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Castillo, Soler lead Cubs offense in win over Crew

Rookie right fielder smacks two doubles, scores run in Wrigley debut

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CHICAGO -- Jorge Soler was the only player who could out-shine the Jackie Robinson West Little Leaguers on Monday at Wrigley Field, and he did in his home debut.

Soler hit two doubles, including one in his first at-bat, and scored on an RBI single by Welington Castillo, who added a two-run home run, to lift the Cubs to a 4-2 win over the Brewers, who are fighting for a postseason berth.

With the loss, Milwaukee, which may have been a little jet lagged after a series in San Francisco, dropped one game behind first-place St. Louis in the Central Division. The Cardinals beat the Pirates, 5-4, on Monday.

"They always play us tough, so regardless of where we are, they play us good," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said of the Cubs. "I always am concerned about a team that's talented and is free because they don't have any pressure on them right now. All they're doing is having fun and trying to knock off a lot of teams. That's not a good combination for us."

Monday was a day the Jackie Robinson West Little League team won't forget. The Chicago squad, which won the U.S. championship in Williamsport, Pa., was celebrated at Wrigley Field, and sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch on the field in front of 32,054 fans.

But Soler was the star for the Cubs. In his first at-bat at Wrigley Field in the second inning, he smacked an opposite-field double and then scored on Castillo's bloop single to left.

Soler now has an extra-base hit in each of his first five games, and is the third player to do so in Major League history, joining Will Middlebrooks (2012) and Enos Slaughter (1938). Soler, 22, who signed a nine-year, $30 million contract in June 2012, also doubled to lead off the sixth and reached third on the play on an error by center fielder Gerardo Parra.

"He's an amazing player," said Luis Valbuena, who added a solo homer in the Chicago eighth. "Give him more games and you'll see what happens."

"For a guy who just got called up, it seems like he has a good approach at the plate," said Cubs starting pitcher Jacob Turner. "That's what I've been most impressed with. Obviously, he has a lot of power, but I think that approach at the plate will be the biggest key for the future."

Cubs fans' hearts must have skipped a beat when Castillo lined a ball foul down the left-field line in the sixth and it struck Soler, who was at third base. Fortunately, it hit the 6-foot-4 outfielder in the thick part of his right thigh.

"It stings -- any time you get hit with a ball that's coming 110 mph, I'm sure [it hurt]," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said.

In five games, Soler is 10-for-19 (.526) with four doubles and three home runs.

"He's got bat lag -- he stays inside of pitches really, really well, and then he stays through it and really gets extension," Renteria said. "He's what you call short to the ball and long through it."

Soler finishes his swing well, and because of his size, he creates a lot of force. It's a good combination. And it's not as easy as the 22-year-old is making it look.

"It's not easy," Soler said through coach Jose Flores.

Castillo connected in the fourth off Jimmy Nelson, driving in Starlin Castro, who had doubled. Valbuena's homer was his 16th of the season and fourth in his last seven games.

Turner picked up the win in his first career start at Wrigley Field, giving up one run on five hits over 6 1/3 innings. It was the right-hander's longest outing of the season since May 24 when he threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings for the Marlins against the Brewers in Miami.

"It's definitely a step in the right direction," Turner said of the outing. "I'm just happy I've been able to build on some of the stuff that me and [pitching coach Chris Bosio] have been working on. I made the pitches when I needed to when guys got on base, especially in the first inning. Getting through that catapulted me through the rest of the game."

What did Bosio tell him?

"A lot of it is just game calling and being smarter on the mound, and really using what makes me successful in the right way," Turner said.

The only run off the right-hander came with one out in the seventh when Khris Davis homered. The Cubs, in their never-ending quest for more pitching, acquired Turner from the Marlins for two Minor League players.

"Everybody has to understand the situation he went through," Renteria said of Turner, the Tigers' first-round pick in 2009, who made his big league debut in July 2011. "He was on the roster immediately, he was moved through the system. Rushing guys to the big leagues because everybody is excited about what they bring to the table isn't necessarily the right thing to do. Some kids are ready for it, some kids are not."

Soler looks ready.


Cubs welcome Jackie Robinson West to Wrigley

Champion Little Leaguers visit with players, check out clubhouse and take the field

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CHICAGO -- The Cubs celebrate Jackie Robinson Day in April with the rest of Major League Baseball, but Monday was Jackie Robinson West Day as the team saluted the Chicago-based U.S. champion Little League team.

Cubs players and coaches wore adult-sized versions of the Jackie Robinson West yellow camouflage-style jerseys during batting practice, all emblazoned with "West" on the front and the No. 42, which was Robinson's number.

"This jersey feels really good, to be honest," Cubs pitcher Wesley Wright said. "When I saw it, it made me feel like we are tied in with them, even though we're not blood related or family. We feel like we're a part of what they went through. We watched a lot of their games. I know most of the kids are White Sox fans, but they have a lot of support in the city from all over."

The Cubs may have won some of the players over by letting them into the clubhouse. Catcher John Baker first showed the players a video of the Cubs watching one of their games, then escorted the squad in. Players gave them bats, sunflower seeds, batting gloves, and more.

"They were picking up bats and players were giving them batting gloves and bats and I think a few of them got shoes and gloves," JRW coach Darold Butler said. "It's like an early Christmas. They're having a ball."

"They were surprised we were paying attention [to their games]," Baker said. "It was perfect."

Wright and fellow Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson were some of the Major Leaguers who made donations so the Little League players' families could travel to Williamsport, Pa., to watch the Little League World Series. The Jackie Robinson West team beat Nevada for the U.S. title, but lost to South Korea in the world championship game.

On Monday, they were champions at Wrigley Field.

"Whether you play baseball or not, these kids can be role models for their peers," Wright said. "They've shown incredible maturity for their age group. I've been really impressed with that."

Prior to the start of the game, the players and coaching staff paraded around the field on the warning track and gave high fives to fans and players who were warming up. All of the kids were wearing Cubs jerseys with their names on the back. They stood with the Cubs players during the national anthem, and led the crowd in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch.

"If the enthusiasm that those young men of Jackie Robinson West can be equaled by the young men in our clubhouse, we've got a good shot [at winning a World Series]," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "But I think we have a good shot because the talent pool is significantly better for us."

The Chicago Little League team has been an inspiration.

"I think these kids have earned this day and I'm glad we can be part of helping them celebrate what they worked so hard to accomplish," Wright said. "I hope they take it in what this really all means. A lot of kids like myself never got to be in a big league clubhouse and be on a big league field and be around big league players. I hope they soak this in and use it as motivation to keep going. One day, they might be on the other end of this."

The Cubs are doing their part to help the Little League program. The JRW jerseys and caps that the Cubs players and coaches wore during batting practice, along with two jerseys signed by the entire Little League team, will be up for auction through Cubs Charities at www.cubs.com/auction. Bids for jerseys will start at $100 and hats will start at $45. All proceeds will benefit Jackie Robinson West Little League.

Wright said many of the kids, who are from the South Side of Chicago, have seen plenty of negative headlines regarding African-American youth.

"For them, and other young people, to see that doing positive things and working hard and staying disciplined can be rewarded as well, and you can be known for doing good things as well, is important," Wright said. "I think these kids will realize in a couple years what an inspiration they were to a lot of people. It's our job to bring the spotlight to that type of thing."

Interest in the Jackie Robinson West program has increased since the Little League World Series ended. But Wright said African-American kids also are interested in basketball and football, and baseball needs to be more proactive.

"I think it'll take more than one team," Wright said about improving the number of African-American players. "It has to be a situation where, throughout the U.S., people start playing the game at a young age and stick with the game. I think a lot of kids play, and then get pulled away for different reasons. If you can keep kids playing from middle school to high school, it gives the game a chance to grow all over. The game is regionalized now, and most superstars come from a certain part of the country. This team is definitely a start."

Wright said the first time he was on a Major League field was after he was drafted in 2003. He went with some other Minor League players to Miami to see the Dodgers play the Marlins.

"[The JRW kids] are way ahead of us," Wright said. "Hopefully, they'll be better players than we are."

Butler said he doesn't think it's kicked in as to what impact the kids had.

"The things they accomplished, I don't think they'll truly understand [what they did]," Butler said.

However, it's back to reality on Tuesday. That's when school starts.

"I heard them talking, and they weren't talking too favorably about going back to school," Butler said of his players. "It is what it is. They're great students and they'll get back to it."

Just as they did in the Little League World Series.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Soler makes highly anticipated Wrigley debut

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CHICAGO -- Ever since Jorge Soler signed his contract with the Cubs in June 2012, he's been waiting to play at Wrigley Field. It finally happened Monday.

The 22-year-old outfielder, promoted from Triple-A Iowa on Aug. 27, went 2-for-4 with two doubles on Monday in the Cubs' 4-2 win over the Brewers.

"I got a big ovation -- I felt really good, I felt right at home," Soler said through coach/interpreter Jose Flores.

He's made quite a first impression. In his first five games, he's 10-for-19. Soler is the first player ever with an extra-base hit and at least one RBI in his first four games and didn't get an RBI Monday to extend that streak.

