Not that anybody ever listens to me, but Major League Baseball finally got one thing right with the schedule: The Cubs will play the White Sox four straight days and be done with it. MLB released the schedule for next year, and the Cubs will open at Pittsburgh on Monday, April 1 before traveling to Atlanta for three, April 5-7.
They’ll then come home for the Wrigley Field opener, Monday, April 8 against the Brewers. Following the Brewers into town will be the San Francisco Giants for four and the American League’s Texas Rangers for three. UPDATES: Check out our minor-league report below for some news and additional updates.
With the Houston Astros moving to the American League (they’ll be at Wrigley next year from June 21-23), there will be interleague play every day because each league will have 15 teams. The Cubs will play the AL West and their four games against the White Sox.
Instead of the Cubs and Sox playing three at Wrigley and three at Comiskey, they’ll play two on the South Side May 27 and May 28. Then they’ll head for the North Side for two games, May 29 and May 30. This has been an approach I’ve advocated for a few years, as I’ve felt we were getting too much of a good thing and that the Cubs-Sox series had lost some of their luster. This crosstown caravan series may bring back some of that excitement, and it all happens over four days.
In addition to the aforementioned interleague series with the White Sox, Rangers and Astros, the Cubs will host the Los Angeles Angels for two, July 9 and July 10. The Cubs will make their first visit to Oakland, July 2-4. It’s hard to believe that since interleague play came into being in 1997 that the Cubs have not visited the A’s in Oakland. The Cubs will play the Angels in Anaheim June 4-5. They’ll play the Mariners at Safeco Field June 28-30.
The St. Louis Cardinals will come to Wrigley May 7-8, July 11-14 and Aug. 16-18. The Cubs will visit Busch Stadium June 17-20, Aug. 9-11 and Sept. 27-29 to finish the regular season. As everybody from the Cubs to MLB points out, this is all subject to change.
Not counting the two Cubs-White Sox series, I count three other two-game series. Those seem to be the most dreaded because of the quick turnarounds wherever teams happen to be.
The Cubs finish up in Houston tonight. After an off-day tomorrow, I’ll catch up with them Friday at Wrigley as they begin a 10-game homestand featuring the Pirates, Reds and Cardinals.
The Class A Boise Hawks of the Northwest League finished their season, beating Yakima in the playoffs two games to one before falling in the championship series 2-1 to Vancouver. It was a nice season for the Hawks, who went 24-14 in the second half.
According to the Cubs, these are their minor-league leaders, including short-season Boise:
Batting average: Stephen Bruno, .361 (91-for-252 at Boise)
Home runs: Anthony Rizzo, 23 for Class AAA Iowa
RBI: Justin Bour, 110 for Class AA Tennessee
Stolen bases: John Andreoli, 55 for Class A Daytona
ERA: Tayler Scott, 2.52 for Boise
Wins: Nick Struck, 14 for Iowa
Saves: Frank Batista, 24 for Tennessee
Strikeouts: Struck, 123 for Iowa
The Cubs have let go of several minor-league field personnel. Peoria (A) manager Casey Kopitzke won’t be back. He has begun studying law at Marquette. Casey is a Green Bay native and a former catcher in the Cubs system. He’s a good organization guy whom I got to see in several spring trainings as a non-roster invitee.
“I’m happy I had a chance (to manage) as long as I did,” Kopitzke told the Peoria Journal Star. “I’m grateful for the opportunity they gave me, and they were able to work with me in the last weeks.”
Peoria hitting coach Barbaro Garbey also won’t be back.
Another longtime Cub, Dave Bialas, was fired after serving as Class AAA Iowa’s manager. Bialas was on the major-league coaching staff of Jim Riggleman in the mid- and late-1990s. When Riggleman was fired, then-president Andy MacPhail had the good sense and decency to keep Bialas in the organization, as Dave had a special-needs son. It’s one of the best gestures I’ve seen, coming from one of the best execs I’ve been around in MacPhail. Bialas ran a tight ship as a minor-league manager, winning a league championship series with West Tenn (AA) in 2000.
Daytona (A) pitching coach Marty Mason also was fired as was Rookie League pitching coach Frank Castillo and batting coach Jason Dubois, both of whom played for the Cubs.
Boise manager Mark Johnson figures to get a shot with the Kane County Cougars, who likely will become the Cubs’ new Midwest League affiliate.
Boise hitting coach Bill Buckner gets some credit for working with the aforementioned Stephen Bruno. We get this from the Idaho Statesman.
“Stephen Bruno began his first professional baseball season 4-for-24 at the plate. A seventh-round pick out of Virginia, Bruno was getting jammed consistently in his first seven games with the Boise Hawks.
“And his frustration was rising. That’s when first-year Hawks hitting coach Bill Buckner offered a piece of simple advice.”
“Do me a favor,” Buckner asked Bruno in the paper’s account. “Move off the plate a little bit.”
Bruno backed up and wound up as the league’s batting champion.
“He helped me out tremendously,” Bruno told the paper, referring to Buckner. “He helped me out with the mental side of the game. He really emphasized getting a (pitch) to hit and a pitch to drive. If I didn’t get that one pitch, don’t be afraid to take a walk. He emphasized getting on base and really getting a good swing and that quality at-bats were the most important thing.”
Buckner, a Boise resident, has said he’d like to return to Boise or work in the big leagues. The Cubs and Hawks may know as early as today whether they have an agreement to continue their affiliation.