Zimmer's lessons continue to inspire Maddon

New Cubs skipper plans to draw upon late mentor's advice during his first season in Chicago

Zimmer's lessons continue to inspire Maddon

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs won only nine of 32 Spring Training games back in 1989. Season over, right? Somehow, Don Zimmer found a way -- and that year, the "Boys of Zimmer" captured the National League East with a 93-win season, led by their unconventional manager.

Joe Maddon got to know Zimmer when they were together with Tampa Bay. Zimmer was a consultant to the Rays from 2004-14 -- but to Maddon, he was much more than that.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs sink Royals behind Jackson's solid start

Montero knocks second spring homer to back veteran righty

Cubs sink Royals behind Jackson's solid start

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Veteran Cubs right-hander Edwin Jackson found the ballpark on Sunday, but he's still trying to find his spot in the rotation with only a week to go in the Cactus League season.

Jackson was pitted against another veteran, right-hander Edinson Volquez, starting his first season with the Royals in a game the Cubs won, 7-0.

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Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Amid competition, Jackson focused on helping Cubs win

Right-hander not concerned with playing 'what if' scenarios

Amid competition, Jackson focused on helping Cubs win

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Maybe getting lost helped Edwin Jackson find himself.

Jackson, battling for the fifth spot in the rotation, held the Royals to one hit and walked one over 4 2/3 innings Sunday in a 7-0 Cubs win.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Maddon to keep giving Bryant work in outfield

Skipper hopes to have all prospects work at more than one position

Maddon to keep giving Bryant work in outfield

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Kris Bryant made his second start in left field on Sunday and manager Joe Maddon wants the Cubs' top prospect to get more time there.

The Cubs are emphasizing versatility among their position players, and trying to get all Minor Leaguers to play at least two positions.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Maddon has confidence in Motte after rough outings

Maddon has confidence in Motte after rough outings

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Jason Motte has had back-to-back rough outings, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he wasn't worried about the right-hander, who may simply need a little mechanical adjustment. Motte served up three runs on one hit, a home run, on Saturday, and has given up seven earned runs on four hits in two-thirds of an inning in his last two appearances.

"I'm not worried about him," Maddon said of Motte. "I think the velocity is real good, the shape of his pitches are a little different and I think it'll get better."

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

New digs at Wrigley will be adjustment for Maddon

New digs at Wrigley will be adjustment for Maddon

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Joe Maddon is eager to get to Wrigley Field to see his new digs.

"I'm curious about my office," Maddon said Sunday. "I keep hearing it's one-third of the size of the one I have here [in Mesa]. I like space, but I won't have space.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

As opener nears, Maddon using players in regular roles

Cubs manager believes first month of season helps define bullpen

As opener nears, Maddon using players in regular roles

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Cubs have less than one week before Opening Night, April 5. What's left for Joe Maddon to do?

Besides trimming the 38-man spring roster to the final 25, Maddon said he'll be inserting players into the remaining Cactus League games as if it were the regular season so they can get used to their roles.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Arrieta, Bryant lead big day for bats in win over Rox

Pitcher homers, drives in four; top prospect's average to .459 with four hits

Arrieta, Bryant lead big day for bats in win over Rox

MESA, Ariz. -- Jake Arrieta belted a three-run homer in a seven-run first and added an RBI double in the second to lift the Cubs' split-squad to an 18-4 victory over the Rockies on Saturday.

Kris Bryant went 4-for-5 and scored three runs for the Cubs, who collected 21 hits in front of a sellout crowd of 15,266 at Sloan Park.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rizzo gets chance to showcase leadoff skills

Rizzo gets chance to showcase leadoff skills

MESA, Ariz. -- Anthony Rizzo joked with bench coach Dave Martinez that he'd like to lead off, so that's where the Cubs' first baseman batted on Saturday in a split-squad game against the Rockies.

"It's something I always wanted to do," Rizzo said before the game. "They've been messing with the lineup a lot, so why not? I think it'll be fun."

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Soler could be Maddon's man in 2-spot

New Cubs skipper has been impressed by young right fielder

Soler could be Maddon's man in 2-spot

MESA, Ariz. -- Manager Joe Maddon may be closer to finding the "mystery man" to fill the No. 2 spot in the Cubs lineup, and it might not be who you'd imagine.

While Chris Coghlan is a strong candidate for the spot, Maddon has other ideas.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fowler knocks first spring homer as Cubs fall to Reds

Fowler knocks first spring homer as Cubs fall to Reds

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Using four runs in the first inning and four more in the fourth inning, the Reds cruised to a 9-5 victory on Saturday over a Cubs split-squad.

Todd Frazier led Cincinnati with two hits and four RBIs, including a three-run home run to right field. With one out in the inning, Frazier sent Minor League reliever Frank Bautista's first pitch over the fence in right field for his team-lead-tying fourth homer of spring.

