SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Cubs prospect Kyle Schwarber celebrated his 22nd birthday in a grand way Thursday.
MESA, Ariz. -- Joe Maddon has managed Edwin Jackson before. He likes the fact the right-hander is a good athlete. But Maddon also recognizes that Jackson has yet to get on track, especially with the Cubs.
Jackson, 31, will make his first Cactus League start Monday against the Padres and he finds himself battling for a spot in Chicago's rotation.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Thursday's Cactus League game between the Giants and Cubs got off to a painful start for home-plate umpire Dale Scott.
MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs pitcher Brian Schlitter is hoping someone will adopt a young dog he found near the team's Spring Training complex.
Schlitter and his wife, Kara, were walking back to their apartment and saw the dog in the bushes outside of the outfield fences of one of the practice fields. They caught the animal and brought it to their apartment, where they bathed it and fed it.
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs are in the market for some left-handed help in the bullpen, and they have reportedly signed reliever Phil Coke to a Minor League contract.
FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal on Thursday reported the deal, which is pending a physical. The Cubs have not confirmed the report.
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs have agreed to contracts with all 20 players on the 40-man roster with zero to three years of Major League service.
The list includes pitchers Dallas Beeler, C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm, Kyle Hendricks, Blake Parker, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon, Brian Schlitter, Drake Britton, Eric Jokisch, Joseph Ortiz and Zac Rosscup.
Good news, Cubs fans. The last three times your favorite team has featured the National League Rookie of the Year Award winner (Geovany Soto in 2008, Kerry Wood in 1998 and Jerome Walton in '89), it has advanced to the postseason. And Chicago has the top two rookie candidates for 2015.
Third baseman Kris Bryant and outfielder Jorge Soler have the power to help the Cubs back to the playoffs for the first time in seven years. They're not only the strongest candidates for Rookie of the Year Award honors, they're also the best fantasy prospects.
MESA, Ariz. -- Welington Castillo will be behind the plate Thursday in Scottsdale, Ariz., in one of the Cubs' split-squad games. Where he'll be when the season opens is to be determined.
After two seasons as the starting catcher, Castillo, 27, finds himself No. 3 on the depth chart behind Miguel Montero, 31, and David Ross, 37. Manager Joe Maddon says the Cubs can carry three catchers, and Castillo gives them insurance.
MESA, Ariz. -- What will Joe Maddon do as the new Cubs manager? Fans will get their first look when Maddon and the Cubs open Cactus League play Thursday with split-squad games, including a home contest at newly named Sloan Park against their new neighbors, the Athletics.
The Cubs also will play the Giants in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Thursday. Travis Wood and Jacob Turner, both vying for a spot in the rotation, will start against the A's and Giants, respectively. Oakland moved into Chicago's former Spring Training Fitch Park complex in Mesa.
With major renovations underway at Wrigley Field this winter, the Cubs considered playing their entire 2015 home schedule at Miller Park in Milwaukee, team president of business operations Crane Kenney told CBS Radio.
During a media tour of the construction zone on Monday, Kenney said that the center- and left-field bleachers are expected to be ready by May 11, while the right-field bleachers are expected to open in early-to-mid June.
MESA, Ariz. -- The Brewers will not be using radar guns for the first two weeks of Spring Training games so their pitchers can focus on command, not how hard they're throwing. Cubs reliever Zac Rosscup agrees with the philosophy.
"I expect my velocity to be down in spring anyway when you're just starting to face hitters," Rosscup said Wednesday. "I think it picks up later in Spring Training. If the radar gun is there or not, you still have to make pitches."
Each day, Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez acknowledges a player and/or coach of the day by giving him a small shiny star to stick to his baseball cap. It's the same little metallic-colored stars your grade-school teacher probably used for a good book report.
MESA, Ariz. -- Immediately after the final out of Class A Daytona's games last season, Cubs prospect Albert Almora would rush into the clubhouse to check his phone to see if his father was still alive.
"People can't imagine what I went through in games," Almora said. "I'd finish a game and check my phone to see if something happened. People don't understand that. People just look at the box scores and they don't understand what happens off the field."
MESA, Ariz. -- No one said anything to Kyle Hendricks, but the right-hander did get the news that he is slotted into the No. 4 spot in the Cubs' rotation. Now, he has to get to work to keep it.
