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Jackson roughed up in return as Cubs fall to Dodgers

Righty unable to make it out of first inning; status for final start TBD

Jackson roughed up in return as Cubs fall to Dodgers play video for Jackson roughed up in return as Cubs fall to Dodgers

CHICAGO -- Edwin Jackson was unable to make it out of the first inning, Clayton Kershaw overcame an early hiccup and the Dodgers pulled away for a 14-5 win over the Cubs on Friday at Wrigley Field.

Jackson gave up five earned runs, four hits and a walk on 35 pitches before being pulled for September callup Eric Jokisch. Jackson was making his first start since Aug. 20 after spending a month on the disabled list with a right lat strain.

Whether he makes his final scheduled start against the Brewers next Friday is in question.

"It's too soon for me to say what exactly he'll do because the game is finished and I haven't had a conversation yet with anybody," manager Rick Renteria said.

"We have to sit down and talk. We still have other guys that we have to see how we line them up and how we use them. We'll make those decisions, obviously, in the very near future."

Jackson's ERA ballooned from 6.09 to 6.38, and he picked up his 15th loss of the season in 27 starts. The abbreviated outing comes on the heels of his Aug. 20 loss to the Giants, in which he went just 2 2/3 innings.

"I felt like I was attacking the strike zone, attacking the players, trying to make them put the ball in play; had life today," Jackson said. "Just a matter of executing pitches when you have a chance to put people away."

Of the seven batters he faced, Jackson got two strikes on five of them -- including Matt Kemp, who sent a 1-2 fastball into the left-field bleachers for a three-run homer and the first runs of the game. It was the sixth straight fastball Jackson threw to Kemp, one high in the zone.

"I think that was just a bad decision of pitch selection after throwing that many fastballs in a row," Jackson said. "Then he gets one up and hits a big three-run homer. [That] pretty much did it for the first inning."

Jokisch and the bullpen allowed an additional nine runs (seven earned) and nine hits over the remaining 8 1/3 innings.

Kershaw, who became the first pitcher this year to reach 20 wins, allowed an uncharacteristic three runs in the first inning that closed the Cubs' gap to 6-3. The two-time National League Cy Young Award winner left after five frames, tied for his second-shortest outing in 25 starts. Kershaw allowed the three runs, seven hits and three walks with nine strikeouts.

"Obviously, you want to go eight or nine [innings] and be the reason why the team won," said Kershaw. "Sometimes, the team does it for you and you just happen to be out there."

The Dodgers belted four homers -- one each from Kemp and Yasiel Puig, and a pair from A.J. Ellis, who entered the game with just one all season. It was Ellis' second career multihomer game -- his previous coming on Aug. 3, 2012, also against the Cubs.

Welington Castillo left the game in the first with a left rib contusion, and he was to undergo further evaluation. Anthony Rizzo left in the seventh once the Dodgers' lead had extended to 14-3.

September callup Rafael Lopez took over for Castillo, and went 1-for-3 with a single for his first Major League hit, a walk and an RBI.

"I was definitely a little surprised to get back in there so quickly," Lopez said. "But I just try to clear my mind and just do whatever I could off him and see what happens."

The Cubs have to go 3-2 over their final five home games -- two against the Dodgers and three against the NL Central-leading Cardinals -- to finish above .500 at Wrigley Field.

"You can't put your head down," Renteria said. "They're still here for the next two days; good club. Again, I think most games, as we all know, are predicated on pitching. So if you can keep your club in the game, you have a chance.

"I really think we've ground out two really good pitchers [Kershaw and Zack Greinke] here the last two days. Yesterday that one got away from us, we weren't able to finish it. Then today, they kept tacking on runs too. You can see why they're such a good club."

Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Castillo day to day with left rib contusion

Castillo day to day with left rib contusion play video for Castillo day to day with left rib contusion

CHICAGO -- Cubs catcher Welington Castillo left Friday's game against the Dodgers in the first inning with a left rib contusion, and he was to undergo further evaluation.

Manager Rick Renteria was waiting to receive an update on Castillo's status after the Cubs' 14-5 loss.

"They took him to the hospital to get an X-ray or an MRI or whatever, just to clear out everything," Renteria said. "We don't have the results yet. We'll know tomorrow."

Castillo was supplanted by callup Rafael Lopez, who went 1-for-3 with his first career hit, a walk and RBI -- with the hit coming against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

It's likely Lopez will be the starting catcher if Castillo is sidelined.

"If they put me back there, I'm obviously going to be ready, mentally and physically," said Lopez, who hit .285 with 27 RBIs at Triple-A this year. "Obviously, I want to be back there. I also understand how the game works and how September callups work and all that. But I definitely would love to be back there. You never know what happens."

Cubs trainers met Castillo and starter Edwin Jackson on the mound just after Hanley Ramirez doubled to right in the first. The meeting was initially thought to be regarding Jackson, who was making his first start since Aug. 20 after returning from the disabled list. But replays showed Castillo getting grazed by a pitch during Ramirez's at-bat, which appeared to cause the injury.

Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Bryant, Glasnow are Pipeline Prospects of the Year

Cubs phenom led Minors in HR, SLG, OPS; Pirates hurler led in opponents' average, was third in ERA

Bryant, Glasnow are Pipeline Prospects of the Year play video for Bryant, Glasnow are Pipeline Prospects of the Year

One led all of the Minor Leagues in home runs and slugging percentage. The other topped all pitching prospects in batting average against while finishing third in ERA. It's for those reasons that Kris Bryant of the Cubs and Tyler Glasnow of the Pirates have been chosen as MLBPipeline.com's 2014 Hitting Prospect and Pitching Prospect of the Year.

Bryant, the top prospect in the Cubs' system and No. 3 on the Top 100 list, was the unanimous choice for the top hitting prospect. The No. 2 pick in the 2013 Draft had about as good a first season of pro ball as anyone could imagine. The third baseman split the year between Double-A and Triple-A, hitting a combined .325/.438/.661. Bryant's 43 home runs were tops in the Minors, one more than the Rangers' Joey Gallo, as was his .661 slugging percentage and 1.098 OPS.

Bryant also finished second with a .438 on-base percentage and third with 110 RBIs. Just to show he wasn't a one-dimensional player, Bryant's batting average put him in the top 20 of all Minor Leaguers and he even stole 15 bases to boot.

"When I was going good, I just went with it, didn't change anything," Bryant said. "When I hit a little low point, it didn't seem to last more than two games. Having success is when you hit those low points, you minimize it. That's kind of how I went about it."

Bryant didn't even really miss a beat when he got promoted, though his numbers did dip a bit. Still, hitting .295/.418/.619 in Triple-A isn't too shabby. And the third baseman, who also received Minor League Player of the Year honors from USA Today and Baseball America, wasn't exaggerating. He never went more than two full games without a hit.

Dodgers outfield prospect Joc Pederson, who turned in a 30-30 season with Triple-A Albuquerque, was the unanimous second-place choice. Gallo, the Dodgers' Corey Seager and Red Sox prospect Mookie Betts all received votes.

Glasnow's march to Pitcher of the Year honors got started a bit late, his first start not coming until April 25 as he recovered from a back injury. But once he got rolling, he was pretty much unhittable for the rest of the Florida State League season.

Glasnow gave up more than two earned runs just three times in his 23 starts. He notched five double-digit strikeout totals, and while he was 21st in innings pitched in the FSL, he was second in K's, thanks to his 11.4 strikeout-per-nine rate. Even when Glasnow wasn't missing bats, there wasn't a ton of hard contact, as evidenced by his Minors-leading .174 batting average against and 5.4 hits per nine rate. He gave up three home runs all year.

"I'm definitely proud of what happened," said Glasnow, who'll head to the Arizona Fall League to make up for some of those lost innings. "I think I got a lot better, especially from the beginning of the year to the end. The injury was a good lesson. I was just rehabbing. That was frustrating. I'm glad I went through that at the beginning of the year. I learned a ton and I'm definitely a better pitcher now."

Glasnow had a breakout season in 2013, and some wanted to see him do it again to make sure it wasn't a one-time fluke. Glasnow's numbers improved in a few areas, including a lower walk rate, making it clear he's as legit as they come. He began the 2013 season not on the Top 100 at all, but finished it at No. 97. He shot up to 27 to start the 2014 season and is now all the way up to No. 17.

"It used to be my whole focus, to prove to people that I was better than people thought I was," said Glasnow, who pointed to improving his secondary stuff as well as his mental approach as the things he's most proud of. "Coming into this year, I wanted to do well again, and it was a bit of a thought. I wanted to show people I could do it again.

"I stopped putting so much emphasis on what people were saying. I wanted to live more in the now, not get too caught up in all that stuff. That helped."

The vote for top pitcher was a little more spread out. Blue Jays lefty Daniel Norris, Brewers right-hander Jimmy Nelson and Red Sox southpaw Henry Owens all received a good deal of support. Brian Johnson, also in the Boston organization, Nationals right-hander Lucas Giolito and young Dodgers lefty Julio Urias all received votes as well.

Bryant and Glasnow share something in common, beyond both being Pipeline honorees. In addition to having to deal with opposing players, they also had to hear a fairly constant barrage of questions about being promoted. The call for Bryant to come to Chicago, especially after fellow prospects Javier Baez and Jorge Soler were called up, was deafening. Glasnow also knew there was talk about whether he'd get bumped up to Double-A to finish the season.

"I thought about it a little bit," Glasnow said. "I wasn't too worried about it. A lot of people asked me about it and I said, 'I have no idea. I'm just going to keep pitching well.' I literally had no control over it."

"I didn't think about it at all, actually," Bryant said. "I kind of got annoyed hearing about it all the time. I tried not to read anything or hear anything. It's a big distraction and takes away from what you're doing on the field. I was just trying to focus on getting better every day. If you're not doing that, you're not going to get to the big leagues. If I'm doing that, then that day will come."

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Renteria wins challenge on disputed double play

Renteria wins challenge on disputed double play play video for Renteria wins challenge on disputed double play

CHICAGO -- Manager Rick Renteria successfully challenged a second-inning call at first base that overturned what would've been a double play on Friday vs. the Dodgers.

With one out and the Cubs trailing, 6-3, Arismendy Alcantara hit a chopper to pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who threw to second to start the would-be 1-4-3 double play. Renteria immediately came out of the dugout to challenge the out call at first, and after review, the call was overturned and Alcantara was awarded first base.