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Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Maddon likes idea of pitcher hitting in No. 8 spot

Maddon likes idea of pitcher hitting in No. 8 spot

MESA, Ariz. -- On Saturday, Jake Arrieta batted eighth, the first time he's done that this spring. It worked out well in the first inning vs. the Rockies, as he belted his first spring homer, a three-run shot. Arrieta isn't the first Cubs pitcher to be moved up out of the traditional No. 9 spot. It may become more of the norm with manager Joe Maddon's lineup.

"I"m intrigued by having a second leadoff hitter in the National League," Maddon said of the No. 9 batter, who could be Arismendy Alcantara or Tommy La Stella, who both can get on base.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs grant lefty Doubront unconditional release

Cubs grant lefty Doubront unconditional release

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs granted left-hander Felix Doubront his unconditional release on Saturday. Doubront is owed 45 days of termination pay, or about $473,000. He had signed a contract with the team for $1.925 million.

In four spring games, Doubront gave up nine earned runs on 17 hits over seven innings. At the start of camp, he was being considered for the fifth-starter spot, but never got a spring start. Last season, Doubront was 4-5 with a 5.54 ERA in 21 games (14 starts) with the Red Sox and Cubs.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs crush four homers against former ace

Soler, Castro, Coghlan and Rizzo go deep in battle with Samardzija

Cubs crush four homers against former ace

MESA, Ariz. -- Jeff Samardzija got a rude welcome by his former teammates on Friday.

Jorge Soler and Chris Coghlan each belted two-run homers, and Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro added solo shots to power the Cubs to a 6-3 victory over the White Sox and their former teammate at Sloan Park. Samardzija, who struck out nine, was the Cubs' Opening Day starter last year, and he will begin this season for the White Sox.

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Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hammel edges Shark in battle of former teammates

Cubs starter singles, scatters six hits in six innings against White Sox

Hammel edges Shark in battle of former teammates

MESA, Ariz. -- Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija, teammates last season on the Cubs and again when packaged in a trade to the Athletics, played golf earlier this spring, and both joked about the possibility of facing each other now that they're on different Chicago teams.

"I didn't actually think it was going to happen," Hammel said.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Top prospect Bryant aims to break Epstein's track record

Cubs president of baseball operations hasn't had a rookie debut on Opening Day

Top prospect Bryant aims to break Epstein's track record

MESA, Ariz. -- Whether or not Kris Bryant will be on the Cubs' Opening Day roster has been a hot topic, and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Friday that no decision has been made regarding the team's top prospect.

In his career, Epstein has never had a player make his Major League debut on Opening Day, other than a Rule 5 Draft pick or a Japanese player. While most of the focus has been on Bryant's callup being linked to the start of the service time clock, Epstein said this is not a business decision.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baez shaken up on collision Thursday during double play

Cubs second baseman stays in game, singles and turns two later

Baez shaken up on collision Thursday during double play

MESA, Ariz. -- Joe Maddon was a little worried about Javier Baez after a collision at second base during a double play on Thursday.

"I asked him when was the last time a Puerto Rican had played in the NFL, because he just felt it right there," Maddon said of the crash with the Angels' Kole Calhoun on a double play. "[Baez] got smoked. I didn't know what was wrong with him, but he got hammered. I loved it."

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Maddon sees NL Central as the new AL East

Skipper, whose Rays grew vs. Yanks, Sox, says competition helps young players develop faster

Maddon sees NL Central as the new AL East

MESA, Ariz. -- When Joe Maddon took over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, lots of people -- Lou Piniella included -- felt they were on a dead-end street, trapped in the American League East like a house hunter on a budget in the Hamptons.

Every preseason publication -- including the baseball preview in Cigar Aficionado -- started with the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays and then, just to be nice, threw in a couple hundred words about the Rays. That was life in baseball's best division, and Maddon loved it.

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Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

View's different, but Bryant looks like natural in left

View's different, but Bryant looks like natural in left

MESA, Ariz. -- If Kris Bryant could pick one outfield spot to play, it'd be center, which prompted a playful exchange with his locker mate, Dexter Fowler, who doesn't want to lose his job to the Cubs' top prospect.

"Center's fun," Bryant said on Friday after his outfield debut in left Thursday night. "You don't have to deal with the hooks and slices of the ball, they're more true, they're more back-spun out to center."

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Valaika aids Cubs' youth before reassignment

Journeyman lends advice to several top prospects during Spring Training

Valaika aids Cubs' youth before reassignment

MESA, Ariz. -- In a matter of hours Thursday, Cubs utility infielder Chris Valaika experienced some of the benefits and drawbacks of being on the periphery of a Major League roster.