Lester has a 2.77 ERA when Ross is behind the plate, but Maddon said Tuesday that he hasn't written his lineup that far in advance. Lester and Ross will be paired together on Friday when the lefty makes his Cactus League debut.
MESA, Ariz. -- Dexter Fowler has had to play in some giant-sized ballparks with the Rockies and Astros. Wrigley Field will be a little different, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon likes what he's seen of the center fielder.
Maddon watches the outfielder's feet during drills, and so far, Fowler's footwork has passed the tests. What will be key, Maddon said, is communication between Fowler and the corner outfielders.
MESA, Ariz. -- Manager Joe Maddon made it official Monday: Jon Lester will start Opening Night, April 5, for the Cubs against the Cardinals.
Early in camp, Maddon indicated it was fairly obvious that Lester, who signed a six-year, $155 million contract in December, would kick off the Cubs season. But he wanted to talk to the left-hander first.
CHICAGO -- Phase One of the Wrigley Field 1060 Project remains relatively on target despite a cold winter, Cubs officials said Monday afternoon during a media tour of the construction zone.
The left-field concourse work and plaza development are going smoothly, while the bleachers remain a bit behind schedule, as previously announced at Cubs Convention. The center- and left-field bleachers will be ready May 11, with the right-field bleachers opening in early to mid June.
MESA, Ariz. -- Jorge Soler arrived in Spring Training 25 pounds heavier and with a better understanding of what big league pitchers are trying to do to him.
The Cubs outfielder, who batted .292 in 24 games last season, now checks in at 240 pounds. He looks large enough to play middle linebacker on an NFL team.
MESA, Ariz. -- Dexter Fowler is a center fielder, not an advance scout.
But that didn't stop Fowler from paying close attention to the opposing team last year, when he was playing against the Triple-A Iowa Cubs while working his way back to Minute Maid Park after straining an intercostal muscle. He grew more impressed after every one of the four games, and he quickly drew on those memories when the Astros traded him to the Cubs in January.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
MESA, Ariz. -- Justin Grimm seems best suited to be a reliever. The antsy right-hander can barely sit still in the Cubs' clubhouse. It's hard to imagine him going four days without pitching.
Grimm got plenty of work last season, finishing ninth among National League relievers in appearances in his first full season with the Cubs. He also was in the top 25 in strikeouts. But Grimm was a starter in 2013 with the Rangers, and he still holds onto the possibility he could return to the rotation, especially after a rainy August day at Wrigley Field.
Manager Joe Maddon said Monday that Kyle Hendricks had secured the No. 4 spot in the Cubs rotation behind Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel. That leaves Wood and Jackson vying along with Felix Doubront, Jacob Turner and Tsuyoshi Wada for one opening.
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs may not play enough night games for Joe Maddon.
"I'm a horrible morning person," the Cubs manager admitted Monday. "Thank God, we don't play at 10 o'clock in the morning."
MESA, Ariz. -- Kris Bryant has impressed Cubs manager Joe Maddon so far this spring.
"He's solid, he's motivated," Maddon said Sunday of the Cubs' top prospect. "He's got a really nice way about him. He's really good, he knows he's really good, but he carries that very well. I like that. False humility doesn't do anything. It's kind of a worthless quality. I think his humility is sincere, but he also knows that he's good."
MESA, Ariz. -- Contrary to reports in the Dominican Republic media, Cubs pitcher Pedro Strop is very much alive.
The Cubs' reliever was involved in a car accident in late November in the San Cristobal province, west of the capital of Santo Domingo. Strop was driving his convertible and making a right-hand turn at a T-intersection when he was rear-ended by someone driving a Range Rover. The impact pushed Strop's car into a wall and the vehicle was totaled. His only injury was a scratch on his left elbow.
MESA, Ariz. -- Minnie Minoso used to show up in the visiting manager's office at U.S. Cellular Field when the Rays were in town to talk baseball with Joe Maddon.
"He liked how we did things, that's what he would always want to talk about," Maddon said Sunday of the White Sox slugger, who passed away. "He liked the team, how we played, very complimentary. I tried to speak a little Spanish to him. He was like that with everybody. He just liked to talk about how our team played."