Jeff Samardzija got the win for the Cubs on Sunday at HoHoKam Park.

Two Spring Training games completed, two wins for the Cubs (yay?).

After smacking the Angels 11-2 on Saturday at Tempe (read our recap on that game, here), the Cubs opened their final year at Mesa's HoHoKam Park with a 4-3 victory on Sunday over the Giants.

Here's some notable things to take away from Sunday's events at HoHoKam:
  • The main story on Sunday with the Cubs didn't have to do with the game, but rather rumors about outfielder Alfonso Soriano being a potential trade target for the New York Yankees after their star outfielder Curtis Granderson broke his forearm on Sunday and could miss 10 weeks. If the Yankees were to target Soriano and work out a deal with the Cubs, would Soriano waive his no-trade clause to go there? He made it clear on Sunday that he'd prefer to win in Chicago, and would rather see how things are going with the Cubs before possibly accepting a trade to a contender. However, he did say (and you can find this quote and many more ones worth reading in the above link) that if the Yankees called, "... I have to think about it. I don't want to make a quick reaction and say 'Yeah' or say 'No.' I want to think about it. I'm 37 years old so I have to think first what’s good for me and for the team and for my family, too." So, to quickly summarize: Soriano would much prefer to try to win in Chicago, but would at least think about accepting a trade to the Yankees... but would be more inclined to accepting a trade later in the season if the Cubs are clearly not contenders.
  • As for the game, the Cubs got all four runs off Giants stud right-hander Matt Cain in the first inning, although all of the runs were unearned due to an error from the Giants to extend the inning before the runs scored. Three of the runs came on a homer from new Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro. The 29-year-old switch-hitter played in 24 games with the Reds in 2012, putting up a .290/.306/.449 line at the plate, and has a career line of .245/.306/.357 in 2,239 plate appearances. Defensively, he's solid, and would be a nice mentor for the 25-year-old Welington Castilo. He'll battle Steve Clevenger for the Cubs' backup catching position, and I'd definitely put my money on him getting the job.
  • The Cubs' other run came on an RBI groundout from outfielder Nate Schierholtz, who will likely be in a right field platoon with veteran Scott Hairston to start the season. That's unless Brett Jackson impresses so much in Spring Training that he takes the Cubs' starting centerfield job, moving David DeJesus to right field, but the Cubs sound intent on their plan to put Jackson in Iowa to start the season.
  • Jeff Samardzija got the start and win for the Cubs, going two innings, with one earned run allowed on three hits. He struck out two. Shark thought his fastball and splitter were fine on the day, but that his slider "stunk", and his focus for his next start will be to have a better slider. As for possibly being the Opening Day starter, Shark said on Sunday after his outing, "I haven't had that conversation at all. We're still waiting to see what happens with Garz (Matt Garza) and how he comes along. They know where I stand on it and how I feel."
  • 32-year-old Japanese right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa, who the Cubs signed to a two-year, $9.5 million deal in the offseason, made his MLB Spring Training debut on Sunday, and tossed a scoreless inning. He allowed one hit, struck out two, and threw 9 of the 10 pitches for strikes, something that will make manager Dale Sveum quite happy.
  • Speaking of throwing strikes, the Cubs' pitching staff only walked one batter for the second straight day.
  • Carlos Marmol gave up one run in one inning of work, allowing a hit, walking a batter, and striking out one.  
  • Shawn Camp threw a flawless ninth inning to record the save. 
  • While the talk about Soriano on Sunday has been in regards to a possible Yankees trade, he also went 2 for 2 at the plate. Brian Bogusevic and Johermyn Chavez each went 2 for 2 as well.
  • Sveum was very impressed with rule-5 pick Hector Rondon's Saturday performance: "Each time he threw a scud, he came back with a strike. That's what I was impressed with all our pitchers (Saturday). If they got behind, they came back and got back in the count with a strike and didn't let the at-bat get away from them." "It was nice to see Rondon in action for the first time. He threw about three or four cutters that were real quality, which is a pitch he'll have to use. He got back in the count one time with a slider after throwing a scud slider. He showed a lot of poise out there."
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via SBNation.com

The Cubs got out to a flying start yesterday, in an 11-2 split-squad shellacking of the Angels. Today, the Cubs open up the home slate at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, as they host the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. It's Matt Cain vs. Jeff Samardzija, and it'll be the Cubs debut of sorts for players like Nate Schierholtz and Dioner Navarro.

