The countdown continues to the first Cactus League games Saturday for the Chicago Cubs and White Sox.
It was cold and windy Wednesday for workouts.
“Just to get out on the field today was a win for us,” Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “This morning it rained really hard, and we thought we weren’t going to be able to get out there. … The weather wasn’t great, but we got it done.”
Chicago Tribune baseball writers LaMond Pope, Meghan Montemurro and Paul Sullivan will be providing Cubs and White Sox updates throughout spring training.
Mike Napoli honored by unexpected Hall of Fame vote
Cubs first-base coach Mike Napoli was not anticipating the text he received Jan. 24.
The Baseball Hall of Fame voting results had been announced, and Napoli, who played 12 years for four organizations and won a World Series in 2013 with the Boston Red Sox, was one of 28 candidates on the ballot. And, as he found out from his agent, he received one vote.
Napoli was shocked and grateful.
“I was like, ‘What, for real, I did?’ ” Napoli told the Tribune. “That was pretty cool, just to even be on the ballot.”
The Hall of Fame sent Napoli a letter that he plans to frame and put on a wall in his home. Napoli’s voter did not reveal their ballot. Napoli plans to find out who honored his career with the vote and believes it was a Baseball Writers’ Association of America voter who covered him in Texas.
His agent has been looking into finding the voter’s identity so Napoli can send a card or bottle of champagne to show his appreciation.
“I always wanted the respect from the other team, my teammates — I tried to play the game the right way every single day,” Napoli said. “I was fortunate to be on a lot of winning teams so I think having that exposure probably helped, being in the playoffs a lot, having some success.
“No way I think I’m a Hall of Famer, but to get a vote is pretty cool.”
Pedro Grifol appreciates Eloy Jiménez’s desire to play the outfield
With Andrew Benintendi signed as the new left fielder, Eloy Jiménez could make the move to DH. It was a spot he performed well at last season.
Jiménez, 26, is also getting work in right field this spring. He has had conversations with Grifol about his desire to play as much outfield as possible.
“We were talking and he said, ‘I’m going to put you out there (this spring), give me your best,” Jiménez said Wednesday afternoon. “I’m going to do that and try to stay there because everybody here knows I don’t like DH. I’m going to work to be an outfielder.”
Grifol appreciates Jiménez’s approach.
“I love it,” Grifol said. “Why would you not commit yourself and compete for a job in the outfield? He’s a mainstay in our lineup, of course. But why wouldn’t you want to prepare yourself and go out there and compete for a defensive job?
“I would do the same thing if I was in his shoes. And I want him to do that. I want him to go out there and stay hungry and compete for that right-field job.”
Communication is key, Grifol said.
“He’s doing a phenomenal job coming out here and really, really working hard,” Grifol said. “If the time comes where he wins that job or some playing time out there, I’ll communicate that with him. If the time comes where we don’t see him playing much out there, I’ll communicate that with him as well.
“That goes for everybody in this club. Everybody’s going to know their role.”
Christopher Morel ready to build off rookie season
His first taste of the majors helped Christopher Morel know where to invest his offseason work.
Morel, 23, spent a lot of time the last few months adding weight to prepare for the vigor of a long season. For stretches of 2022, Morel played like one of the best rookies in the league, especially at the plate. Inconsistencies emerged, though, offensively and with erratic defensive play.
Unlike last season, when Morel saw time at center field, second base, shortstop and third base, he has no obvious fit after the organization’s offseason additions. The Cubs could use him as their fourth outfielder, put him in the third-base rotation or make him a go-to option off the bench.
“I’ll continue to be prepared for anywhere they need me,” Morel said through an interpreter. “My job is to be here, to go in and play where I’m wanted and win a World Series. That’s my focus. … Basically I want to duplicate as much as I can from last season and strike out less, get more walks, steal more bases.”
Reliever Bryan Shaw, a non-roster invitee, excited to join Sox camp
Reliever Bryan Shaw had a question for reporters after being asked how his minor-league deal with the Sox featuring a non-roster invitation to big-league camp came about.
“What answer do you want, the actual answer or the PC one?” Shaw joked Wednesday morning.
“They called and gave me a job,” he said with a laugh before adding, “No, they had interest all offseason. We’ve been talking to them. We were hoping to find a big-league deal somewhere. It didn’t happen. But they were interested from the jump.
“It was between them and someone else, the other team kept waiting, waiting, waiting. The White Sox have been interested from the beginning, so jumped on it. I wanted to get to spring, start throwing, start doing stuff. I was tired sitting at home.”
The move was announced Wednesday.
Shaw, 35, has a 43-45 record with a 3.92 ERA in 753 career appearances (two starts) for the Arizona Diamondbacks (2011-12), Cleveland (2013-17, 2021-22), Colorado Rockies (2018-19) and Seattle Mariners (2020). The right-hander was 6-2 with a 5.40 ERA in 60 appearances (two starts) for the Guardians last season.
“I’m excited to be here with these guys and get going,” Shaw said. “(I’ve) been throwing lives, staying ready. Just waiting for an opportunity, the right opportunity. It came here, so now we’re ready to go.”
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Reds claimed former Sox reliever Bennett Sousa off waivers. The Sox designated Sousa for assignment Monday.
This day in spring training history
Feb. 23, 2004: Sox camp braced for the arrival of Frank Thomas, who had been challenged by new manager and former teammate Ozzie Guillén in November during his introductory news conference.
“Sometimes you try to push Frank, and Frank doesn’t want to move,” Sandy Alomar Jr. said. “I’m sure he’ll be fine and there will be no problems.”
Guillén joked he might take the “Big Hurt” to a bar to talk it out and “tell him he’s my man.” Thomas arrived the following day and downplayed any friction between the two.
“I don’t know where all this stuff is coming from about me being disgruntled and upset,” Thomas said. Everyone in the Sox clubhouse was aware that Guillén loved poking the bear when Thomas was his teammate. Now Guillén was Thomas’ boss.
No big deal, Thomas said. “I’m easily needled at times,” he conceded. “But I’ve changed over the years.”
The Sox went 83-79 in Guillén’s first season. Now the two needle each other as studio analysts at NBC Sports Chicago.
Feb. 23, 2008: Cubs second baseman Mark DeRosa left Fitch Park on a stretcher after suffering an irregular heartbeat during a workout.
“It’s scary,” manager Lou Piniella said. “Anytime it has something to do with the heart, obviously you worry about it.”
Cubs physician Stephen Adams later revealed that DeRosa experienced an episode of atrial dysrhythmia, which he had had in the past.
“This one had a bit of an extended period of time … and when it didn’t break with his usual maneuvers, we decided to take him to the hospital to have him monitored,” Adams said.
DeRosa remained hospitalized one more day. He hit 21 home runs and drove in 87 runs in 2008 while helping the Cubs to their second straight NL Central title. DeRosa is a studio host at MLB Network and will manage Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
What we’re reading this morning
- Column: It’s Ian Happ’s year to deal with free-agency questions. Will the Cubs reach an extension this time?
- How working with the Blackhawks strength coach helped White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal prepare his body after an injury-plagued 2022
- Oscar Colás is ‘extremely focused’ as the prospect competes for the White Sox right field job
- A bulked-up Seiya Suzuki hopes to provide the power the Cubs need — and stay healthy — in Year 2 in the majors
“When I saw him, I told him how big he was and said next year I’m going to be as big as you. Seiya told me, no, don’t do that, you’re going to get slow.” — a smiling Christopher Morel, through an interpreter, on his reaction when he saw that Seiya Suzuki had bulked up.
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