Cubs' new additions can provide needed OBP boost

Fowler, La Stella have knack for getting on base, drawing walks

Cubs' new additions can provide needed OBP boost

In the days leading up to Opening Day, MLB.com is examining various aspects of each team's roster. Today, the time has come to focus on a key number for the upcoming season. For the Cubs, it's .300: their on-base percentage from last year, 13th in the National League.

MESA, Ariz. -- There's a reason the Cubs added players like Dexter Fowler and Tommy La Stella, and why manager Joe Maddon is considering having the pitcher bat eighth to get an extra leadoff-type batter in the lineup. The Cubs have plenty of power. They just need guys to get on base ahead of them.

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

Cubs' bats come to life late in win over Rangers

Cubs' bats come to life late in win over Rangers

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Cubs rallied in the top of the ninth inning on Tuesday, scoring eight runs en route to a 15-10 win at Surprise Stadium, extending the Rangers' losing streak.

Rangers starter Derek Holland went 5 1/3 innings and allowed five runs (four earned) on six hits and two walks. The Cubs scored four runs off of him in the fifth inning, but second baseman Thomas Field fumbled a double-play grounder that could have stopped the rally cold.

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T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lester looking forward to Opening Night adrenaline

Lester looking forward to Opening Night adrenaline

MESA, Ariz. -- Left-hander Jon Lester wasn't too pleased with his final tuneup for Opening Night, but he hopes the excitement of the beginning of the season can help him.

"I wasn't the sharpest today but got to where we needed to," Lester said after throwing 84 pitches over six innings in a game between Triple-A Iowa and Double-A Tennessee at the Cubs' complex. "Once we get into a game with some fans and some adrenaline, I think things will sharpen up a little bit."

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

Bryant bound to make presence felt for Cubs

Club counting on 'right moment' to call on slugger, who will start season in Minors

Bryant bound to make presence felt for Cubs

In the days leading up to Opening Day, MLB.com is examining various aspects of each team's roster. Today, the time has come to focus on a key player for the upcoming season. For the Cubs, that's third baseman Kris Bryant.

MESA, Ariz. -- Kris Bryant is not on the Cubs' Opening Day roster, but he's the player to watch this season.

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

Banks to be honored on Opening Night

Banks to be honored on Opening Night

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs will honor Hall of Famer Ernie Banks on Sunday, when they host the Cardinals at Wrigley Field to open the regular season.

Banks passed away in January at the age of 83.

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

Olt: Baseball is 'fun again'

Olt: Baseball is 'fun again'

MESA, Ariz. -- Mike Olt knows Kris Bryant is waiting in the wings. He's not worried about it.

Olt, expected to be the Cubs' Opening Day third baseman for the second straight year, heads into the season feeling much better about himself, despite all the attention focused on Bryant.

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

Reworked mechanics pay off for Coke

Lefty reliever lands spot on Cubs' 40-man roster

Reworked mechanics pay off for Coke

MESA, Ariz. -- Phil Coke totally reworked his mechanics this offseason to clean up his direction as he finished his pitches.

The veteran left-hander was officially added to the Cubs' 40-man roster on Monday, although there were a few moments in the past two days when Coke wondered if it would happen. He had signed a Minor League contract with the Cubs, who had to make a decision by last Friday. The Cubs weren't ready then, and he opted out of his deal, giving the team 72 hours to decide.

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

Wrigley, sans bleachers, will be ready Sunday

Wrigley, sans bleachers, will be ready Sunday

MESA, Ariz. -- Wrigley Field will be ready for Opening Night on Sunday, but the bleachers will not be open, Cubs officials said on Tuesday.

The Cubs began the renovation project of the 100-year-old ballpark this past offseason. The left- and center-field bleachers are expected to be open by May 11, and the right-field bleachers will be ready for fans in mid-June.

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

Lester weighs in on Bryant decision

Lester weighs in on Bryant decision

MESA, Ariz. -- Jon Lester would like to have had third baseman Kris Bryant in the lineup when he makes the start on Opening Night, but he also understands why the team's top prospect is not going to be at Wrigley Field.

"As a player, it [stinks]," Lester said on Tuesday about the Cubs' decision to assign Bryant to Minor League camp after he led the Majors with nine home runs and a .425 batting average this spring.

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

Veteran Montero ready for latest challenge with Cubs

Veteran Montero ready for latest challenge with Cubs

Miguel Montero has been to the postseason with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and now the two-time All-Star is looking to return to baseball's biggest stage with the Chicago Cubs.

After starting his career with the D-backs, the 31-year-old Montero is taking on the new challenge of an up-and-coming Cubs team, providing veteran leadership for a franchise that has its sights set on getting back to the postseason and, perhaps, back to that elusive World Series.

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John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Offensive struggles prompt Baez's demotion

Infielder shines on defense, basepaths, but more adjustments needed with bat

Offensive struggles prompt Baez's demotion

MESA, Ariz. -- If you only saw Javier Baez play defense at second base or run the bases, you'd be convinced he's ready for the big leagues. But Baez still has work to do at the plate, and the young Cubs infielder was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on Monday.

The Cubs also announced top prospect Kris Bryant and talented shortstop Addison Russell were assigned to Minor League camp, but Baez was the one who prompted the most debate.

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

After impressive spring, Bryant sent down by Cubs

Top prospect reassigned to Minors camp with Russell; Baez optioned to Triple-A

After impressive spring, Bryant sent down by Cubs

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon did not deny that he wants Kris Bryant in his lineup. Just not yet.

