Cubs

It looks like the Cubs have a new assistant hitting coach

It looks like the Cubs have a new assistant hitting coach

The Cubs still haven't fully rounded out their 2019 coaching staff, but they drew a step closer Thursday.

Terrmel Sledge is the reported choice for assistant hitting coach and once the deal is official, will work under new hitting coach Anthony Iapoce:

The Cubs fired Chili Davis after just one year as hitting coach and saw assistant Andy Haines leave for the head gig with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Sledge, 41, played in the majors from 2004-07, finishing 6th in the National League Rookie of the Year voting with the Montreal Expos in '04 while hitting 15 homers and posting a .799 OPS in 446 plate appearances. He played 100 games with the Padres in 2007, posting a .210/.310/.360 slash line.

Sledge served as the assistant hitting coach in the Cubs farm system in 2015 with short-season Class-A Eugene where he worked with Ian Happ and Eloy Jimenez.

More recently, Sledge has served as the lead hitting coach with Double-A Tulsa in the Dodgers system, helping guys like Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo and Willie Calhoun take the next step in 2016. Sledge also worked with Tyler Colvin in 2018 when the former Cub played 15 games and took 47 plate appearances with Tulsa.

The Cubs still have one open spot on Joe Maddon's staff as they need to replace pitching coach Jim Hickey, who officially stepped down last week.

Sledge will be one of three new coaches trying to help navigate the roster to another championship and Maddon under contract for only one more season.

MLB, MLBPA 'increasingly focused' on plan to start 2020 season in May — in Arizona

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USA TODAY

MLB, MLBPA 'increasingly focused' on plan to start 2020 season in May — in Arizona

The start of the MLB season has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but baseball could return sometime next month.

Late Monday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Major League Baseball and the Players Association are “increasingly focused” on a plan which could allow the 2020 season to start in May. 

According to Passan, the plan would entail all 30 teams playing games in the Phoenix area without fans. Potential sites include the area’s 10 spring training ballparks, as well as Chase Field — home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

Players, coaches and other essential personnel would live in “relative isolation” in local hotels, only traveling to the stadium and back. Per Passan, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are supportive of a plan for MLB’s return that follows social distancing and self-isolation protocols.

The plan depends on if the country sees a significant increase in the number of available coronavirus tests, ones with quick turnaround times. Some officials believe this may make June more realistic for baseball’s return, Passan said.

The plan would necessitate the approval of the players, who would be agreeing to leave their families for upwards of four-and-a-half months. Passan said there’s hope among union and league leadership that players will be convinced to play, citing the paychecks they’d receive, and the distraction baseball could provide the nation.

With the uniqueness of the situation, the league and union have discussed a number of possible significant changes. Passan mentioned several of them:

-Expanded rosters
-An electronic strike zone — assuring umpires and catchers are sufficiently distanced from one another
-No mound visits from coaches or catchers
-Seven-inning doubleheaders, allowing the league to play as close to 162 games as possible
-Micing up players regularly, to benefit TV viewers
-Team members sitting six feet apart in the stands rather than dugouts 

If the players and league agree to a deal, teams would head to Arizona in May — assuming the necessary housing, transportation and security are in place. 

MLB, MLBPA discuss playing entire 2020 season in Arizona without fans, report says

MLB, MLBPA discuss playing entire 2020 season in Arizona without fans, report says

As Major League Baseball and the Players Association think of ways to salvage the 2020 season, one idea broached involves all 30 teams playing in Arizona.

In a Monday phone call, MLB and the union discussed every team possibly playing in empty stadiums in the Phoenix area this season, according to the Associated Press. The idea is still in its infancy and the union would want to survey its members to see if they’d be on board.

There are 10 spring training ballparks in Arizona within 50 miles of each other. An obvious concern is Arizona’s severe summertime heat, which, according to MLB super-agent Scott Boras, could be combatted by playing daily tripleheaders in the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field.

Boras also noted the number of precautions that would have to be taken to ensure the league keeps those involved, and the outside world at large, safe.

RELATED: Two Cubs employees test positive for COVID-19

“You’re going to be largely separated from your families and you’re going to have to function in a very contained way,” he told AP’s Ronald Blum. “It’s not it’s not a normal life, this idea.

“You’re going to have an identified group of people. You’re going to have a constantly tested group of people. And you’re going to have a very limited access of those people to the outside world so that you can assure a very uncontaminated league, if you will, to produce a product that is inspirational to our country.”