Giants (1-0) at Cubs (1-0)

Hohokam Stadium | Mesa, Ariz. 
2:05 pm CST | Radio: MLB.com

Giants Lineup:
Gregor Blanco CF
Kensuke Tanaka 2B
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Brandon Belt 1B
Roger Kieschnick LF
Brandon Crawford SS
Francisco Peguero RF
Guillermo Quiroz C
Angel Villalona DH
Matt Cain P

Cubs Lineup:
David DeJesus CF
Starlin Castro SS
Anthony Rizzo 1B
Alfonso Soriano LF
Nate Schierholtz RF
Dioner Navarro C
Brian Bogusevic DH
Darwin Barney 2B
Christian Villanueva 3B
Jeff Smardzija P

 Here's some news and notes ahead of today's game:

  • Yesterday, it was Travis Wood's turn to kick off the rotation battle, and he had a so-so outing, giving up two earned into two innings, while walking one and striking out a pair. For Samardzija, it'll be about staying calm and within his game. Don't expect the electric arm that Spellcheck is capable of, as the first outing is all about establishing a rhythm and control of the strike zone. If he can go two innings without giving the Giants free base runners, he'll have a successful day.
  • Getting their first tastes of the spring for the Cubs are many of the mainstays, as Dale Sveum will trot out a near-Opening Day lineup against the defending World Champions. 
  • Nate Schierholtz gets his first start in the Cubs' pinstripes and it interestingly enough comes against the righty, Matt Cain. Schierholtz is a lifetime .266 hitter against righties, while he hits at a .284 clip against lefties. It's been bantered about that he and DeJesus could platoon in the outfield at some point,  as DeJesus struggles against lefties.
  • Alfonso Soriano leads the Cubs in terms of success against Cain, with 2 homers and 5 RBIs in 14 at bats. Down side of that stat? Alf is batting .214 against him. So perhaps it's a good thing he'll get just one at bat against Mr. Perfect.
  • Anthony Rizzo is the only Cub to start today that started yesterday in Tempe against the Angels. He was 1 for 2 yesterday, with a walk, strikeout and double in three plate appearances.


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Cubs top prospect Javier Baez runs down a pop-up Saturday. (H/T: Chicago Tribune)

The Cubs opened their Cactus League on Saturday in impressive fashion with an 11-2 victory over the Angels in Tempe, AZ.

11 runs? Winning by nine? Hell, just winning even?

Don't expect to see these things from the Cubs too much more in 2013, but it really was a nice way to open up (non-Intrasquad) game action.

Here's some notable things to take away from the game:

  • Maybe Brett Jackson's new, shortened swing is making a difference already? It's certainly WAY too early to reach any sort of definitive conclusion to that (and will still be too early for a few months), but after going 3 for 3 at the dish on Friday, he opened up Cactus League with two triples and two RBI in his only two at-bats on Saturday. The Cubs intend to send B-Jax to Triple-A Iowa to start the season, but if he keeps raking, he may make that decision tough for them. Whatever the case, you have to like what his revamped swing is doing so far.
  • After Luis Valbuena homered in the Cubs' intrasquad game Friday, he hit another bomb on Saturday. As we told you earlier Saturday, Ian Stewart is out two weeks with a quad injury, and it's possible (much more now after the injury) Stewart may even be cut before Opening Day. So, Valbuena has a great shot to win the Opening Day starting third base job for the Cubs.
  • Left-hander and starting rotation hopeful Travis Wood got the start on the mound for the Cubs, and gave up two earned runs, one hit, and one walk in two innings. He also struck out two. He started the outing by walking the Angels' Peter Bourjos on five pitches, but looked decent after that.
  • After that walk to start the game, the Cubs' pitching staff didn't allow another walk for the remainder of the game. I can guarantee you that's the main, satisfying thing Dale Sveum took away from the game.
  • Trey McNutt, Hisanori Takahashi, Rafael Dolis, Hector Rondon, Zach Putnam, and Jaye Chapman threw seven scoreless innings in relief of Travis Wood.
  • Cubs prospect Junior Lake went 1 for 3 with a solo BOMB and played some third base. You may remember I wrote this about Lake on Thursday: "With Soler, Javier Baez, Albert Almora, and Daniel Vogelbach in the system, Lake's become a bit of a forgotten guy, but is certainly a prospect worth keeping an eye on. He has tremendous tools both offensively and defensively (he has a cannon), and sometimes looks like a future All-Star... while other times looking like he'll be lucky to ever sniff a major league roster. It's about consistency, polish, and at the plate, showing a bit more patience, which is something this new regime will certainly try to drill into his head."
  • Speaking of Javier Baez and Jorge Soler, they each got three at bats as well on Saturday in their first-ever Spring Training games. Baez went 1 for 3 with a single and a run, and Soler went 1 for 3 with a double, RBI, and run. Baez played shortstop, while Soler played left field. 
  • Logan Watkins led off for the Cubs and played second base, and went 1 for 3 with a triple and a run. He's one of the more underrated Cubs prospects in the farm system, and in my opinion, one of the safest bets to be a quality major leaguer. He's also the kind of guy the Cubs' front office loves, as he has terrific plate discipline. In 2012 at Double-A Tennessee, Watkins had a remarkable .383 on-base percentage and drew 76 walks. He also stole 28 bases in 35 attempts. We all love Darwin Barney's Gold Glove defense (and it's certainly not to be undervalued), but if his bat doesn't pick it up much over the next year, Watkins may push him for the Cubs' second base job. Definitely keep an eye on Watkins this spring.
  • Anthony Rizzo and Brad Nelson played first base for the Cubs in the game, with Rizzo going 1 for 2 with a double and walk at the plate, and Nelson going 2 for 2 with with 2 RBI.
  • Brent Lillibridge started his quest to make the Cubs' roster with a nice game, going 1 for 2 with an RBI double and stolen base. He also played well at shortstop.
  • Welington Castillo, the likely starting catcher for the Cubs, went 1 for 3 with an RBI single.
  • Scott Hairston played in right field and went 1 for 3 at the plate with an RBI single.
  • 33-year-old catcher J.C. Boscan went 1 for 2 with an RBI single. He's only played 11 career MLB games and is just a .222 career hitter in the minors, where he's played 1,107 games. So, yeah, he's not going to make the roster.
Next up for the Cubs: Jeff Samardzija, who could end up being the Cubs' Opening Day starting pitcher, takes the mound against the Giants on Sunday (2:05 PM CT) in the Cubs' HoHoKam opener. According to Cubs.Com, "Sunday's lineup will have most of the regulars, including David DeJesus, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Alfonso Soriano, and Darwin Barney."