However, with his second-inning double, he became just the third player ever with an extra-base hit in his first five big league games. Boston's Will Middlebrooks was the last to do so in 2012, and Soler is the first National League player since Enos Slaughter (1938).

"I'm just excited for him," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said before Monday's game. "He's done a nice job since he's been here and impacted us in a positive way. It'll be exciting for the fans here in Chicago to see him and put their eyes on him."

Soler did not start Sunday against the Cardinals, part of the Cubs' precautionary approach to the outfielder, who has dealt with leg injuries the last two seasons. In the Minor Leagues this season, Soler would play four, five days in a row, and then rest.

"Physically, he's fine and it's just a matter of making sure we continue to graduate him in terms of his playing time," Renteria said. "We're not concerned about it for the long haul."

For Soler, Monday was a chance to find his way around the Cubs clubhouse and get settled into his new home ballpark.

"Since I signed, I've been waiting for this moment," said Soler, who signed a nine-year, $30 million contract in 2012.

In the Minors, Soler was in the same lineup as the Cubs' other top prospects, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, at Iowa. How good can those three be? Soler smiled.

"It'll probably be a little dangerous," he said.

{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] }

Bryant edges Gallo in Minor League home run race

Cubs top prospect belts 43 homers, one more than Texas slugger

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There is a new Minor League home run king.

Cubs' No. 1 prospect Kris Bryant edged Rangers' No. 1 prospect Joey Gallo, 43-42, in the season-long home run derby they had been waging from afar, as the Minor League's regular season came to a close Monday.

Bryant, ranked No. 3 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, entered Monday with a two-homer lead on Gallo, who led the Minors with 40 home runs in 2013. Bryant went 1-for-4 with three runs, but no homers in Triple-A Iowa's 11-1 victory Monday afternoon. That left Gallo needing his sixth multi-homer game of the season when Double-A Frisco played a few hours later to catch Bryant.

Gallo, ranked No. 8 on the Top 100, got a good start, homering in the first inning for the RoughRiders. But he walked, hit a sacrifice fly and struck out in his final three plate appearances, leaving him one behind Bryant on the leaderboard.

Bryant's 43 home runs are the most hit by a Minor Leaguer since Brandon Wood hit that many in 2005. He is the first Cubs' farmhand to lead the Minor Leagues in home runs since Bryan LaHair did so with 38 in 2011.

The Cubs selected Bryant with the second overall pick of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. He split his first full professional season between Double-A Tennessee and Iowa. In 138 games at the two levels, he hit .325/.438/.661 with 110 RBIs and 118 runs. He also stole 15 bases.

Gallo was the 39th overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He hit 40 home runs as a 19-year old in 2013, becoming the first teenager in 52 years to hit at least 40 home runs. This year, he split his season between Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach and Frisco. In 126 games at the two levels, he hit .271/.394/.615 with 106 RBIs and 97 runs.

Bryant's season is now over after Iowa finished in second place in the Pacific Coast League American Northern Division. Gallo will begin the postseason Wednesday, when Frisco begins the Texas League playoffs against Midland.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Cubs recall Parker, plan to call up six others

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CHICAGO -- The Cubs recalled right-handed pitcher Blake Parker from Triple-A Iowa, and will add about six more players once the Minor League team's regular season ends on Monday.

Iowa did not make the playoffs, and plays its final regular-season game on Monday against Oklahoma City.

Parker has been called up every month except June this season. In 10 games, he has given up nine earned runs on 14 hits and four walks over 13 1/3 innings.

Manager Rick Renteria would not say who specifically will be added on Tuesday.


Arrieta looks to extend Brewers' losing streak

Crew hopes Gallardo can end skid vs. Cubs ace Arrieta at Wrigley Field

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In contest between a division leader and a last-place club on Monday, the the fifth-place club came out ahead, as the Cubs defeated the then-first-place Brewers.

Chicago will look to continue to play spoiler on Tuesday in the second of three games against Milwaukee when they send Jake Arrieta to the hill against Yovani Gallardo.

The Cubs' schedule going forward will give them many opportunities to alter other teams' playoff hopes, as they play the Brewers, Pirates, Cardinals and Dodgers this month, all of which are looking for a spot in the playoffs.

The Brewers, on the other hand, are just looking to hold on to their spot.

Milwaukee has had at least a share of first place in the National League Central every day since April 5, but after the Cardinals defeated the Pirates and the Cubs held on to win, the Brewers fell out of first.

The Brewers hope Gallardo can be the stopper they need. Over his last four starts, Gallardo boasts a 1.73 ERA. In his last start on Sunday against the Padres he tossed six shutout innings, but ended up with a no-decision in the 3-2 loss.

In the meantime, the Cubs are using this last month get a look at their future, giving Major League opportunities to players like Javier Baez and Jorge Soler.

"You're competing against them and getting your eyes on the club and seeing how they're performing, what is it they're doing," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "It'd be foolish for anyone to face clubs that are doing well and not take a step back and try to understand what's making them tick.

"Maybe there are things we see that we can share with them, or they see, and say, 'Hey, this guy did that pretty good' or 'That was a pretty good at-bat.' You're always learning. It's good to see it. ... Ultimately, how we take this challenge for the next month will be really important and we can get a lot of knowledge from it."

While the young players are getting the most attention, Arrieta is putting together an impressive year in his fifth big league season. The right-hander is 7-5 with a 2.88 ERA in his second season with the Cubs. While he struggled in his last outing against the Reds, he looked strong when he faced the Brewers on Aug. 11. He gave up two earned runs over 7 1/3 frames in the tough-luck loss.

Cubs: Rizzo sits again
First baseman Anthony Rizzo missed Monday's game, sitting out his sixth straight day due to lower back tightness.

Rizzo left the Cubs' game against the Reds on Aug. 25 after a rain delay and hasn't played since.

"He's still day to day, he's still a little stiff," Renteria said on Monday. "If it doesn't clear up, maybe we'll get an MRI to make sure everything's OK.

"He's doing fine. We're just limiting him to make sure once he gets back on the field he doesn't have a setback."

Rizzo, who was named to his first All-Star Game in July, leads the team in home runs (30) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.889).

Brewers: Gomez out with wrist injury
Outfielder Carlos Gomez was out of the Brewers' lineup on Monday after he left Sunday's game against the Giants with a left wrist injury.

Although manager Ron Roenicke said X-rays of Gomez's wrist were negative, he added that Gomez would likely also have his wrist looked at in an MRI.

I'm encouraged today," Roenicke said. "You would think if it was really bad, it'd be worse today than it was yesterday."

However, Roenicke indicated that Gomez would miss more than one game.

"Hand or wrist is not good for him," Roenicke said. "There's no easing back on swings, and the way he plays, his whole game depends on him being physically close to 100 percent."

Worth noting
• With rosters expanding and Triple-A Iowa's season ending on Monday, the Cubs plan to call up six players to join the team, though Renteria did not reveal who those players would be.

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Rizzo sits with back tightness, may undergo MRI

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CHICAGO -- Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo did not start for a sixth consecutive day because of lower back tightness and may undergo an MRI to determine the extent of the problem.

Rizzo came out of last Tuesday's game in Cincinnati after his back tightened during a 50-minute rain delay. He has not started any of the Cubs' next seven games, including either game of a doubleheader on Saturday in St. Louis.

"He's still day to day, he's still a little stiff," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Monday. "If it doesn't clear up, maybe we'll get an MRI to make sure everything's OK.

"He's doing fine," Renteria said. "We're just limiting him to make sure once he gets back on the field he doesn't have a setback."

Rizzo, who leads the Cubs with 30 home runs and 71 RBIs, was not available to pinch-hit Monday, Renteria said.

{"content":["injury" ] }

Cubs finish strong August with tough loss

Chicago posts five-run fifth inning, but Wood, Villanueva can't hold on

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ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs got a valuable lesson on Sunday. Carlos Villanueva knows that.

Matt Holliday hit a solo homer, an RBI double and a two-run tie-breaking single in the eighth to lead the Cardinals to a 9-6 come-from-behind victory over the Cubs, who blew a five-run lead.

With the game tied at 6 in the St. Louis eighth, Pete Kozma led off with a double and advanced on Daniel Descalso's bunt single that Villanueva fielded, but couldn't throw to first in time. One out later, Matt Carpenter was intentionally walked to load the bases, and one out later, Holliday lined a single that deflected off the pitcher's mound and into left field. Jhonny Peralta added an RBI single.

"He's a good hitter," Villanueva said of Holliday. "He did what he's supposed to do and drove in some big runs for them."

Cubs manager Rick Renteria considered all of his options in the eighth.

"I'm going to take my chance and get a ground ball, double play with [Randal] Grichuk if I can," Renteria said of the batter who followed Carpenter. "If [Villanueva] strikes him out, he has Holliday in a two-strike mode. [Villanueva] can just as easily pop him up with something soft out in front as much as anything.

"You can pick your poison," Renteria said. "Carpenter is a pretty good hitter, too. We let [Villanueva] face [Matt] Adams, and he got the strikeout of Adams. We put ourselves in a position where Carpenter is swinging the bat good. I know Holliday is coming there. Pick your poison."

