Maddon names Lester Opening Night starter

Maddon names Lester Opening Night starter

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.

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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.

Renovation of Wrigley Field progressing as planned

Renovation of Wrigley Field progressing as planned

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.

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Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Soler comes to camp prepared for big league pitching

Rookie outfielder added weight in offseason to better handle hurlers

Soler comes to camp prepared for big league pitching

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.

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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

'The Cubs Way' might just be the ticket for Fowler

Center fielder has opportunity to get back on track with new team

'The Cubs Way' might just be the ticket for Fowler

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.

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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.

Grimm relieved to know role after breakout season

After gaining confidence in 2014, right-hander poised for big year

Grimm relieved to know role after breakout season

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.

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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, Jackson battling for fifth spot in rotation

Wood, Jackson battling for fifth spot in rotation

MESA, Ariz. -- No one has to say anything to Travis Wood or Edwin Jackson. Both pitchers know how important this spring is.

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.

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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 will adjust to playing fewer night games at home

Maddon will adjust to playing fewer night games at home

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."

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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' Bryant to start Opening Day? Kind of

Maddon crafts creative answer to burning question

Cubs' Bryant to start Opening Day? Kind of

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."

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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.

Strop thankful for health after offseason accident

Cubs reliever recounts story of November car wreck in Dominican Republic

Strop thankful for health after offseason accident

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.

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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, Maddon remember legendary Minoso

Cubs, Maddon remember legendary Minoso

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."

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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 happy to work with Manny in spring camp

Cubs shortstop impressed by former outfielder's hitting knowledge

Castro happy to work with Manny in spring camp

MESA, Ariz. -- Manny Ramirez has only been in Cubs camp since Wednesday, but he's already had an impact on the players.

"I think he has a great idea about hitting," shortstop Starlin Castro said of Ramirez, who was hired as a hitting consultant. "He was a great hitter and he can tell you everything about hitting. I think he's really smart.

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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 feels good vibe on mound, in camp

Left-hander appreciates Maddon's style, says he'll develop relationships with catchers

Lester feels good vibe on mound, in camp

MESA, Ariz. -- Jon Lester hasn't had a problem adjusting to the dry Arizona weather and feels the same way about throwing to different catchers. However, the Cubs pitcher did notice manager Joe Maddon talking to himself.

Maddon apparently uses a digital recorder on the field to take verbal notes during practice.

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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.

Durable Montero wants to be workhorse

Catcher ranked third in starts last season

Durable Montero wants to be workhorse

MESA, Ariz. -- If he could figure out a way, Miguel Montero would probably start all 162 games, but the Cubs catcher knows that's not going to happen.

Montero, 31, ranked third among all catchers last season in starts with 130, trailing only the the Royals' Salvador Perez (143) and the Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy (133). But Montero also batted .243. Would more rest have helped him stay fresh?

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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.

Wada works through BP session without issue

Left-hander slowed by tight left hamstring

Wada works through BP session without issue

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada, who had been slowed because of a tight left hamstring, threw a live batting-practice session on Saturday and passed all the tests.

"I thought he threw the ball really well," manager Joe Maddon said. "I did not see any kind of restriction. He looked very, very healthy. The ball had a lot of movement on it. He looked good for his first time out after having been restricted because of his leg."

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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 donates baseball uniforms to high school

Cubs prospect gives back to alma mater

Bryant donates baseball uniforms to high school

MESA, Ariz. -- Bonanza High School's baseball team will look pretty sharp this season, thanks to Cubs prospect Kris Bryant, who donated cleats and two sets of uniforms to the Las Vegas school.

"I wanted to do something special for them," Bryant said Saturday. "Bonanza High School isn't the best high school in Vegas. We don't really have the resources.

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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.

Javier Baez is keeping count of his ST selfies

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Javier Baez is keeping count of his ST selfies

It is a simple inevitability that there will be hundreds upon hundreds of selfies taken at Spring Training this year. As such, it's nearly impossible to keep track of the deluge of faces that flows in with the force of a non-frozen Niagara Falls.  

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Maddon sees Alcantara as Cubs' Zobrist

Utility player gives team plenty of flexibility

Maddon sees Alcantara as Cubs' Zobrist

MESA, Ariz. -- Ben Zobrist did everything but catch for Joe Maddon with Tampa Bay. Maddon hopes Arismendy Alcantara can be as versatile with the Cubs.

Alcantara, 23, played second base and center field after he was called up to the Cubs in July, and in three games, he played both positions.

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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

Lyle Spencer

Scioscia holds 'kindred spirit' Maddon in high esteem

Halos skipper, Cubs manager instantly clicked working together on Angels

Scioscia holds 'kindred spirit' Maddon in high esteem

MESA, Ariz. -- With the retirement of singer-songwriter Tim Flannery, the soul of the three-time World Series champion Giants as their third-base coach and so much more, there no longer can be any serious debate. Joe Maddon is "The Most Interesting Man in Baseball." The dude in the popular television commercial can't compare to the real deal.

When the Cubs' brain trust made Maddon an offer he couldn't refuse to manage their youthful team in 2015 and beyond, it was the kind of enlightened thinking he does every day of his life. Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who had Maddon as his bench coach with the 2002 World Series champions before the Rays hired him in '06 to manage their floundering outfit out of darkness, calls his buddy "a Renaissance Man," adding, "I can talk about Joe all day.

