Cubs

Where does Justin Grimm fit in Cubs bullpen?

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Where does Justin Grimm fit in Cubs bullpen?

MESA, Ariz. — It's still early in spring training (Cactus League games haven't even started yet), but it's already a given Justin Grimm will be a part of the Cubs' Opening Day bullpen if healthy.

The question is: In what role?

Joe Maddon isn't one to adopt or announce specific roles for pitchers in his bullpens, but when asked Monday, the Cubs manager offered up another year of the 27-year-old right-hander filling in as the team's "mid-innings closer" again while acknowledging there is room for that role to expand.

"Yeah, I do," Maddon said. "He could keep growing. This guy's got the kind of stuff that finishes games. I think as he pitches more consistently, as he gets older, you'll see more.

"He's got great stuff. He's got a great attitude. He's a great teammate. He's all of the above. As he gets more comfortable mentally just handling the latter part of the game, he'll be able to do it.

"Going into this year, I'd be happy if he was able to fulfill the same role he did last year."

[RELATED: Cubs set pitching rotation for beginning of Cactus League schedule]

Grimm, however, sees things a little differently. He wants the ball in the late innings in high-pressure situations.

"I've talked to Joe about it. He knows I value myself more than that middle relief connotation they put on it," Grimm said. "I think we're on the same page with that — me and Joe are.

"I'm just here to help this team get to what we want to do. I gotta put my personal things to the side for the team."

Grimm dropped the standard company line in Cubs camp, as everybody works toward pulling the rope in the same direction.

[RELATED: Maddon continues to do 'whatever it takes' to bring Cubs together with crazy Leap Day celebration]

But it still represents a shift in thinking for Grimm, who mentioned each of the last two years that he still envisions himself a starter in the big leagues, but now has taken to the relieving role.

"I truly think I'm getting better with it," Grimm said. "Learning day-to-day, what it takes to stay strong, stay fresh.

"It's just getting that mindset. I think I'm continuing to grow with it."

Grimm has found success as a reliever since coming to the Cubs from the Texas Rangers in the Matt Garza back in July 2013.

In 2014, he led the Cubs in appearances, putting up a 3.78 ERA in 73 games.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Last year, he got a late start to the season with a forearm injury, but still wound up with 15 holds, three saves and a 1.99 ERA in 62 games.

Grimm also struck out 67 batters in 49.2 innings, ranking ninth in Major League Baseball in K/9 (12.1) among pitchers with at least 40 innings — right up there with some of the top closers in the game like Aroldis Chapman (15.7 K/9), Andrew Miller (14.6), Kenley Jansen (13.8) and Craig Kimbrel (13.2).

This year, regardless of role, Grimm just wants to keep the momentum rolling. He feels comfortable in all his pitches, but knows he needs to use his fastball, too.

"I just wanna build off last year," Grimm said. "It was a great year, but I always expect more out of myself. I'd like to tone down the walks.

"I have the kind of stuff where I'm able to attack the zone and pitch within the zone. I'm just realizing that I have to be on the attack more. I'm at my best when I'm going right after guys."

The best quips from the best leadoff hitter of all time, Anthony Rizzo

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USA TODAY

The best quips from the best leadoff hitter of all time, Anthony Rizzo

Anthony Rizzo was not only in tip top shape as he reported for the Cubs first full squad workout, but his one-liner game was on point day one, as well. 

Here are some of his best quips from the day.

"It was great. Really probably the best off season I've had, right?"
 
Yes, Anthony... your wedding day is always the BEST day ever and the first offseason with your wife should be the BEST one ever. Quick learner.

"I'm usually not excited to come back, because I hate leaving home. But it was, I can say my wife now, was like 'man, you're really excited to go back this year.' So, it's good to be back."
 
 Emily should be proud, Rizzo seems to really have this married thing/lingo down! And his child-like energy and enthusiasm was palpable. Cubs fans, your first baseman is chomping at the bit.

"That extra month, it's been awhile. The first time a lot of guys have had that extra month. Unfortunately, I know what it's like to have that extra month."
 
Spare Cubs fans the reminder, Anthony. 

"A lot of guys in here are used to going to the NLCS. So, to get knocked out it's like "Whoa, what is this? Barbecuing in October?"

First of all, only those who live in Florida can talk about barbecuing in October, but we get the point. Cubs want to save the brats for November.

"Yea, and also Bryce Harper is coming to the Cubs, right?"

Rizzo thinks that's as likely to happen as the team going 80-82 and finishing last in the NL Central this year.

“So this is what happened. I offered him half of my 12 (million) that I’m making this year. But he turned it down. Put that report out," Rizzo said to Paul Sullivan of the Tribune. 
 
Harper or Machado?

“Both, three million each. I split it in half."
 
https://twitter.com/PWSullivan/status/1097523429681426432
 
Thanks to Sully for catching this quip--Rizzo's plan for the Cubs to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Generous, don't you think?

"I've been here for like two hours, so...from what I've heard I've heard it's been amazing, the energy. But, I don't know, what is the date? The 18th? It's February 18th, so every clubhouse is this energetic right now." 

Dates and days of the week are hard during Groundhog's Day, I mean Spring Training. But, props to Rizzo for being honest and the vibe after two hours was pretty great.

"It's the first day, I picked out my outfit last night. I was off to school today." 
 
First day feels...

"Hi Tony! Hi Jon, love you."
 
Mid-response, Rizz wasn't going to leave his guy Lester hanging. The love is real.

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: The Cubs are out of funds

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The Cubs are out of funds

David Haugh, Hub Arkush and Gabe Ramirez join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - Tom Ricketts meets the media as the Cubs' full squad reports to Mesa. The panel discusses his comments on his father's emails and not having any money to spend this offseason.

6:00 - Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki join Kap from Sloan Park in Mesa. They discuss Tom Ricketts' press conference, how the Cubs players are handling the off-the-field distractions and how Joe Maddon is handling this spring.

13:00 - Tom Ricketts says their no collusion among baseball owners. Meanwhile, the players' union fires off an angry statement. What will happen after another slow winter for free agents?

19:00 - Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber join Kap from Glendale with the latest on the White Sox. They discuss the latest on Manny Machado and Yoan Moncada being the Sox' opening day 3rd baseman.

25:00 - The panel discusses Manny Machado's neverending free agency. Is the price starting to get too high for the White Sox? And if potential free agents in 2020 start signing extensions, should the White Sox overpaid now to land a superstar?

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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