Javier Baez popped out to second base during the next at-bat to end the inning.

Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Doubront looking to continue solid work for Cubs

Righty aims to shake off rough stretch in matchup with Doubront, Cubs

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The Dodgers' 14-5 rout of the Cubs on Friday extended their National League West lead to three games over the Giants and cut their magic number for the division title to seven, but thanks to Hyun-Jin Ryu's injury, a bit of drama lingers.

"If I had to worry about it going through a 162-game season, I'd have a different feel. We're down to nine, 10 games and I feel OK with where we're at," manager Don Mattingly said. "I feel Hyun-Jin will be back. If you tried to start the season like this, you'd be in a box. Right now, I feel OK."

The Dodgers will send Roberto Hernandez to the mound Saturday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Hernandez has struggled of late. After beginning his Dodgers career with three quality starts in his first four outings, Hernandez hasn't lasted more than 4 1/3 innings in each of his last three starts. Six of the 16 hits he's surrendered over that span have left the yard. He's fared well against the Cubs this year, though, going 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA.

Hernandez will be opposed at the Friendly Confines by lefty Felix Doubront, who's coming off a solid outing against the Pirates in which he threw six shutout innings. The lefty felt he was able to apply what pitching coach Chris Bosio has stressed, namely to throw with conviction and get ahead in the count.

Dodgers: Status of starters in flux
Hernandez will be on a long leash Saturday because innings are just as important as minimizing runs, since Mattingly may opt to use the bullpen on Sunday in order to save Dan Haren for Monday's opener vs. the Giants.

Haren threw a short bullpen session Friday, an indication that the club's preference is for him to start vs. San Francisco.

Ryu, meanwhile, said his left shoulder was still sore from Monday's cortisone injection, but he hopes to begin a throwing program over the weekend. He hasn't picked up a baseball in a week, making his return before the playoffs unlikely.

Cubs: Baez back to second base
Javier Baez moved back to what will likely be his long-term post at second base on Friday against the Dodgers.

Baez had been filling in for injured Starlin Castro at shortstop, the position the mega-prospect played for the bulk of his Minor League career. Baez didn't move to second until this year with Triple-A Iowa, and he had two errors in 85 chances there.

Manager Rick Renteria said Baez's shift back to second was done so the rookie could get more game reps over the final week-plus of the season.

"We had talked about that," Renteria said. "Before we break, we wanted to get him a couple more games out there. Maybe one more before we leave here."

Castro, a three-time All-Star, went down with a high left ankle sprain on Sept. 2. While it's unclear if he will return over the final eight games, he remains optimistic.

"I don't want to go into the offseason not playing," Castro said last weekend in Pittsburgh. "I want to play -- if it's three games, I'll play three games."

Worth noting
• Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon recorded his seventh consecutive multihit game on Friday against the Cubs to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, during which he's batting .360.

• Cubs catcher Welington Castillo exited Friday's game with a left rib contusion and was to undergo further evaluation.

• Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda and former umpire Bruce Froemming will join the lineup of Dodger legends and guests who will serve as instructors for the 53rd Los Angeles Dodgers Adult Baseball Camp at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla., from Nov. 9-15. Historic Dodgertown chairman Peter O'Malley made the announcement on Friday.

• Each of the Cubs' remaining eight games will come against a team contending for a playoff spot. After the Dodgers series this weekend, the Cubs have a three-game set with the Cardinals and another with the Brewers.

Ryan Hood is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanhood19. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Baez shifts back to second after stint at short

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CHICAGO -- Javier Baez moved back to what will likely be his long-term post at second base on Friday against the Dodgers.

Baez had been filling in for injured Starlin Castro at shortstop, the position the mega-prospect played for the bulk of his Minor League career. Baez didn't move to second until this year with Triple-A Iowa, and he had two errors in 85 defensive chances there.

Manager Rick Renteria said Baez's shift back to second base was done so the rookie could get more game reps over the final week-plus of the season.

"We had talked about that," Renteria said. "Before we break, we wanted to get him a couple more games out there. Maybe one more before we leave here."

Castro, a three-time All-Star, went down with a high left ankle sprain on Sept. 2. While it's unclear if he will return over the final eight games, he remains optimistic.

"I don't want to go into the offseason not playing," Castro said last weekend in Pittsburgh. "I want to play -- if it's three games, I'll play three games."

Renteria said the decision was "easy" to move Baez to short.

"We look at it as being an easy transition for him to fill a void that was left by Starlin's injury," Renteria said. "We had Logan Watkins here, we have [Chris Valaika] here that can fill the right side of the diamond. It's an easy decision. There's not a whole lot to debate."

Baez is batting .178 with nine homers and 18 RBIs in 43 games since debuting on Aug. 5. Utility player Valaika was at short on Friday.

Worth noting

Edwin Jackson was on an unspecified pitch count Friday, Renteria said. Jackson is starting his first game since Aug. 20 after a stint on the DL with a right lat strain. September callup Eric Jokisch was expected to be the Cubs' long reliever.

• Renteria didn't think the young Cubs would buckle under the pressure of facing two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw.

"I think they'll go up there and see him for the first time and try to grind him out and try to show everybody that they are capable of handling a No. 1 starter like he is," Renteria said. "I don't think our guys are going to go out there with any sense of awe. They're peers. No competitor goes out there trying to give their opponent an edge. I think what they're going to do is methodically go through the process, break him down and see what they have to do in order to have good at-bats and take advantage of anything he might give them. Which isn't a lot."

Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Cubs reach deal with Eugene for Class A affiliate

The Cubs are taking their Northwest League affiliate back to Eugene, Ore.

The Cubs agreed Friday on a new player-development contract to move their Class A club, a two-year deal that runs through the 2016 season. It is a reunion of sorts, as Eugene was previously a Cubs affiliate from 1999-2000.

The Eugene Emeralds had been affiliated with the Padres since 2001. The Cubs were affiliated with the Northwest League's Boise Hawks from 2001-14.

"We are looking forward to working with [general manager] Allan Benavides and the entire Emeralds organization, and are eager to begin working with the local community," said Jason McLeod, the Cubs' senior vice president of scouting and player development. "The Eugene ballclub offers a first-class facility at the University of Oregon, one of the most impressive facilities in short-season baseball."

The Emeralds, who began play as an independent team in the inaugural Northwest League in 1955, have partnered with nine Major League organizations in their 60-year history, winning three Northwest League championships and moving into their current ballpark, PK Park, in 2010.

"The Emeralds could not be happier to announce this new partnership with the Cubs," Benavides said in a statement. "We are excited to introduce a new brand of baseball at PK Park and look forward to a long-lasting relationship as the Cubs' Northwest League affiliate."

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

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Cubs let NL West-leading Dodgers off hook

Error helps erase advantage in five-run 7th; Wada strong in final start

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CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Rick Renteria said it was going to be a challenge to face the National League West-leading Dodgers, and it was.

The Dodgers took advantage of an error by rookie second baseman Logan Watkins to score five runs in the seventh and post an 8-4 come-from-behind victory Thursday night over the Cubs at Wrigley Field, inching closer to securing a playoff berth. Los Angeles increased its lead over San Francisco to 2 1/2 games, and its magic number to clinch a playoff spot is two.

"They hit a couple balls hard, for sure," Renteria said of the Dodgers, "but there were a couple plays we could've made."

The Cubs had a 4-1 lead after six innings, but in the seventh, Los Angeles had two on and one out against Neil Ramirez and tallied on an error by Watkins, who couldn't get a glove on Juan Uribe's potential double-play ball. The miscue was costly. Pinch-hitter Andre Ethier followed with an RBI double, and another run scored on a groundout by pinch-hitter Justin Turner to tie the game at 4.

Dee Gordon then smacked an RBI double and scored on Yasiel Puig's single to chase Ramirez for a 6-4 lead. Of the five runs off Ramirez that inning, only one was earned.

"Uribe hit a pretty hard ball, right up the middle, and the first instinct was to knock it down and keep it in front of me, and it kicked to the left," Watkins said.

Watkins also was charged with an error on a throw in the ninth that led to another Dodgers run.

"I can honestly look back and say I wouldn't have done anything different on both balls," Watkins said. "That one there [in the seventh], I didn't want it to go to the outfield. The other one, a diving play, just try to get it to first as fast as possible.

"It's baseball. I'll make more. It did [stink] because I wanted to get Neil out of that inning right there, because it was a possible double play. I wouldn't have done anything different. ... It always seems like that -- you make an error and the wheels come off."

The win snapped the Dodgers' two-game losing streak, and it was a rarity. Los Angeles now is 2-54 when trailing after six.

"I guess this is pretty darn big," said Dodgers starter Zack Greinke, who allowed four runs on nine hits over five innings while throwing 112 pitches. "By the fifth, it didn't look very good. To pull it out, it's almost like stealing a win. I don't know how many times we've done it all year."

Which is part of the reason the loss stung even more for the Cubs.

"All things being equal, we haven't had a lot of games like that," Renteria said. "The guys have been pretty good. This one just got away. It's just baseball."

Renteria said he didn't need to reprimand Watkins or shortstop Javier Baez, who also made a throwing error in the ninth.

"They know they have to make those plays," Renteria said. "The last thing I need to do is pounce on [Watkins]. ... He wants to make those plays, and I'm sure he'll tell you that he should've made those plays. The next time, hopefully, he will make those plays."

While the Dodgers are preparing for postseason play, Chicago's Tsuyoshi Wada made his last start. The Cubs want to get a look at rookie Eric Jokisch in one of their final nine games. Wada, 33, who was told Thursday was his final outing, struck out five and gave up five hits over five innings.

"He's done a nice job," Renteria said of Wada. "He's been very efficient and given us a chance every time he's gone out."

The left-hander said his hamstring has been tender and may have been a factor Thursday. He was grateful to the Cubs for the opportunity.

"If I look back personally, I feel it was a very good year in regards that the Cubs picked me up without me having any Major League numbers and gave me the opportunity to start in this big league atmosphere," Wada said through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa. "When I look back, it was a very good year."

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.

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Rizzo youngest to win Branch Rickey Award

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Anthony Rizzo has been named the winner of the 2014 Branch Rickey Award. He is the youngest to receive the award. The announcement was made in Denver on Thursday.

Rizzo, 25, will be inducted as the 23rd member of the Baseball Humanitarians Hall of Fame on Nov. 14 at the McNichols Civic Center in Denver. Two days later, on Nov. 16 in Parkland, Fla., Rizzo and his foundation will host a third "Walk-Off for Cancer" 5K walk.