Bryant, the Cubs' top prospect, was assigned to Minor League camp on Monday along with shortstop Addison Russell, while Javier Baez was optioned to Triple-A Iowa. The Iowa team now may have one of the best infields in baseball.

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

Castro caps Cubs' comeback vs. Giants

Hendricks touched for five runs in sixth inning before Chicago rebounds

Castro caps Cubs' comeback vs. Giants

MESA, Ariz. -- Chris Coghlan and Tommy La Stella each hit RBI doubles, and Starlin Castro delivered a tiebreaking RBI single in a three-run sixth to lift the Cubs to an 8-5 victory Monday over the Giants in front of a sellout crowd at Sloan Park.

Joe Panik hit a solo homer and Daniel Carbonell added a two-run double to spark a five-run sixth for the Giants. Starter Tim Hudson served up 10 hits and walked two over 4 2/3 innings in his worst spring outing. The right-hander had given up 11 hits over 12 innings in his four previous starts.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Lyle Spencer

Soler's talent, temperament evoke memories of Vlad

Cubs phenom reminds Maddon of Guerrero 'with plate discipline'

Soler's talent, temperament evoke memories of Vlad

MESA, Ariz. -- In any normal camp in any normal spring, Jorge Soler would be the focus of the kind of hype associated with brilliant young talents performing phenomenal athletic acts.

It is a testament to the power of the Kris Bryant Experience that Soler has managed to fly under the Cubs' radar in spite of soaring skills calling to manager Joe Maddon's mind the great Vladimir Guerrero.

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Lyle Spencer is a national reporter and columnist for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @LyleMSpencer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs add Coke to Major League bullpen

Cubs add Coke to Major League bullpen

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs on Monday selected the contract of left-handed pitcher Phil Coke, who had signed a Minor League contract with the team. By making the team, Coke will be paid $2.25 million.

In nine relief appearances this spring, Coke, 32, has given up four hits and has not allowed a run. He's spent the last seven seasons with the Yankees (2008-09) and Tigers (2010-14), going 22-27 with 79 holds, eight saves and a 4.16 ERA.

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

Edwards steals show for Cubs' prospects vs. Rangers

Edwards steals show for Cubs' prospects vs. Rangers

MESA, Ariz. -- Nine Rangers pitching prospects and one ex-Rangers pitching prospect dominated Monday night's Futures Game at Sloan Park between Texas and the Chicago Cubs.

The Rangers' top prospects earned a 5-1 victory over the Cubs' youngsters, on the strength of shutout innings from eight of their nine hurlers. Meanwhile, it was C.J. Edwards -- Chicago's haul in the Matt Garza deal two years ago -- who stole the show against his former organization.

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AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hendricks hopes prospects join him at Wrigley

Vying for roster spot, righty expects Bryant, Baez, Russell in Majors soon

Hendricks hopes prospects join him at Wrigley

MESA, Ariz. -- While Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Addison Russell were packing up their lockers to move to the Minor League side of the Cubs complex Monday, Kyle Hendricks was prepping for his penultimate spring start. If Hendricks is on the Cubs' Opening Day roster, it will be the first time for the right-hander, who began last season at Triple-A Iowa.

"I'm excited to hopefully be a part of that first Opening Day," Hendricks said.

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

MLB.com Columnist

Dan O'Dowd

Cubs' Bryant decision entirely defensible

In addition to service-clock issue, positional questions justify Epstein's call on top prospect

Cubs' Bryant decision entirely defensible

The Cubs' decision to send slugger Kris Bryant down to the Minors to start the season has divided the baseball world, with many wondering why the Cubs -- a team that hopes to contend -- would send one of their best players to the Minors.

Cubs president Theo Epstein is going to be questioned for this decision, but it's entirely defensible.

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Dan O'Dowd is an MLB Network analyst and MLB.com columnist who served as general manager of the Rockies for 15 years, building a National League pennant winner in 2007. Prior to his time with Colorado, he worked in the front offices of the Orioles and Indians. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Russell told to keep it up in Minors

Cubs send down shortstop despite having little to work on

Russell told to keep it up in Minors

MESA, Ariz. -- When Joe Maddon met with Addison Russell to tell the shortstop he was being assigned to Minor League camp, the Cubs manager was nearly speechless.

"I couldn't tell him what to work on," Maddon said. "He's that accomplished at that age. I told him, 'Just keep doing what you're doing.'"

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

Zimmer's lessons continue to inspire Maddon

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

Zimmer's lessons continue to inspire Maddon

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

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

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

Cubs sink Royals behind Jackson's solid start

Montero knocks second spring homer to back veteran righty

Cubs sink Royals behind Jackson's solid start

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

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

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

Amid competition, Jackson focused on helping Cubs win

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

Amid competition, Jackson focused on helping Cubs win

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

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

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

Maddon has confidence in Motte after rough outings

Maddon has confidence in Motte after rough outings

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

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

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

New digs at Wrigley will be adjustment for Maddon

New digs at Wrigley will be adjustment for Maddon

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

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

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

As opener nears, Maddon using players in regular roles

Cubs manager believes first month of season helps define bullpen

As opener nears, Maddon using players in regular roles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rizzo gets chance to showcase leadoff skills

Rizzo gets chance to showcase leadoff skills

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

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

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

Soler could be Maddon's man in 2-spot

New Cubs skipper has been impressed by young right fielder

Soler could be Maddon's man in 2-spot

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

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

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

Fowler knocks first spring homer as Cubs fall to Reds

Fowler knocks first spring homer as Cubs fall to Reds

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

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

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