Cubs crush four homers against former ace

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

Cubs crush four homers against former ace

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

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

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

Hammel edges Shark in battle of former teammates

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

Hammel edges Shark in battle of former teammates

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

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

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

Top prospect Bryant aims to break Epstein's track record

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

Top prospect Bryant aims to break Epstein's track record

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

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

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

Baez shaken up on collision Thursday during double play

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

Baez shaken up on collision Thursday during double play

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

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

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

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Maddon sees NL Central as the new AL East

After experience in AL East, Cubs manager says competition helps young players develop faster

Maddon sees NL Central as the new AL East

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valaika aids Cubs' youth before reassignment

Journeyman lends advice to several top prospects during Spring Training

Valaika aids Cubs' youth before reassignment

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

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

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

Lester has 'good, normal' outing in Minors game

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

Lester has 'good, normal' outing in Minors game

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

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

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

Opening Day 'in jeopardy' for injured Denorfia

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

Opening Day 'in jeopardy' for injured Denorfia

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

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

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

Pitcher Travis Wood hit a pinch-hit home run

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Pitcher Travis Wood hit a pinch-hit home run

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

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

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Bryant passes all tests in first start in left

Top prospect shows off arm, nabbing runner at second base

Bryant passes all tests in first start in left

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

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

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

Olt goes deep, Bryant flashes leather in loss

Top prospect shows off arm in outfield, turns double play

Olt goes deep, Bryant flashes leather in loss

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

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

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

Wood shows off power with pinch-hit homer

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

Wood shows off power with pinch-hit homer

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

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

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

MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

'Dead arm' a dead issue for Lester

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

'Dead arm' a dead issue for Lester

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

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

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

Cubs assign 12 players to Minor League camp

Pitchers Parker, Ortiz optioned to Triple-A Iowa

Cubs assign 12 players to Minor League camp

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

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

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

Maddon: No decision on Baez's roster status

Maddon: No decision on Baez's roster status

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Joe Maddon has made it known he's impressed with Javier Baez's defensive play and the young infielder's baseball acumen, but neither the manager nor anyone else in the front office has told Baez that he has made the Cubs' Opening Day roster.

Maddon denied a report that Baez was on the final 25-man roster, and added that neither Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein or general manager Jed Hoyer gave the infieder the go-ahead either.

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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.

Wood pleased with outing after Cubs fall to Mariners

Lefty allows 3 runs over 5 innings Wednesday; Castro returns with base hit

Wood pleased with outing after Cubs fall to Mariners

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Young Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker hurled six more scoreless innings Wednesday, and catcher Mike Zunino hit his fourth home run of the spring as Seattle defeated the Cubs, 3-2, in a night game at Peoria Stadium.

Travis Wood, battling for the fifth spot in the Cubs' rotation, allowed three runs and five hits over five innings. The lefty was happy with his outing.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. 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: Jackson getting lost 'can't happen'

Maddon: Jackson getting lost 'can't happen'

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Edwin Jackson's misdirection didn't go over too well with Cubs manager Joe Maddon.

Jackson went to the wrong ballpark for his start on Tuesday because he followed the directions on his Google Map app, which sent him to Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The trouble is, the game was being played at Hohokam Stadium, just 3.6 miles from where the Cubs train.

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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 returns to action, eyes 162 games played

Castro returns to action, eyes 162 games played

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Starlin Castro went 1-for-3 as he returned to the Cubs' lineup Wednesday after missing five days because of tightness in his right groin, and the shortstop is eager to play 162 games this season.

Castro, who turned 25 on Tuesday, had not played since March 19 in a game against the D-backs, when he made a fielding error that led to two runs. He admitted Wednesday that he hadn't been feeling good on the field.

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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.

9 is fine: Bryant homers -- again

Chicago's top prospect clubs MLB-leading long ball in third inning vs. A's

9 is fine: Bryant homers -- again

MESA, Ariz. -- Another day, another home run for Kris Bryant.

The Cubs top prospect belted his ninth spring home run in the third inning Tuesday against the Athletics, connecting on the first pitch from Drew Pomeranz, who had struck out Bryant in the first.

