La Stella happy to be back with Cubs

28-year-old has no regrets about last year's decision to head home

La Stella happy to be back with Cubs

MESA, Ariz. -- He had to change his phone number and deal with friends and family who were confused, but Tommy La Stella said he has no regrets about his decision last year to go home rather than report to the Minor Leagues when the Cubs sent him down.

"It was definitely an unusual situation," La Stella said Monday.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baseball icon O'Neil made history with Cubs

Negro League legend became MLB's first black coach in 1962

Baseball icon O'Neil made history with Cubs

CHICAGO -- When Dexter Fowler led off Game 1 on Oct. 25, he became the first African-American player to appear in a World Series game for the Cubs. Ernie Banks and Billy Williams never had that opportunity. Chicago's last World Series appearance before last fall was in 1945, two years before Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier with the Dodgers.

"It's crazy to even think about that, because you look back and you look at your parents -- my parents weren't even alive then," Fowler said. "It's a lifetime. It's awesome to be the pioneer, the first one."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Schwarber: I'm the third catcher

Cub will be the backstop 1-2 times a week this spring

Schwarber: I'm the third catcher

MESA, Ariz. -- Kyle Schwarber felt right at home catching a bullpen session, but he made sure to note that he's the Cubs' third catcher -- not the regular -- this season.

Schwarber, coming back from two torn ligaments in his left knee that he sustained last April 7, caught John Lackey's bullpen session on Friday, the first time he has been in gear in nearly a year.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fifth-starter candidates to pitch in first week

Anderson, Montgomery will toe rubber; returners to be eased back

Fifth-starter candidates to pitch in first week

MESA, Ariz. -- Rain on Sunday forced the Cubs to limit their workouts to the batting cages for the second day, but the team is on track for next Saturday's Cactus League openers. However, don't expect to see Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey until the second week of games, manager Joe Maddon said.

The Cubs played an extra month because of the World Series, so the plan this spring was to ease the starting pitchers back into action. Lefties Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery, who are being considered for the fifth spot, will pitch in the first week of games.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Zobrist enjoys spoils, eyes repeat World Series

Super-utility star understands incredible effect title had on Cubs fans

Zobrist enjoys spoils, eyes repeat World Series

MESA, Ariz. -- Somewhere amid the celebrations and parades and sheer joy of helping the Chicago Cubs win a World Series for the first time in 108 years, Ben Zobrist was struck by something that may stay with him forever.

"You realize it's not really about us," the World Series Most Valuable Player Award winner said Sunday morning.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Exit velocity data helps hitters, pitchers alike

Exit velocity data helps hitters, pitchers alike

MESA, Ariz. -- Which Cubs player recorded the top average exit velocity in 2016? It probably comes as no surprise that it was Kyle Schwarber, who, according to Statcast™, averaged 101.7 mph. Of course, Schwarber only had four at-bats before being sidelined by a knee injury.

"I just care about hitting the ball hard," said Schwarber, whose hardest-hit ball (108.3 mph) in the regular season was actually a groundout to second base on April 4 in the top of the seventh inning of the Cubs' 9-0 win over the Angels.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Heyward puts in offseason work to regain 2012 form

Heyward puts in offseason work to regain 2012 form

MESA, Ariz. -- In 2012, Jason Heyward's third season in the big leagues, he led the Braves with 27 homers and collected 82 RBIs. He spent this offseason in Arizona trying to get back that feeling he had at the plate.

Heyward felt the need to do something after his inaugural season with the Cubs, when he batted .230, hit a career-low seven homers and drove in 49 runs in 142 games.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ricketts intent on Cubs joining ranks of elite

Ricketts intent on Cubs joining ranks of elite

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts thanked players and staff on Saturday for the team's 2016 season, which was capped by the franchise's first World Series championship since 1908. Next, Ricketts said, is to win again and have the Cubs join the elite group of organizations that are among the best in the world.