Created by the Rotary Club of Denver in 1991, the Branch Rickey Award honors individuals in baseball who contribute unselfishly to their communities and who are strong role models for young people. Each year, MLB teams are asked to nominate one team member for the award.

Rizzo was chosen by a national selection committee comprised of 400 members of the sports media, baseball executives, past award winners and Rotary district governors. Fans also were given a chance to vote online, and more than 30,000 votes were received. Rizzo won the fan voting by an impressive margin.

Rizzo has overcome Hodgkin's Lymphoma, which he was diagnosed with while a Minor Leaguer with the Red Sox in 2008. His foundation's goal is to help families affected by cancer. Besides his fundraising walk in his hometown, Rizzo has hosted two "Cook-offs for Cancer" in Chicago. So far, he's raised more than $500,000. The first baseman also is a regular visitor to pediatric cancer patients in Chicago and Hollywood, Fla.

Rickey was known to many as "Mr. Baseball" and is credited with breaking the color barrier in the Major Leagues in 1947 when Jackie Robinson, whom Rickey had signed two years earlier, debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Previous recipients of this award include Dave Winfield, Kirby Puckett, Ozzie Smith, Paul Molitor, Torii Hunter, Tommy Lasorda, Roland Hemond and Clayton Kershaw.

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.

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Cubs shift affiliate from Kane County to South Bend

New Class A partnership to run through 2018 season

Cubs shift affiliate from Kane County to South Bend

CHICAGO -- The Cubs announced a partnership with South Bend (Ind.) to host their Class A Midwest League affiliate, leaving Kane County after two seasons. The deal with South Bend runs through the 2018 season.

"It's tough to disappoint those people [in Kane County] and leave, but I wouldn't be doing my job if we weren't doing the right thing for our players," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Thursday. "One area we don't mess around with is player development. Our success will be impacted in large part by how we develop our young players and get them ready for the big league level."

South Bend had been the Diamondbacks' affiliate from 2007 through this season.

The Cubs had moved to Kane County (Geneva, Ill.) because of its proximity to Chicago, and even though the Cougars' ownership had promised to make changes that met the Chicago team's specifications, it wasn't enough to stay. Epstein knows the news wasn't well received in Kane County.

"I don't think in this industry you can avoid looking like 'bad guys,' and [you] just have to roll with it and make sure you're making decisions for the right reasons," he said. "And in this case, we have to do what's best for our prospects and the organization moving forward."

South Bend will announce new names, logos and uniforms on Sept. 25, as well as some renovations planned for the facility. The South Bend Silver Hawks won five Midwest League titles and 12 division titles in 26 seasons as an affiliate of the D-backs and the White Sox. The Cubs' Kane County team won a franchise-record 91 games this year and went unbeaten in the playoffs to win the Midwest League championship.

"Today is a turning point," said Andrew Berlin, owner of the South Bend franchise. "I made a promise to the thousands of people and local government officials who welcomed me with open arms three years ago. I promised that I would return the team to its former glory days. And I promised that I'd do everything I could to bring people back downtown and prove that this is a wonderful place to invest in.

"Now, one of the best and most beloved brands in the history of Major League Baseball is making a bold statement about this place, too. The Chicago Cubs are giving this region a big vote of confidence."

Epstein complimented the ownership and staff at Kane County, saying they did a "first-class job."

"The South Bend renovation offers a facility that we feel will make a profound difference for our prospects, and that was the key factor in the end," Epstein said.

Extra bases

• According to reports late Thursday, the Cubs have signed a two-year deal with the Class A short season Eugene Emeralds, ending the Minor League team's 14-year relationship with the Padres. The Cubs had a team in Boise since 2001 until the Hawks signed a new player development contract with the Rockies.

• Outfielder Arismendy Alcantara, who suffered a mild right wrist sprain on Monday, was able to hit off a batting tee and took batting practice Thursday, and he could return to the Cubs' lineup soon. Alcantara was injured when he ran into the brick outfield wall.

Anthony Rizzo did not start Thursday, part of the Cubs' plan to ease him back into game action after missing three weeks with a lower back strain. The first baseman is expected to be in the lineup on Friday.

• Pitching coach Chris Bosio asked Cubs reliever Carlos Villanueva to sub for bullpen coach Lester Strode, who had to attend to a family matter. Villanueva made his debut Wednesday, and closer Hector Rondon complimented the veteran.

"I didn't want to mess up," Villanueva said. "My job depends on how those guys do. I'm glad to help. I feel good that they trust me. It was definitely a first."

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.

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Cubs lose late challenge on safe call vs. LA

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CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Rick Renteria challenged that Adrian Gonzalez was ruled safe at first in the ninth inning of Chicago's 8-4 loss to Los Angeles on Thursday night, but he lost.

The Dodgers had Yasiel Puig at second with no outs against reliever Blake Parker when Gonzalez hit a grounder to shortstop Javier Baez, whose throw to first pulled Mike Olt off the bag. First-base umpire Phil Cuzzi called Gonzalez safe, which brought Renteria out of the dugout.

After a brief review, the call was confirmed, and Baez was charged with a throwing error.

Matt Kemp then tacked on a run with a sacrifice fly -- plating Puig, who had advanced to third on the play -- before Parker induced a forceout and a flyout to end the inning.

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.

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Cubs sweep Reds behind strong Hendricks

Rookie limits Cincinnati to one run over seven innings

Cubs sweep Reds behind strong Hendricks play video for Cubs sweep Reds behind strong Hendricks

CHICAGO -- On Wednesday, 19-year-old Jen-Ho Tseng was honored as the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year. A year ago, Kyle Hendricks was presented with that award. Tseng can only hope to have the same success as Hendricks.

Hendricks scattered seven hits over seven innings Wednesday as the Cubs edged the Reds, 3-1, for their first three-game series sweep of Cincinnati at Wrigley Field since July 24-26, 2009.

In six home games this year, Hendricks has a 1.53 ERA, giving up six earned runs over 35 1/3 innings, and now has posted four quality starts. He struck out four and did not walk a batter but needed some help from the defense.

"I just feel comfortable here, I guess, and in front of the home fans," Hendricks said about pitching at Wrigley. "It's not like I've pitched bad on the road but the home environment -- it's always nice pitching at home and getting wins in front of your fans."

Tseng was making his second trip in a week to Wrigley. The Taiwanese right-hander was there Monday with his Class A Kane County teammates, who won the Midwest League championship. On Wednesday, Tseng and Kris Bryant, the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year, were both celebrated in pregame ceremonies.

"Walking out starting to warm up, I saw them out there," Hendricks said of Tseng and Bryant, "and I thought, 'This exact time last year, I was here just watching.' It's kind of crazy how fast it all happens. They tell us that when we're down in the Minor Leagues -- just keep working because once you make it, you'll look back and say it went fast. It definitely has and it's been a good ride."

The Reds were shut out in the first two games of the series, but didn't waste any time scoring Wednesday. Kristopher Negron doubled to lead off the game and scored one out later on Yorman Rodriguez's groundout. And that was it.

"We all like starting pitchers to throw 95 [mph] with a great slider and split-finger or whatever," Reds manager Bryan Price said, "but if they're pitch-efficient, they command the ball, have deception, movement, change of speed -- No. 1 starters or Hall of Famers can look a lot like Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine or Jamie Moyer.

"That's [Hendricks'] 12th start, I think, this year, and he's been very, very good," Price said. "It's not because it's smoke and mirrors. It's just because he's a very talented young guy that understands how to pitch."

And that bodes well for the Cubs. Manager Rick Renteria said he had a good feeling about the young arms when he reviewed the personnel in the organization a year ago while preparing to interview for the job. Hendricks, who picked up his eighth quality start in 12 outings, has been the star, helping to make up for the loss of starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, who were both traded July 4.

Cincinnati had chances but Welington Castillo caught Donald Lutz's popup in foul territory to end the sixth and strand two, and Chris Coghlan robbed Negron of a potential extra-base hit with a catch against the wall in left to leave two on that inning. Coghlan got a little help from the greenery.

"The last couple steps, you know the wall's coming, you can feel the track," Coghlan said of the play. "It's such a tough wall to play, and I was like, 'I'm just going to go for it,' and just jumped. Fortunately, my foot stuck in the vines so I didn't have a big impact on the wall, which was good."

It looked like the ivy held Coghlan up.

"It did," he said. "I was like, 'That was pretty easy.' That's the only one time I've had a safe encounter with that thing."

The Cubs tallied in the second on an RBI single by Chris Valaika and a run-scoring ground-rule double by Ryan Kalish that disappeared into the ivy. Luis Valbuena singled home an insurance run in the eighth.

Tseng heads home to Taiwan in a few days. Hopefully, he picked up some pointers by watching Hendricks, who has come a long way.

"I came in just trying to learn and see what big league hitters and big league baseball overall was about," Hendricks said. "I definitely learned a ton the second half of the year and was able to have success, too, and that's ultimately what I was hoping for."

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.

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{"event":["prospect" ] }

Bryant hoping his big league arrival comes soon

Cubs top prospect visits Wrigley as team's Minor League Player of Year

Bryant hoping his big league arrival comes soon play video for Bryant hoping his big league arrival comes soon

CHICAGO -- Before batting practice Wednesday, some of the Cubs players saw top prospect Kris Bryant in one of the suites at Wrigley Field and yelled at him to come down to join them. Not yet, but maybe next year.

Bryant and Jen-Ho Tseng were honored Wednesday as the Cubs' Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively. Bryant, 22, has been the focus since he was selected second overall in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.

"I feel like I've been here the whole year and I haven't played one game," said Bryant, who was able to catch up with some of his Iowa teammates, including Logan Watkins, Mike Olt, Javier Baez and Rafael Lopez.

"I guess it's bittersweet," he said about being in a jacket and jeans and not in uniform. "It's always been my dream to play in the big leagues and I hope for that day to come sometime."

The Cubs' No. 1 overall prospect (and No. 3 in baseball), according to MLB.com's Prospect Watch, Bryant led all of Minor League baseball with 43 home runs, 78 extra-base hits, 325 total bases, a .661 slugging percentage and a 1.098 OPS. He could only watch as his Iowa teammates were promoted.

"It's not up to me, it's up to the guys in charge," Bryant said. "I've always said my job is to make it hard on them and I think I did that this year, and that's all I'm going to do the rest of my career."

