Cubs release spring training schedule, including trip to Vegas

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Cubs release spring training schedule, including trip to Vegas

The World Baseball Classic means the Cubs will have an extended stay in the desert. Pitchers and catchers will report to the teams Arizona complex in early February, and perhaps the extra time in Mesa will help a rebuilding team come together.

The spring training schedule released on Friday showed 17 home dates at HoHoKam Park, 16 Cactus League road games and a St. Patricks Day in Las Vegas.

The Cubs will open their schedule on Feb. 23 against the Los Angeles Angels in Tempe, and close it out on March 28 versus the Seattle Mariners. In between, they will play the Texas Rangers twice in Las Vegas (March 16-17).

The Cubs will see the White Sox twice next spring March 7 at HoHoKam Park and March 15 in Glendale.

Opening Day is April 1 at PNC Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Individual tickets for home games at HoHoKam Park can be purchased on Jan. 4 at cubs.com or by calling 1-800-905-3315. Heres the 2013 spring training schedule, with all games beginning at 1:05 p.m. Arizona time unless noted otherwise:

DateOpponentLocationFeb. 23
Los Angeles (AL)
TempeFeb. 24
San Francisco
MesaFeb. 25
Los Angeles (NL)
GlendaleFeb. 26
ColoradoMesaFeb. 27
Los Angeles (NL)
MesaFeb. 28
OaklandMesaMarch 1
ArizonaMesaMarch 2San Francisco
ScottsdaleMarch 3Milwaukee (ss)
MesaMarch 3
Los Angeles (ALss)
TempeMarch 4
ClevelandMesaMarch 5 ColoradoScottsdale (1:10 p.m.)
March 6
TexasSurpriseMarch 7
White Sox
MesaMarch 8CincinnatiGoodyear (7:05 p.m.)
March 9ClevelandMesaMarch 10San Diego
MesaMarch 11
ArizonaScottsdaleMarch 12
OFF DAY
March 13
ColoradoMesaMarch 14Los Angeles (NL)
GlendaleMarch 15
White Sox
Glendale (12:05 p.m.)
March 16
Kansas City (ss)
MesaMarch 16
Texas (ss)
Las Vegas (game time TBD)
March 17
Oakland (ss)
PhoenixMarch 17
Texas (ss)
Las Vegas (game time TBD)
March 18
San Diego
PeoriaMarch 19
TexasMesaMarch 20
OFF DAY
March 21
SeattlePeoriaMarch 22
MilwaukeeMaryvaleMarch 23
Los Angeles (AL)
MesaMarch 24
ClevelandGoodyearMarch 25
San Francisco
MesaMarch 26
CincinnatiMesa (7:05 p.m.)
March 27Kansas City
Surprise (6:05 p.m.)
March 28
SeattleMesa (12:05 p.m.)

Preview: Cubs-Marlins Sunday on CSN

Preview: Cubs-Marlins Sunday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Miami Marlins on Sunday, and you can catch all the action on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 11:30 a.m., followed by first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies on the call. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Mike Montgomery (1-3, 2.26 ERA) vs. Edinson Volquez (3-8, 4.19 ERA)

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

Jon Lester: It’s go time for Cubs

Jon Lester: It’s go time for Cubs

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 – the 75-mph curveball out of his left hand 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 late Saturday afternoon after J.T. Realmuto’s two-out, three-run homer in the first inning. This is the bulldog determination and tunnel vision that’s been the antidote to the big-market pressures at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field and made Lester such a big-game pitcher.

“You really just have to lock it down,” Lester said after doing just that in a 5-3 win. “You have to try to figure out a way to pitch innings. That was one thing I learned at an early age in Boston with ‘Schill’ (Curt Schilling) and Josh (Beckett). It doesn’t matter. Now we start over. You have to take that mindset of ‘It’s back to zero’ and not keep looking at the scoreboard.”

From that Realmuto moment, 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 performance to buy time for their young hitters, weather a series of injuries and survive a brutal schedule.

Lester believed enough in the coming waves of talent to sign with a last-place team after the 2014 season, and got rewarded with his third World Series ring, continually impressed with this group’s poise and maturity.

The day after getting shut out for the sixth time this season, Addison Russell, Ian Happ, Javier Baez and Albert Almora Jr. – four 24-and-under players – combined to go 7-for-15 with five RBI and four runs scored.

“It’s a test for everybody,” Lester said. “These guys are kind of getting broken in early. They’re going to figure it out and we’re going to go. Now it seems like our guys are really feeling comfortable at the plate. We’re having good at-bats, normal at-bats.

“The results will come. This is, obviously, a results-driven industry. But the plans – as far as on the mound and in the batter’s box – just look a lot smoother right now, a lot cleaner and hopefully we can just keep playing good baseball.”

[VIVID SEATS: Buy your Cubs tickets right here]

The Cubs are 38-36, a half-game behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers and in position to win three consecutive series for the first time since April. Whether or not Lester (5-4, 3.83 ERA) returns to Little Havana for the All-Star Game, he is the bellwether for this rotation.  

“Jonny’s just got this thing going on right now,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He knows where the ball is going and he gets the high-number velocity when he wants to. He’s not just pitching at 92, 93, 94 (mph). It’s in his back pocket when he needs it. And he gets it with command when he wants it.

“As well as I’ve seen him pitch – I know he had a great run last year also – from a stuff perspective, command perspective, it’s as good as he can pitch.”

This $155 million investment will at some point become a sunk cost. The Cubs understand the history of nine-figure contracts for pitchers and how desperately they need reinforcements. But almost 100 innings into this title defense, Lester feels like he’s just getting started. 

“I feel better now than I did in April and May, for sure,” Lester said. “I think bigger bodies just take a while sometimes. Some years are different than others. Some years you come out like gangbusters and you’re ready to go and the body feels fine. And other years it takes a while to get into that rhythm of pitching every five days again. This was one of those years.”