Luis Valbuena had three hits and was a triple shy of the cycle, and Arismendy Alcantara added a solo home run for the Cubs, who did finish August with a 16-14 record, their first .500 or better record this calendar month since going 16-13 in August 2011. The last time the Cubs won 17 games in August was 2008 (20-8).

But that wasn't enough to make the Cubs players feel any better.

"There's nothing positive about losing," Villanueva said. "I know what needs to be addressed has already been addressed. We take nothing from this -- we take a loss. We're not happy about it. That's up to us to do something about it.

"Our goal down the stretch is to break as many hearts as possible," Villanueva said. "We play a lot of teams that are in contention now, and that's how we'll learn to win those games. We have a month left and we'll see how we do."

What needed to be addressed were some costly defensive lapses. With one out in the St. Louis fifth inning, center fielder Alcantara couldn't get his glove on Carpenter's fly ball, which resulted in an RBI double. Carpenter then scored one batter later on Holliday's RBI double to pull within 5-4.

Second baseman Javier Baez wasn't able to get a glove on Yadier Molina's ball with two outs in the seventh, and another run scored to tie the game at 6. Both Alcantara and Baez are rookies and both are new at their positions.

"Those are all tremendously helpful, useful experiences that they'll be able to use," Renteria said. "We did everything we could to contain everything. Hey, today, they won out."

The Cubs opened a 5-0 lead in the second. Chris Valaika walked and John Baker singled, and Travis Wood then bunted toward John Lackey, who fielded the ball cleanly, but overthrew first for an error. Valaika scored on the play, and Chris Coghlan followed with a two-run single. Baez grounded into a double play, but Starlin Castro singled and Valbuena followed with his home run.

Valbuena now has 15 homers and 46 RBIs, topping his previous career highs in home runs and RBIs, set last year when he hit 12 and drove in 37 in 108 games. He's also played in a personal-best 126 games this season.

But Holliday, who hit two homers Saturday night, belted his 16th with one out in the fourth off Wood, and Kolten Wong smacked his 10th leading off the fifth to close the score to 5-2.

"I love when guys do what they have always done when people seem to forget year after year," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Holliday. "He is an elite player, and he continues to figure out ways to get it done no matter what. It was a big day. We needed that again from him. He's leading us."

The Cardinals' win coupled with the Brewers' loss to the Giants on Sunday put St. Louis and Milwaukee in a tie for first in the NL Central. It's a division in which Renteria hopes the Cubs will be contending soon.

"That's the beauty of the Central Division," Renteria said. "You've got some clubs that are battling. I'll still take my club against their club any day, and we'll keep battling."


Yadi, Hinske peacemakers in misunderstanding

Cards' catcher, Cubs' first-base coach calm tension between Lackey, Castro

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ST. LOUIS -- John Lackey understands Spanish well enough to know what Starlin Castro was saying, but didn't grasp that the Cubs' shortstop was mad at himself, not at the Cardinals pitcher.

Castro was upset after he flew out to center to end the fourth inning Sunday, and he yelled something in Spanish. Lackey took exception to what was said, and Cubs first-base coach Eric Hinske and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina had to be peacemakers.

Castro and Lackey exchanged words near first base, with Hinske and Molina both stepping in. At the end of the Cubs fifth, Hinske and Lackey had an exchange again as the coach was trotting back to the visitor's dugout.

Lackey wouldn't comment on what happened. Castro was still trying to figure it out.

"When I missed a pitch, I said something to myself in Spanish," Castro said. "[Lackey] said something, but I didn't really hear what he said. I come back, and Molina told me, 'Don't worry about it, stay away. It's nothing.'

"Everybody has different emotions, everybody doesn't have the same emotion," Castro said. "If you miss a pitch, if you miss location, you get mad, too. If you miss a pitch, everybody gets mad. I didn't say anything to him. I don't understand. I didn't [mean to] offend him."

Castro could've been upset at Lackey, who had hit the shortstop on the shoulder with a pitch in the first inning. But he wasn't.

"I said something in Spanish about me, not to [Lackey]," Castro said. "I didn't really hear what he said."

Was Castro surprised that Lackey confronted him?

"Yeah, I was surprised -- that never happened to me," Castro said. "Yadi told me, 'Don't worry, it's nothing.'"

Cubs manager Rick Renteria said he wasn't sure what was going on. Hinske was in the middle of it.

"[Castro] apparently said something that John didn't like, and John said something to me," Hinske said. "I asked him, 'What are you talking about?' because I didn't know what he was talking about. [Castro] is competing. Yadi came over and said, 'Just chill out,' and I said, 'I don't know what [Lackey] is talking about.'"

Lackey continued his conversation with Hinske after the fifth.

"The next inning, [Lackey] came over and explained what he had a problem with, and I told him, 'OK, let's chill out and relax,'" Hinske said.

Hinske didn't want to reveal any more details. This is his first year as a Major League coach after 12 years as a player. So, he's a peacemaker now, too?

"Yeah, I'm a coach now," Hinske said.

When asked if he'd explain what happened, Lackey's only comment was: "No."

"They were just talking," said Cardinals ‎manager Mike Matheny.

Did they get it sorted out?

"They must have, yeah," Matheny said. "I think Lackey initiated that conversation and Yadi helped summarize."

The Cubs lost Sunday's game, 9-6, and split the four-game series against the Cardinals, but gained a lot of experience.

"It was good for them to play a game like that," Hinske said. "You never want to lose that game, but that was playoff atmosphere right there. Getting that experience under their belt, knowing what it was like to feel that, and all that intensity [will help].

"When you're up with two outs in the top of the ninth and guys on second and third and you're in front of 50,000 people, you can't duplicate that," Hinske said. "It's really good for all these young guys to see. It was an emotional game. It was fun. The only bad part is losing. Hopefully, we keep on continuing to work and get on the right side of those games."

This is just another chapter in the Cubs and Cardinals rivalry.

"It's emotional," Castro said. "That's a team fighting to make the playoffs, and we don't make the playoffs this year. They're mad when we win, when we beat those guys. We're baseball players, too, and we have a good team, and we try to play hard every day."

The teams meet again Sept. 22-24 at Wrigley Field.

{"content":["injury" ] }

Cubs hoping Rizzo can return for start of homestand

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ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs hope first baseman Anthony Rizzo can return to the lineup Monday after missing five days because of tightness in his lower back.

Rizzo has not played since he was pulled from last Tuesday's game in Cincinnati when his back tightened up during a rain delay.

"He's still day to day," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Sunday. "He came in [Saturday] and wanted to play. We have to make sure we're prudent and playing this smart. We'll give him another day and when we get back, we'll see how he's doing."

The Cubs open a six-game homestand Monday against the National League Central-leading Brewers at Wrigley Field.

{"content":["injury" ] }

Turner appreciates Matheny's help through career

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ST. LOUIS -- Jacob Turner had hoped to say hello to Cardinals manager Mike Matheny during the Cubs' weekend series, but didn't connect until an awkward moment on Friday. Turner was leaving Busch Stadium at the same time as Matheny, a few hours after the Cubs beat the Cardinals, 7-2.

"He's been a help for me throughout my career," Turner said Sunday of Matheny. "I knew him before he was the Cardinals manager. I think he's done a great job with them and has helped me, especially when I first got drafted, on what to expect from professional baseball."

Turner grew up in St. Charles, Mo., and went to the same high school, Westminster Christian Academy, as Matheny's son, Tate. Turner was a senior when Tate was a freshman.

"He helped me out on what to expect," said Turner, who was the Tigers' first-round pick in 2009. "Everybody sees the big leagues and all the glamour, but there's a lot before that. He definitely helped me out in terms of that.

"He has a lot of knowledge, and being a catcher, he can tell you a lot of things that can help as a pitcher," Turner said. "He's been more of a friend than anything else. We stay in touch in the offseason when we have more time."

On Monday, Turner will make his first start ever at Wrigley Field when the Cubs open a three-game series against the Brewers. He's 1-1 with a 2.18 ERA in four career games (three starts) against Milwaukee.

"I haven't started there as a visiting player, so I'm definitely excited," Turner said. "I'm looking to build on some of the things that me and [pitching coach Chris Bosio] have been working on."


Homers hurt Cubs in nightcap vs. Cards

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ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs belted seven home runs in the first two games of their weekend series against the Cardinals, who needed two on Saturday night, both from Matt Holliday, for the win.

Holliday smacked a three-run homer in the fifth inning, his first this season with runners in scoring position, and added a leadoff blast in the eighth to power the Cardinals to a lopsided 13-2 victory and a split of the day-night doubleheader.

The 13 runs -- nine of which came in the eighth inning off Cubs relievers -- were a season high for the Cardinals.

Chicago belted four home runs in the first game to back Felix Doubront and win, 5-1.

Left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada took the loss in the nightcap, ending a personal three-game win streak. He gave up four runs -- three earned -- on five hits over six innings.

"I thought [Wada] kept us in the ballgame," manager Rick Renteria said. "It wasn't a badly played game -- it just got away from us at the end."

Wada held opponents to two runs or fewer in each of his last six starts before Saturday's game.

"These are the games that count, and I think the home run [by Holliday] changed the flow of the game," Wada said. "It was not a very good game for me. Next time out I have to have games that I won't regret and have a different result."