This offseason, he'll take a vacation at Disneyland, then get back to work on his hitting. Bryant has a batting cage in his backyard and works with his father, Mike. He said he wasn't jealous when players like Baez or Jorge Soler got the promotion.

"I'm happy for them," he said. "You want to be in their shoes someday, and I hope that day comes soon. We're all in this together and we all want to win a World Series. I'm very happy for my teammates in Iowa and Tennessee and all the callups. It's definitely been fun watching them."

Since Iowa's season ended, Bryant said he's watched several Cubs games on television from his home in Las Vegas. He's already been named the Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America and USA Today. The Cubs want to see how the offseason goes before committing to him as the starting third baseman in 2015. Is Bryant prepared if he doesn't make the big league roster on Opening Day next year?

"Yes," he said. "I don't think that will be a problem for me."

Tseng, 19, went 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA in 19 games (17 starts) that spanned 105 innings with Class A Kane County. He walked 15 batters and struck out 85, helping to lead the Cougars to a Minor League-best 91 wins and the Midwest League title. The righty, signed as a non-drafted free agent last year, allowed three or fewer runs in 16 of his 17 starts.

His goal this season was to stay healthy, which he did. The right-hander was as eager to meet Bryant as some of the fans at Wrigley Field. Was Tseng ready to pitch Wednesday?

"Yes," he said, smiling.

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.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Arrieta looks like pitching cornerstone for Cubs

Righty prepared to embrace role of ace for up-and-coming team

Arrieta looks like pitching cornerstone for Cubs play video for Arrieta looks like pitching cornerstone for Cubs

CHICAGO -- As baffling as it was for Cincinnati Reds hitters to anticipate what was coming from Jake Arrieta, some things were clear watching the Cubs on Tuesday night.

As the third season under the watch of Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod ends, you can see where the road they have so painfully cleared is leading. It may not be all downhill from here, but the fun is definitely coming back for fans of Major League Baseball's most long-suffering franchise.

"We're right there," Arrieta said. "I think it's obvious for the guys in the clubhouse. A lot of the young guys know there are adjustments that have to be made moving forward, which is just part of it. The transition from Triple-A to the big leagues is the biggest jump in all of sports. ... You're going to take your lumps, and if you can stay even keel, be the same guy on a daily basis, put your work in with the ability you have, the talent, it's going to pan out. We have a lot of high-quality guys."

While the development of prospects like Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara has been encouraging, the emergence of the 28-year-old Arrieta has been just as significant in positioning the Cubs to view themselves as a 2015 surprise team and a definite contender by '16.

Their viability in the immediate future is at least somewhat dependent on acquiring a top starter this offseason -- free agents Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, James Shields and Kenta Maeda (who must go through the posting process in Japan) would fill that bill -- but Arrieta continues to show that he's capable of becoming a No. 1 starter.

Less than 15 months ago, Arrieta was discarded by the Baltimore Orioles in a rental trade for Scott Feldman. Now he's ready to be a rotation cornerstone. You can call Arrieta an ace if you want to.

"It's not going to frighten me, if that's what you're asking," said Arrieta, who was a fifth-round pick out of TCU in 2007. "It is what it is. I've overcome a lot of things in my career, started to establish myself, put myself in a position like this. That's kind of the territory I'm in. I welcome it."

Arrieta, who is 9-5 with a 2.65 ERA in 24 starts, used his mid-90s fastball and the electrifying movement of his pitches to mount his third significant bid for a no-hitter Tuesday. Todd Hollandsworth, the MLB Network Radio host who doubles as a Cubs analyst, said Arrieta was making the baseball move like a Wiffle ball, and that's an apt description.

While his old team was in the process of clinching the American League East, Arrieta struck out a career-high 13 in a one-hit shutout, with Brandon Phillips' one-out double in the eighth coming on the only one of 110 pitches that Arrieta would want back.

"The movement is reflected in the body language of the hitters," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "You see some of the swings these guys take, it tells you."

Arrieta got 18 swinging strikes overall, including seven to finish off hitters. But the elusive nature of his pitches was as evident on some takes as the futile swings.

After Phillips' double in the eighth, which was just beyond the reach of a diving Matt Szczur, and getting Chris Heisey on a popup, Arrieta fell behind Ramon Santiago 3-0. The Cincinnati infielder took the next three pitches, all of which came clattering into umpire Mike Everitt's zone for called strikes.

"I was able to come out and pound everything down in the strike zone," Arrieta said. "When I missed, I missed out of the strike zone, not over the heart of the plate. If you want to have success at a high level, to pitch games like that, that's what you've got to do."

Arrieta had taken a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Reds on June 24 at Wrigley, and he came back six days later to get a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Because he opened the season on the disabled list with a shoulder that was sore from his constant workouts throughout the offseason, Arrieta is just shy of being an ERA qualifier. Among qualifiers, his 1.02 WHIP would rank third in the National League, behind Clayton Kershaw and Johnny Cueto; his ratio of 9.44 strikeouts per nine innings would also be third, behind Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg.

Arrieta is sixth in the NL in WAR, joining the Nationals' Tanner Roark as a fresh face on a list topped by Kershaw, Cueto, Cole Hamels and Adam Wainwright. That's excellent company to keep.

This isn't the first time in the Epstein regime that the Cubs have had a top pitcher. His presence made it easier to trade Jeff Samardzija to the A's, after Samardzija had turned down long-term contracts, and that deal brought the Cubs two more highly regarded prospects in shortstop Addison Russell (ETA late 2015) and outfielder Billy McKinney (ETA late 2016).

Even without Samardzija, the Cubs are closer to having a solid rotation than you might think. Dartmouth product Kyle Hendricks has outperformed expectations in going 6-2 with a 2.38 ERA in 11 big league starts entering Wednesday, Japanese lefty Tsuyoshi Wada has pitched like a keeper, and veterans Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood join midseason acquisitions Felix Doubront, Jacob Turner and Dan Straily in adding depth.

This might be a good time to point out that none of the guys named above -- Arrieta included -- have compiled the long track record of success that makes them truly known commodities.

But like his franchise, Arrieta is announcing his presence. Renteria believes it's only a matter of time until he finishes off one of these no-hitters, and he seems to as well.

"I think I'll be able to put myself in these type situations," Arrieta said. "Obviously not on a game-to-game basis. This game has a strange way of teaching you lessons, whether it's something like this [on Tuesday] or the game in Colorado where I gave up nine runs, there's always something to learn, always a way to benefit from it. I just continue to grind, put in the work and the time and hopefully [can] be in these situations again."

This might have been the last time he's in one for a last-place team.

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

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{"content":["injury" ] }

Jackson excited to return against Dodgers

Right-hander expected to make two more starts coming off lat strain

Jackson excited to return against Dodgers play video for Jackson excited to return against Dodgers

CHICAGO -- Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson is eager to finish the season on a positive note and said he expected to make a couple of starts before the year ends, beginning Friday against the Dodgers.

"It's always good to finish off strong, especially when you're coming off an injury," Jackson said Wednesday. "I'll go out and try to have fun these last two starts."

Jackson has not started since Aug. 20 because of a strained right lat. He lasted only 2 2/3 innings in his last outing, which was against the Giants, who scored seven runs on eight hits and two walks in the abbreviated start.

Jackson's rehab has involved rest and recovery. He has not faced hitters, but has thrown in the bullpen. The right-hander will have a tough return as he faces the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw at Wrigley Field.

"It's always fun when you're going against a guy like Kershaw," Jackson said. "It makes the game interesting. You don't think that you're pitching against Kershaw, you're pitching against the Dodgers. You have eight other guys who can swing the bat."

Jackson (6-14, 6.09 ERA) was simply pumped to stop being a cheerleader and get back in a game.

"It feels good to come back," he said. "I've been watching a lot of baseball."

Worth noting

• An MRI revealed Arismendy Alcantara has a mild sprain of his right wrist, suffered when he crashed into the brick wall at Wrigley Field on Monday. Alcantara is day to day.

"He took a few swings today, and he'll be day to day," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Wednesday.

Jake Arrieta, who threw a one-hit shutout Tuesday against the Reds, is scheduled for one more start in the final 10 games, Renteria said. The right-hander most likely will start against the Cardinals, who come to Wrigley Field next Monday for a three-game series.

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.

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

Brilliant Arrieta flirts with no-no, fans 13 Reds

Righty tosses 7 1/3 no-hit innings before allowing double to Phillips

Brilliant Arrieta flirts with no-no, fans 13 Reds play video for Brilliant Arrieta flirts with no-no, fans 13 Reds

CHICAGO -- The third time was nearly the charm for Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta.

Arrieta carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning Tuesday, only to have it broken up by Brandon Phillips with a one-out double, as the Cubs posted a 7-0 win over the Reds in front of 33,812 at Wrigley Field. Chris Coghlan drove in three runs and Jorge Soler drove in two to back Arrieta, who struck out a career-high 13.

"It's an exciting night and a lot of fun and one I'll remember for a long time," Arrieta said.

Arrieta, who tossed his first career complete game and shutout, almost threw a no-hitter six years to the day of the last Cubs' no-hitter on Sept. 14, 2008, when Carlos Zambrano shut down the Astros in a game relocated to Miller Park because of Hurricane Ike in Houston.

This was the first one-hit shutout by a Cubs pitcher since Jon Lieber did so May 24, 2001, also against the Reds.

It was a perfect night to pitch at Wrigley with the game-time temperature at 60 degrees and a gentle wind from the east at 10 mph.

Arrieta struck out Jay Bruce to start the Reds eighth, but Phillips lined an 0-2 pitch into the gap in left-center for the first hit, although center fielder Matt Szczur made a great attempt to catch the ball.

Arrieta's reaction to another end to his no-hit bid?

"Frustrated isn't really the right word," Arrieta said, "but I was able to take a deep breath, and let it out, and say, 'All right, it's over now, so let's try to get a few more outs.'

"I think it was a little easier having those experiences early in the season," he said. "I was able to slow it down and take it one pitch at a time, and I know that's as cliche as it gets, but in those situations that's what you have to do."

The Reds' Billy Hamilton had spoiled Arrieta's bid on June 24 when the right-hander had a perfect game into the seventh. Hamilton led off the seventh that day with a single. In Arrieta's next start against the Red Sox, he had a no-hitter through 7 2/3 innings. Arrieta is the first Cubs pitcher to take no-hitters into the seventh inning three times in a season since 1950.

