Cubs

Samardzija solid again in loss to Texas

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Samardzija solid again in loss to Texas

LAS VEGAS (AP) A split-squad game meant Julio Borbon got a chance to prove what he can do.Borbon batted second for the Texas Rangers on Saturday while Elvis Andrus was moved up to leadoff. With regular leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler with the other half of the Rangers in Surprise, Ariz., Borbon was able to thrive at the top of the order between Andrus and Josh Hamilton during a 12-7 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Cashman Field.Borbon, competing with Craig Gentry for an outfield spot, had a pair of hits, including a two-run, bases-loaded single with two outs in the fifth."I feel comfortable anywhere," said Borbon, who is hitting .350. "I don't have a preference in the lineup as long as I'm getting an opportunity to go out there and contribute."Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija retired his first nine batters before Elvis Andrus singled leading off the fourth and scored on Josh Hamilton's single.
Rangers starter Derek Holland allowed one hit in four scoreless innings, struck out two and walked none. Mike Adams struck out the side in the fifth.Samardzija allowed one run and three hits in four innings with three strikeouts and no walks."I'm sure he had his pitches working for him," Borbon said, "and at the same time we did not do what we wanted to do the first couple innings."Texas broke open the game with a five-run eighth that included Renny Osuna's three-run homer.Cubs fall to Athletics in split-squad action
PHOENIX (AP) Seth Smith's place on the Oakland Athletics' major league roster is as left-handed bat who can play in the outfield and be plugged in as a designated hitter.Acquired from Colorado in mid-January, Smith went 3 for 3 with two-run double in the first inning that helped the A's beat the Chicago Cubs 4-3 in a split-squad game."He's faced so many left-handed pitchers all spring and he's really starting to swing it better and better against them," Oakland bench coach Chip Hale said. "He's got a great approach at the plate. That's the reason why we went out and traded for him."Former Oakland outfielder David DeJesus tripled to lead off the game and scored on a groundout off Travis Schlichting, who allowed two hits in three innings during his first start following three relief appearances."He's done nothing but impress us every time out," Hale said.Cubs starter Paul Maholm gave up three runs - none of the them earned - and two hits in three innings with three strikeouts and two walks. Manny Ramirez reached on a run-scoring error that tied the score, and Smith followed with his double on a hanging slider."It's good to have to battle through an inning," Maholm said. "It's a step in the process, having to get through that stuff and then bouncing back the next two innings and having some pretty quick innings."Oakland left fielder Jonny Gomes had a nice throw in the sixth when Geovany Soto doubled with Marlon Byrd on first. Gomes threw to shortstop Cliff Pennington, who relayed to catcher Anthony Recker.Recker and Byrd collided, but Recker stood up with the ball and took an extended look at Byrd as he headed for the dugout."Every day we're doing some kind of fundamental, and when we do it right, it's very nice to see," Hale said.NOTES: Oakland extended its spring training winning streak to eight games, but it ended Saturday with a split squad's loss to San Francisco in Scottsdale. ... Former World Series champions Bert Campaneris and Blue Moon Odom threw out ceremonial first pitches in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Athletics' World Series title ... Cubs reliever Esmailin Caridad came on in the bottom of the eighth inning and struck out the side in order, all looking, in his spring training debut. ... Soto homered on Ryan Cook's first pitch of the fourth

Javier Báez joins Cubs All-Decade Team at second base, where El Mago was born

Javier Báez joins Cubs All-Decade Team at second base, where El Mago was born

With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.

There may not be a player in baseball more exciting to watch than Javier Báez.

Whether at the plate, in the field or on the bases, Báez is a human highlight real. He’s one of the most powerful hitters in baseball; he has a cannon for an arm, exemplary defensive range and is a tagging maestro. He’s a dynamic baserunner who uses his elite baseball instincts to go station-to-station while magically avoiding tags along the way.

Yeah, there’s a reason Báez is known as “El Mago.” It’s not a matter of if he’ll make an incredible play each game, but a matter of when. Things come easy for the 27-year-old full of flair who makes the most difficult plays seem routine.

Báez is a career .270/.310/.484 hitter who’s hit 110 home runs in parts of six big-league seasons. One of those long balls came in his big-league debut (Aug. 5, 2014), a go-ahead blast against the Rockies in the 12th inning. The legend of El Mago was born.

Báez is the Cubs starting shortstop, though that hasn’t always been the case. Starlin Castro was the starter in 2014; Addison Russell claimed the title from Castro in the second half of 2015, holding it down until late in the 2018 season. Russell hit the injured list that August as the Cubs simultaneously acquired Daniel Murphy in an attempt to jump-start the offense.

By the time Russell returned, Báez was a clear-cut NL MVP candidate. The latter still bounced around the infield from time-to-time, but with Murphy entrenched at second, shortstop became Báez’s primary position. He’s been the starter ever since.

Báez has played 2,646 2/3 career innings at shortstop compared to 1,856 at second base (and 629 1/3 at third). He’s exclusively a shortstop these days, but the El Mago second base days aren’t forgotten.

Báez was the co-recipient of the 2016 NLCS MVP award (along with Jon Lester) and has started back-to-back All-Star Games (2018 at second, 2019 at shortstop). He was the runner-up for the 2018 NL MVP award, posting career highs across the board: .290/.326/.554, 34 homers, 111 RBIs, 129 OPS+.

And yet, it feels like Báez is only getting started. Nevertheless, his career to date has more than earned him a spot on our Cubs All-Decade Team at second base. With that, we'll leave you with this:

Anthony Rizzo joins Cubs All-Decade Team behind efforts on and off field

Anthony Rizzo joins Cubs All-Decade Team behind efforts on and off field

With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.

You saw this one coming, right?

As the Cubs’ longest tenure player, Anthony Rizzo was a shoo-in for this group. He hasn’t relinquished his starting first baseman job since making his Cubs debut in June 2012. The guy’s longevity alone is impressive.

But besides that, Rizzo has been a model of consistency during his time on the North Side. Since 2012, he’s hit 217 home runs (averaging 27 per season) and hit 32 three times from 2014-17. The lone exception? 2015, when he hit 31. So close…

As a Cub, Rizzo is a .277/.376/.496 hitter with a 132 OPS+. He produces at a high clip each season, whether he’s hitting third, cleanup or leadoff, all while simultaneously playing stellar defense. The 30-year-old is a three-time Gold Glove Award winner (2016, 2018-19).

Rizzo is the guy who comes up huge in key moments but will be there to address the media after tough losses. He’s the de facto captain of the Cubs, the guy who suffered a nasty ankle sprain in September that could have ended his regular season. Instead, he returned four days later for a key series against the rival Cardinals, as the Cubs were fighting to keep their October dreams alive.

When he’s not leading his team on the field, Rizzo is giving back to the community off of it. He’s one of the most charitable athletes in the world and recently raised $1.3 million for children’s cancer research at his “8th annual Walk-off for Cancer” in his home state of Florida.

Rizzo was the first building block of the Cubs core which snapped their infamous 108-year championship drought, but he’ll be remembered for more than that. He’s a leader on and off the field, the clear choice for starting first baseman on our Cubs All-Decade Team.

Also considered: Derrek Lee, Bryan LaHair