The Cubs scored first, in the first. They had runners at first and third with one out against Marco Gonzales when Jorge Soler lined an RBI double to left. Per Elias, Soler is the first player since the RBI became an official stat in 1920 with an extra-base hit and an RBI in each of his first four big league games.

But the Cardinals tied the score in their half. Wada walked two batters with one out, and Matt Adams hit a grounder to second baseman Javier Baez, who threw to Starlin Castro for the force at second. Castro's throw to first pulled Chris Valaika off the bag, and a runner scored on the error.

Daniel Descalso singled to lead off the St. Louis fifth, and one out later, Matt Carpenter walked. Pitching coach Chris Bosio had a chat with Wada, who got Kolten Wong to pop up to third baseman Luis Valbuena, but Holliday followed with his 14th home run.

"Now, when you look back, it's all about the results," Wada said of his approach to Holliday. "That's a pitch that [catcher Welington] Castillo and I communicated about, and we went with that pitch, but the result wasn't there. When the next time comes when I face him, I have to set up another game plan."

Holliday then led off the eighth with a home run off Kyuji Fujikawa, and the Cardinals didn't stop, totaling seven runs before the first out was recorded, on a sacrifice fly by Adams in his second at-bat of the inning. St. Louis finished the frame with nine runs, a season high against Chicago.

Fujikawa had only been scored upon in one of his seven relief appearances prior to this one.

"That's a rare occurrence from our bullpen," Renteria said. "We were trying to minimize pitchers so we'd have guys for [Sunday]."


Three homers back Doubront's sharp debut

Watkins, Valaika, Starlin go yard; lefty gives up one run in seven

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ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs hit back-to-back home runs in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday, and Jorge Soler and Javier Baez had nothing to do with it.

Logan Watkins hit his first Major League home run one day after his 25th birthday and Chris Valaika followed with his second this season, while Starlin Castro matched his personal high with his 14th homer to power the Cubs to a 5-1 victory over the Cardinals.

"This is a team that is really capitalizing on the home run," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of the Cubs, who have hit seven in the first two games of this four-game, three-day series. "They are productive with the hits. You look at it, we both had seven hits, but theirs did some damage and had better timing."

Watkins and Valaika connected in the fourth, marking the eighth time this season and fifth time this month the Cubs have gone back to back. Castro's blast, a towering shot to left, came with one out in the fifth to match his 2012 career high. Chicago began the day ranked third in the National League in home runs.

No team has hit more than two homers in a game at Busch Stadium this season, and the Cubs now have done so in back-to-back games. Soler hit a pair on Friday in his third big league game.

"That's a tough act to follow," said Watkins, who started in right field in place of Soler. "I guess the rest of us can streak one out every once in a while. He'll be back in there as often as possible. Any time I can get at-bats and find a spot in the lineup, I'll play wherever."

Watkins, who was the Cubs' 2012 Minor League Player of the Year, has hit 27 home runs over seven Minor League seasons, so it's not that far-fetched that he did connect. But he's not projected to hit like Soler or Baez.

"You watch the three of us take batting practice, you're probably going to enjoy them more than me," Watkins said. "I feel I bring a lot to any team I'm on. I'll play the game hard and play the game right. When you see teams that win, they have guys on the team who do that and that's who I want to be."

The only players in the Cubs' lineup who were also there when they faced the Cardinals for the first time this season back on April 11 were Castro and Luis Valbuena.

"It certainly is a different team," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "They're very talented and exciting to watch. It's kind of fun."

Felix Doubront was with the Red Sox in April. He picked up the win in his first start for the Cubs. Doubront, 26, acquired from Boston on July 30, began this season in the rotation, but missed time because of a left shoulder strain and pitched mostly in relief when he returned from the disabled list.

He had pitched at Busch Stadium before. Last year, Doubront picked up the win in Game 4 of the World Series in St. Louis after allowing one run in 2 2/3 innings of relief. Taking the mound Saturday brought back memories of the postseason.

"I was thinking about that, stepping on the mound, and feeling the way I felt in the World Series last year," Doubront said. "The first inning, second inning were shaky. The third inning, I was feeling that rhythm in the game. This is my team now, and I have to give everything 100 percent that I have and go out and win games and help the guys."

Even Doubront's wife asked him if he expected to be nervous.

"I was thinking about it -- why?" Doubront said. "I said, 'I'm going to throw the first pitch for a strike, and the butterflies and nervousness will be gone.' I didn't even feel it."

"The thing I appreciated about catching him today was that he trusted what I was putting down," Chicago's John Baker said. "There were times I put four or five changeups down in a row. He had the willingness to go with whatever.

"He played that game pitch to pitch, and I think that's what kept him efficient," Baker said. "When you have a lineup like this that swings aggressively, that's great if you can keep the ball down."

With one out in the Chicago second against Justin Masterson, Watkins singled and Valaika was hit by a pitch. One out later, Doubront walked -- the first time he's been on base in five career plate appearances -- and Chris Coghlan then singled to right. Both Watkins and Valaika scored, but Valaika was called out by home-plate umpire Alan Porter. Renteria asked for a review of Rule 7.13, and during a crew-chief review, it was determined that Valaika was safe, and the call was overturned. Coghlan was credited with a two-run single.

The Cubs are a different team, and there's a different feeling for many of the players, including Watkins, although he admits that could be because so many of the young players were his teammates at Triple-A Iowa. It helps when you hit home runs.

"I expect this to happen," Watkins said. "I've gone every level, I've worked hard, I've paid my dues. I feel I belong here. It's cool I hit a home run, but I expect to hit more. This is the first of hopefully many."


Heavy-hearted Starlin seeks to set example

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ST. LOUIS -- Starlin Castro is only 24, but he knows he's expected to be a role model for the young players recently promoted to the Cubs. It's just been difficult for him after losing a cousin and three friends in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. They're now his motivation.

Castro was on the bereavement list from Aug. 21 until last Tuesday, and the day after he returned, he made a baserunning mistake that may have been costly. He knows better.

"Everybody who comes here looks at me and looks at [Anthony] Rizzo, and we have to play hard to show those guys," Castro said on Saturday. "We're a young team. We just have to play hard. If young guys see me not playing hard, they won't do it."

That gaffe on Wednesday may have been costly in a loss to the Reds.

"It was a mistake, by myself," he said. "I don't have any excuse for this. ... When that happened, I apologized to the team. It's my fault. We're a young team, and everybody looks up to us, everybody coming here, looks at me, looks at Rizzo. They're coming here to play hard."

It seems as though whenever Castro makes a mistake, as he did again on Friday, it's magnified. Manager Rick Renteria wishes that Castro's critics saw the strides the shortstop has made.

"Since I got here, and probably since before I got here, he's been a topic of everybody's conversation," Renteria said. "Everybody was talking about how he didn't get to second base [on Wednesday] when he hit a ball off the wall. [On Friday] you saw him make a conscious effort of running out every ball; [he] hit the ball in the air, ran that ball out to second base."

The problem on Friday was that Castro tried to stretch his hit into a triple and was thrown out at third. Renteria used the incident as a teaching moment.

"I told him two things: 'That's exactly how I want you to come out of the box,'" Renteria said. "'That's exactly what I want you to do. I want you to give yourself a chance that if that ball drops, you do get to third base. But there's two components to it. The second component is, you have the play in front of you, and you don't have to be [at third].'

"He wanted to make up for other things, so he pushed himself to the extent that maybe it wasn't the right thing to do."

The Cubs want their players to be aggressive on the bases.

"[Castro's] still learning, too," Renteria said. "I'm not trying to make excuses for the young man, but I have to give him his props for starting to give the effort you're wanting to see and inadvertently put himself out there in a position where he pushed it. It ended up being a close play, but he pushed it."

Renteria hopes fans see that Castro is eager to get better and that he has made improvements.

"Here's a young man who feels bad when he doesn't do well," Renteria said. "He takes it to heart. I know people may not necessarily believe it, but he does.

"We'll continue to take our approach with all our players and keep trying to teach,. Ultimately, the player has to get it. The game is about them. They're the ones who will get the boos and the cheers or the jeers. I happen to be the one in [the manager's] chair now having to deal with all these young men, and I'll continue to do it the way I believe I should do it, which is hopefully get the most out of them."

Rizzo feels that September will be a key month for the Cubs as they prepare for the 2015 season.

"The better we do now, the better we go into the offseason, the better we go into Spring Training, and everyone else feels it," Rizzo said on Saturday. "[Javier Baez and Jorge Soler] are guys teams haven't seen before. Our division is really good, and now it's going to be a lot better because the Cubs will be a factor now."

Castro feels the same.

"We have to show those guys we're ready," Castro said. "We have to show the other teams in our division that we play hard, hustle. We have to show those guys they have to be careful next year, because we're coming. We're coming. We're coming to play hard, we're coming to compete."

Castro is also passing along advice to younger players that he received from veteran Alfonso Soriano.