"I was able to slow the game down a little bit more after having a couple experiences similar to this one," Arrieta said of Tuesday's outing. "I kind of tried to really just put [the no-hitter] in the back of my mind. Obviously, everyone knows what's going on."

Hamilton could've been the spoiler again. He led off the seventh on Tuesday, but Arrieta was prepared this time and got the Reds center fielder to fly out to left.

"Before the inning, I knew he was coming up, and replayed that in my head a couple times," Arrieta said. "I wanted to continue to do the same thing and try to keep him honest inside and try to get him to maybe roll something over or pop something up. He's a tough hitter. He's a tough out. He battles, and obviously when he gets on base, he can do some damage. It was nice to keep him off the bases."

The right-hander has been stingy this season, giving up one or no earned runs in 14 of his 24 starts. He's thrived at Wrigley Field, and now is 5-1 with a 1.60 ERA in 11 starts, giving up 13 earned runs over 73 innings.

The Cubs have been careful with Arrieta's pitch count all season after he reported this spring with tightness in his right shoulder. Manager Rick Renteria said there wasn't much discussion about whether to send Arrieta out for the ninth.

He's been the most consistent of the Cubs starters.

"He's got really good stuff and an electric arm," Renteria said. "His pitches obviously have really good life. I also think this year he's shown some resilience in that there have been instances where an inning opens up and he's been able to keep calm and work through it and get out of jams. That's been part of his growth this year. That's been something he's able to sustain."

It's the second straight night the Cubs have blanked the Reds, who lost 1-0 on Monday.

"To his credit, he was sharp in the zone," Reds manager Bryan Price said of Arrieta. "I thought he did a great job of working ahead. He used both sides of the plate. It was a very, very difficult matchup, and it would've been a difficult matchup for any club when he's locked in like that."

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.

{"content":["top_pitching_performances" ] }
{"content":["top_pitching_performances" ] }

Szczur's hustle play nearly preserves no-no

Szczur's hustle play nearly preserves no-no play video for Szczur's hustle play nearly preserves no-no

CHICAGO -- Matt Szczur snared a line drive for the last out of Chris Rusin's no-hitter on May 7 when the two were together at Triple-A Iowa. On Tuesday night, the rookie outfielder nearly preserved a no-no for the Cubs' Jake Arrieta.

Arrieta had a no-hitter through 7 1/3 innings when Brandon Phillips lined an 0-2 pitch toward the gap in left-center that dropped just past an outstretched Szczur for the Reds' first and only hit.

"I was planning on running through the wall if I had to," Szczur said. "It's a shame I couldn't come up with it. I made the best effort."

He was close.

"He closed the gap on that ball pretty well," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "I think off the bat, I don't think anybody thought he had a chance. He must have come within a foot of that. It was a great effort by that young man. That's one of the traits Szczur brings to the table is that energy and effort, and that's what carries him a long ways."

Arrieta could only shrug. It's the third time he's taken a no-hitter into the seventh, yet come up empty handed.

"There's nothing you can do there other than make a little bit better pitch," Arrieta said. "That's the way it goes."

Catcher John Baker and Szczur watched a replay of the near-catch several times after the game.

"I told him that if he was left-handed, he would've caught it," Baker said. "That guy went for it and was disappointed he didn't get it."

Szczur was miffed.

"I was going to do anything to try to save that," Szczur said. "It was no different if he'd given up four or five hits, I would've done the same thing. It was close -- I was watching on the replay and I was about four inches off.

"I had a great jump, a great read on the ball," he said. "I thought I was going to catch it when I took the first couple steps."

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.

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{"content":["clemente_award" ] }

Rizzo's work on and off field earns Clemente nomination

Cubs slugger and cancer survivor one of 30 finalists announced by MLB

Rizzo's work on and off field earns Clemente nomination play video for Rizzo's work on and off field earns Clemente nomination

 

CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo, a cancer survivor who has made it his foundation's mission to help other families battling the disease, was named the Cubs' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, presented by Chevrolet. Major League Baseball announced the 30 finalists on Tuesday.

The award recognizes a MLB player who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement. Rizzo will be honored prior to Wednesday's game against the Reds.

The nomination is an effort to pay tribute to Clemente's achievements and character by recognizing current players who truly understand the value of helping others. Wednesday will be the 13th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by MLB to honor his legacy and officially recognize local team nominees.

Clemente, a 15-time All-Star and Hall of Famer, died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

In 2012, Rizzo began the nonprofit Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation to raise money for cancer research and provide support to children and their families battling the disease. He knows firsthand the impact it can have after being diagnosed in 2008 with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Through fundraising for research and providing support for pediatric cancer patients and their families, Rizzo's foundation aims to give every family a fighting chance against cancer.

Since its inception, the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation has raised more than $500,000 through its "Walk-Off for Cancer" in Florida and the "Cook-Off for Cancer" held in Chicago. The third annual 5K "Walk-Off for Cancer" will be Nov. 16 at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, Fla.

The organizations currently selected as beneficiaries of Rizzo's fundraising include Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation, Family Reach Foundation, Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital and The Lymphoma Program at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Health System.

In addition, Rizzo makes monthly visits to Lurie Children's Hospital, and he has become a familiar face to those in the pediatric oncology floor, where he spends much of his time talking with patients and their families, signing autographs, taking photos and handing out Cubs memorabilia.

Rizzo talks to the children about his own experience, and he has often given patients his phone number to keep in touch. And he's kept his promises. On July 22, Rizzo met Mike Kasallis, 22, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, and he promised that he would hit a home run for him. Rizzo hit two blasts that day against the Padres, and he made sure to touch his lips and point to the sky as a signal.

"I was absolutely stunned," Kasallis said about seeing Rizzo deliver his request. "All I said was, 'If you hit a home run, blow a kiss to the sky for me,' and he did."

Rizzo and Kasallis have exchanged text messages since that day. Rizzo said that particular visit brought back memories of his own experience.

"This one hit more at home for me," Rizzo said. "I usually don't get flashbacks, but I did this time."

When Rizzo visited Kasallis in the hospital, Kasallis' mother, Donna, said her son perked up for the first time since the diagnosis.

""It was the first time I'd seen him with any spark," Donna said of Rizzo's visit. "It was like I saw my kid again that day."

It's been quite a year for Rizzo, who hit a walk-off home run in the ninth to give the Cubs a 1-0 win over the Reds on Monday night. He was the winner of the 2014 All-Star Final Vote campaign, and he made his first trip to the All-Star Game.

"His commitment to the community and his teammates the last three seasons with the Cubs has made a tremendous impact within our organization," general manager Jed Hoyer said in a statement.

On Wednesday, a representative from Chevrolet will present Rizzo with a $7,500 grant to the charity of his choice, Cubs Charities, as a result of his nomination for this award.

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.

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

Schwarber visits Wrigley, takes batting practice

Schwarber visits Wrigley, takes batting practice play video for Schwarber visits Wrigley, takes batting practice

CHICAGO -- It didn't take long for Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs' No. 1 pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, to hit a couple balls into the bleachers during batting practice Tuesday. Next step will be instructional league where he'll work on fine-tuning his catching skills.

Schwarber joined the big league team for a round of batting practice. He introduced his potential future teammates to his power by dropping a couple balls into the right-field bleachers. Schwarber signed with the Cubs one week after the Draft, agreeing to a $3.125 million deal, and got started right away, joining Class A Boise for its opener.

It's been a whirlwind summer for the catcher, who was the fourth player taken overall and is No. 6 on MLB.com's top 20 Cubs prospects. He batted .344 in 72 Minor League games combined at Boise, Class A Kane County and Class A Advanced Daytona, hitting 18 home runs and 18 doubles.

"It was fun and I wouldn't trade it for anything," Schwarber said.

The Cubs want him to work on his catching in Mesa, Ariz., when instructional league begins Monday.

"He has tremendous potential to have an overall game," said Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who added Schwarber has sound baseball instincts and understands his priorities as a catcher.

Schwarber will do whatever the Cubs ask.

"I'm willing to do whatever they want me to do and that's the bottom line," he said. "I'll do whatever they tell me to do. It's all about winning."

What was it like hitting at Wrigley?

"This park has so much history," he said. "You learn to have a great deal of respect for it when you're on the field and get to play on it. It's great and amazing."

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.

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

Review shows Cubs nab Hamilton at second

Review shows Cubs nab Hamilton at second play video for Review shows Cubs nab Hamilton at second

CHICAGO -- The Reds' Billy Hamilton has nine stolen bases against the Cubs this season, but manager Rick Renteria denied a 10th theft in the fourth on Tuesday night.

Renteria challenged whether Hamilton was safe on a stolen base attempt, and the call was overturned after review.

Hamilton drew a walk against Chicago starter Jake Arrieta to open the fourth, and broke for second on the first pitch to Brayan Pena. Second-base umpire Bill Miller called Hamilton safe. Cubs catcher Welington Castillo's throw to Javier Baez was high, and the shortstop made an acrobatic catch.

The review comfirmed the tag was in time.

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.

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

Alcantara, Rizzo given time off to rest injuries

Alcantara, Rizzo given time off to rest injuries play video for Alcantara, Rizzo given time off to rest injuries

CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo did not start Tuesday as part of the Cubs' plan to ease him back into games while Arismendy Alcantara was sidelined with a sore right wrist injured when he crashed into the outfield wall Monday night. Alcantara's status was day to day.

Rizzo, who had been sidelined since Aug. 26 because of a low back strain, made his first start in 18 games on Monday night and hit a walk-off home run in the ninth. The Cubs had considered having Rizzo only play seven innings Monday since it was his first game action in 18 games, but went ahead and had him stay for nine. It worked.

"I would say I plan on giving him every other day [off] and will increase his playing time to two days in a row, maybe three," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "I have to let it play itself out first."

Alcantara had an MRI on his right wrist and was wearing a brace on Tuesday. He slammed into the brick wall in right-center catching Kristopher Negron's ball in the eighth inning. The Reds had a runner on and two out, and there was no score in the game.

"Somebody was saying somebody forgot to tell him there's a brick wall behind the ivy," Renteria said of Alcantara. "That's a game-saving play. He gave tremendous effort, [ran a] great line, very smooth, explosive action and got to it and was able to make the catch."

It was an exceptional play for Alcantara, who began this season as a second baseman.

