Strop thankful for health after offseason accident

Cubs reliever recounts story of November car wreck in Dominican Republic

Strop thankful for health after offseason accident

MESA, Ariz. -- Contrary to reports in the Dominican Republic media, Cubs pitcher Pedro Strop is very much alive.

The Cubs' reliever was involved in a car accident in late November in the San Cristobal province, west of the capital of Santo Domingo. Strop was driving his convertible and making a right-hand turn at a T-intersection when he was rear-ended by someone driving a Range Rover. The impact pushed Strop's car into a wall and the vehicle was totaled. His only injury was a scratch on his left elbow.

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

Cubs, Maddon remember legendary Minoso

Cubs, Maddon remember legendary Minoso

MESA, Ariz. -- Minnie Minoso used to show up in the visiting manager's office at U.S. Cellular Field when the Rays were in town to talk baseball with Joe Maddon.

"He liked how we did things, that's what he would always want to talk about," Maddon said Sunday of the White Sox slugger, who passed away. "He liked the team, how we played, very complimentary. I tried to speak a little Spanish to him. He was like that with everybody. He just liked to talk about how our team played."

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

Castro happy to work with Manny in spring camp

Cubs shortstop impressed by former outfielder's hitting knowledge

Castro happy to work with Manny in spring camp

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

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

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

Lester feels good vibe on mound, in camp

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

Lester feels good vibe on mound, in camp

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

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

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

Durable Montero wants to be workhorse

Catcher ranked third in starts last season

Durable Montero wants to be workhorse

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

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

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

Wada works through BP session without issue

Left-hander slowed by tight left hamstring

Wada works through BP session without issue

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

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

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

Bryant donates baseball uniforms to high school

Cubs prospect gives back to alma mater

Bryant donates baseball uniforms to high school

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

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

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

Javier Baez is keeping count of his ST selfies

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Javier Baez is keeping count of his ST selfies

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

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Maddon sees Alcantara as Cubs' Zobrist

Utility player gives team plenty of flexibility

Maddon sees Alcantara as Cubs' Zobrist

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

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

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

MLB.com Columnist

Lyle Spencer

Scioscia holds 'kindred spirit' Maddon in high esteem

Halos skipper, Cubs manager instantly clicked working together on Angels

Scioscia holds 'kindred spirit' Maddon in high esteem

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

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

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

Lester, Ross working off same page in BP sessions

Lester, Ross working off same page in BP sessions

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

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

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

Prolific base-stealer Pierre retires after 14-year career

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

Prolific base-stealer Pierre retires after 14-year career

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

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

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

Baez ecstatic to have Manny around Cubs camp

Rosscup hit on wrist; Banks featured on media guide

Baez ecstatic to have Manny around Cubs camp

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

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

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

MLBPA's Clark eager to see Bryant succeed in Majors

Cubs' top rookie competing for roster spot

MLBPA's Clark eager to see Bryant succeed in Majors

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

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

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

Cubs prospect Russell embracing new team

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

Cubs prospect Russell embracing new team

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

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

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

Maddon emphasizes 'Respect 90' message

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

Maddon emphasizes 'Respect 90' message

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

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

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

Lester set for first live batting practice session

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

Lester set for first live batting practice session

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

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

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

La Stella adjusting to move to third base

Former second baseman embracing new position for Cubs

La Stella adjusting to move to third base

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

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

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

Maddon's binge-watching The Office at Spring Training

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Maddon's binge-watching The Office at Spring Training

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

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

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Former Cards Motte, Chambers see other side of Cubs rivalry

Both players ready to take advantage of new opportunity

Former Cards Motte, Chambers see other side of Cubs rivalry

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

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

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

Maddon gets help from The Boss to fire up Cubs camp

Maddon gets help from The Boss to fire up Cubs camp

MESA, Ariz. -- The music was loud Wednesday for the Cubs' first full-squad workout, and included "Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen. It was time to get to work under new manager Joe Maddon.

"I've always liked music during batting practice," Maddon said. "When you go to complex baseball and you're out in the middle of nowhere and it gets really quiet, crickets and all that kind of stuff, I like when it's really loud."

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

Cubs owner Ricketts hopes to reward fans' loyalty

Cubs owner Ricketts hopes to reward fans' loyalty

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts met with the players prior to Wednesday's first full-squad workout and part of his message was to "treat our fans like gold." That's because they've helped Ricketts during the losing seasons.

"We've had some tough seasons and have had to do things the right way and make long-term decisions, and that's cost us games," Ricketts said. "But walking around the ballpark is encouraging. Fans are almost exclusively supportive, and they want to see everything done the right way because we want to get to that World Series and we're not going to do it by making short-term decisions. Frankly, the fans have really helped me get through the bad years, rather than the other way around."

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

No matter what, Rizzo a fearless player

Rash of Chicago sports injuries doesn't deter Cubs first baseman's style

No matter what, Rizzo a fearless player

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs didn't need to wrap Anthony Rizzo or Starlin Castro in bubble wrap Wednesday, the first day the club's batters faced pitching. One can't blame Chicago sports fans for being a little nervous after injuries to Derrick Rose of the Bulls and Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks.

"I'm going to be tip-toeing today," Rizzo jokingly said before Wednesday's workout. "[The injuries are] unfortunate, especially because their season is coming down to the stretch. I'm pretty sure they have enough depth to hold on."

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

Bard refreshed for comeback after taking time off

Once-dominant Red Sox hurler clears mind with bicycle ride across Iowa, European trek

Bard refreshed for comeback after taking time off

MESA, Ariz. -- Instead of pitching last summer, Daniel Bard rode a bike across Iowa. He then flew to Europe and drove around France, Switzerland and Germany with his wife.

"I said, 'I need a break.' And I took it, and it's the best thing I could've done," Bard said.

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

Rizzo touts Sosa's legacy

MESA, Ariz. -- In early December, Anthony Rizzo was at a restaurant in Florida and saw Sammy Sosa.

"I went over and said hello and introduced myself," Rizzo said. "I tried to campaign for him to come back. I said, 'We'd love to have you.' Nothing crazy.

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

Ready to get to work, Manny praises Cubs' talent

New hitting consultant doesn't rule out playing again, but first priority is to help Chicago's bats

Ready to get to work, Manny praises Cubs' talent

MESA, Ariz. -- Manny Ramirez was in uniform Wednesday, ready to start his new job as a hitting consultant with the Cubs. But he didn't rule out possibly playing baseball again.

Has Ramirez retired? He laughed.

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

Cubs counting on Castro to continue to pull weight

Confident shortstop emphasizing leg work to prevent injuries, stay in lineup

Cubs counting on Castro to continue to pull weight

MESA, Ariz. -- Starlin Castro is prepared to carry the Cubs on his back. The shortstop literally did just that in preparation for the season.

One of the drills strength coach Tim Buss had Castro do to strengthen his legs was carry 210-pound teammate Mike Olt on his back, and run forward and backward.

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

Cubs establish new mental skills program

Initiative has been a club goal for the last year; sports psychologist Ravizza named consultant

Cubs establish new mental skills program

MESA, Ariz. -- Theo Epstein remembers attempts at conversations with players about improving the mental side of the game.

"If you approached a player to talk to them about working on his mental game [20 years ago], his response would be, 'You think I'm nuts?'" said Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations. "You still see that now and then, but that's the exception, not the rule."

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