"We're trying to win," Castro said of the Cubs. "[I tell them], 'Whatever you did in the Minor Leagues, now you're in the big leagues. Don't think about money, don't think about anything. You're here. No matter what, they have to pay you.' Sometimes young guys look at you and all they think about is money. If you show that you don't care about the money, the money is going to be there, no matter what. You have to try to play hard and try to win. That's the only reason [to play] -- win."

In the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday, a 5-1 win over the Cardinals, Castro hit his 14th home run, matching his career single-season high, set in 2012. He expects to hit a couple more before the regular season ends. He's feeling good at the plate.

But he has a heavy heart.

"It was a really tough moment for me," Castro said of the fatal car accident on Aug. 20. "I lost one of my best friends, one cousin and two more guys from the same neighborhood. Every time I talked with those guys who died, they always tell me, 'We feel good to see you do your job.'

"When they were alive, they said, 'Keep playing good, we're happy.' That's what I have [to keep] in my mind. I can't do anything to bring them back. The only guy who knows why [they died] is God, and He does things for a reason. It's tough. You try to be strong. Every day I pray to God to be strong, because it's really tough. Coming here every day, I'm going to try to make those guys happy."

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Cubs following plan to be careful with Soler

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ST. LOUIS -- Jorge Soler did not start the first game of the Cubs' doubleheader against the Cardinals, part of the team's plan to be careful with the outfielder, who was bothered earlier this season by leg injuries.

Soler began the season with Double-A Tennessee, but suffered a left leg injury after his first game April 3. He went on the disabled list and returned in May, but needed to go on the DL again for a right leg issue. After rehabbing in Mesa, he rejoined the Smokies in July, and batted .463 in 15 games before he was promoted to Triple-A. In nine games in July with Iowa, he hit .304, and is batting .271 this month entering Saturday.

On Friday, Soler recorded his first multi-homer game, hitting a pair in just his third big league contest.

{"event":["prospect" ] }
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Rizzo resting through weekend with back issue

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ST. LOUIS -- Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is not expected to play this weekend against the Cardinals because of lingering tightness in his lower back.

The Cubs had a day-night doubleheader Saturday and a day game Sunday in St. Louis. Rizzo has not played since he was pulled from Tuesday's game in Cincinnati. His back tightned up that day during a 50-minute rain delay.

"I'm going to shut it down for today and tomorrow, too," Rizzo said Saturday. "I hit, I ran. Hitting felt all right. I took two rounds, let it calm down, hit again. Then I ran for the ultimate [test]. Jogging [is a problem].

"It felt a lot better today than yesterday, so I think if we let it rest, it'll be OK," he said. "I don't want to come back and then miss the rest of the season if I'm really bad. I can wait a couple days to play the rest of the season."

So far, the diagnosis is nothing more than lower back tightness.

"I just locked up," he said.

Rizzo has had minor back problems before, but never for this long. Could he return for the Cubs' home game Monday against the Brewers?

"It's day to day," Rizzo said. "I'll be out today and tomorrow. If I wake up [Sunday], we'll re-evaluate. But as far as baseball stuff, we'll be done until Monday."

Rizzo has yet to be in the same lineup as top prospect Jorge Soler, who hit two home runs Friday in the Cubs' 7-2 win.

"This is an important month," Rizzo said. "The better we do now, the better we go into the offseason, the better we go into Spring Training, and everyone else feels it."

{"content":["injury" ] }
{"content":["injury" ] }
{"content":["replay" ] }

Overturned call gives Cubs run vs. Cards

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ST. LOUIS -- Umpires reviewed a potential violation of Rule 7.13, which resulted in the Cubs getting a run in the first game of a twin bill against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Saturday. Chicago won the game, 5-1.

With two outs and the bases loaded in the Chicago second, Chris Coghlan singled to right off St. Louis' Justin Masterson. Logan Watkins scored. Then Chris Valaika slid home, and he was originally called out by home-plate umpire Alan Porter.

Manager Rick Renteria left the dugout to speak with umpires, who initiated a crew-chief review to determine whether Cardinals catcher A.J. Pierzynski was improperly positioned and had violated Rule 7.13. Pierzynski had given the runner a lane to the base, but the New York review crew did see that Valaika had avoided the tag, and he was ruled safe to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead.

"When you ask for a 7.13 [review], as [the replay crew is] watching to make sure [the rule] hasn't been violated, they can correct a call if need be," Renteria said.

{"content":["replay" ] }

Soler homers twice as Cubs thump Cardinals

Baez adds two RBIs, Alcantara goes deep in rookie showcase

Soler homers twice as Cubs thump Cardinals play video for Soler homers twice as Cubs thump Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs future looked bright Friday night.

Jorge Soler belted two home runs and Javier Baez smacked a tiebreaking two-run double to power the Cubs to a 7-2 victory Friday night and wake up the Cardinals.

"They have some studs," St. Louis starter Shelby Miller said of the revamped Chicago lineup. "They've done a good job of rebuilding that offense. They're tough, man. They have a lot of power in that lineup, and even have guys who are a little scrappy and can run. They're definitely a tough lineup to face."

And the Cubs are missing two of the so-called "core four:" Kris Bryant and Albert Almora are at Triple-A Iowa and Double-A Tennessee, respectively.

"We're just waiting for Bryant now," Baez said. "Hopefully, he'll keep working and he'll be here soon."

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer repeated for the umteenth time Friday that Bryant, who has 43 home runs this season, will not be called up. Would Baez like to see Bryant with the rest of the young Cubs?

"For sure," he said.

For now, he and Cubs Nation will have to be patient.

Playing just his third big league game, Soler led off the seventh inning with his second career home run to tie the game, and he added a two-run, 442-foot shot in the eighth that landed on the concourse behind the left-field bleachers at Busch Stadium.

Soler is the second Cubs player in history with a multi-homer effort in his first three career games; the first was Baez, who did so on Aug. 7 against the Rockies. It's now the 24th time it's happened in MLB history (Baez was No. 23). The last player to do so who wasn't a Cubs rookie was the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig, who hit two homers in his second game.

"I'm always looking for a fastball, and they threw me a fastball in those at-bats and I took advantage," said Soler, who connected on the first pitch in both at-bats.

"Soler got me pretty good," said Cardinals pitcher Pat Neshek, who served up the second one. "Especially for a right-handed guy, I haven't seen too many guys hit a ball like that off me. That was a no-doubter. At first, I thought it might be going foul because it was such a hack. It was impressive."

Baez delivered his double with two on and nobody out in the eighth, lining a 2-2 pitch from Neshek into the gap in left-center. Neshek served up four runs in two-thirds of an inning. He had given up five runs over 55 1/3 innings this season.

"I think that's my greatest at-bat since I came up," Baez said. "Hopefully I keep doing it to get better."

Baez said he saw something on video that helped him slow down and let the ball go deeper. It worked.

"They have a couple guys coming up who are not getting cheated," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Baez and Soler. "They're getting their swings in, and they have the power to go along with it. It just makes our job more interesting [Saturday] to try and find the holes."

Kyle Hendricks was vying to become the first Cubs rookie pitcher to win five games in August, but instead did not get a decision. He did post his fifth quality start in six outings this month, and closed the month 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA.

Hendricks had to work against the Cardinals, who took a 2-0 lead in the first on RBI singles by Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta. Hendricks needed 26 pitches that inning, and then settled into a groove where he retired 16 of the next 17 batters he faced.

"There are some innings, you go out there and make pitches and give up runs, and you can live with that," Hendricks said. "The first inning, I wasn't throwing any pitches with conviction."

He talked to Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio after the first, and, with a better mindset, went to work.

"It's not just picking the right pitch in the right situation, it's picking a pitch and throwing it to the glove," he said. "The first inning I really wasn't doing that and was just lobbing it over."

Luis Valbuena hit a solo home run in the second and rookie Arismendy Alcantara added a solo shot in the ninth. The Cubs now have 34 home runs this month, most in the National League.

The Cubs still have to face the Brewers, Pirates, Blue Jays, Reds and Dodgers.

"We have a really tough schedule the rest of the way," Hoyer said. "I like it because watching our young guys play against callups from other teams or Triple-A guys, we wouldn't feel we were learning anything. Now we'll watch these guys almost every series against a contender and against teams going full bore. It's going to be a full learning experience for the young guys.

"When this thing ends on Sept. 28, they're going to know what they need to work on this winter." 

And so will the other teams.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Bryant will not join Cubs when rosters expand

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ST. LOUIS -- Cubs fans eager to see Kris Bryant in the same lineup as Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro will have to wait.

General manager Jed Hoyer repeated Friday that Bryant, No. 1 on MLB.com's Top 20 Cubs prospects list, will finish his season at Triple-A Iowa and not be one of the players added when big league rosters expand on Monday.

Hoyer would not say which players will be added. Iowa has four regular-season games remaining and has a chance to make the playoffs.

Bryant, 22, batted .355 with 22 home runs and 20 doubles at Double-A Tennessee, and was batting .300 with 21 homers and 14 doubles in 66 games at Iowa entering Friday. The second player taken overall in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, Bryant is not on the Cubs' 40-man roster.

"He's not on the roster, so right away [if he was called up] that would knock off another player off the roster," Hoyer said Friday. "We're going to be really tight with the roster, and we know that. We feel in his first full season, he's going to get 140 plus games, he's played exceptionally well -- nothing has changed on that front [as far as calling him up]."