"His immersion into center field was a pretty easy transition, in terms of chasing balls down, reading balls off the bat," Renteria said. "He's continued to learn where to throw the ball, how aggressive to be with certain plays. He's continued to improve. That's a testament to him because he's taken on a lot."

Worth noting:
Edwin Jackson, sidelined with a strained right lat, will make his first start since Aug. 20 on Friday when the Cubs play host to the Dodgers at Wrigley Field. Jackson, who will likely face Clayton Kershaw, threw an extended side session as a tune-up. Rookie Eric Jokisch will be available to piggyback because Jackson was not expected to go deep in the game.

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.

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Cubs ink extension with Iowa, sign with Myrtle Beach

CHICAGO -- The Cubs Tuesday agreed on a two-year player development contract extension with Triple-A Iowa through the 2018 season and also signed a new deal with Myrtle Beach to move their Class A team to the Carolina League after 22 years with Daytona in the Florida State League.

"The Carolina League, in our opinion, is the best high-A league for development purposes," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Tuesday. "These are tough decisions, and in the end, we keep coming back to what's best for our players. ... The Carolina League and Myrtle in particular is the best spot for our players."

The PDC with Myrtle Beach runs through the 2016 season.

"Myrtle Beach is a well-respected franchise that will serve as a beneficial destination for our young players," said Jason McLeod, Cubs senior vice president, scouting and player development. "We look forward to developing a successful relationship with the franchise and community."

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans have made eight postseason appearances in their 16-season history, including each of the last four seasons as an affiliate of the Rangers. Myrtle Beach joined the Carolina League in 1999 as an affiliate of the Braves, a partnership that would continue through the 2010 season, prior to joining the Rangers in 2011.

"The Chicago Cubs present an incredible partnership in every aspect," Pelicans general manager and vice president Andy Milovich said in a statement. "Cubs fans can now visit their future stars in one of the iconic vacation destination spots in the U.S."

The Cubs' current agreement with Iowa had run through the 2016 campaign. With the new agreement, the extension guarantees at least 38 years of partnership between the Chicago team and the Iowa Cubs.

"The players who have come through Iowa speak of their positive experiences in Des Moines and appreciate their great fans, and we are thrilled to continue this long-standing partnership," McLeod said.

Iowa Cubs president/general manager Sam Bernabe said their long-standing relationship with the Chicago Cubs is "a source of pride for our organization and our community."

"This extension shows that the Cubs appreciate the work our staff does to provide a top notch facility and operation to support their players and staff members throughout the year," Bernabe said.

The affiliation between Iowa and Chicago began in 1981, and Iowa adopted the Cubs' nickname in 1982. Of the 160 teams in Minor League Baseball, this is the eighth-longest current affiliate relationship between a Major League team and a Minor League club.

Earlier this year, the Cubs announced a four-year extension with Double-A Tennessee that runs through 2018. They did not renew their PDC with Class A Kane County or short-season Boise. On Sept. 2, Kane County announced that it was making capital improvements to its facilities built to the Cubs' specifications.

"They're good people and making a push here to do some things," Epstein said. "It comes back to what's best for the players. We're looking at the best fit for development purposes. A big part of that is the facilities."

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.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Back at it: Rizzo returns with walk-off homer

Slugger had missed previous 18 game with lower back tightness

Back at it: Rizzo returns with walk-off homer play video for Back at it: Rizzo returns with walk-off homer

CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo showed why the Cubs missed him for the past 18 games.

Playing his first game since Aug. 26, Rizzo hit a walk-off home run leading off the ninth inning to lift the Cubs to a 1-0 victory over the Reds on Monday night at Wrigley Field.

Rizzo belted a 1-0 pitch from Pedro Villarreal to straightaway center for his 31st home run. Rizzo hit his 30th on Aug. 26 in Cincinnati, and he then had to leave the game because of lower back tightness.

"First pitch, I was taking all the way, just to see his arm," Rizzo said of his at-bat in the ninth. "The second pitch, I just let loose, and fortunately put a good swing on it."

When Rizzo was running away from the celebration at home plate, he grabbed his back. Don't worry, Cubs fans. He was joking.

"I did it on purpose, just messing around with the guys," Rizzo said. "I definitely thought about [my back] the whole game. To get through the game tonight was nice. The next couple days, we'll completely forget about it."

The Reds won't forget this one.

"It was a mistake that Rizzo took advantage of," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. "[Rizzo] looked a little rusty the first couple of at-bats, then he had the infield hit, and certainly is always a dangerous hitter. But it's typically going to be a simple mistake or someone taking advantage of something in a [tie] game like that's going to be the deciding factor."

Rizzo did not have a chance to rehab anywhere, so Monday's game was his first action in nearly three weeks. Alfredo Simon struck him out in his first two at-bats in the first and third, and Rizzo reached on an infield single in the sixth.

"[Simon] has got a good split, I know that, and he exposed me there," Rizzo said. "He pitched well, pitched a great game. That little infield single turned everything around."

It was Rizzo's third walk-off hit this season. He also beat the Marlins with a walk-off homer on June 6 and delivered a game-winning RBI single in the 12th on Aug. 10 against the Rays.

"The game's over, one swing of the bat," Rizzo said. "It's a good feeling. The biggest thing is the win. To win in that fashion is always fun."

Rizzo wasn't the only Cubs player to return as Jorge Soler, who missed three games for paternity leave, also was back in the lineup.

Chicago couldn't muster much against Simon on a chilly night at Wrigley Field. The Cubs loaded the bases with two outs in the first on singles by Chris Coghlan and Soler and a walk to Luis Valbuena, but Simon got Welington Castillo to pop up to first baseman Todd Frazier to end the inning. The Cubs collected just three singles over the next six innings off Simon.

Rookie center fielder Arismendy Alcantara made the defensive play of the game with one on and two outs in the eighth when he snared Kristopher Negron's fly ball in the gap in right-center field on the run and avoided a nasty collision with the outfield wall.

"It's a brick wall out there and he went into it full force," Rizzo said. "It was a great catch and saved the game. He's been really solid out there, especially for not playing out there a lot in his career in the Minors. You can't ask for more."

Alcantara was wearing a wrap on his right hand after the game but said that was "just to be careful." He is aware that it's brick behind the ivy.

"I know, because I've hit it before," Alcantara said.

This is the one series this month in which the Cubs do not play a playoff contending team, although the Reds were expected to do well in the National League Central. They've also had injury issues and have been without Joey Votto since early July.

Chicago starter Travis Wood rebounded from a rough start in his last outing, and he limited the Reds to three hits over six scoreless innings, striking out four. In his last start against the Pirates on Sept. 7, the lefty was charged with seven runs over 1 2/3 innings.

"I had a bad outing last outing and went to work on getting back out front and attacking the zone," Wood said. "I did that well tonight and I still had three walks. It's something else to look at."

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.

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Bryant, Tseng earn Cubs' top Minors honors

Bryant, Tseng earn Cubs' top Minors honors play video for Bryant, Tseng earn Cubs' top Minors honors

CHICAGO -- Cubs fans will see Kris Bryant at Wrigley Field on Wednesday, but he won't be in the lineup. Not yet.

Bryant and Jen-Ho Tseng were named the organization's Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively. The pair will be honored prior to the Cubs' game Wednesday against the Reds.

Bryant, 22, is the team's No. 1 prospect (and No. 3 in baseball), according to MLB.com's Prospect Watch, and Tseng was ranked 14th. Bryant led all of Minor League Baseball with 43 home runs, 78 extra-base hits, 325 total bases, .661 slugging percentage and 1.098 OPS.

Bryant posted those stats, plus a .325 batting average, 34 doubles, and 110 RBIs in 138 games between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa this season. This year, the third baseman, who was the Cubs' first-round pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, also was named Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America and USA Today.

"It was obviously a no-brainer [to pick Bryant], but the nice thing is we had a lot of guys who played well in the Minors," general manager Jed Hoyer said Monday. "In a different year, a bunch of guys would've had a gripe. When a guy wins Minor League Player of the Year, it sort of ends the voting."

Cubs fans are eager to pencil in Bryant in the 2015 Opening Day lineup at third base. Hoyer and manager Rick Renteria both cautioned that it's too early for that.

"He'll come to Spring Training next year and we'll see where he's at," Renteria said. "I'm not going to make that decision so far away from Spring Training. He's obviously done a lot, and he's well on his way to being here in the near future."

"The numbers he put up were outstanding," Hoyer said of Bryant. "Talk about being consistent all year, his slumps were really minor. He didn't tire much, and if he was tired, he didn't show it down the stretch. His Double-A and Triple-A numbers were fairly similar. He's very mature and seems to know his swing and he's a guy who doesn't seem to get too down after a couple bad games."

The Cubs do want Bryant to play some outfield to improve his versatility, but Hoyer said as of now, they consider him a third baseman.

Tseng, 19, went 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA in 19 games (17 starts) that spanned 105 innings with Class A Kane County. He walked 15 batters and struck out 85, helping to lead the Cougars to a Minor League-best 91 wins and the Midwest League title. The righty, signed as a non-drafted free agent last year, allowed three or fewer runs in 16 of his 17 starts.

Tseng was at Wrigley Field on Monday with his Kane County teammates.

"His consistency really stands out," Hoyer said of Tseng. "He had a good three-pitch mix with good command and got the outs when he needed them."

Worth noting

• The Cubs have reportedly terminated their player development contracts with three Minor League teams, Boise, Kane County and Daytona. Hoyer said he could not comment.

Edwin Jackson, sidelined with a right lat strain, was expected to throw a simulated game this week with the hope that he can pitch again before the regular season ends.

Anthony Rizzo is one of six finalists for the MLB Players Association Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award. Rizzo was selected by fans to represent the NL Central. A survivor of Hodgkins Lymphoma, Rizzo founded the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation to support cancer research and families fighting the disease. The foundation has raised more than $500,000 with his "Walk Offs for Cancer" and "Cook Offs for Cancer" events. The next 5K walk will be Nov. 16 in Parkland, Fla.

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.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Turner, Cubs flat after Pirates turn triple play

Righty allows seven runs over 4 1/3; Szczur hits into rare feat in fourth

Turner, Cubs flat after Pirates turn triple play play video for Turner, Cubs flat after Pirates turn triple play

PITTSBURGH -- Matt Szczur hit the ball hard at the wrong time for the Cubs on Sunday.

