Ricketts: Cubs arent leaving Wrigley Field

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Ricketts: Cubs arent leaving Wrigley Field

MESA, Ariz. The Cubs arent moving to the South Side.

Chairman Tom Ricketts shot down rumors that the Cubs might shift their home games to U.S. Cellular Field for one season while their ancient ballpark gets renovated.

Theres no plans for us to play anywhere else but Wrigley Field, Ricketts said Friday at Fitch Park after speaking to the entire team.

All along, the Cubs have focused on renovating the stadium in phases, across three or four offseasons. While team executives continue to lobby government officials, the financing still hasnt been secured.

I think theres a lot of general interest in getting to something that works, Ricketts said, but were still not there yet.

Coming off a 91-loss season as well as the Theo Epstein hire Cubs people say the renewal rate for season tickets is well above 90 percent. Ricketts described it as off the charts.

Even without getting another name you could put on the marquee, like an Albert Pujols or a Prince Fielder. Since 2004, the Cubs have hit the three-million mark in attendance each season. Ricketts isnt concerned about how much box-office power is left.

I think once people see how this team plays, well be fine, he said. We know that the one thing that sells tickets is winning.

Blackhawks prep for Rangers without Brent Seabrook

Blackhawks prep for Rangers without Brent Seabrook

The Blackhawks broke out of their scoring slump against one of the league’s worst teams on Tuesday. Now they’ll face one of the best.

Scott Darling will start but Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook will be out when the Blackhawks face the New York Rangers on Friday night at the United Center. Coach Joel Quenneville was hoping at least Toews would skate on Friday but he didn’t. Toews and Seabrook could skate on Saturday but until they do, Quenneville is hesitant to say when they’ll return to game action.

Seabrook will be missing just his third regular-season game since 2012-13. Duncan Keith joked that Seabrook’s absence has meant a quieter locker room — “we’ve gotta talk a little more to get some noise going in here,” he said. But there’s no doubt the Blackhawks will miss Seabrook on the ice.

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“On top of everything he brings off the ice for us he’s been such a durable, important player for this team, this organization. When he’s not out there it’s a weird feeling,” Keith said. “We have to do as best we can to play good hockey and try to fill a huge void you can’t really replace.”Michal Kempny appears to be a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game. Quenneville was asked what Kempny needs to improve upon.

“I just think that consistency without the puck and how he defends in his own end is probably the area that there’s growth there in his game. But I still think our defense is pretty good and we’ve got some tough decisions on a game to game basis. He adds one more guy we feel can play,” Quenneville said. “But I think the depth, that’s a strength, and sometimes that’s part of the decision.”

The Rangers, who have 37 points this season, are coming off a 2-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night. While the Rangers got off to a hot start, winning 13 of their first 17 games, they’ve come down to earth lately (5-4-1 in their last 10). Like the Blackhawks, the Rangers have had their injury issues. Rick Nash (groin) and Jimmy Vesey (upper body) are the latest injuries. Vesey was listed as day-to-day; his status for tonight’s game is not yet known.

Broadcast information

Time: 7:30 p.m.

TV: CSN

Live Stream: CSNChicago.com/NBC Sports app

Blackhawks lines

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Ryan Hartman-Marcus Kruger -Marian Hossa

Tyler Motte-Dennis Rasmussen-Richard Panik

Andrew Desjardins-Vinnie Hinostroza-Jordin Tootoo

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Gustav Forsling-Michal Rozsival

Goaltender

Scott Darling

Injuries 

Jonathan Toews (back), Brent Seabrook (upper body), Corey Crawford (appendix)

Rangers lines (via New York Daily News)

Michael Grabner-Kevin Hayes-J.T. Miller

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Marek Hrivik-Oscar Lindberg-Jesper Fast

Nicklas Jensen-Josh Jooris-Brandon Pirri

Defensive pairs

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Nick Holden

Brady Skjei-Kevin Klein

Goaltender

Henrik Lundqvist

Injuries

Jimmy Vesey (upper body), Rick Nash (groin), Matt Puempel (concussion), Mika Zibanejad (broken fibula), Pavel Buchnevich (back)

With Dexter Fowler in St. Louis, Cubs see Kyle Schwarber as a potential leadoff answer

With Dexter Fowler in St. Louis, Cubs see Kyle Schwarber as a potential leadoff answer

Dexter Fowler buttoned up a white No. 25 Cardinals jersey and put on a red St. Louis hat, posing for the cameras during Friday morning’s press conference at Busch Stadium.

Fowler stood in between Mike Matheny, the St. Louis manager who now has a new leadoff guy at the top of his lineup card, and John Mozeliak, the general manager who helped structure a five-year, $82.5 million contract that goes against The Cardinal Way.

That visual might be disorienting for Cubs fans who just watched what will probably be the best two seasons of Fowler’s career. But Theo Epstein’s front office understandably wanted to get younger, upgrade defensively and preserve some financial flexibility for the future, planning to go with Albert Almora Jr. and ex-Cardinal Jon Jay in a center-field timeshare.

“I’ll be forever grateful that I was a Cub,” Fowler said. “We made history, won a World Series. But I guess that door is closed, and, you know, I’m a Cardinal now. And we’re trying to make history over here as well.”

Let’s not get carried away with all the talk about Fowler being such a great leader and magnetic clubhouse personality. There were enough questions about him that the draft-pick compensation dragged down his market to the point where he accepted a $13 million guarantee in spring training. But he is a switch-hitter who sees pitches and works at-bats (.366 career on-base percentage) and can ignite an offense when healthy.

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Cubs manager Joe Maddon might not go with a traditional leadoff hitter in 2017. But this lineup should still score 800-plus runs again, factoring in a full season of Kyle Schwarber, projected growth from MVP Kris Bryant and All Stars Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell and an anticipated bounce-back year from Jason Heyward after the $184 million outfielder had been one of the least productive hitters in the majors.

 “Schwarber is not a bad name, Kyle is not a bad name at all,” Maddon said when asked about his leadoff hitter during this week’s winter meetings at National Harbor in Maryland. “(Ben) Zobrist isn’t a bad name. There are different guys to consider right there.

“Actually, a couple years ago, (when) Kyle came up and Dexter was still there, I considered leading Kyle off and putting Dexter second. But I had all the dudes do all the work — all our nerds did all the work — and they really liked Fowler 1 and they liked Schwarber 2, just based on our data.

“So I went with that, and it worked out really, really well. So now all of the sudden, Dexter is not there anymore. It’s not impossible to consider Kyle in that spot, Zobrist in that spot.

“I don’t know if we’re going to do anything differently during the course of this offseason that might cause me to think differently, but there’s not a whole lot of other candidates.”

Fowler bet on himself after the Baltimore Orioles dragged out negotiations over a reported three-year deal in the $30 million range, shocking the baseball world when he showed up in Arizona in late February. It paid off with a staggering contract that will add another level of intrigue to a rivalry that has already seen Heyward and pitcher John Lackey switch sides.

Fowler will be in Cardinal red on Opening Night 2017 when the Cubs begin their World Series title defense at Busch Stadium.

“It’s bittersweet,” Fowler said. “Now they’re the rival. But you still got some boys over there. We’ll always be boys. We won a championship together. But when you get on the field, it’s ‘go time.’ Now we’re playing against each other.”