry Woodgot his old locker back in the Chicago Cubs clubhouse, even though he'dbeen away for two years. And now he'll enjoy something else heremembers well - another opening day at Wrigley Field."There's a buzz," Wood said Thursdayas the Cubs pulled on ski caps and hoods and headed out for a workouton a sunny day with temperatures in the low 40s.The forecast is for rain and maybesome snow flurries when the Pirates and Cubs start the season Friday.Wood felt the chill when he got off the plane from Arizona on Wednesdaynight. He expected it after six weeks-plus at spring training."It definitely hits you in the face," Wood said. "That's what it's about. It's baseball in April in Chicago."The Pirates went 57-105 a year ago, their 18th straight losing season. Of course, 10 of Pittsburgh's wins came against the Cubs."They always give us a good fight," said Ryan Dempster, who will start for the Cubs against Pittsburgh's Kevin Correia.Carlos Pena,who signed with Chicago as a free agent after playing for Tampa Bay thelast four years, is looking forward to playing in the second-oldestpark in the majors. He played briefly with Boston in 2006 and spentfour seasons in the AL East, so he's already spent time in the oldest,Fenway Park.But once he arrived to Wrigley on Thursday, he had to see for himself."I walked in this morning and Iwalked up on that concourse and got the fans' perspective and all Isaid was, 'Thank you.' I'm pumped to be here," he said.Pena's performance will be a pivotalone for the Cubs. He batted just .196 last season for the Rays but hehas the left-handed power and the great glove at first base thatChicago needs.Like teammate Matt Garza,who also came over from Tampa - his arrival via a trade - he'll have toadjust to the weather, a new league and a home schedule heavy with daygames."He's going to be fine. He's the kind of guy I think he'll love it," Cubs manager Mike Quade said.Pena and Garza are newcomers andWood is making his return after two seasons with Cleveland and theYankees, but it's Quade who really has a new task. He is going to runthe team for the first time as the full-time manager. He was theskipper on an interim basis for the final 37 games a year ago after LouPiniella retired in August. The Cubs responded with a 24-13 record.Quade entered a press room Thursdayand began counting the number of recording devices in front of him -11. There were also a half-dozen TV cameras aimed at him.Quade, who managed more than 2,000minor league games and was Chicago's third base coach before beingpromoted last season, brought along a familiar companion with him - hisfungo bat."I always feel like a little kid,"he said, looking forward to Friday. "I think there will be a millionemotions and I'll deal with them however I do. My folks will be there,that's great. Long journey and all that stuff."He has got a lot of work to do toimprove on the Cubs' fifth-place finish of last season. And no oneneeds to bring up that the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908,a record of futility that always surfaces.Clint Hurdle's job? Lead the Pirates out of their nearly two-decade stretch of losing baseball.Pittsburgh features young players to build with in Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and Jose Tabata, and they've also added a veteran in Lyle Overbay.Among Hurdle's ideas to change things up has been to give the team more structure on the road - workouts, breakfasts, meetings."We don't want guys rolling out ofbed at noon, coming to the park and eating three meals before we takethe field," he said. "We got to be smarter with our time."He said he and the coaching staff have also sought input from the players."We want them to take ownership," he said, something he said he stressed while managing the Rockies.And how about the cold that inevitably is part of early season baseball, especially in cities like Chicago?"It is what it is," Hurdle said. "Ihad a game here with (Colorado star) Ubaldo (Jimenez) and Ubaldocouldn't get a grip on the ball. For four innings, his command was allover the joint. What are you going to do? You go play. You just figureit out."Everybody would like it to be balmy and 75 or 80. It will. In June."

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

The Cubs and Braves got through roughly one inning of Stranger Things Night at Wrigley Field before Willson Contreras made the evening his own. 

The catcher went 2-4 with three RBI, and provided the most notable moment from the game: a 2nd inning solo homer that caused both benches to clear. Contreras had taken issue with a few of the called strikes earlier in the at-bat, and said something to home plate umpire John Tumpane about it. Contreras continued to make his feelings known as he left the box, drawing the ire of Braves catcher Tyler Flowers.

“To be honest, those pitches weren’t even close to the strike zone,” he said. “[Flowers] got mad because I was talking to the umpire about that, and he jumped into the conversation. 

Contreras then proceeded to shout in the direction of Atlanta’s dugout while rounding first base, and the two catchers exchanged more words as he crossed home plate. The benches quickly emptied, and after a few moments of posturing, returned to their dugouts. 

“It was a lot of emotions together,” he said after the game. “I was having a conversation with the umpire, and it ended up with [Flowers], so that’s all I can say. I just basically told him to do his job and I’ll do mine. I don’t know why he got pissed off because that’s all I said - you do your job and i’ll do mine.”

“I was kind of amused by the whole thing,” Joe Maddon added. “I don’t really know Mr. Flowers - we had a nice conversation, walked away, and it was over. It really wasn’t worth more than what happened.

The confrontation was just one of a few testy moments between these two teams. In the top of the 2nd inning, Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson was caught on cameras shushing the Cubs dugout: 

Two innings later, it was Javy Baez who returned serve by blowing the Braves a kiss after stealing second on Flowers: 

“It’s fun because they’re good,” Maddon said. “And we’re good - that’s the fun part. Monday night, at 7:05, to have that kind of attitude and atmosphere is outstanding. That’s what baseball needs.” 

On the mound, Jon Lester bounced back from a run of three straight underwhelming performances. June hasn’t been kind to Lester, as the lefty had allowed 14 runs over the last 23 IPs prior to Monday’s start, good for a 5.93 FIP. He threw 94 pitches against the Braves, lasting six innings while allowing two runs -- both unearned, though -- and striking out seven. He only threw 94 pitches, but his control (0 BB) was excellent. Lester spotted his strikeout pitch well all night, getting four of his six right-handed K’s on the low outside corner:

“I just tried to stay down there, and had the backdoor cutter to those guys,” Lester said. “We were able to kind of exploit that, and then when we felt that guys were reaching out there a little bit, I ran the cutter in on some guys too. I was just able to command both sides of the plate tonight, which is huge against an offense like that.” 

“Great job by Jon,” Maddon added, “Jon had great stuff. Coming off of [throwing 114 pitches], he’s been throwing a lot of pitches on regular rest, so I wanted to limit that tonight. He was lobbying to go back out, but I didn’t feel good about it based on the longevity of the season and we had a rested Kintzler.

“But Jon was really good, and really good against a tough lineup.”

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Live from Wrigley it's Cubs Authentic Fan Night

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Live from Wrigley it's Cubs Authentic Fan Night

Ozzie Guillen and Doug Glanville join Leila Rahimi to talk all things Chicago baseball as the Cubs take on the Braves and the White Sox look to get a win in Boston.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below: