Braun tests positive for PEDs

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Braun tests positive for PEDs

The path to the NL Central title for the Cubs may have just gotten a little easier.

YokalSports.com first reported on their Twitter account that reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Braun faces a possible 50-game suspension, but he will dispute the positive test through arbitration.

After news of the positive test broke on Saturday, a spokesman for Braun issued this statement:

"There are highly unusual circumstances surrounding this case which will support Ryan's complete innocence and demonstrate there was absolutely no intentional violation of the program."

The spokesman went on to praise Braun's character and try to push any doubt aside that Braun is indeed innocent.

"While Ryan has impeccable character and no previous history, unfortunately, because of the process we have to maintain confidentiality and are not able to discuss it any further, but we are confident he will ultimately be exonerated."

According to Tyler Barnes, a spokesman for the Brewers, the commissioners office had yet to contact the team and Milwaukee didn't know anything about the positive test. ESPN's Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn claim Braun told people close to him that he had no knowledge of taking PED's and the arbitration will prove he's innocent.

After signing a five-year contract extension for 105 million, Braun had the best season of his career. He hit .332 with 33 home runs, 111 RBI and recorded 33 stolen bases and led the Brewers to their first division title since 1982. Milwaukee was within two games of the NL Pennant when they were eliminated in the NLCS, 4-2 by the World Series Champion, St. Louis Cardinals.

How far will you take it? - The Wrigley Field Ivy

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How far will you take it? - The Wrigley Field Ivy

Once spring slowly turns to summer in Chicago, the iconic ivy — which has been around since 1937 — begins to grow along the outfield bricks at Wrigley Field.

If not for daily maintenance from the groundskeepers, the ivy would cover up the distance markers, signage and even spread into the bleachers at the historic home of the Cubs.

Kelly Crull takes a ride around Wrigleyville in the all-new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid bringing you a special Cubs feature on the iconic ivy. Make sure to check back all summer long for more features!

Weekly Cubs, White Sox Minor League Report

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Weekly Cubs, White Sox Minor League Report

Each week, CSNChicago.com goes down on the farm for a minor-league report from both the Cubs and White Sox system, presented by Service King.

CUBS

Willson Contreras and Albert Almora are making headlines for the Cubs' system, as both players are off to fantastic starts with Triple-A Iowa.

Contreras drew four walks and was hit by a pitch Wednesday and now has a ridiculous .448 on-base percentage this season. Almora is hitting .310 with four doubles, three homers and three steals, picking up where he left off after finishing 2015 on a serious hot streak.

But neither player has done enough to earn a call-up to The Show with Cubs catcher Miguel Montero (back) and outfielder Matt Szczur (hamstring) landing on the disabled list recently.

Watch for possible debuts from Contreras and Almora later in the season.

John Williamson isn't a household name in the Cubs' system, but the pitcher has some serious rap skills and we should be seeing more of him later in the year, too (at least with more Cubs-centric raps).

WHITE SOX

With White Sox top prospect Tim Anderson hitting just .229 with a .513 OPS, Danny Hayes might be the best story on Triple-A Charlotte.

Hayes - who ironically shares the same name with CSNChicago.com White Sox Insider Dan Hayes - is tearing up Triple-A pitching to the tune of .298/.394/.579.

The 25-year-old first baseman and designated hitter was a 13th-round pick of the Sox back in 2013 and posted an OPS of .748 with Double-A Birmingham in 129 games last season.

Hayes is currently blocked at first by Jose Abreu, but if the Sox need another left-handed DH option down the line, maybe CSNChicago.com's Hayes will get a chance at covering the White Sox Hayes.

Javier Baez becoming a game-changer for Cubs on defense and offense

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Javier Baez becoming a game-changer for Cubs on defense and offense

PITTSBURGH – When Javier Baez made his splashy debut in August 2014, it symbolized how much the Cubs wanted to sell the future and change the conversation after another selloff at the trade deadline. 

But it also makes a statement when Javy Being Javy starts to live up to the hype – and create a highlight reel – only as a role player. That’s one takeaway from the defensive clinic Baez put on at third base during this three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates that ended with Wednesday’s 6-2 win at PNC Park.   

“It’s a crazy situation here with the talent we have,” pitcher Jake Arrieta said, “and Javy at times being overlooked and not necessarily in the starting lineup every day. To have a guy like that with probably some of the best hands in all of baseball off the bench (is) a luxury that we’re happy to have. He’s a special talent.”

A natural shortstop, Baez has a unique ability to read the ball off the bat, but he’s also realized the value of sitting back and waiting at third base. Baez writes and eats left-handed and uses that as his dominant side, which helps him get into such an easy defensive flow. Even more than Addison Russell, Baez has the classic, big arm you’re looking for in a prototypical shortstop.    

“You’re crazy,” Arrieta told Baez on Tuesday night after watching the third baseman react to a John Jaso check swing in the sixth inning, charging to the edge of the infield grass, grabbing the ball with his bare hand and making a fluid throw to first base for the out.

Baez made it look easy again in the seventh inning, going to his backhand on a David Freese chopper up the third-base line, planting his right foot on the edge of the outfield grass and unleashing a laser throw to first base. 

Baez got Freese again in the ninth inning, making a charging backhanded play look routine and reinforcing why manager Joe Maddon sees him as such a weapon.

“You can actually say without stretching things way too far that he’s one of the best infielders in the National League – and he doesn’t start,” Maddon said. “Just purely as a defensive, groundball, infield-acumen kind of player, he’s one of the best in the league right now. Period. 

“So we just got to find an opportunity for him. His bat continues to make progress. I absolutely feel great when he’s out there on defense, because he can really impact a game in a positive way.”

With a 3-for-5, two-RBI afternoon on Wednesday, Baez pushed his average to .341, showing that he’s not the same all-or-nothing hitter who struck out 95 times and put up nine homers in 52 games in 2014.  

“When I got called up, I was hot with the bat, but I knew it wasn’t me,” Baez said. “It wasn’t my swing. I’m finally feeling really good at the plate and hopefully we can keep it going.”

Whether that means bumping Kris Bryant to the outfield more often or becoming that Ben Zobrist super-utility guy or filling in for the next injured player, right now it looks like the Cubs made the right choice in holding onto Baez and not packaging him in a deal for a pitcher.       

“You have not only a guy that can play the hell out of some infield,” pitcher Jon Lester said, “but he also gives you another guy at the bottom end of that lineup that has some thump. You make a mistake and this guy can take you back.”

Credit Baez for making those adjustments at the plate, smoothing out some of his rougher edges and realizing that for now this is his path to sticking in The Show.   

“I’ve been showing how much I’ve been growing up and my discipline at the plate,” Baez said. “My mind is all over the place with the positions, but I don’t have any problems playing it. I think I’m doing a pretty good job playing defense.”