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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.

GPS issues start rough day for Jackson

Cubs starter gets lost driving to ballpark, then allows eight runs vs. A's

GPS issues start rough day for Jackson

MESA, Ariz. -- Apparently, Google Maps hasn't updated the Spring Training locations in Arizona. On Tuesday, Edwin Jackson used the app for directions to Hohokam Stadium where he was scheduled to start. Trouble is, it sent him to their old home, Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

"I put in Google Maps and typed in 'Oakland Athletics Spring Training complex,' and it took me to the old one," Jackson said. "I know it's crazy, but that pretty much sums it up."

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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's 9th homer not enough for Cubs

Top prospect goes deep, but Jackson allows eight runs in loss to A's

Bryant's 9th homer not enough for Cubs

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's busted out for 10 runs in the first three innings of Tuesday's 14-2 win over the Cubs at Hohokam Stadium, getting two-run home runs from Billy Butler and Stephen Vogt along the way.

Cubs top prospect Kris Bryant belted his Major League-leading ninth spring home run in the third inning, connecting on the first pitch from A's starter Drew Pomeranz, who had struck out Bryant in the first.

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Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Maddon remains confident in Baez despite strikeouts

Manager impressed with infielder's overall skill set

Maddon remains confident in Baez despite strikeouts

MESA, Ariz. -- Javier Baez leads the Cubs in strikeouts this spring and is batting less than .150, but if you're only looking at that part of the infielder's game, you're not seeing the whole picture, manager Joe Maddon says.

"Generally speaking, fans are always going to evaluate position players by their batting average," Maddon said Tuesday. "They don't care about their defense, they don't care how well they run the bases, they don't care about any of that stuff.

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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.

Kris Bryant hit another HR (yes, this is a new post)

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Kris Bryant hit another HR (yes, this is a new post)

The sun rose in the east today, so Cubs super prospect Kris Bryant hit another home run.

Heading into Tuesday's game against the Athletics, Bryant was 12-for-25 on the spring with eight home runs. In his second at-bat of the game, Bryant homered again, raising his total to nine and upping that batting average to an otherworldly .481. 

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Given birthday off, recovered Castro ready to return

Shortstop feels better after being sidelined by tight right groin

Given birthday off, recovered Castro ready to return

MESA, Ariz. -- Shortstop Starlin Castro, sidelined with a tight right groin, is expected to return to the Cubs lineup on Wednesday, manager Joe Maddon said. The Cubs decided to give Castro, who celebrated his 25th birthday on Tuesday, an extra day of treatment.

"When a guy says he feels better, we give him one more day," Maddon said Tuesday.

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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

Bernie Pleskoff

On the Cusp: Chicago Cubs

Bryant, Russell highlight top prospects who could contribute this season

On the Cusp: Chicago Cubs

The Cubs have been collecting talent in their prospect bank, and soon many of their assets will reach maturity. It will be time to cash in the stash and collect the dividends.

It all began last year when Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara and Jorge Soler got their first taste of big league baseball. It will continue this season when several other multi-talented prospects graduate to Clark and Addison.

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Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Spring power outage not a concern for Rizzo

Last year's Cubs leader with 32 homers feels fine despite not yet going yard

Spring power outage not a concern for Rizzo

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs rank second in the Majors this spring in home runs even though Anthony Rizzo, who led the team last year with 32, has zero, and yet he feels really good at the plate.

"I feel great," Rizzo said Monday. "It's really weird. I hit some good balls but they haven't found a hole."

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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 'pen session, Lester confident he's on track

Left-hander sticking to routine, building arm strength in anticipation of Opening Night

After 'pen session, Lester confident he's on track

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs pitcher Jon Lester, scratched from his last start because of a tired arm, threw a bullpen session on Monday, and he said he's on schedule for Opening Night, April 5.

"Today was more getting out there, getting my feet under me and going through my normal routine," Lester said after the workout at the Cubs' complex. "The other stuff will be there. We're still in the process of building arm strength and arm speed, and that will come as the innings get higher.

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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.