Lester sharp in Cubs debut

Opening Night starter strikes out three in two scoreless innings vs. Reds

Lester sharp in Cubs debut

MESA, Ariz. -- Jon Lester cruised in his Cubs debut.

The left-hander struck out three of the first four batters he faced, then served up a broken-bat single to the Reds' Chris Dominguez before getting Kristopher Negron to ground into an inning-ending double play. He finished with two scoreless innings.

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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.

Black hopes for speedy recovery for Pence

Cubs pitcher says hitting Giants outfielder with pitch was 'unfortunate accident'

Black hopes for speedy recovery for Pence

MESA, Ariz. -- Corey Black stood at his locker in the Cubs' complex Friday to talk about his first spring outing. As he talked, the clubhouse television replayed a painful reminder of what happened.

Black, 23, walked the first two batters he faced in the sixth inning at Scottsdale Stadium, then hit Giants outfielder Hunter Pence on the left forearm with a fastball. Black knew something was wrong as soon as he heard Pence scream.

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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 wants more time for hitter prep vs. switch-pitcher

Cubs manager says nuances need to be worked out

Maddon wants more time for hitter prep vs. switch-pitcher

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he'll be better prepared the next time one of his switch-hitters faces an ambidextrous pitcher.

On Thursday, Dexter Fowler was preparing to swing left-handed against the A's switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, who was warming up right-handed. But then Venditte told home-plate umpire Brian Gorman that he was going to throw left-handed once play started. Gorman relayed the message to Maddon and Fowler, who had to switch batting helmets and then start warming up from the right side.

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

Olt feels hard work paying off

Third baseman homers in Cactus League opener

Olt feels hard work paying off

MESA, Ariz. -- Mike Olt's two-run homer on Thursday was a good sign that all the work the Cubs' third baseman is doing is paying off.

"It's one of the best at-bats I've had in a while," said Olt of a home run off a Barry Zito changeup in the second inning in the Cubs' Cactus League opener.

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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.

Schwarber's slam highlights Cubs' offense vs. Giants

Turner hurls two scoreless innings in Cactus League debut

Schwarber's slam highlights Cubs' offense vs. Giants

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants used some late-inning magic to erase an early deficit and secure their first Cactus League victory, 8-6, over the Cubs on Thursday.

After trailing, 5-0, through five, the Giants scratched across a run in the sixth, scored two in the seventh via a Daniel Carbonell home run and took the lead with a five-run eighth.

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

Coke arrives in Cubs camp for physical

MESA, Ariz. -- Phil Coke arrived in Cubs camp Friday, and the left-handed reliever was to undergo a physical before he could officially sign with the team.

"It's not a big secret we're seeking a left-handed specialist," manager Joe Maddon said Thursday. "It's nice to have that lefty who can also get out the righty. I've seen Phil Coke in the past, and he's been able to get out righties, too."

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

Olt flexes muscle as Wood turns in solid debut

Two-run homer comes in tie; right-hander hurls two scoreless innings

Olt flexes muscle as Wood turns in solid debut

MESA, Ariz. -- Manager Joe Maddon's Cubs debut ended in a tie.

The Cubs and Athletics played to a 2-2 tie Thursday in a split-squad game at Sloan Park in the manager's first game. He liked the interaction with the fans during the course of the game.

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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.

Fowler irked by switch-pitcher's change of hand

Cubs batter tracks Venditte warming up righty, but then forced to change

Fowler irked by switch-pitcher's change of hand

MESA, Ariz. -- What happens when a switch-hitter faces a switch-pitcher? There's a little confusion.

Dexter Fowler was warming up in the on-deck circle prior to leading off the Cubs third inning Thursday, trying to time Athletics pitcher Pat Venditte, who was throwing right-handed. But then Venditte, a switch-pitcher, told home-plate umpire Brian Gorman that he was going to throw left-handed. Gorman told Fowler and Cubs manager Joe Maddon.

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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 Schwarber turns 22, hits grand slam

Cubs prospect Schwarber turns 22, hits grand slam

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Cubs prospect Kyle Schwarber celebrated his 22nd birthday in a grand way Thursday.

Schwarber, the 2014 No. 6 prospect in the Cubs organization according to MLB.com, hit a grand slam off Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong in the second inning of Thursday's contest.

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

Maddon sees 'another level' for Jackson

Cubs skipper believes right-hander can be much better

Maddon sees 'another level' for Jackson

MESA, Ariz. -- Joe Maddon has managed Edwin Jackson before. He likes the fact the right-hander is a good athlete. But Maddon also recognizes that Jackson has yet to get on track, especially with the Cubs.

Jackson, 31, will make his first Cactus League start Monday against the Padres and he finds himself battling for a spot in Chicago's rotation.

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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.

