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.

As Arrieta garners all the fanfare, Jon Lester keeps cruising along in Cubs win

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As Arrieta garners all the fanfare, Jon Lester keeps cruising along in Cubs win

Jake Arrieta is getting all the attention on the Cubs pitching staff, but don't sleep on Jon Lester.

As Arrieta defends his supernatural stat lines, Lester has looked every bit the $155 million starter this season.

The veteran left-hander turned in another gem Friday in the Cubs' 6-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves in front of 34,007 fans at a frigid Wrigley Field.

Lester allowed only one run in seven innings, punching out 10 for his 26th career double-digit strikeout game.

He got himself into a major jam in the seventh when he gave up a single and a walk and then couldn't get a handle on a bunt (or didn't want to risk a throw to first), loading the bases with nobody out and adding another episode to the "yips" discussion.

"No matter what I say about the bunt in that inning, nobody's really gonna believe what I say," Lester said. "I never had a handle on it. I fielded it, the ball kinda rattled around in my glove. I reached for it twice and didn't have a handle on it, so I ate it. 

"You can believe me or not on that. There's no point in rushing the throw when I didn't have a handle on the baseball."

After a well-timed mound visit from manager Joe Maddon designed to calm Lester down and reset, the veteran southpaw struck out the next two batters and got Nick Markakis to ground out to Anthony Rizzo at first base to end the threat and strand the bases loaded.

For the first time in his career, Lester has notched five straight quality starts to begin a season and now has a 1.83 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 2016.

Lester has gone at least seven innings and given up exactly one earned run in four of his five starts this season.

So has he lived up to his own expectations?

"Never," Lester said before allowing that he "feels good right now. My mechanics are good. I'm in a good place, executing pitches. 

"... I've always said, even when I was younger, no matter what expectations somebody else puts on me, it will never be as high as what I expect from myself. Every time I go out there, I want to be perfect and I want to win every game I pitch. That's where I'm at.

"Tomorrow, I'll show up and get back to work. It's neverending until the last pitch from me in my career is thrown and move on to something else."

The Cubs couldn't get Lester a win, however, putting up just one run through seven innings against the Braves pitching staff just hours after talking about how this lineup is built to generate offense even in cold, miserable conditions.

That run is the only tally of support the Cubs offense has given him in 20.1 innings of work at Wrigley Field so far this season.

But the bats came alive late when Rizzo broke the tie with an RBI single in the eighth and then Matt Szczur followed with his first career grand slam.

"In a game like today, you really believe you're going to win it somehow," Maddon said. "That's what that kind of a record does. You have a strong belief system you're going to win the game.

"You're getting no hits, but you still have the strong feeling that you're gonna win the game."

The Cubs' 17 victories are tied for the most in franchise history in April with 2008's squad and the 17-5 start is the best mark since the 1907 Cubs began 18-4.

Cubs fans regulate on rapper Warren G for his rendition of 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game'

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Cubs fans regulate on rapper Warren G for his rendition of 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game'

Cubs fans may have witnessed one of the quickest seventh inning stretches ever performed at Wrigley Field on Friday.

Rapper Warren G, famous for his 1994 hit song "Regulate", yelled "Cubbie fans mount up!" and then sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the Cubs-Braves game. The results were ... interesting, to say the least. 

Cubs fans were not having it.

Watch the full stretch and decide for yourself in the video above.

ESPN's Stephen A. Smith defends himself against Jake Arrieta

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ESPN's Stephen A. Smith defends himself against Jake Arrieta

Jake Arrieta vs. Stephen A. Smith: Round II?

Not quite, but the ESPN personality still felt the need to defend himself from the Cubs ace on air Thursday after Arrieta created a stir by Tweeting at Smith Wednesday.

Smith initially took a strong stance against Arrieta and the possibility of the 2015 NL Cy Young winner taking performance-enhancing drugs, but then immediately backed down when confronted on Twitter. 

On Thursday's "First Take," Smith apparently felt like he had to keep the drama going and responded to Arrieta:

"I can appreciate Jake Arrieta defending himself," Smith said. "If it were me, I certainly would. I take no offense whatsoever at anything he said towards me or that he Tweeted at me. 

"But I do think he needs to understand my perspective. Skip Bayless - we didn't walk on this show saying, 'We've been watching Jake Arrieta pitch. Let's talk about it because this seems suspicious.' No, it was an article in USATODAY with fans and contemporaries quietly saying, 'Something doesn't seem right here.' So we pointed out the level of excellence, what he did in the second half of last season."

Smith then delved into how many others in the game of baseball have denied using PEDs - like Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun - and how we can't take anybody's word for it nowadays.

Apparently that means that Smith can accuse (without technically accusing) somebody of taking PEDs or claiming they handled the aftermath wrong by laughing it off?

To be fair, that's basically what "First Take" is: discussing hot-button sports issues with vague language - it's basically a bunch of hot takes communicated with lawyerspeak - so the Arrieta comments Wednesday weren't all that newsworthy until the Cubs pitcher decided to respond on Twitter.

"I don't know anything about Jake Arreita," Smith continued. "All I know is this man is nothing short of sensational, deserving of the Cy Young Award because of his performance in the second half of the season and - by the way - happened to lose to the Mets in the postseason. That's all I know about him."

Cheers to the (hopeful) end to this saga.