The fact that Bryant has done so well in his first year of professional baseball has made Cubs fans giddy about the prospect of seeing the third baseman at Wrigley Field.

"The most impressive thing about his season has been the consistency," Hoyer said. "The slumps have been really quick. He deserves a lot of credit for being able to make adjustments quickly. I think he's very level-headed as a person. He doesn't get too down.

"We've never wavered on [the decision to leave him in the Minors]. We feel it's the right thing for him -- first full season, not on the roster -- and we'll enjoy the guys we have up here now."

Are the Cubs hesitating to avoid starting the clock on Bryant's service time? Hoyer said that wasn't a factor.

"That's not the reason or a concern," he said.

{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"content":["injury" ] }

Ruggiano done for season after ankle surgery

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ST. LOUIS -- Cubs outfielder Justin Ruggiano is done for the season after undergoing surgical debridement on his left ankle, an arthroscopic procedure that removes dead or damaged tissue.

In his first season with the Cubs, Ruggiano batted .281 in 81 games with six home runs, 13 doubles and 28 RBIs. He was placed on the disabled list on Saturday, and had returned to Dallas to see a specialist, where he had the procedure done.

The Cubs had more encouraging news regarding outfielder Ryan Sweeney, who was headed to Arizona to begin a rehab assignment at the team's complex. Sweeney has been on the DL since Wednesday with a left hamstring strain.

Manny Ramirez, who was a player/coach at Triple-A Iowa, was placed on the Minor League team's disabled list with a knee injury. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said they were impressed with how Ramirez mentored the young players, particularly Jorge Soler and Javier Baez.

"We feel really good about the way that the entire experience went," Hoyer said. "He was outstanding in Iowa. People focus on Soler and Baez, but Kris Bryant, [Chris] Valaika, and the coaching staff sing his praises. I don't know what our relationship will be going forward. It's too early to speculate on that. I'm really happy for Manny. It seems like he's in a really good place."

Would Ramirez consider being a full-time hitting coach? Hoyer said the 42-year-old outfielder still wants to play.

"Until a guy is willing to admit he's done, it's hard to have those conversations [about coaching full time]," Hoyer said.

{"content":["injury" ] }

Cubs likely to finish '14 with six-man rotation

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ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs want to take advantage of the final month to get a look at pitchers Felix Doubront and Jacob Turner, and will likely go to a six-man rotation, general manager Jed Hoyer said Friday.

Doubront, 26, will make his first start Saturday in the first game of the Cubs' day-night doubleheader against the Cardinals. He had started 10 games for the Red Sox before the Cubs acquired the left-hander on July 30 for a player to be named.

Turner, 23, made his first start for the Cubs on Wednesday and lasted 3 2/3 innings against the Reds. Chicago acquired him from Miami for two Minor League pitchers.

Hoyer said they want to insert Doubront and Turner in the rotation, and also lighten the innings for current starters Jake Arrieta and Travis Wood.

"It makes sense to get looks at guys and give guys innings and lessen the load on guys we have," Hoyer said.

Doubront has been on the disabled list with a left calf strain. Whoever the Cubs take off the 25-man roster to open a spot for Doubront can be added as the 26th man for the doubleheader.


Cubs to begin homestand with JRW celebration

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ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs will salute the Jackie Robinson West Little League team on Monday at Wrigley Field.

The Chicago team, which won the U.S. Little League championship and finished second in the World Series to Seoul, South Korea, will meet some of the Cubs players during batting practice before their game against the Brewers.

The Little League team will be honored pregame, throw ceremonial first pitches, then sing during the seventh-inning stretch from the field.

Cubs pitchers Wesley Wright and Edwin Jackson were among the Major League players who donated money to help the families of the Little Leaguers attend the tournament in Williamsport, Pa.

Monday's contest opens a six-game homestand for the Cubs, who will honor the 2000s with decade-themed promotional giveaways, specialty food and beverage offerings and entertainment. It's all part of the season-long celebration of Wrigley Field's 100th anniversary. On Sept. 5, Hall of Famer Greg Maddux will be recognized with a 3,000th strikeout bobblehead for the first 10,000 fans.

Fans coming to Wrigley from Monday through Wednesday can also take home a Hall of Famer's autograph for a charitable cause. Fergie Jenkins will sign autographs from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. CT at the Cubs Store across from the ballpark on Monday and inside "Clark's Clubhouse" on Tuesday and Wednesday from 6 p.m. until the sixth inning to raise money for the Ron and Vicki Santo Diabetic Alert Dog Foundation. Vicki Santo and Logan Burke, who was the first recipient of an alert dog from the foundation, will throw a ceremonial first pitch on Wednesday.


Offense can't find groove in Arrieta's brief outing

Dependable starter allows six runs in four innings as Cubs drop finale

Offense can't find groove in Arrieta's brief outing play video for Offense can't find groove in Arrieta's brief outing

CINCINNATI -- In the bottom of the sixth inning Thursday afternoon, Cubs second baseman Javier Baez couldn't hold on to a throw from third baseman Luis Valbuena, and he was charged with an error. Earlier in the inning, the Reds had taken advantage of an error by center fielder Arismendy Alcantara to score a run.

Cubs manager Rick Renteria went to the mound for a little chat after Baez's misplay. Renteria couldn't do anything to salvage the game, which ended with the Chicago losing, 7-2, at Great American Ball Park. He did want to get the players focused on the task at hand. It's all part of the development process that will be very evident in the final month of the Cubs' season.

"[I told them], 'Hey, keep playing,'" Renteria said. "Things happen like [Baez's error]. 'Get another ground ball and let's turn a double play if we can.' They're kicking themselves. I don't need them kicking themselves when everybody is already kicking them.

"It wasn't a clean game -- I'm sure everybody is [thinking] the sky is falling, the wheels are coming off the wagon," Renteria said. "I just want to make sure [the players] understand we're still there for them and they have to keep playing the game."

Renteria has obviously picked up on Cubs fans' neurosis in his first season as manager.

The Reds did not score again that inning -- they did all the damage they needed against starter Jake Arrieta, who tied a season low with a four-inning outing. Arrieta gave up six runs for the second time this season, and he couldn't have his outing saved by any Jorge Soler heroics or even a Baez big fly.

Todd Frazier, Billy Hamilton and Brandon Phillips each drove in two runs to lift the Reds to victory and improve to 11-5 against the Cubs this season.

It was Arrieta's shortest outing since May 13, when the Cubs were still being careful with the right-hander who had reported to Spring Training with tightness in his shoulder. He threw 96 pitches over four innings, and after the game was sporting a buzz cut.

"The beard's going to stay," Arrieta said.

Arrieta is a big part of the Cubs' future, and also part of the transformation that has occurred this season. Think about this: only three players in Thursday's starting lineup were on the Opening Day roster -- Starlin Castro, Valbuena and backup catcher John Baker. There's been an infusion of youth.

"Each day is progress, regardless of the results on the field," Arrieta said. "They're moving in the right direction."

The Reds were on the move against Arrieta, totaling a season-high six stolen bases while he was on the mound.

"I was bad at controlling the running game today," Arrieta said. "That's my fault, not giving Baker any opportunity to throw those guys out. Putting them in scoring position sets them up for some of those hits."

Five of the Reds runs came with two outs, and he couldn't get the strikeout in big situations when needed.

"Arrieta, we knew, was going to be very hard to score on," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "So I felt we needed to create some scoring opportunities by running. He's a little bit slower and more deliberate to the plate, and we were able to take advantage of that."

But Arrieta couldn't keep the Reds off the bases, as they totaled six hits and four walks against him.

"He just didn't have his 'Jake-like' command today," Renteria said.

The Cubs had two hits over the first eight innings, but Castro and Valbuena both singled off Jumbo Diaz in the ninth, and Soler followed with an RBI single. Playing in his second big league game, Soler doubled to lead off the second. The right fielder, who homered in his first big league at-bat on Wednesday, was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle in his first five at-bats. He finished 2-for-4.

Renteria is in charge of keeping the mistakes to a minimum.

"The thing we're going to try to concentrate on is give the pitcher some support by defending well, and making sure the little things we have to do in terms of the game are taken care of," Renteria said. "The at-bats and the offense could come and go, and there could be hiccups. That's to be expected.

"We still have to play clean baseball and everybody is capable of doing that. If we have a rough game, we talk about it, address it in our own way, and see if guys adjust."

And that process will continue for the remaining 29 games.

{"content":["injury" ] }

Rizzo sits for third straight game with tight back

Rizzo sits for third straight game with tight back play video for Rizzo sits for third straight game with tight back

ST. LOUIS -- Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who had hoped to return for the start of the Cardinals series on Friday night, did not start for a third straight game because of tightness in his lower back.

Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Rizzo was better than he was on Thursday. Whether he'll be able to play in one of the Cubs' doubleheader games on Saturday is to be determined.

Rizzo's back became an issue on Tuesday when he couldn't get loose after a 50-minute rain delay in Cincinnati. He came out of that game as a precaution.

Rizzo has yet to be in the lineup since top prospect Jorge Soler was promoted from Triple-A Iowa.

