Stewart looking for rebound

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Stewart looking for rebound

The Rockies made Ian Stewart the 10th overall pick of the 2003 draft. They believed in the power shown by the kid fresh out of high school.

Eight years later, the Rockies had had enough and sent Stewart on a one-way ticket to Chicago, taking the Cubs disappointing first-round pick Tyler Colvin in return.

It made sense for Colorado. After hitting 43 homers from 2009-10, Stewart struggled mightily in 2011, hitting just .156 with zero home runs.

Stewart is still just 26 (he will be 27 shortly after Opening Day) and the Cubs are counting on a rebound. Stewart isnt only counting on it, hes expecting it.

"I'm coming in here kinda feeling like I have a fresh start with a new organization, a great organization that I'm excited about, he said. I'm just looking forward to going out and trying to be the player that I was a few years back in Colorado.

"I want to show the team that they made a good choice in trading for me. They gave up a good player to get me in Colvin. It's nice to be wanted by such a great organization."

As for why he struggled in 2011, Stewart doesnt have a definitive answer.

"It's really hard for me to pinpoint anything from last year, he said. It was just such a rough year for me. I lost confidence. It was hard mentally for me. It was one of the hardest things I've ever gone through in baseball.

I've already gotten with Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo here a few times this offseason and I really feel like I'm in a good place with him and I'm really looking forward to get going."

A big reason for the struggles last season was Stewart did not get a chance to get going. He got just 136 at-bats, appearing in only 48 games as he was shuttled to and from Triple-A multiple times.

That could change in Chicago.

"I talked to Theo and Jed after the trade, Stewart said. They were both excited to have me here. From my understanding, I'm going to get every opportunity here to play everyday and to get those 400, 500, 600 at-bats that I feel that I need to be the player that I can be.

The couple years that I did well in Colorado, I was getting 400 or 500 at-bats. Theo and Jed have been vocal about me getting that opportunity to do that. Obviously, it's on my shoulders, in my hands whether I end up getting those at-bats. If I play well, I'll get them. Just to hear from them how they feel about me is nice to know.

If Stewart is able to get going with the bat, he will be a big addition the Cubs lineup. But he also brings a solid glove and valuable experience and knowledge in rebuilding efforts.

"I'm excited to come in and be a part of a team that looks like it's headed in the right direction, starting from Theo all the way down, he said. We went through a similar situation in Colorado when I was there. We went in the right direction and ended up getting to the playoffs a few times. I'm just looking forward to doing the same thing here.

"The great years that we had in Colorado, I think we were leading the league in defense. That's really where it starts. If you can field, throw, help out the pitching staff and keep the runs down, then you don't need to score a ton of runs. The pressure is off the offense at that point. If we can field our positions and the pitchers can do their job, then I think we'll do fine over here."

Cubs expect Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell to be ready for Opening Night

Cubs expect Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell to be ready for Opening Night

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs expect Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell to be ready for Opening Night, downplaying any health concerns about their All-Star middle infielders. 

One week out from facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, manager Joe Maddon spent part of Sunday's media session saying how he had no concerns with his World Series MVP's stiff neck and his franchise shortstop's stiff back.

"You can tell with 'Zo,'" Maddon said at the Sloan Park complex. "He'll come around and let me know specifically if he feels it's going to be anything longer than that. He's talking either tomorrow night or the next day."

Zobrist, who spent nine seasons with Maddon's Tampa Bay Rays, hasn't appeared in a Cactus League game since March 19. Maddon also signaled Russell is close to returning to action after being a late scratch from Friday's lineup.

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Not like this, but the Cubs already planned to schedule extra rest for Zobrist, given his age (36 in May), the playoff stress on his body from back-to-back World Series titles and emerging options like Javier Baez on a mix-and-match team. 

All along, Maddon hasn't worried about finding enough at-bats for Baez, knowing that injuries are inevitable and the Cubs have insurance policies up and down the roster that should pay off across a 162-game season. But in this case, it doesn't sound like the Cubs are testing that theory with Zobrist and Russell.

"None of this stuff is really threatening," Maddon said. "The trainers have no real strong issues with anything. It's almost like you'll be overly cautious right now. And that's all we're doing."

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Joe Maddon's T-shirt slogans can get a little old at times, but the Cubs manager found a new audience in Brett Anderson, who liked the idea of "Be Uncomfortable" after signing a one-year, prove-it deal with the defending champs.

"It's been awesome so far," Anderson said. "That's my running joke – we're a month into it now or whatever it is – and I don't hate anybody yet.

"That's a testament to the group as a whole – and maybe me evolving as a person."

Yes, Anderson's sarcasm, social-media presence and groundball style fits in with a team built around short-term pitching and Gold Glove defense. The if-healthy lefty finished his Cactus League tour on Saturday afternoon by throwing four innings (one unearned run) during a 7-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies in front of 13,565 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Anderson will open the season as the No. 4 starter after a camp that has been remarkably low-key and drama-free.

"I'm kind of cynical by nature, but it's a fun group to be a part of," Anderson said, "(with) young guys that are exciting and happy to be here. And then obviously the mix of veterans, too, that are here with intentions of winning another World Series."

To make that happen, the pitching staff will have to again stay unbelievably healthy. Anderson rolled with a general question about how he physically feels now compared to where he's usually at by this time of year.

"Obviously better than last year, because I was walking with a gimp and all that stuff," said Anderson, who underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a bulging disk in his lower back last March. "No, my body feels good, my arm feels good and you're getting into the dog days of spring training where you're itching to get to the real thing."