Coke reportedly headed to Cubs on Minors pact

Coke reportedly headed to Cubs on Minors pact

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs are in the market for some left-handed help in the bullpen, and they have reportedly signed reliever Phil Coke to a Minor League contract.

FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal on Thursday reported the deal, which is pending a physical. The Cubs have not confirmed the report.

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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.

Schlitter hopes loving home awaits stray pup

Cubs pitcher finds young dog near club's spring complex, but can't keep it

Schlitter hopes loving home awaits stray pup

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs pitcher Brian Schlitter is hoping someone will adopt a young dog he found near the team's Spring Training complex.

Schlitter and his wife, Kara, were walking back to their apartment and saw the dog in the bushes outside of the outfield fences of one of the practice fields. They caught the animal and brought it to their apartment, where they bathed it and fed it.

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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.

Umpire injury leads to odd strike-calling scenario

Umpire injury leads to odd strike-calling scenario

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Thursday's Cactus League game between the Giants and Cubs got off to a painful start for home-plate umpire Dale Scott.

Cubs right-hander Jacob Turner's first pitch of the bottom of the first ricocheted off the glove of catcher Welington Castillo and hit Scott near his right wrist and hand.

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

Cubs reach deals with remaining players

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs have agreed to contracts with all 20 players on the 40-man roster with zero to three years of Major League service.

The list includes pitchers Dallas Beeler, C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm, Kyle Hendricks, Blake Parker, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon, Brian Schlitter, Drake Britton, Eric Jokisch, Joseph Ortiz and Zac Rosscup.

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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

Jim Callis

Top 15 fantasy rookies led by pair of Cubs

Bryant, Soler have most potential for big league production in 2015

Top 15 fantasy rookies led by pair of Cubs

Good news, Cubs fans. The last three times your favorite team has featured the National League Rookie of the Year Award winner (Geovany Soto in 2008, Kerry Wood in 1998 and Jerome Walton in '89), it has advanced to the postseason. And Chicago has the top two rookie candidates for 2015.

Third baseman Kris Bryant and outfielder Jorge Soler have the power to help the Cubs back to the playoffs for the first time in seven years. They're not only the strongest candidates for Rookie of the Year Award honors, they're also the best fantasy prospects.

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Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Castillo adjusting to new spot on depth chart

Former starting catcher for Cubs now No. 3 behind starter Montero, veteran Ross

Castillo adjusting to new spot on depth chart

MESA, Ariz. -- Welington Castillo will be behind the plate Thursday in Scottsdale, Ariz., in one of the Cubs' split-squad games. Where he'll be when the season opens is to be determined.

After two seasons as the starting catcher, Castillo, 27, finds himself No. 3 on the depth chart behind Miguel Montero, 31, and David Ross, 37. Manager Joe Maddon says the Cubs can carry three catchers, and Castillo gives them insurance.

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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 to begin Maddon tenure, season of Banks tributes

Chicago will play first Cactus League games, with split squads wearing patch honoring Mr. Cub

Cubs to begin Maddon tenure, season of Banks tributes

MESA, Ariz. -- What will Joe Maddon do as the new Cubs manager? Fans will get their first look when Maddon and the Cubs open Cactus League play Thursday with split-squad games, including a home contest at newly named Sloan Park against their new neighbors, the Athletics.

The Cubs also will play the Giants in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Thursday. Travis Wood and Jacob Turner, both vying for a spot in the rotation, will start against the A's and Giants, respectively. Oakland moved into Chicago's former Spring Training Fitch Park complex in Mesa.

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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 considered calling Miller Park home in 2015

With major renovations at Wrigley, club looked into logistics of playing in Milwaukee

Cubs considered calling Miller Park home in 2015

With major renovations underway at Wrigley Field this winter, the Cubs considered playing their entire 2015 home schedule at Miller Park in Milwaukee, team president of business operations Crane Kenney told CBS Radio.

During a media tour of the construction zone on Monday, Kenney said that the center- and left-field bleachers are expected to be ready by May 11, while the right-field bleachers are expected to open in early-to-mid June.

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

Radar guns early in spring? Cubs offer their take

Radar guns early in spring? Cubs offer their take

MESA, Ariz. -- The Brewers will not be using radar guns for the first two weeks of Spring Training games so their pitchers can focus on command, not how hard they're throwing. Cubs reliever Zac Rosscup agrees with the philosophy.

"I expect my velocity to be down in spring anyway when you're just starting to face hitters," Rosscup said Wednesday. "I think it picks up later in Spring Training. If the radar gun is there or not, you still have to make pitches."

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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 motivated by coach Martinez's reward system

Cubs motivated by coach Martinez's reward system

MESA, Ariz. -- Jorge Soler had three stars on his cap. Justin Grimm received two in one day. Even advance scout Kyle Phillips was recognized.

Each day, Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez acknowledges a player and/or coach of the day by giving him a small shiny star to stick to his baseball cap. It's the same little metallic-colored stars your grade-school teacher probably used for a good book report.

