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Cub Tracks Springs Into Action

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Okay. Maybe not so much 'springs' as 'slouches'. And not so much 'action' as getting up off the couch. I am the harbinger of Sonoran Spring just as much as palo verde pollen is. And possibly just as sickening. But I bring glad tidings.

Front and center
Front and center
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

CUBS SPRING TRAINING. IT'S ALMOST AS FUN TO SAY AS "KING BOB!" MAYBE MORE SO.

*denotes autoplay audio/video, ads, or other unwanted cyberspace junk.

Pre-game ceremonies:

The Lead-Off Man:

On The Hill:

  • Tony Andracki (CSN Chicago*): No surprise: Cubs giving Jake Arrieta opening-day start. Joe Maddon said, "He's earned that right to be named that particular Opening Day starter."
  • Bruce Levine (CBS Chicago): Jake Arrieta calls Opening Day start 'an honor'. "...after Opening Day, we really have 161 games left to play. That is really my only concern. It is an honor obviously," said Arrieta.
  • Jake Arrieta talks. [AUDIO]
  • Tony Andracki (CSN Chicago*): Where does Justin Grimm fit in Cubs bullpen? Grimm would prefer late-inning relief. The team right now sees him in his middle relief role. How do they get on the same page?
  • Tony Andracki (CSN Chicago*): Jon Lester feels like he's 'ahead of the game' this spring with Cubs. He's not new to the team or the personnel, and that makes a difference. A greater comfort level might mean better performance.
  • Tony Andracki (CSN Chicago*): Neil Ramirez could be a game-changer for Cubs bullpen. "Imagine what a healthy Ramirez could do for the back end of the Cubs bullpen."
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune): Kyle Hendricks on the spot to keep his No. 5 spot in Cubs rotation. "I can only control what I can control," he says.
  • Michael Cerami (Bleacher Nation): The Cubs' other kind of pitching versatility, and the importance of split neutrality. Expanding on Jayson Stark article.
  • Jesse Rogers (ESPN): How many relievers? That's the question for the Cubs, come April. Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez might be fighting for the same spot. Matt Szczur is fighting to stay on the team.

Behind The Plate:

Third To First:

  • Bruce Miles (Daily Herald): Anthony Rizzo up with best first basemen. "The National League has three bona fide superstars playing first base. The Cubs' Anthony Rizzo is one of them."
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune): Addison Russell's power surprises Joe Maddon. "He's very strong," Maddon said. "He's in the best shape of his life," he should have gone on to say.
  • Addison Russell talks to Carmen and Jurko. [AUDIO]
  • Jason P. Skoda (AP): At 22, Addison Russell set at starting role at shortstop for Cubs. "Starlin Castro has been traded and Russell he enters camp knowing he is the established guy at short."
  • CBS Chicago: Kris Bryant: Cubs were over NLCS loss 'pretty quick', are embracing increased expectations. "...I’m excited to see how we do and how we handle that failure at the end of last year and how strong we come out this year," remarked Bryant in an interview on the Spiegel and Goff show (linked in article).

Patrolling the pasture:

  • Jesse Rogers (ESPN): Cubs back on field with Javier Baez in center field, Travis Wood on the mound. Plus Clayton Richard's thoughts, Addison Russell drawing praise, Matt Szczur taking a seat.
  • Carrie Muskat (MLB.com): Matt Murton has appendectomy. The outfielder is in camp to prove that he's more than a spare part. But that might be taking things to extremes. NOT in the best shape of his life right now. Kris Bryant and Eric Jokisch won the team golf tournament.
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune): Versatile Javier Baez' adjustment to center field going 'very well'. Joe Maddon said Baez has looked like a natural center fielder during workouts.
  • Nick Shepkowski (CBS Chicago): 1990s Indians inform us of how Cubs young sluggers could progress. Score weekend host and producer advances a comp that has been made before, explains why.

Seventh-Inning Stretch:

  • Bob Roberts (CBS Chicago): Hundreds of Cubs fans toast to Harry Caray's 102nd birthday. Among other things, Ryne Sandberg led a chorus of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" as the fans raised their beers and sang along.
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times): Did Joe Maddon author the script for this season 30 years ago? He might have, in a paper he gave to Buzzy Bavasi. That paper would be killer bee to see. Gordo does research, publishes decent article. That makes me think in augury terms. In a good way.
  • Mike Imrem (Daily Herald): Winning truly is everything. What if the '03 Cubs had won? Nobody'd wear No. 21 any more...

In The Clubhouse:

  • Carrie Muskat (MLB.com): Allergies, injuries won't keep Duane Underwood down. "Some of the guys have tried to help me out big time," said Underwood. He joked about Jake Arrieta and his many pointers about approach. He's not here to make the staff -- he's here to learn.
  • Carrie Muskat (MLB.com): Jon Lester, John Lackey happy with first sim game. I have a Sim game. It features a serial killer (the towns automatically repopulate). Oh wait, we're talking about a simulated MLB game. My bad. Yes. Lester and Lackey pitched two innings each, then possibly hit Theo Epstein up for meal money and got some chicken and a couple of beers.
  • Theo Epstein talks to David Kaplan [AUDIO].

Food for thought:

  • Virginia Morrell (Science): Fungus turns frogs into sexy zombies. So do Brian Keene and Edward Lee, but this is different. A fungal disease that has killed amphibians worldwide may be spreading by making the mating calls of infected males more attractive to females. Mushroom auto-tune.
  • Virginia Morrell (Science): Tiny dragonfly shatters insect migration record. Scientists have suspected that the dragonflies are part of one single, global-spanning population. A new study out today in PLOS ONE confirms that hunch.
  • Stefania Orlando (The Guardian): What did Scott Kelly do in space for a year? [VIDEO]