"We all want to see [Rizzo] in that lineup," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "It'll be fun to see that lineup card. I don't have a prognosis [on Rizzo's status], just that he's day to day in the true sense of the word."

On Thursday, Rizzo said there wasn't one thing that aggravated his back, and called the problem "frustrating."

{"content":["injury" ] }

Coghlan tossed for arguing after strikeout

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CINCINNATI -- Cubs left fielder Chris Coghlan was ejected in the fifth inning Thursday for arguing a called third strike with home-plate umpire Ben May.

Coghlan had walked in the first, and he was called out on strikes in the third against the Reds' Dylan Axelrod. Coghlan also disagreed with May's call at that time.

He was called out in the fifth, and Coghlan again argued the call. This time, May wasn't as patient.

Coghlan is the second Cubs player to be ejected this season. Anthony Rizzo was ejected on June 1 for arguing balls and strikes.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Soler's first game, homer brings 'exciting news'

Soler's first game, homer brings 'exciting news' play video for Soler's first game, homer brings 'exciting news'

CINCINNATI -- Jorge Soler did get the ball from his first big league home run. And he got rave reviews from his Cubs teammates.

Soler hit a 2-1 fastball from the Reds' Mat Latos 423 feet to straightaway center in his first Major League at-bat Wednesday in the second inning of the Cubs' 7-5 loss.

"He was in a hitter's count, 2-0, and didn't get overanxious," Anthony Rizzo said Thursday. "He took a strike and put a nice swing on the ball. For everyone who has been following us and chattering about the future, it's exciting news for the organization.

"It's definitely exciting being here and sitting back and watching. Hearing [the media] talk about [the prospects] over and over and over and over and over again since Spring Training this year [is tiring]. Now that they're here, it's very exciting. Cubs fans have a lot to be excited about."

Cubs coach Jose Castro liked Soler's approach at the plate, too.

"Last night, he showed plate discipline and understanding what they're trying to do right off the bat," Castro said. "That's really big for a 22-year-old to show that kind of aptitude."

Cubs manager Rick Renteria is well aware there will be what he calls "hiccups" in the development of the young players.

"But in the end, the city of Chicago should be pretty excited and proud of the things that are coming together," Renteria said. "I know it's not the final product by any means, but there is reason to be hopeful if all the pieces play out. It will give us something pretty positive moving forward."

{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] }

First homer, no waiting: Soler arrives with a bang

Prospect first Cub to go deep in inaugural AB since Castro, who also did it in Cincy

First homer, no waiting: Soler arrives with a bang play video for First homer, no waiting: Soler arrives with a bang

CINCINNATI -- Jorge Soler got some last-minute advice from Triple-A Iowa player/coach Manny Ramirez before joining the Cubs on Wednesday.

"[Ramirez said], 'Everything you've been doing here in Triple-A, do it over there. Don't change anything,'" Soler said. "He knows how hard it is the first day and said, 'Relax, and everything will be all right.'"

Did Ramirez think Soler was ready for the Major Leagues?

"Yes," Soler said, smiling.

Apparently, he was. Soler homered in his first at-bat in the second inning of the Cubs' 7-5 loss to the Reds, hitting a 423-foot blast to center off starter Mat Latos. He's the first Cubs player to hit a home run in his first at-bat since Starlin Castro did so May 7, 2010, also at Great American Ball Park.

Soler's blast was the second in a back-to-back effort with Luis Valbuena that had given the Cubs a 2-0 lead at the time. Soler added an RBI single in a three-run eighth inning to cap a 2-for-4 debut.

"I feel real proud about it," Soler said. "All of my family was watching the game, especially my father here at the game. I feel real happy and proud that I did well today."

The Cubs felt Soler was ready, promoting the 22-year-old outfielder with 30 games remaining. Soler started in right field Wednesday and batted fifth. He is the eighth Cubs player to make his Major League debut this season, joining Arismendy Alcantara, Matt Szczur, Javier Baez, Dallas Beeler, Kyle Hendricks, Neil Ramirez and Tsuyoshi Wada.

"The key to the decision on Soler was the fact that he was going to be a September callup for us mainly because he needs the at-bats," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Wednesday. "He missed significant time because of the hamstring injury. He needs to play, he needs to get the at-bats.

"We've been certain in our minds for a while now that he was going to be a September callup for us. It's the best place for him to continue to get at-bats, continue to learn, continue to make adjustments."

Epstein said they were waiting for a "developmental moment," and it happened when Soler had a mini slump but was able to get back on track. The powerful right-handed hitter hasn't had many slumps this season. He was batting .282 with eight home runs and 29 RBIs with Iowa, including a .373 average with runners on base.

Ranked by MLB.com as the Cubs' No. 5 prospect, Soler belted a three-run homer in the third inning Monday in Iowa's game against Tacoma and was then pulled from the game after two innings. Iowa manager Marty Pevey wouldn't explain why until after the game was over.

"[Pevey] said, 'You don't play any more here,' and they didn't tell me for one hour that I was getting the call," Soler said through coach/interpreter Franklin Font. "I was really surprised."

Soler began the season with Double-A Tennessee but suffered a leg injury after his first game April 3. He went on the disabled list and returned in May, but he again played sporadically. He rehabbed at the Cubs' complex in Mesa, Ariz., and the focus was not just on getting his legs healthy but taking a holistic approach.

The Cubs changed Soler's diet -- more salads, water and less soda -- and worked on his posture. Epstein said Soler had a disproportionate amount of muscle mass located on the anterior side of his body, which was putting extra strain on his hamstrings. The training staff worked to redistribute that muscle mass to make him more balanced. They changed the way Soler runs, too.

Asked if he feels healthy, Soler smiled again and said yes.

After rehabbing in Mesa, he rejoined the Smokies in July and batted .463 in 15 games before he was promoted to Triple-A. In nine games in July with Iowa, he hit .304 and was batting .271 this month.

Epstein said Soler was "born with a very advanced approach at the plate," and that he's made strides with his swing mechanics and swing path so he can get the barrel to the ball better.

"He's always hit the ball hard, he's always controlled the zone, but now he's hitting the ball hard with loft and elevation," Epstein said. "His ground balls have become line drives, his line drives have become fly balls, and his fly balls tend to leave the ballpark. He's a really dangerous hitter. When he's right, he can use the whole field and loft the ball with ease."

That doesn't mean Soler is a finished product.

"He comes to the big leagues with a lot of momentum, but with an awful lot to learn and adjustments to make up here as well," Epstein said.

And Soler knows that. He's already been told about how Major League pitchers are more consistent in terms of their location. He has to be disciplined at the plate.

The Cuban outfielder signed a nine-year, $30 million contract in June 2012 and is on the Cubs' 40-man roster. He's part of the so-called "core four" that also includes Baez, Kris Bryant and Albert Almora. Bryant is at Iowa and leads all Minor League hitters with 43 home runs, while Almora is playing for Tennessee.

Epstein said having Soler join the team on the road will give him time to bond with his teammates. It worked well with Baez, who was promoted when the Cubs were in Denver on Aug. 5.

September can be a tough month to evaluate players, but the Cubs will be facing primarily contending teams. Does a good showing mean Cubs fans can write Soler's name into the 2015 Opening Day lineup?

"It's way too early to answer that," Epstein said. "It depends on a lot of factors. These kids are up here to continue to learn, to continue their development, but also to get opportunities that they can help us win baseball games. That's what this is all about."

Soler's promotion drew cheers from White Sox slugger Jose Abreu.

"Very happy, very happy that he's made it to the Major Leagues and he's able to accomplish one of his dreams, which is to play in the big leagues," Abreu said Tuesday through interpreter and coach Lino Diaz. "My advice to him would be to be very mentally tough and to prepare himself every day to play the game the way he's capable of playing it."

"I've waited two years for this moment," Soler said. "I'll just do everything I can."

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Coghlan imparts wisdom to rookies Baez, Soler

Coghlan imparts wisdom to rookies Baez, Soler

CINCINNATI -- Chris Coghlan didn't make a splash in his Major League debut as Jorge Soler or Javier Baez did, but he learned from it.

Coghlan's first big league game was May 8, 2009, with the Marlins in Colorado, and he went 2-for-4. That began a stellar season for the outfielder, who finished with a .321 batting average and won the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

Coghlan's advice to youngsters like Baez and Soler, who made their debuts this year?

"Don't read anything, don't watch anything -- but that's what you do when you're a rookie," Coghlan said. "You can't blame them. Soler probably stayed up and watched himself hit a home run on ESPN [Wednesday night]. Enjoy it.

"I remember doing that. One time I hit two homers in one game, and I waited for 40 minutes to see it on 'Baseball Tonight,' and they didn't show either one. I was like, I'm done. From that point, I never stayed up again to watch."

Coghlan admits there's only so much the players can control.

"It's a new story ... it's exciting, because this is what's been pitched for the last couple years [with the Cubs]," Coghlan said. "There's really a lot that's out of their hands."

Coghlan also made his big league debut on the road, and he credited Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein for planning that for Soler.