Szczur, one of the fastest players on the Cubs, hit into a triple play in the fourth inning started by Josh Harrison, who also drove in two runs to lead the Pirates to a 7-3 come-from-behind victory.

The Pirates stayed alive in the National League Central race while continuing to hold the second NL Wild Card. The Cubs, on the other hand, lost for the eighth time in their last nine games and ended their road trip 1-5. Chicago struggled to generate any offense without Anthony Rizzo (back), Jorge Soler (paternity leave) and Starlin Castro (ankle). It didn't help when the Pirates thwarted a rally with their web gem.

Chicago led 3-0 when Chris Valaika doubled to lead off the fourth against Edinson Volquez, who then walked Mike Olt. But Szczur smacked the ball to Harrison at third base to start the first triple play at PNC Park and the first the Cubs have hit into since May 14, 2000, at Montreal.

"It was a heck of a play," Szczur said. "I was looking for a good pitch to hit and something to hit hard, and it was probably the wrong time I hit the ball hard."

Szczur remembers he and Logan Watkins were on the bases once for a triple play while at Class A Daytona. That was the last one he could remember.

"I thought I was going to [beat the throw]," Szczur said. "It was close. I put a good swing on it and tried to get out of the box as fast as I could. Wrong time to hit it hard, that's for sure."

Cubs manager Rick Renteria felt Szczur had a chance.

"He hit it right on the nose, and Harrison made a really nice play because he ended up catching it going away from him -- he didn't even backhand it, he stayed with it -- and it took him right to the bag," Renteria said.

Renteria didn't feel that play turned the momentum in the game.

"I don't allow our guys to put their heads down," Renteria said. "That's just a play that happened. We were still in the lead. That's baseball."

The Pirates would disagree.

"Any time you pull a triple play, I think you're going to feel an instant boost of energy," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "You don't see 'em. It's an exciting play, it was crisp, it was fun."

Said Neil Walker: "It was huge."

The Cubs had opened a 2-0 lead in the second when Volquez walked both Luis Valbuena and Olt with one out, and Valbuena scored on a throwing error by the pitcher. John Baker's sacrifice fly made it 2-0.

Javier Baez singled with one out in the third, stole second, advanced on a throwing error by catcher Russell Martin, and then scored on Chris Coghlan's sacrifice fly. But that was it for the Cubs.

Walker's homer came in the fourth. The Pirates were just getting warmed up.

Pittsburgh had two on and one out in the fifth, and both runners scored on Harrison's double down the left-field line to tie the game. Travis Snider followed with an RBI double, and Andrew McCutchen singled and Walker delivered an RBI double. Jacob Turner intentionally walked Martin to load the bases and was pulled.

Pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez greeted Eric Jokisch with an infield hit, driving in another run. One more scored on Gregory Polanco's infield single.

"Things kind of spiraled a little bit," Olt said. "We have to find ways to minimize those innings."

Turner was mad at himself because the first two batters, Jordy Mercer and Polanco, reached on a single and walk, respectively.

"It's easy to look at the hits that scored the runs," Turner said, "but the 1-2 pitch to Mercer wasn't a very good pitch, and the walk to Polanco in a situation where you can't walk him having the lead right there -- those two at-bats, I think, really killed me that inning. It just snowballed."

Jokisch went 2 2/3 innings, and batted for himself in the seventh, which may have seemed puzzling. The Cubs have plenty of arms in the bullpen, but Renteria said it's part of the development mode they're in.

"There are some things that might seem a little odd, but it served us more to get him out there to pitch," Renteria said. "I feel like we were going to give ourselves a chance even after that."

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.

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Additional security measures on tap at Wrigley

PITTSBURGH -- The Cubs open their last homestand of the season on Monday when they play host to the Reds at Wrigley Field, and fans should be prepared for extra security screening.

Starting Monday, the Cubs will conduct metal-detector screenings of fans entering the ballpark. It's part of a league-wide initiative to standardize security procedures at each Major League ballpark. These security screenings are in addition to the current bag checks in place, and they will be uniform throughout the league in 2015.

On Sept. 24, the Cubs' last home game, players will give away autographed baseballs to fans before the game. There will be fan appreciation giveaways on Cubs' social media throughout the week as well.

On Sept. 19, the Cubs will pay tribute to longstanding radio partner WGN Radio before the game and during the seventh-inning stretch. On April 14, 1925, WGN broadcast its first regular-season Cubs game when Chicago beat Pittsburgh, 8-2. WGN carried the Cubs from 1925-43, then served as the exclusive radio home for the team from 1958-2014.

The Cubs announced earlier this season that WBBM 780-AM will be the team's new flagship radio station beginning in 2015.

Fans with tickets to the Cubs vs. Dodgers on Sept. 20 game should note FOX has selected the game for its "Game of the Week" broadcast, and the start time has been moved up to 12:05 p.m. CT. It was originally scheduled as a 3:05 p.m. CT start, so don't be late.

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.

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Bucs turn first triple play in PNC Park history

Harrison, Walker and Lambo give team first 5-4-3 triple play since 1979

Bucs turn first triple play in PNC Park history play video for Bucs turn first triple play in PNC Park history

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates turned the first triple play in 14 seasons at PNC Park on Sunday in the fourth inning of their 7-3 victory over the Cubs.

After Chris Valaika led off with a double and Bucs right-hander Edinson Volquez walked Mike Olt, the triple play was as routine as it could be. Matt Szczur smashed a grounder to third baseman Josh Harrison, who stepped on the bag and fired to second to Neil Walker, whose relay to first baseman Andrew Lambo tripled up Szczur.

Asked his first thought as the ball was coming off Szczur's bat, Harrison said, "Triple play. It was hit hard enough, to my right [to carry me toward the bag] ... one step. I knew I had a shot, but I also knew the guy was fast."

In fact, Szczur is about the fastest guy the Cubs have, which made the play even more impressive.

"It was the fastest guy we have," confirmed Cubs manager Rick Renteria. "He hit it right on the nose, and Harrison made a really nice play. ... That's instinctual. He was very composed, stepped on the bag, threw to second, threw to first, and they got ultimately one of our faster guys in the triple play."

"It was a heck of a play," Szczur said. "I was looking for a good pitch to hit and something to hit hard, and it was probably the wrong time I hit the ball hard."

"It's something I've never been a part of on any level, so that was pretty cool," said Walker, the middleman. "Yeah, soon as I see Josh backing into the base with the ball, I knew it was a perfect scenario for that type of triple play."

Draped over the railing of the Pirates' third-base dugout, manager Clint Hurdle's mind instantly dialed up "three."

"Absolutely," Hurdle said. "I wanted to follow it around the horn, and see where it went. Very quick first step by J, nice tag [of the bag to push off], excellent throw, and Walker on the turn to finish it. That's when it's nice to be the first baseman; you do the least amount of work, and you throw your name in there."

Lambo, who is normally an outfielder, was playing his first Major League game at first base.

"All I did was finish the play," said Lambo, wearing a wide grin. "I grab the ball and run off thinking, 'Hey, we just turned a triple play.'"

It was the Pirates' first around-the-horn triple play since July 23, 1979, when Bill Madlock, Phil Garner and Willie Stargell turned one on Braves Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro in the second inning of the second game of a doubleheader. Niekro did, however, go on to toss a two-hit shutout that day.

While the Pirates' most recent triple play had come on April 12, 2009, in Cincinnati, they had not turned one at home since Aug. 10, 1993, at Three Rivers Stadium against the Cardinals.

It was the first triple play bounced into by the Cubs since May 14, 2000, when Henry Rodriguez grounded into one in Montreal.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked

Verses that became National anthem celebrates 200 years, is part of baseball's fabric

Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked play video for Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked

Francis Scott Key never got to see a big league baseball game. He died in 1843, some 26 years before the first professional team was established. But you can imagine his joy if he did get that chance. These days, he'd probably sit in a shiny bleacher seat, waiting for a batting-practice homer with a soft, weathered glove raised high ... in his non-writing hand. Maybe he'd inhale a hot dog while jotting down a few pretty lines for his next song. That would come about an hour before he'd hear the iconic bars of his first one, which, contrary to American lore, does not end with the words, "Play Ball." Odds are he'd be pretty happy at the twilight's last gleaming.

This weekend, the celebration of the 200th anniversary of our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," is on, and Key's memory is being rightly feted for his poetic description from the "dawn's early light" of Sept. 14, 1814, at the height of the War of 1812.

Hours after being stuck on a ship in Baltimore Harbor as the British pounded Fort McHenry in the Battle of Baltimore, Key saw the skies clear from the smoke and the indelible image that "our flag was still there."

The verses were called "The Defence of Fort M'Henry," and it was put to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven," a British drinking song purportedly written by John Stafford Smith that had been composed more than 30 years earlier and served as the theme of the Anacreontic Society of London, a men's club of amateur musicians.

Soon after Key wrote the words, a local newspaper gave it the title "The Star-Spangled Banner," and in 1931, it became our official anthem. All the while, another grand tradition steeped in collective nostalgia and American togetherness -- the game of baseball -- was steaming along, gaining prominence in our country's conscience.

Not surprisingly, the national anthem and the National Pastime became stitched together forever, like red laces in white horsehide.

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball, the playing of the national anthem before big league games did not become an everyday tradition until 1942. Taking that into account (and including a slight margin of error based on the lack of documentation regarding split doubleheaders in the earlier days), the Star-Spangled Banner has been heard right before the first pitch of at least the last 121,000 games. Oh, say can you see, indeed.

So with that in mind, 200 years after the night a 35-year-old Washington, D.C.-based attorney known to friends as Frank found himself under a war-torn sky, with honor in his heart and a pen in his hand, we go around the horn with nine things to know about "The Star-Spangled Banner" and its now-eternal link to the national pastime.

1. A first for everything
The first time the song was played at a baseball game was May 15, 1862, at William Cammeyer's Union Grounds park in Brooklyn. It had been converted from an ice skating venue into a field for summer sports, including what, at the time, was known as "base ball." In the midst of the Civil War, a band played "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The first big league Opening Day to feature the eventual anthem took place in Philadelphia on April 22, 1897. The New York Tribune newspaper included a brief and lyrical account of the game: "Opening Day here was a great success. The weather was delightful and the attendance numbered 17,074. The players paraded across the field, company front, and then raised the new flag, while the band played 'The Star Spangled Banner.' "

In spite of all the pageantry, there had to be some accounting for the four errors that led the Phillies to a 5-1 victory over the Giants at the Baker Bowl.