"What separates a really good team from a really great team is the consistency of results," Ricketts said. "We've won one World Series, and hopefully, we'll be in the mix again for many years to come. That's what you associate success with. If you look at the Yankees 15 years ago, the Patriots of today, they're right in the mix.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Schwarber catches bullpen session at camp

Extended leg in squat position eases stress on surgically repaired knee

Schwarber catches bullpen session at camp

MESA, Ariz. -- Kyle Schwarber got a hug from pitcher John Lackey, and then he got to be a catcher on Friday for the first time this spring.

Schwarber caught Lackey's bullpen session, receiving a hug from the Cubs right-hander before they started. Schwarber missed nearly all of last season, tearing two ligaments in his left knee in the third game, and he is projected to play left field most of this year. He was cleared medically to catch one or two days a week in Spring Training, and during his session with Lackey, Schwarber extended his left leg out while squatting to catch the ball to avoid putting extra stress on the knee.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lester: Cubs are 'naive enough' to repeat

Ace lefty also won championships with Red Sox in 2007, '13

Lester: Cubs are 'naive enough' to repeat

MESA, Ariz. -- The last team to repeat as World Series champions was the Yankees, winning three in a row from 1998-2000. Could the Cubs be the next to do so? Jon Lester says they may be naive and cocky enough.

"What makes the Yankees so special is they were able to do it year in and year out," Lester said Friday. "It's just hard. Teams are better across the board. It's a hard thing to win one, let alone do it two in a row. All we can do is play hard and do the little things like we do in Spring Training to get better and see what happens in the season."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs notes: Russell recalls whirlwind year

Contreras, Lester building rapport; Maddon praises Rondon

Cubs notes: Russell recalls whirlwind year

MESA, Ariz. -- Being named to an All-Star team, winning 103 regular-season games and then capturing a World Series (including a historic six RBIs in Game 6), then being feted in a parade in downtown Chicago, going to Disney World -- all of that finally caught up to the Cubs' Addison Russell in late November.

"I went into my mom's room and laid down on her bed, and that's when all the memories of the past year, all the way from Spring Training to the middle of the season, [being an] All-Star, the World Series run, it all hit me at once, and it was overbearing kind of, and I started crying," Russell said Friday. "I was like, 'Mom, we got one finally.' She said, 'Yeah, you've been dreaming about this your entire life.' That's when it sunk in. It was just a magical moment."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rizzo inspired by message at White House

Rizzo inspired by message at White House

MESA, Ariz. -- During the Cubs' visit to the White House in January, Anthony Rizzo spotted a small sign on former President Barack Obama's desk in the Oval Office that said, "Hard things are hard." The message resonated with Rizzo, and is something the Cubs need to remember as they begin defense of their World Series championship.

"There's no shortcuts," Rizzo said on Thursday. "That [message] really stuck with me. I just did a workout with [strength coach Tim Buss] and he kicked our [butts]. It's not fun, but it's necessary. We have to have fun and push ourselves to the limits.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs single-game tickets go on sale Friday

Cubs single-game tickets go on sale Friday

Cubs fans now know when they can buy tickets to watch their club at Wrigley Field as the World Series champions look to repeat in 2017.

The club announced on Thursday that single-game tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. CT Friday, and will be available via cubs.com, the MLB.com Ballpark app or by calling 800-THE-CUBS.

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Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Strop wants to help players travel safe in DR

In wake of Ventura tragedy, Cubs reliever will visit complexes to address potential dangers on roadways

Strop wants to help players travel safe in DR

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs reliever Pedro Strop was lucky. When he was involved in a car accident in the Dominican Republic in November 2014, he just needed a few stitches on his left arm. Yordano Ventura, tragically, was not as fortunate, and Strop wants to do what he can to avoid losing another young talent in his native country.

Ventura, a young star pitcher for the Royals, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican on Jan. 22. He was 25.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Anderson eager to maintain health, regain form

New Cubs left-hander performing daily exercises to strengthen his back

Anderson eager to maintain health, regain form

MESA, Ariz. -- After the first official workout for Cubs pitchers and catchers on Wednesday, Brett Anderson posted an update on his Twitter account, saying: "I made it through my first bullpen unscathed ... small victory."

