Cubs

Preview: Cubs-Cardinals tonight on CSN, streaming on CSNChicago.com

Preview: Cubs-Cardinals tonight on CSN, streaming on CSNChicago.com

The Cubs open their series against the St. Louis Cardinals tonight, and you can catch all the action on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports app.

Coverage begins at 7:00 p.m., followed by first pitch. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis on Cubs Postgame Live.

Tonight's starting pitching matchup: Eddie Butler (1-0, 1.17 in five starts in Triple-A Iowa) vs. Mike Leake (4-1, 1.79 ERA)

Butler is making his first big-league start with the Cubs after being acquired Feb. 1 from the Colorado Rockies in exhange for minor-league pitcher James Farris.

The 26-year-old Butler is not far removed from serving as one of baseball's top pitching prospect, coming in at No. 35 on MLB's list in 2015 and No. 24 on Baseball America's rankings in 2014.

Butler has made 28 starts and eight relief appearances in the big leagues with the Rockies over the last three seasons, posting a 6-16 record with a 6.50 ERA and 1.77 WHIP. He is filling in for the injured Brett Anderson, who sported an 8.18 ERA in his six starts in the rotation before heading on the disabled list with a lower back strain.

The Cubs are also still without Addison Russell, who is nursing a sore throwing shoulder. Javy Baez will man shortstop in Russell's stead. 

Here's the rest of the Cubs lineup behind Butler against Mike Leake and the first-place Cardinals:

1. Kyle Schwarber - LF
2. Kris Bryant - RF
3. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
4. Ben Zobrist - 2B
5. Jeimer Candelario - 3B
6. Willson Contreras - C
7. Javy Baez - SS
8. Eddie Butler - P
9. Albert Almora Jr. - CF

Former Cubs leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler is back in the lineup Friday night for the first time in a week while dealing with a shoulder injury. Fowler hit a pinch-hit two-run triple Wednesday as the Cardinals extended their winning streak to six games.

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Anthony Rizzo takes in Cubs intrasquad game in Wrigley Field bleachers

Anthony Rizzo takes in Cubs intrasquad game in Wrigley Field bleachers

Anthony Rizzo missed Summer Camp on Thursday as he remains day-to-day with lower back tightness. However, the Cubs first baseman still found a way to take in the action.

Rizzo posted up in the left field bleachers during Thursday's game, which pitted Yu Darvish vs. Kyle Hendricks. He later moved to sit by the on-deck circle.

With no fans in attendance this season, MLB players will likely be stationed throughout ballpark seating throughout games to social distance. The Cubs obviously want to see Rizzo stationed at first base come the regular season, but it would be quite the sight if he or any Cubs get to sit out in the bleachers this year.

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No regrets for Cubs' Javy Báez in not reaching extension deal before pandemic

No regrets for Cubs' Javy Báez in not reaching extension deal before pandemic

Cubs shortstop Javy Báez doesn’t know any more than anyone else where baseball’s economics and player salary markets are headed in the next year or two as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the two-time All-Star expressed no regret about not accepting a club offer during negotiations on a long-term extension over the winter and said he felt no “rush” to resume talks in the uncertain climate.

Báez, the 2018 MVP runner-up who is eligible for free agency after next season, had expressed optimism that talks were “progressing” in March before the pandemic shut down sports — and all extension talks.

“It’s been really difficult with all this happening right now,” said Báez, whose family all stayed healthy through baseball’s shutdown and who looks in good shape after working out during that time with brother-in-law Jose Berrios, the Twins pitcher.

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“We have really good communication and relationship between me and the owners and obviously my agent,” Báez added. “I think when this [is in the] past, I think we’re going to talk and stay in touch and see what happens from here on, and with the season.”

Teammate Kris Bryant, long considered a sure thing to test the open market after the 2021 season, said Monday the pandemic and first-time fatherhood has made him rethink things that are important to him — including, potentially, the Cubs and what it might take to stay with them.

But predicting where payroll budgets, industry revenues and consequently player markets will be even two or three years from now is all but impossible during a pandemic with no end in sight.

All of which could render many players and teams’ best intentions moot for now.

MORE: Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

“This is without question the most difficult time we’ve ever had as far as projecting those things,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said this week.

Báez, who has a 2020 salary of $10 million (prorated for the shortened season), was the primary focus of the front office much of the winter as it tried to lock him up as a part of the next contending core it envisioned.

He said he has bigger things to worry about now as the team tries to stay disciplined and committed to pulling off a 60-game season.

“Obviously, everybody wants to get paid, but we’ve got to wait for the right time,” he said, “and both sides are going to see and know what’s right for each other. I’m not in a rush. I’m worried right now about getting back on the field and playing regular games and trying to win in this season that is going to be so weird.

“Obviously with this happening right now it’s going to change everything. It already changed 2020; it’s going to change the next two years I think.”

Báez said the decision to play was not really difficult and he didn’t consider opting out.

“I feel like everybody’s dealing with the same thing,” said Báez, who among other things keeps his free agency timeline intact by playing and being credited with a full season of service time for 2020. “Some of them have got contracts; some of them don’t.

“I’ve got one year [more] I’m going to be in arbitration. We’ll see. They know me. I’m pretty sure every team knows me and knows what I can do. I’m not in a rush. We’ll just see what happens this season and how it goes for me and with this 60 games and be ready for next season.

“We’ll see.”

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