Valaika's day started out at Chicago's state-of-the-art clubhouse, with a man handing out portable charging stations to any interested player. Valaika was one of many Cubs who snagged a free electronic.

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Ari Kaye is a graduate student in the journalism masters program at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lester has 'good, normal' outing in Minors game

Left-hander makes 54 pitches in first action since experiencing tired arm

Lester has 'good, normal' outing in Minors game

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs' Jon Lester threw 54 pitches in a Minor League game Thursday, and that was enough for manager Joe Maddon.

"What I was really watching was him and watching his face and he never seemed like anything bothered him, so I know his arm feels great and that's all I was worried about," Maddon said of the Cubs' ace. "He felt good and his energy was good today. He threw some nice fastballs, nice cutters, yeah, yeah, yeah, but I thought he looked comfortable and that's the most important thing."

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Opening Day 'in jeopardy' for injured Denorfia

Maddon remains cautious, does not want to aggravate outfielder's sore hamstring further

Opening Day 'in jeopardy' for injured Denorfia

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs outfielder Chris Denorfia, who has not played since March 17 because of some soreness in his left hamstring, is expected to get at-bats in Minor League games next week, but most likely will not be ready to go by the start of the season.

"Opening Day is probably in jeopardy," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Thursday.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pitcher Travis Wood hit a pinch-hit home run

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Pitcher Travis Wood hit a pinch-hit home run

Travis Wood is a pitcher. As a pitcher, he is expected to look overmatched at the plate, bringing joy to us like those guys who try to win a barrel of cash by scoring from mid-court:

But Wood is the rarest of beasts: He's a good-hitting pitcher, with nine career home runs to his name. His .700 OPS last season was second among pitchers in 2014 (behind Madison Bumgarner, natch) and would have put him on par with Chase Headley had he qualified. And Headley just signed a $52 million deal. 

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Bryant passes all tests in first start in left

Top prospect shows off arm, nabbing runner at second base

Bryant passes all tests in first start in left

MESA, Ariz. -- Kris Bryant passed all the tests Thursday his first game in left field for the Cubs, but the move didn't help his hitting.

Bryant has played third base since he was drafted second overall in 2013 by the Cubs, and manager Joe Maddon wanted him to consider playing the outfield. Being versatile can sometimes give a player a better chance on a big league squad. Bryant enthusiastically agreed. The only concern was with his arm because Bryant had missed time at third base with fatigue in his right shoulder.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Olt goes deep, Bryant flashes leather in loss

Top prospect shows off arm in outfield, turns double play

Olt goes deep, Bryant flashes leather in loss

MESA, Ariz. -- Albert Pujols belted a three-run homer and an RBI double and C.J. Cron added a two-run triple to back Jered Weaver and lift the Angels to a 8-4 victory on Thursday over the Cubs. Weaver, expected to be the Angels' Opening Day starter, struck out eight over 5 1/3 innings.

Mike Olt belted a two-run homer in the fourth and pinch-hitter Travis Wood smacked a solo shot in the fifth for the Cubs, who rank second in the Majors with 32 home runs this spring.

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Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Wood shows off power with pinch-hit homer

Cubs pitcher knocked three home runs last season, the second most in NL

Wood shows off power with pinch-hit homer

MESA, Ariz. -- Travis Wood may have started Wednesday night, but that didn't stop the Cubs pitcher from getting an extra at-bat on Thursday, and he took advantage of it.

Wood led off the fifth with a pinch-hit home run off the Angels' Jered Weaver for his first spring homer, and 32nd by the Cubs.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

'Dead arm' a dead issue for Lester

Cubs can rest easy after new ace reports no problem in return to mound

'Dead arm' a dead issue for Lester

MESA, Ariz. -- Sighs of relief all the way around for Chicago Cubs loyalists. Jon Lester is OK. He is all right. In fact, he is much better than that.

Lester had missed a Cactus League start Saturday because of the dreaded, yet commonplace, "dead-arm" syndrome. Because he is a centerpiece of the Cubs' expected revival, because he is worth $155 million over six years to the Cubs, this development was viewed in some quarters as dreadful, ominous and further evidence that gloom and doom have a permanent home at Wrigley Field.

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Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs assign 12 players to Minor League camp

Pitchers Parker, Ortiz optioned to Triple-A Iowa

Cubs assign 12 players to Minor League camp

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs assigned 12 players to Minor League camp, including right-handed pitcher Blake Parker and left-handed pitcher Joe Ortiz, who were optioned to Triple-A Iowa.

The Cubs also assigned 10 non-roster invitees to Minor League camp, including right-handed pitchers Daniel Bard, Anthony Carter, Jorge De Leon and Gonzalez Germen; left-handed pitcher Francisley Bueno; infielder Chris Valaika; outfielders Albert Almora, Mike Baxter and Adron Chambers; and catcher Kyle Schwarber.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.