"It's just me being my usual sarcastic self," Anderson said Thursday about his tweet.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Arrieta open to contract extension with Cubs

Arrieta open to contract extension with Cubs

MESA, Ariz. -- Right-hander Jake Arrieta has had success since joining the Cubs, winning a National League Cy Young Award in 2015 and a World Series last year, and he said on Wednesday that he expects to have conversations with the club regarding a contract extension.

Arrieta, who avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $15.637 million contract in January, will be eligible for free agency after this season. Arrieta, who turns 31 on March 6, said agent Scott Boras and the Cubs have an open dialogue.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

A guide for Cubs fans on handling success

A guide for Cubs fans on handling success

CHICAGO -- Stifle that smile, Cubs fans.

You're better than that. We know you are.

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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.

Montero focused on team, not his role in '17

Montero focused on team, not his role in '17

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs catcher Miguel Montero is a two-time All-Star, has appeared in an average of 122 games over the last seven seasons, and is one of the best behind the plate. Last year, though, Montero went from regular to backup when Willson Contreras was promoted from the Minors in June. Now, Montero heads into 2017 in a reserve role, and he's making the best of it.

"I'm here to do my job, it's as simple as that," Montero said on Wednesday prior to the first workout for pitchers and catchers. "Whatever it is, I'm here to do my job. At the end of the day, I'm going to still be with my players and my teammates, so whatever happens, I've got their back. The most important thing is my teammates."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rondon hopes to be ready to pitch in Classic

Rondon hopes to be ready to pitch in Classic

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs right-hander Hector Rondon was named to Team Venezuela's roster for the World Baseball Classic, but he may not pitch if he doesn't feel ready when play begins in early March.

Rondon talked to manager Joe Maddon and Cubs officials on Wednesday, and received the go-ahead. But Rondon also missed about one month last season because of a strained right triceps.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Maddon's messages for '17 come from heart

Maddon's messages for '17 come from heart

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon has his slogans ready for 2017. Get the T-shirts ready.

After guiding the club to its first World Series championship since 1908, Maddon arrived in camp this spring with a three-pronged approach to the new season, plus a throwback to one that started before he showed up.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baez will play 2B for Puerto Rico in Classic

Baez will play 2B for Puerto Rico in Classic

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs infielder Javier Baez, who will be competing in his first World Baseball Classic, said he'll play second base for Team Puerto Rico, which is loaded with talented middle infielders, including shortstops Francisco Lindor of the Indians and Carlos Correa of the Astros.

Baez, the co-Most Valuable Player in the National League Championship Series, said Lindor will play shortstop and the team will prep in Arizona. Puerto Rico's first game is March 10 against Venezuela at Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Montgomery fine with starting or relief roles

Montgomery fine with starting or relief roles

MESA, Ariz. -- It was only two, but Mike Montgomery knows they were the two most important pitches he's ever thrown. The lefty needed just two to get the Indians' Michael Martinez to ground out, ending the 10th inning of Game 7 and sparking the biggest celebration in Cubs history with the first World Series championship since 1908.

Montgomery had a chance to relive that final out -- and his first career save -- quite a bit this offseason, especially while working out at Hart High School in Valencia, Calif.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Jay says Cubs remain hungry after title run

Jay says Cubs remain hungry after title run

MESA, Ariz. -- Jon Jay knows what it's like the season after winning a World Series, having been with the Cardinals when they won the championship in 2011. He's watching how the Cubs adjust.

"It's something that changes your life forever," Jay said on Monday. "But you see guys here who are hungry. I see what I saw from winning teams before. They're not complacent. They're getting after it and working out, and that's what you want to see."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs eye another ring as Spring Training arrives

Cubs eye another ring as Spring Training arrives

With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Cubs squad each day this week. Today's topic: Spring Training is here.

MESA, Ariz. -- The hometown parades, the trips to Disney World, and the late-night television appearances are over. The next mission for the Cubs is to try and repeat as World Series champions, and they'll get to work this week.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

How will the 25-man roster shape up?

How will the 25-man roster shape up?

With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Cubs squad each day this week. Today's topic: Predicting the 25-man roster.

MESA, Ariz. -- The defending World Series champion Cubs don't have any major roster decisions to make this spring, other than to figure out who will lead off and which relievers compose the bullpen.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.