Cubs announce spring training schedule

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Cubs announce spring training schedule

Winter has just begun but Major League Baseball has reminded us of spring as the Cubs announced their 2012 spring training schedule Monday.

The Cubs will play 16 home games at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, Ariz., and two games in Las Vegas March 17-18. The opponent of the Vegas games have yet to be released.

They will visit the Chicago White Sox March 9 and host them March 18. The season will kick off March 4 vs. the Oakland Athletics and conclude April 3 vs. the Milwaukee Brewers.

Click here for the complete schedule.

Jon Lester, Cubs rotation trends in right direction with win over Marlins

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USA TODAY

Jon Lester, Cubs rotation trends in right direction with win over Marlins

MIAMI – Jon Lester dropped his head and wiped the sweat from his face. The Cubs ace didn’t jerk his neck and twist his body, hoping the swing and the sound somehow fooled him. The slow turnaround revealed the obvious – his 75-mph curveball flew over the left-field wall and nearly into the Clevelander bar billed as an adult playground.  

Lester gripped the next ball, stared out into the visual noise at Marlins Park and went to work on Saturday after J.T. Realmuto’s three-run homer in the first inning. This is the stuff, determination and tunnel vision that’s been the antidote to the pressures of playing at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field and made Lester such a big-game pitcher.

Lester retired the next 13 hitters he faced, 15 of the next 16 and 18 of his last 20 at a time when the Cubs needed that kind of performance to buy time for their young hitters, survive a brutal schedule and weather a series of injuries. 

A 5-3 win pushed the Cubs to 38-36 as Lester (5-4, 3.83 ERA) and the overall rotation continue to trend in the right direction.

Anthony Rizzo won’t get ‘Wally Pipped’ out of Cubs leadoff spot

Anthony Rizzo won’t get ‘Wally Pipped’ out of Cubs leadoff spot

MIAMI – The day after watching his .500-ish team get shut out again, and as the growing pains continued for his young hitters, Cubs manager Joe Maddon benched the self-proclaimed greatest leadoff guy of all-time.

“I’m hoping Jon Jay goes 5-for-5 today,” Anthony Rizzo said before Saturday’s 5-3 win at Marlins Park. “Wally Pipped out of that spot.”

In the middle of a stretch where the Cubs will play 17 days in a row, Maddon figured he would give Rizzo a break against a Miami lefty (Justin Nicolino) instead of Sunday’s right-handed starter (Edinson Volquez).

An added bonus: The All-Star first baseman grew up in South Florida and has a home and family here and reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant is comfortable in the other corner-infield spot.

“Get him off his feet,” Maddon said. “He’s been going after it pretty hard being the leadoff hitter. I think he’s done a wonderful job, obviously, so I don’t want to beat him up. I don’t want to beat up our bullpen. I don’t want to beat up our players right now. We still have a long way to go.

“If you ride him too hard, man, the point of diminishing returns will set in. All factors considered, I thought it was the right thing to do.”

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Rizzo put up a .700 on-base percentage leading off the last 10 games, homering three times to jumpstart the offense and enjoying the smack talk with his teammates. Maddon said Rizzo will be back at the top of the order on Sunday, and the manager doesn’t have many options after the failed Kyle Schwarber experiment and Ben Zobrist’s wrist injury forced him onto the disabled list.

Do you expect to be back in the leadoff spot?

“I play first base for the Cubs,” Rizzo said. “I don’t make the lineup card.”

Are you still the greatest leadoff hitter of all-time?

“For the week I was,” Rizzo said with a smile. “I said that after the first day.”

The loudest moment on Saturday from the crowd of 25,448 came when Rizzo walked up to the plate as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning.

“I had no idea,” Maddon said. “I was looking around. Did somebody walk in the door? Was it A-Rod and J-Lo?”