Cubs shake up 40-man roster

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Cubs shake up 40-man roster

A day after adding a pair of right-handed pitchers to the mix, the Cubs shook up their roster in an effort to get under the 40-man limit.

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Outfielder Nate Schierholtz's one-year deal became official Friday and he was added to the 40-man roster.

Cuban lefty Gerardo Concepcion cleared waivers and was assigned to Low-A Kane County. Concepcion, 20, signed for 6 million in March and struggled in his first go-round in America, starting 12 games for Single-A Peoria with a 7.39 ERA and 1.91 WHIP. He surrendered 70 hits, walked 30 batters and struck out just 28 in 52.1 innings.

Concepcion was heralded as the third-best international prospect last winter, behind only Jorge Soler and Yoenis Cespedes. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer spoke highly of Concepcion when his signing was made official in March.

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"He had success at a young age in Cuba," Hoyer said nine months ago. "We felt very comfortable with the financial commitment given how much we'd seen and how much work we had done. By all reports, very good makeup and the kind of guy we want to keep adding to our system."

Hoyer also admitted there is an assimilation process with Cuban players coming over to America and adjusting to the game on the field and the society off.

MORE: What are the Cubs getting with Concecpion?

In addition, pitchers Jeff Beliveau and Sandy Rosario were claimed off waivers by the Rangers and Giants, respectively.

It's been a busy offseason for Rosario, whom the Cubs claimed off waivers Dec. 12. He started the winter with Miami, was then claimed by Boston, traded to Oakland, designated for assignment and re-claimed by Boston and then claimed by Chicago.

Beliveau, 25, made his MLB debut in 2012, appearing in 22 games with a 4.58 ERA, 1.87 WHIP and 17 strikeouts in 17.2 innings. He was named the Cubs' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2011, when he went 6-2 in 53 games with a sparkling 1.57 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 10.8 K9 spanning two levels -- High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee.

The young lefty was 4-5 with a 3.89 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in Triple-A in 2012 before his call-up.

Cubs show why they are defending champs while Nationals still have something to prove

Cubs show why they are defending champs while Nationals still have something to prove

WASHINGTON – The Cubs already visited the White House. The Washington Nationals are still the team with so much more to prove.

Dusty Baker needs this October to cement his spot in Cooperstown, the way Joe Maddon put the final bullet point on his Hall of Fame resume. Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant took different routes out of Las Vegas, but only one has the World Series ring to go with the Rookie of the Year/MVP hardware. While the clock is ticking on Max Scherzer and that championship parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, the Jon Lester megadeal essentially paid for itself.

Cubs vs. Nationals is supposed to be a circle-your-calendar event. Except the Cubs rolled out a Cactus League lineup on Monday night and Nationals Park featured rows and rows of empty seats amid a crowd of 29,651 where the celebrity vibe became more George Will than A-Rod and J-Lo.

The Cubs still hung on for a 5-4 victory that might have been their best under-the-circumstances win in a season that will hit the halfway point this weekend, showing why they’re the defending champs in a game that lasted almost four hours.

“It is exciting – don’t get me wrong,” Maddon said. “It’s just that we’re attending with a different group than we thought we would be attending this party with.

“And that’s OK, because these guys now are getting the kind of experience that is going to be very beneficial to us in August and September.”

A rash of injuries forced the Cubs to start Jeimer Candelario at third base and Mark Zagunis in right field and Javier Baez kept making highlight-reel plays while Addison Russell rested his sore right shoulder, leaping to grab to a Harper line drive and racing across the left-field line and sliding into the wall to make another spectacular catch in foul territory.

With Kyle Schwarber more than 1,000 miles away in Des Moines and hitting the reset button at Triple-A Iowa, Willson Contreras became the leadoff hitter of the day and launched Gio Gonzalez’s fifth pitch of the game into the left-field seats.

The young Cubs manufactured an insurance run in the eighth inning when Baez stole third base and scored on Albert Almora Jr.’s perfectly placed bunt into the no man’s land between the pitcher’s mound and the first-base line. The bullpen is Washington’s Achilles’ heel and showed with a three-run meltdown in the ninth inning.

Eddie Butler – who began the season in the Iowa rotation – neutralized a powerful Washington lineup while getting just one strikeout in five innings. Maddon pushed a lot of bullpen buttons, not going to Wade Davis for a four-out save before summoning the All-Star closer when Hector Rondon couldn’t protect a five-run lead in the ninth inning.

The Cubs needed this with Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg looming the next two nights. But for all of their talent and regular-season dominance – three division titles since 2012 and close to a 100-win pace this year – the Nationals still haven’t won a playoff series in a city where the Senators once won it all in 1924.

This could be an epic matchup in October, bursting with stars and pumping with bad blood. Just listen to Baker during his pregame media briefing, responding to a question about a power hitter like Anthony Rizzo batting leadoff: “I ain’t worried about the Cubs. They can do their thing.”

Or Baker dismissing Maddon’s mind games and the possibility of intentionally walking Harper when Ryan Zimmerman is a Triple Crown contender: “It’s a new time and a new day.”

The last word from Maddon, who keeps insisting the 39-37 Cubs have a hot streak in them and that he digs the youth movement: “In a perverse way, it may benefit us in the long run.”

Jason Heyward: Banged-up Cubs ready to be tested vs. Nationals

Jason Heyward: Banged-up Cubs ready to be tested vs. Nationals

WASHINGTON – The cut on Jason Heyward’s left hand has been compared to a third-degree burn, an injury that would have required stiches if the skin had not ripped off already.

The Cubs can’t count on their Gold Glove outfielder – or their World Series MVP (Ben Zobrist) or ERA titleholder (Kyle Hendricks) – for this four-game showdown against the Washington Nationals. All-Star shortstop Addison Russell didn’t start Monday night while dealing with a sore right shoulder, taking more juice out of this potential playoff preview at Nationals Park.

“Every day’s a test, regardless of whether we’re healthy or not,” Heyward said after taking about 15 swings off a tee. “Bottom line, every team goes through tests. Every single season, guys get hurt. And whoever’s there at the end of the year in the playoffs, they handled that the best and was able to weather that storm the best. 

“This team’s no different. Every single day, you’re expected to win. We expect each other to win and go out there and try to find a way to get it done every day. There’s going to be more tests, but that’s what you want.”

The next step for Heyward would be getting cleared to take a full batting practice.

“It’s getting better every day,” Heyward said, “but until it gets to the point where I can swing every day and take BP, I just got to do a little more waiting and healing.”

Heyward – who sliced open his hand while trying to make a sliding catch in foul territory on June 18 – is eligible to be activated from the 10-day disabled list on Thursday but would probably need some at-bats in the minors first.  

“We’ll let you know,” Heyward said. “I don’t do ‘probablys.’ I probably wouldn’t have wanted to be on the DL, either, but we’ll see what happens.”