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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.

Mind back on baseball, Almora emphasizing mental approach

Father's health a constant concern a year ago

Mind back on baseball, Almora emphasizing mental approach

MESA, Ariz. -- Immediately after the final out of Class A Daytona's games last season, Cubs prospect Albert Almora would rush into the clubhouse to check his phone to see if his father was still alive.

"People can't imagine what I went through in games," Almora said. "I'd finish a game and check my phone to see if something happened. People don't understand that. People just look at the box scores and they don't understand what happens off the field."

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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.

Hendricks hard at work to keep No. 4 spot in Cubs rotation

Righty confident in reaching goal of 200 innings

Hendricks hard at work to keep No. 4 spot in Cubs rotation

MESA, Ariz. -- No one said anything to Kyle Hendricks, but the right-hander did get the news that he is slotted into the No. 4 spot in the Cubs' rotation. Now, he has to get to work to keep it.

Joe Maddon indicated Monday that Hendricks would follow Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel in the rotation, although the manager did caution that things can change. Hendricks knows that.

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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.

Experienced depth behind the plate eases Maddon's mind

Ross, Montero and Castillo capable of handling Lester, rotation

Experienced depth behind the plate eases Maddon's mind

MESA, Ariz. -- Joe Maddon named Jon Lester as the Opening Night starter. Does that mean David Ross will be the Cubs' Opening Night catcher?

Lester has a 2.77 ERA when Ross is behind the plate, but Maddon said Tuesday that he hasn't written his lineup that far in advance. Lester and Ross will be paired together on Friday when the lefty makes his Cactus League debut.

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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.

Fowler's footwork, voice key to patrolling center

Wood, Turner to start split-squad games Thursday

Fowler's footwork, voice key to patrolling center

MESA, Ariz. -- Dexter Fowler has had to play in some giant-sized ballparks with the Rockies and Astros. Wrigley Field will be a little different, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon likes what he's seen of the center fielder.

Maddon watches the outfielder's feet during drills, and so far, Fowler's footwork has passed the tests. What will be key, Maddon said, is communication between Fowler and the corner outfielders.

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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 names Lester Opening Night starter

Maddon names Lester Opening Night starter

MESA, Ariz. -- Manager Joe Maddon made it official Monday: Jon Lester will start Opening Night, April 5, for the Cubs against the Cardinals.

Early in camp, Maddon indicated it was fairly obvious that Lester, who signed a six-year, $155 million contract in December, would kick off the Cubs season. But he wanted to talk to the left-hander first.

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

Renovation of Wrigley Field progressing as planned

Renovation of Wrigley Field progressing as planned

CHICAGO -- Phase One of the Wrigley Field 1060 Project remains relatively on target despite a cold winter, Cubs officials said Monday afternoon during a media tour of the construction zone.

The left-field concourse work and plaza development are going smoothly, while the bleachers remain a bit behind schedule, as previously announced at Cubs Convention. The center- and left-field bleachers will be ready May 11, with the right-field bleachers opening in early to mid June.

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

Soler comes to camp prepared for big league pitching

Rookie outfielder added weight in offseason to better handle hurlers

Soler comes to camp prepared for big league pitching

MESA, Ariz. -- Jorge Soler arrived in Spring Training 25 pounds heavier and with a better understanding of what big league pitchers are trying to do to him.

The Cubs outfielder, who batted .292 in 24 games last season, now checks in at 240 pounds. He looks large enough to play middle linebacker on an NFL team.

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

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

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

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

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

MESA, Ariz. -- Dexter Fowler is a center fielder, not an advance scout.

But that didn't stop Fowler from paying close attention to the opposing team last year, when he was playing against the Triple-A Iowa Cubs while working his way back to Minute Maid Park after straining an intercostal muscle. He grew more impressed after every one of the four games, and he quickly drew on those memories when the Astros traded him to the Cubs in January.

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

Grimm relieved to know role after breakout season

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

Grimm relieved to know role after breakout season

MESA, Ariz. -- Justin Grimm seems best suited to be a reliever. The antsy right-hander can barely sit still in the Cubs' clubhouse. It's hard to imagine him going four days without pitching.

Grimm got plenty of work last season, finishing ninth among National League relievers in appearances in his first full season with the Cubs. He also was in the top 25 in strikeouts. But Grimm was a starter in 2013 with the Rangers, and he still holds onto the possibility he could return to the rotation, especially after a rainy August day at Wrigley Field.

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

Wood, Jackson battling for fifth spot in rotation

Wood, Jackson battling for fifth spot in rotation

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

Manager Joe Maddon said Monday that Kyle Hendricks had secured the No. 4 spot in the Cubs rotation behind Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel. That leaves Wood and Jackson vying along with Felix Doubront, Jacob Turner and Tsuyoshi Wada for one opening.

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