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

Lester, Ross working off same page in BP sessions

Lester, Ross working off same page in BP sessions

MESA, Ariz. -- Javier Baez had to face Jon Lester twice during the left-hander's first live batting-practice session on Friday. That was enough.

"I told him right after live BP, 'I prefer to play defense for you,'" Baez 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.

Prolific base-stealer Pierre retires after 14-year career

Outfielder, who played for six teams, is not ready to coach

Prolific base-stealer Pierre retires after 14-year career

JUPITER, Fla. -- Juan Pierre, the catalyst of the Marlins' 2003 World Series title team and one of the most prolific base-stealers of his generation, has announced his retirement. The 37-year-old speedster is walking away from the game after an impressive 14-year career.

Pierre, who lives in south Florida, is now a self-proclaimed "stay-at-home dad." He also isn't ready to accept a coaching position at this point.

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Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Baez ecstatic to have Manny around Cubs camp

Rosscup hit on wrist; Banks featured on media guide

Baez ecstatic to have Manny around Cubs camp

MESA, Ariz. -- How happy was Javier Baez to see Manny Ramirez in Cubs camp?

"I grabbed Manny's stuff and put everything in my locker and told him he was going to be here with me," Baez said Friday. "The next day, he moved all his stuff back."

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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.

MLBPA's Clark eager to see Bryant succeed in Majors

Cubs' top rookie competing for roster spot

MLBPA's Clark eager to see Bryant succeed in Majors

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs fans aren't the only ones counting the days until Kris Bryant is promoted to the big leagues. The Major League Baseball Players Association is keeping an eye on the situation, too.

Tony Clark, executive director of the MLBPA, would not comment specifically about Bryant, who is ranked as baseball's No. 2 prospect, according to MLB.com.

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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 prospect Russell embracing new team

Ranked No. 5 by MLBPipeline, SS looks forward to season after being acquired from A's

Cubs prospect Russell embracing new team

MESA, Ariz. -- Addison Russell has not had a chance to thank Jason Hammel for being part of the reason the shortstop was traded from the Athletics to the Cubs last July. It should be easy to do and won't even require a phone call. Hammel and Russell now find themselves in the same clubhouse with the Cubs.

Last July 5, Russell was included in the package the A's sent to Chicago for Hammel and Jeff Samardzija. The Cubs also received outfielder Billy McKinney and pitcher Dan Straily, who was dealt to the Astros in January along with Luis Valbuena for Dexter Fowler. Hammel returned to the Cubs after signing a two-year contract last December.

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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 emphasizes 'Respect 90' message

Saying painted on first-base line encourages running hard, making good things happen

Maddon emphasizes 'Respect 90' message

MESA, Ariz. -- Ernie Banks used to come up with a saying every year for the Cubs. This season, manager Joe Maddon's message has been painted along the first-base line of Field 1 at the Cubs' complex: Respect 90.

Last Dec. 3, Maddon posted the message on his Twitter account @CubsJoeMadd: "Respect 90 ... going to make daily push for our players to respect that distance .. run hard for 90 feet, and the respect will come back to you." It's also on his Twitter profile.

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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 set for first live batting practice session

Manager Maddon still evaluating roster as Cubs get first experience with new lefty

Lester set for first live batting practice session

MESA, Ariz. -- Javier Baez, Mike Olt and Jorge Soler will be the first to take some swings against new Cubs pitcher Jon Lester, who is scheduled to throw his first live batting practice session on Friday.

Lester, Hector Rondon, Zac Rosscup, Brian Schlitter, Pedro Strop, Drake Britton, Corey Black and Pierce Johnson are scheduled for live batting practice.

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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.

La Stella adjusting to move to third base

Former second baseman embracing new position for Cubs

La Stella adjusting to move to third base

MESA, Ariz. -- When the Cubs traded for Tommy La Stella in November, they told the infielder that he needed to get a new glove.

La Stella has only played second base in the pros, both in the big leagues and the Minor Leagues. On Wednesday, he was taking grounders at third base along with Mike Olt. Acquired from the Braves for Arodys Vizcaino, La Stella was told he may need to be able to do more than play second to make the team.

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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's binge-watching The Office at Spring Training

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Maddon's binge-watching The Office at Spring Training

Cubs manager Joe Maddon is known for refined cultural palate. He used to take the Rays on Woodstock-themed road trips, he's quoted "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and now he's binge-watching "The Office" at Cubs Spring Training.

That last revelation came when Maddon said he felt like Michael Scott when he couldn't remember the team's upcoming scrimmage schedule.

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Former Cards Motte, Chambers see other side of Cubs rivalry

Both players ready to take advantage of new opportunity

Former Cards Motte, Chambers see other side of Cubs rivalry

MESA, Ariz. -- The history between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals has been intertwined for more than a century. The legendary Ernie Broglio for Lou Brock trade may be the most notable, but many players have suited up for both clubs. Included in the select group are Bruce Sutter, Dizzy Dean, Dennis Eckersley and Leo Durocher.

Now you can add former Cardinals Jason Motte and Adron Chambers to that list. Chicago signed Motte to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million and gave Chambers a Minor League deal and a non-roster invite to Spring Training.

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Nick Krueger is a junior journalism student 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.