Beliveau hoping to make Cubs take notice

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Beliveau hoping to make Cubs take notice

MESA, Ariz. Jeff Beliveau remembers exactly where he was when Dave Roberts stole second base against Mariano Rivera and the New York Yankees.

Beliveau, who grew up in Rhode Island, had traveled to Arizona with his parents for a showcase tournament for high school prospects. They watched Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series at Flemings steakhouse in Scottsdale.

That ninth inning became an iconic moment to so many people from New England. The Boston Red Sox began to erase a 3-0 series deficit and take down the Evil Empire. A self-proclaimed band of idiots reversed the curse and gave Red Sox fans their first World Series title in 86 years.

That meant a lot to me and my family, Beliveau said Monday. Im pretty excited about whats going to happen the next few years.

Fast forward to last months Cubs Convention, where a fan asked Theo Epstein to name one under-the-radar prospect in the system who could make an impact. The new president of baseball operations identified Beliveau. The 25-year-old left-handed reliever will be given an opportunity to win a spot in the Cubs bullpen.

Beliveau has gone from being an 18th-round draft pick out of Florida Atlantic University in 2008 to the organizations minor league pitcher of the year in 2011. He went 6-1 with a 1.89 ERA at Double-A Tennessee, finishing with 69 strikeouts against 13 walks in 57 innings, numbers that would make Epstein take notice.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum has mentioned how Beliveaus disappearing fastball should play at the next level. Beliveau has tried to model himself after retired closer Billy Wagner, with a short-arm delivery thats hard to pick up out of the left hand.

Beliveau was playing for Team USA last fall while the Epstein compensation negotiations dragged out. He thought about how it would be cool to meet the guy who helped build that forever Red Sox team.

Near the start of his first big-league camp, Beliveau met with Epstein, Sveum, general manager Jed Hoyer and pitching coach Chris Bosio in the managers office. Each player had a meeting to go over expectations. The message was loud and clear.

They told me: Dont come here just for the experience. You have a chance to make the team. You had a great year last year keep it going.

Booze ban?

After an epic collapse last September generated sensational stories about the fried chicken and beer culture around the Red Sox, new manager Bobby Valentine banned alcohol in the clubhouse.

Cubs players have been spotted drinking the occasional beer after games in the clubhouse its not widespread and the team doesnt serve alcohol on charter flights headed back to Chicago at the end of road trips. Sveum was asked Monday if policies have been discussed for 2012.

No, we havent talked about anything like that, Sveum said. Thats up to the front office and myself and I dont know, to tell you the truth, the policies that have been here before. So I dont really have much comment on that right now.

Etc.

Rodrigo Lopez is scheduled to start Sundays Cactus League opener vs. the Oakland As, followed by Ryan Dempster (Monday vs. As) and Matt Garza (Tuesday vs. the Colorado Rockies). Sveum said this isnt an indication of who will start Opening Day, a decision that should be announced by the middle of camp. Starlin Castros right arm was said to be fine after being hit by a Kerry Wood fastball during live batting practice on Monday at Fitch Park. Paul Maholm (flu) was sent home after throwing on Monday before his bunting tournament matchup against Lopez while Geovany Soto (groin) continues to be limited during workouts. Wood lost to Sveum in a first-round match in the bunting tournament. Also advancing were Soto, Dempster, Jeff Baker, Marlon Byrd, David DeJesus and Carlos Marmol.

CSN will air six Cubs spring training games in 2017

CSN will air six Cubs spring training games in 2017

Cubs fans will get to see 10 spring training games on TV in 2017 as they begin their World Series title defense, including six contests on CSN.

The Cubs released their spring broadcast schedule Monday afternoon, featuring 10 games on TV, 10 on the radio on 670 The Score and then 27 internet radio broadcasts on Cubs.com.

Len Kasper and Mick Gillispie will be the broadcasters for Cubs.com games while Kasper and Jim Deshaies will serve as the announcers for all TV contests.

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Here are all six of CSN's broadcasts (all game times in Mountain Time Zone): 

—Wednesday, March 15 (7:05 p.m.) vs. Diamondbacks
—Sunday, March 19 (7:05 p.m.) vs. Royals
—Wednesday, March 22 (6:05 p.m.) vs. Reds
—Saturday, March 25 (1:05 p.m. PT) vs. Reds
—Tuesday, March 28 (1:05 p.m.) vs. Giants
—Friday, March 31 (1:10 p.m. CT) vs. Astros

Here's the complete Cubs spring schedule:

Cubs' Carl Edwards Jr. looks to follow in Mariano Rivera's footsteps

Cubs' Carl Edwards Jr. looks to follow in Mariano Rivera's footsteps

Carl Edwards Jr. couldn't dream up a better pitcher to try to emulate than Mariano Rivera.

Not for a young right-hander who is still getting used to being a reliever with a cutter as his bread and butter pitch.

After picking up his first career save late in 2016, Edwards mentioned how he has been watching video of Rivera. At the Cubs Convention earlier this month, Edwards name-dropped Rivera again in response to a fan question and went into more detail with exactly what he's aiming to accomplish by watching Rivera tape.

Let's be clear: Mariano Rivera is inimitable. He's a once-in-a-lifetime talent and there almost assuredly will never be a better closer in Major League Baseball.

But Edwards knows that. 

"He's great. He's a Hall of Famer," Edwards said. "He goes out there like he has the world in the palm of his hand. He's very competitive; I've never seen him back down. That's one [takeaway] for myself — I'm gonna go out and never back down.

"I don't really get into trying to be like him. I just look more into how he goes about his business. That's something that I can control — how I go about my business."

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Cubs coach Mike Borzello was there with Rivera in 1997 when the now-legendary cutter was born.

It's not fair to compare Edwards' cutter to one of the greatest pitches ever, but his version is pretty nasty in its own right:

The Cubs are still searching for long-term answers in the rotation, but don't have any intentions of moving Edwards back to a role as a starter.

Like Edwards, Rivera began his career as a starting pitcher coming up through the Yankees system. But Edwards actually has a leg up on baseball's all time saves leader: Edwards' first save came in his age 24 season while Rivera didn't tally his first save until age 26 in New York.

Edwards also struck out 13 batters per nine innings in 2016 while Rivera never posted eye-popping whiff totals (a career 8.2 K/9 rate).

As Edwards gets set for what he and the Cubs hope will be his first full season in the big leagues in 2017, his maturation will be important in an age of baseball where relief pitchers have never been more valued.

Rivera pitched in the playoffs nearly every year, routinely working more than one inning and posting ridiculous postseason numbers: 0.70 ERA, 0.759 WHIP and 42 saves while taking home the World Series MVP in 1999 and ALCS MVP in 2003.

The Cubs hope Edwards will be pitching in the postseason on a regular basis, too.

For now, the 25-year-old is still reveling in the glory following the 2016 Cubs championship.

He served as honorary drummer at the Carolina Panthers game in November.

"That was pretty amazing. That's a highlight of my offseason," Edwards said.

He grew up as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan despite being a South Carolina native, but Edwards said he did get a pair of Cam Newton cleats to wear for 2017 when he and Cubs teammates like Addison Russell or Matt Szczur throw the football around in the outfield to get loose.

Edwards was also blown away by the reception from Cubs fans at the Convention — "This is my third year and every year as been better" — but still hasn't fully wrapped his mind around the ending of the 108-year drought.

"Everything happened so quick," he said. "Hopefully in the next couple weeks when I have a break, I can sit down and soak it all in."