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Photo via ChicagoNow.com

It's been nearly five months since the Cubs hung up their spikes and jerseys to end a frustrating 2012 season that saw the Northsiders lose 100 games for the first time since 1966. But alas spring beckons anew, and today begins the grind. This afternoon, the Cubs kick off the Spring Training slate in Tempe against the team that many are pegging to be the odds-on favorite to win the American League, the Los Angeles Angels.

Cubs(ss) at Angels(ss)

Diablo Stadium | Tempe, Ariz. 
2:05 pm CST | WGN 720 am

Cubs Lineup:
Logan Watkins 2B
Dave Sappelt CF
Anthony Rizzo 1B
Scott Hairston RF
Carlos Valbuena 3B
Welington Castillo C
Brett Jackson LF
Brent Lillibridge SS
Darnell McDonald DH
Travis Wood P

Angels Lineup:
Peter Bourjos CF
Erick Aybar SS
Mark Trumbo 1B
Hank Conger C
Bill Hall 3B
Scott Cousins RF
Trent Oletjen LF
Luis Rodriguez 2B
Luke Carlin DH
Jerome Williams P

 Here's some news and notes ahead of today's game:


  • Travis Wood gets the start for the Cubs, as he looks to solidify his spot in the rotation. Wood struggled to start the 2012 season, but finished the season with 3.56 ERA spanning August and September, including a K-BB ratio of 2.71. With Scott Baker and Carlos Villanueva added to the mix, the pressure has mounted on the Cubs' arms, and Wood will need to have a solid spring to re-earn his rotation spot. 
  • Speaking of Scott Baker, the former Twin felt good after throwing 45 pitches in the bullpen. He's still a couple of extended sessions from seeing live action, but it's a big step forward for Baker, who was a low risk/high reward signing in the offseason. 
  •  Ian Stewart is said to be out 10-14 days with a left quad strain, according to Carrie Muskat. Per Cubs.com, Stewart had an MRI on after tweaking the quad during Thursday's intersquad game. Since Spring Training is starting so early due to the World Baseball Classic, the injury shouldn't interfere with Stewart's ability to make the 25-man Opening Day roster. 
  • In possibly the best news of the day for the Cubs so far, the Halos are sitting their big three this afternoon, and neither Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton or Mike Trout will start. This is a split-squad game for both teams, and even though the Cubs are not playing two games today, Mike Scioscia is giving his stars an extra day of drills before starting their Spring Training campaigns. Yes, it's just Spring Training, but it's the little victories that matter, right? 


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Jorge Soler goes deep in his first at-bat Thursday (picture via @M_Montemurro).