"The game was rather dull and long-drawn out," the article read, "and on the part of the New-Yorkers was somewhat unsteadily played."

2. An unforgettable rendition
The first national anthem played at a World Series game occurred on Sept. 5, 1918, during World War I, when Major League players were in the midst of being drafted into service. The regular season was ordered by the government to be completed by Labor Day, hence the Fall Classic that year was played in September.

The Cubs borrowed Comiskey Park from the White Sox to take advantage of the larger seating capacity, but things got quiet in Game 1, a 1-0 shutout by Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth. But that game will be forever remembered for what occurred in the seventh inning.

That was when the military band on hand struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner," and the song took on a different meaning. Red Sox third baseman Fred Thomas, for example, was on furlough from the Navy, and he saluted the flag during the playing of the song.

And then the crowd caught on. The New York Times opened its account of the game by writing, "Far different from any incident that has ever occurred in the history of baseball was the great moment of the first world's series game between the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox, which came at Comiskey Park this afternoon during the seventh-inning stretch" and then continued with the play-by-play … of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"First the song was taken up by a few, then others joined, and when the final notes came, a great volume of melody rolled across the field. It was at the very end that the onlookers exploded into thunderous applause and rent the air with a cheer that marked the highest point of the day's enthusiasm."

The Cubs and Red Sox repeated the tradition for the rest of the Series.

3. Making it official
Even though the Secretary of the Navy in 1889 had designated "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the official song to be played at the raising of the flag, and even though President Woodrow Wilson, a huge baseball fan himself, treated it and referred to it as our national anthem, it had failed to stick in Congress after numerous attempts in the 1920s.

Baseball's increased use of the song prior to games, a petition with millions of signatures, and a nice little push from noted composer John Philip Sousa helped finally get the job done on March 3, 1931, when President Herbert Hoover signed into law the establishment of the song as the official national anthem of the United States of America.

4. A lasting tradition
"The Star-Spangled Banner" still wasn't being played before every baseball game in 1941, but on April 26, 1941, the ball got rolling in the Bronx. As The New York Times reported, "With more war new in the making, president Ed Barrow of the Yankees ordered that 'The Star-Spangled Banner' be played before all games at the Stadium.

"Meanwhile, all continued to go well for the Yankees and [Joe] DiMaggio. He singled home a run in the first and scored twice as New York beat Washington 8-3 for its fourth straight victory."

By the following year, with the country deep in World War II, the anthem became the daily staple of baseball that we know today.

And DiMaggio was still hitting.

5. Controversy hits the field
It was October 1968, and the country was fighting in Vietnam and had already lived through the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that year. Protests were boiling over in the streets at home, and the Detroit Tigers were hosting the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

Jose Feliciano was a 23-year-old blind folk singer from Puerto Rico who had scored a hit on the U.S. charts with a cover of The Doors' "Light My Fire," and Tigers radio legend Ernie Harwell invited him to sing the national anthem at Tiger Stadium prior to Game 5.

Feliciano was accompanied in left field by his acoustic guitar and his guide dog, Trudy, and he launched into an emotional, heartfelt, and, well, different version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." He strummed the guitar in a slightly syncopated, Latin-influenced rhythm, careened back and forth from the traditional vocal melody to something more adventurous, and offered the finishing flourish of "Yeah, yeah."

It was bold and innovative and fresh, but it was also many years ahead of its time. Feliciano was booed heartily by the crowd and caused a public uproar that took years to live down.

"Back then, when the anthem was done at ballgames, people couldn't wait for it to be over," Feliciano told The Guardian last month. "And I wanted to make them sit up and take notice and respect the song. I was shocked when I was booed. I felt, 'God, what have I done wrong?' All I was trying to do was create a soulful rendition. I never in my wildest dreams thought I was going to have the country against me, radio stations stop playing me.

"But in part, it was good -- because I ended up meeting my wife. She couldn't understand the injustice and started a fan club, even though we'd never met. We fell in love and the rest is history."

On Oct. 14, 2012, prior to Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park in San Francisco, the same stylized, heartfelt version of the national anthem was performed by Feliciano on his acoustic guitar.

This time the crowd roared.

6. "O"-dience participation
The anthem itself is a tradition, and at Oriole Park in Camden Yards in Baltimore, there's a tradition baked into the tradition. When the song rounds third base and heads for home with, "O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave," the crowd screams the "O" together, celebrating their beloved O's.

This started at the old Memorial Stadium in the club's pennant-winning season of 1979. Out in Section 34 of the upper deck, Orioles superfan Wild Bill Hagy would lead fans in chants of O-R-I-O-L-E-S, with the emphasis on the "O." Mary Powers sat nearby and took the inspiration to another level.

"We would accentuate the 'O' in any word that would have an 'O,' and one night when they were playing the anthem, I thought, 'There's an 'O!' in this song,' and the first time I did it, I remember people turning around and looking like, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe she just did that,' " Powers recently told WBAL-TV.

"Well, Wild Bill had a little grin on his face, so the next night, he did it with me, and once he put his blessing on it, everybody started to do it."

Orioles fans still do it -- loudly -- and will likely be doing it in October this year.

7. Setting the (low) Barr
We all know now that Feliciano's rendition was eventually respected, if not appreciated. We all also know now that the version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" performed by comedian Roseanne Barr before a Padres-Reds doubleheader at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego on July 25, 1990, was not.

Barr screeched a fast, off-key rendition of the anthem that drew loud boos midway through, and when she was finished, she grabbed her crotch and spit, as if to mimic a ballplayer. The joke bombed, she was lambasted all over TV and in the newspapers, and she inspired President George H. W. Bush to call the whole act "disgraceful."

Bush's comment was met with bipartisan approval.

8. A hymn of healing
The horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, changed the United States forever, but not only in tragic ways. The courage, brotherhood and human decency shown that day in New York, Washington, D.C., and on a hijacked airplane that would crash in a Pennsylvania field showed our country's strength and will to persevere.

The emotion was palpable 10 days later when the Mets played the Braves at Shea Stadium in the first professional sporting event in New York City since the attacks. Marc Anthony delivered a somber rendition without musical accompaniment and the game was played quietly until the eighth inning, when Piazza's two-run home run gave the Mets the lead and got the crowd going again.

"I remember standing on the line during the national anthem -- actually when the bagpipes and band came out -- I said to myself, 'Please, God, give me the strength to get through this,' " Piazza told the New York Daily News in 2008. "I was fortunate to find the strength to hit a home run in that situation. I'm flattered, I'm honored that people put that moment as a time where it helped the city at least have a little bit of joy in a really tough week."

9. 200 and many more
Every year now, we're treated to incredible musical talent on the baseball field. From the seasoned operatic pipes of longtime Yankees national anthem singer Robert Merrill to commercial acts James Taylor, Paul Simon, Sammy Davis Jr., John Legend, Lyle Lovett, the Grateful Dead, Slash from Guns N' Roses, Mary J. Blige, Billy Joel, Idina Menzel, Kelly Clarkson and countless others, it's now a grand American tradition to bring out the best in the business to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the biggest baseball games.

But Sunday, the song itself will shine.

At Fort McHenry in Baltimore, a real-time anniversary program will kick off, with artillery salutes, a reading of the song's four stanzas and a replica 15-star, 15-stripe flag raising at precisely 9 a.m. to commemorate the history that Key had witnessed.

And MLB teams playing at home will show a special video montage of "The Star-Spangled Banner." In conjunction with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the program Great Performances, Maryland Public Television has provided the montage originally seen in the PBS production Star-Spangled Banner: The Bicentennial of our National Anthem to the ballparks and to MLB.com and all 30 club websites and official MLB social media channels.

Fittingly, the last game on Sunday will be played at Camden Yards, about three miles away from Fort McHenry, and fittingly, the Orioles will play the Yankees.

We all know what song we'll hear right before the first pitch.

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

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Frustration aside, Baez learning strike zone

Frustration aside, Baez learning strike zone play video for Frustration aside, Baez learning strike zone

PITTSBURGH -- Javier Baez was called out on strikes twice on Saturday, and Cubs manager Rick Renteria complimented the rookie on maintaining his poise. Renteria also cautioned fans not to read too much into Baez's reactions to calls.

"I don't think he was frustrated at his at-bat," Renteria said Sunday. "You have a young man who has been probably chasing pitches out of the zone a little bit. He's 21 years old, and trying to refine his zone, so when he does it, as a young hitter, he wants to get some of those calls that he's worked for."

There's no denying that Baez has struck out a lot -- 69 K's in 155 at-bats over 38 games. He's not upset at the call as much as at himself sometimes, Renteria said.

"What you see in his reaction is what he's trying to do in his at-bat," Renteria said. "It's not the third strike or the call, it's that he's been trying to work and working to develop his at-bats and strike zone awareness and stay in it. Some of the frustration might be at himself, where in the instance it's a strike, and he takes it, and it's like, 'That's one I should have gone after.' We have to be careful what we perceive that action to be about. Some instances it's, 'Man, I should've pulled the trigger on it.'"

With Starlin Castro sidelined with a left ankle sprain, Baez is starting at shortstop, and it's given Renteria and staff a chance to polish his fielding skills.

"There are some things from the shortstop side that we've talked about cleaning up," Renteria said. "It's been staying through the ball, coming through it. He has a tendency to get a little flat-footed. He has a real good sense of time, a very clean exchange, and he's really working hard on trying to improve on some of the little things about playing short."

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.

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Cubs get call at first overturned in first inning

Renteria loses challenge on similar play in sixth

Cubs get call at first overturned in first inning play video for Cubs get call at first overturned in first inning

PITTSBURGH -- Cubs manager Rick Renteria successfully challenged a call at first in the first inning Sunday, and lost a challenge in the sixth.

With one out in the Pirates first, Travis Snider hit a ground ball to shortstop Javier Baez and was called safe at first by umpire Ted Barrett, who felt first baseman Mike Olt was off the bag when he received the throw.

But after a review, the call was overturned, and Snider was out.

Baez had an interesting first inning. He drew a walk with one out and advanced to second on Chris Coghlan's fly ball to left, but after moving past the base failed to touch the bag as he headed back to first. The Pirates appealed and Baez was doubled off to end the inning.

In the sixth, Josh Harrison singled but was then forced at second on Snider's grounder. Renteria challenged that Snider was out, but the call was confirmed.

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.

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