"He's smart with that stuff," Coghlan said of Epstein. "Another thing is that each guy who has come up has come to a hitter-friendly park. I don't think that's by accident. I think on the road is smart. There's a little bit less pressure. As soon as he goes home, there will be 50 people at his locker. It's better to make it on the road, then go home after a couple days and you still deal with it, but it's not as crazy."

So far, Soler and Baez, who hit a game-winning home run in the 12th inning of his first big league game, seem to have handled the promotions well.

"When you come up here, everything is going 1,000 miles an hour," Coghlan said. "Enjoy it."

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Soler goes deep, aids late rally that falls short

Prospect homers in first AB after Valbuena's blast; Baez adds big bat

Soler goes deep, aids late rally that falls short play video for Soler goes deep, aids late rally that falls short

CINCINNATI -- The young Cubs are making great first impressions in their Major League debuts.

Javier Baez hit a game-winning home run in his first big league game, although it didn't come until the 12th inning. On Wednesday, Jorge Soler topped that, smacking a 423-foot blast to center field in his first big league at-bat.

And, coincidentally, the last Cubs player to homer in his first at-bat also did so at Great American Ball Park.

Soler's impressive home run wasn't enough as the Cubs came up short in a 7-5 loss to the Reds. Skip Schumaker drove in two runs to back Mat Latos, who struck out 10 over seven-plus innings, to lead the Reds, who have a 10-5 lead in the season series against the Cubs.

Wednesday marked the unveiling of Soler, 22, ranked by MLB.com as the Cubs' No. 5 prospect, who was promoted from Triple-A Iowa and arrived with much fanfare. He finished 2-for-4 in his first game.

Luis Valbuena led off the Chicago second with his 13th home run, a new career high. Soler immediately followed with his first, launching a 2-1 fastball 423 feet to center, much to the delight of the Cubs fans and Soler's father, Jorge Sr., who was in the crowd of 20,497.

"I'm real, real happy about it," said the young Soler, who admitted to being a little nervous. "First time in the big leagues, first at-bat. I was very excited and happy about that."

He's the first Cubs player to homer in his first at-bat since Starlin Castro did so on May 7, 2010, in Cincinnati. The Cubs players excitedly greeted Soler upon his return to the dugout, and he got a hug from Baez, who had homered on Aug. 5 in his debut game against the Rockies.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said they prefer having their top prospects break in on the road to keep the distractions to a minimum and give the players a chance to bond with their teammates. It worked for Baez, and in the second inning, it worked for Soler. According to ESPN's statistics, the Cubs are the first team to have two players, each age 22 or younger, hit a home run in their first Major League game.

"Soler was supposed to be a two-seamer in," Latos said of the pitch. "It didn't move. I didn't feel like I had my release point. The next inning, I made sure I worked on getting a feel of where my release point should be and getting the ball out in front. I think it helped out."

Latos found his groove, holding the Cubs to two baserunners over the next five innings. But that's not why Chicago lost the game.

The Reds apparently weren't interested in letting Soler enjoy both his first homer and a win. Cincinnati tied the game in the second on an RBI double by Schumaker and a run-scoring groundout by Zack Cozart. The Reds then took the lead in the fourth, when Kristopher Negron doubled and scored on a single by Schumaker. Two outs later, a run scored on a fielding error by Castro, and Todd Frazier then reached on an error by Valbuena.

Chicago starter Jacob Turner was then pulled. This was the right-hander's first start for the Cubs and 13th of the season; his last came Aug. 3 against the Reds, when he went four innings. The Cubs acquired the right-hander from the Marlins on Aug. 8 for two Minor League pitchers.

"I would've liked to have gotten a little deeper in the game," said Turner, who was on a limit. "That part is definitely frustrating. At the same time, you've got to build the pitch count up, too."

Brandon Phillips and Devin Mesoraco followed with RBI singles off Carlos Villanueva to put the Reds ahead, 6-2.

The Cubs tallied in the eighth against Jonathan Broxton on a two-run double by Baez. Castro then smacked a long hit off the center-field wall, but only made it to first base while sending Baez to third. It may have proved costly as Soler then drove in Baez from third on a single before Welington Castillo grounded into an inning-ending double play.

"He feels bad," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of Castro, who returned from the bereavement list on Tuesday. "He knows. He's apologizing to everybody about not getting over there. He's got a lot of things on his mind, and he's out there doing the best he can.

"When a young man tells you he's made a mistake, it's very hard to do anything other than accept it. Quite frankly, there were a host of things prior to that, and part of that whole ballgame, that put us in the position we were in."

Baez nearly made up for the mistake with two outs and two on in the ninth, when he flied out to deep center.

"It sounded good," Renteria said.

"I had to take a couple of steps back, and I got a little scared; it sounded so loud and it was really high, but, the ball jumps off his bat no matter where he hits it to," Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton said. "I was just talking to [someone] about how his foul balls go up in the third deck every time he hits a foul ball off to the right. The guy has some power. And he had power coming in at him; all he had to do was touch it a little bit. But we got the win, and we did a good job."


{"event":["prospect" ] }

Chicago holds parade for Jackie Robinson West

Chicago holds parade for Jackie Robinson West play video for Chicago holds parade for Jackie Robinson West

CHICAGO -- Jackie Robinson West's run in the Little League World Series culminated Wednesday with a nearly four-hour parade that weaved through roughly 100 blocks of Chicago.

Fans flocked to the team's home field in the Morgan Park neighborhood before the South Side's storied squad embarked on trolleys to U.S. Cellular Field and then Millennium Park downtown.

Family, friends and fans -- including politicians and representatives from Major League Baseball -- gathered for what some said rivaled professional sports championship parades.

"This is the way Chicago celebrates a championship," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson moderated the event, which featured speeches from Theo Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations, and Kenny Williams, the White Sox executive vice president.

Foes became friends through Jackie Robinson West's "common bond," as Harrelson referenced -- a testament to the unity that these 13 pre-teens embodied during their 25-day run to a U.S. championship.

"I never thought I'd get introduced by Hawk," Epstein told the crowd with a chuckle.

JRW isn't the first Illinois squad to surge through the Little League World Series, in fact it's the fourth in state history to reach the title game. Yet its story enthralled American audiences at new heights, yielding a 71 percent increase in television ratings during the U.S. championship.

Team leader Marquis Jackson rooted the unprecedented draw in the most frank manner.

"I think because we're African-American boys from the South Side," Jackson said. "There's so many people from the South Side, [and] it's just not about bad things. Something good can come from the South Side of Chicago. Period."

Morgan Park is a blue-collar neighborhood brimming with fresh-cut grass, brick houses, renowned rib restaurants and a state-of-the-art baseball facility.

Yet the grander South Side has made national news this summer for all the wrong reasons -- violence and murder have dominated headlines.

As of Tuesday, Chicago had endured 261 homicides, according to the Cook County Medical Examiners Office -- a majority of those on the South and West Sides.

It was the elephant in the room Wednesday, yet Williams tackled it head-on.

"People who are gathering and rallying," he told the crowd of 10,000, "are sending a message to put down the guns.

"Pick up a ball, a glove, a book, a paint stick, a science project. Put down the guns. We have cease fires going on over the Middle East. Nobody has said, 'Let's call for a cease fire in our communities.'"

Jackie Robinson West's rise has made the players role models in the White Sox and Cubs clubhouses. The latter featured the game during a three-hour rain delay on Saturday.

JRW's run to become the first all-African-American team to win a Little League World Series Championship was cut short by an 8-4 loss on Sunday to South Korea. Yet it grinned in defeat and crafted extravagant and congratulatory handshakes with their opposition.

"This team exemplifies what can happen when a strong community provides its children with support and opportunities to become positively engaged and achieve their dreams," Emanuel said.

All 13 hoisted their hands when asked if they wanted to someday play in the big leagues. Six of them -- Jackson, Ed Howard, Cameron Bufford, Brandon Green, Joshua Houston and Trey Hondras -- already are receiving first-hand guidance through the White Sox Amateur City Elite program.

ACE, in its eighth year, gathers 100-plus inner-city youth into a program to develop skills that might not be afforded the travel-team culture prevalent in youth baseball. It focuses as much on academics as athletics.

"This is my first year playing with them," Hondras said. "I had heard a lot of good things about it."

The team's pit stop at U.S. Cellular Field was welcomed by White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and select coaches and players. The White Sox then let the team bring the 2005 World Series trophy to the ceremony at Millennium Park.

"Hopefully, at least in the Chicago area and Illinois, maybe this pushes kids into our game instead of something else," said team captain Paul Konerko.

The White Sox will welcome JRW for a game this Saturday against the Tigers, and the Cubs will do the same during their next homestand, a six-game set starting on Monday.

JRW was founded in 1971 by Joe and Anna Haley, whose son, Bill Haley, is the current director. Bill said his parents' idea was not to win championships, but to make a significant impact on the lives of children through dedicated volunteers and parents.

"What these young boys have done the last six weeks shows that the core values that the league started with way back in 1971 still hold true," Haley said.

Epstein echoed: "People ask me all the time: 'How do we get kids playing baseball again? There aren't enough kids playing baseball. How do we get kids in the city playing baseball?' Well we just need to go to school on everything that Jackie Robinson West stands for and start duplicating that all around our city -- and every big city in the country."

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