The Cubs had an intrasquad game on Thursday at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, Arizona, marking their first game action (although just a scrimmage of course) of 2013. The game wasn't available on television or radio, but plenty of reporters were provided some quality information from the game, and even some play-by-play on Twitter.

Well, the "White Team" defeated the "Blue Team" 7-3. And there was one moment in the game that had everybody talking: A BOMB from Cubs prospect Jorge Soler, in his first at-bat. And we even have two videos of the homer, which took place on a 3-1 count against Cubs pitching prospect Nick Struck.

The first video (which features some great editing from Tim Sheridan) of the Soler bomb, via Boys of Spring:



And another angle of the homer, via Bleacher Nation:


That's a 20-year-old, folks. What a beast. The ball seems to have a different sound off his bat, doesn't it?

Soler also walked and made a diving catch on a sinking line drive. You get a pretty good idea of why Baseball America recently ranked him No. 34 on their 2013 Top 100 Prospects list.

The other headliner of the game was Starlin Castro's tremendous performance both offensively and defensively. Starlin's already doing his thing at the plate, as he went 3 for 3 today. And defensively, he reportedly (going by what I was seeing on Twitter... make sure to check out our Cubs "list" on Twitter by the way) made a couple terrific plays, including a diving grab to rob top prospect Javier Baez of a base hit.

Here's video of Starlin's diving catch, again via Bleacher Nation:


Starlin sounds very motivated this spring, saying his mental lapses are a thing of the past, that he wants to win a Gold Glove, etc. So don't be surprised if the 23-year-old soon breaks out with a monster season. We know he has the talent to do so, and he should only be improving for a long, long time.

Other things of note from the game:

  • Javier Baez certainly deserved a hit in the video you saw above, but otherwise struggled in the game, particularly defensively. He bobbled a routine double play ball (he still got one out) that allowed a run to score. It's possible the exceptionally talented 20-year-old was a bit nervous in his first "game" with the big leaguers and in front of Cubs manager Dale Sveum. No need to worry about Baseball America's No. 16 prospect yet.
  • Cubs infield prospect Junior Lake tripled off the centerfield wall in his first at-bat (right after the Soler homer, actually). With Soler, Javier Baez, Albert Almora, and Daniel Vogelbach in the system, Lake's become a bit of a forgotten guy, but is certainly a prospect worth keeping an eye on. He has tremendous tools both offensively and defensively (he has a cannon), and sometimes looks like a future All-Star... while other times looking like he'll be lucky to ever sniff a major league roster. It's about consistency, polish, and at the plate, showing a bit more patience, which is something this new regime will certainly try to drill into his head.
  • Veteran outfielders Nate Schierholtz and Brian Bogusevic each homered in the game, which was their Cubs debut... of sorts.
  • Dioner Navarro, the Cubs' likely No. 2 catcher, hit a 2-run single. Likely Cubs starting catcher, Welington Castillo, went 1 for 2 at the dish. Welington isn't getting enough talk in my opinion. He needs to really work on his receiving skills as a catcher, but he has an absolute cannon and the ability to be a Gold Glove-esque backstop. And he should also be a .750+ OPS type at the plate, with lots of room for growth. Actually, he's exactly a .750 OPS hitter through 224 MLB plate appearances. 
  • Anthony Rizzo reached base all three times, going 1 for 1 with 2 walks.
  • Ian Stewart doubled to the wall in left-center, and his left wrist is feeling good for the first time in a few years after undergoing surgery. Don't be surprised if he looks a lot more like his pre-2011 self this season, as a bothersome wrist can really, really be a big deal for a hitter (remember when Derrek Lee struggled for a while following his broken wrist?). But... he and Josh Vitters apparently are day-to-day now with quad strains. As of now, he's listed in tomorrow's intrasquad lineup, though.
  • Cubs Senior VP of scouting and player development, Jason McLeod, told Northwest Herald's Meghan Montemurro (make sure to give her a follow) that Soler and Baez will likely start the season at Single-A (High-A) Daytona, and Lake will start the year at Triple-A Iowa. All of these moves make sense. And don't expect Soler or Baez to be in Double-A until late in the year, if at all in 2013. Baez struggled greatly at Daytona (.188/.244/.400 in 86 plate appearances) in 2012, after dominating at the lower A-level Peoria (.333/.383/.596 in 235 plate appearances), so he could use a full season-ish there. 
  • Sveum on Soler: "Pretty nice bat speed we saw. He doesn't seem like a panic type guy. Very poised."
  • Schierholtz on Soler: "I'm very impressed by him. You'd never guess he's 20 years old the way he carries himself and how big and strong he is."
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