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06/16/12 8:15 PM ET

Rowson introduces new drill for Cubs hitters

CHICAGO -- David DeJesus, Darwin Barney and Welington Castillo were among the players working on their swings in an early session Saturday with new hitting coach James Rowson at Wrigley Field.

The batters were at the plate with a large screen directly in front of them. Rowson would flip the ball to the batters from a short distance.

"It's something the guys wanted to work on a little today," said Rowson, who took over Tuesday for hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, who was dismissed. "It's really soft toss, and the net is there to make sure they keep their swing compact."

Cubs manager Dale Sveum watched the session.

"It's a drill to keep the bat in the strike zone longer and keep connected with your lower half when you swing the bat and not shutting down your backside," Sveum said. "It keeps you fluid through the baseball, knowing your bat can't get too far out of the strike zone, and it has to stay through the strike zone, not around the strike zone."

Rowson has been studying video of the hitters since taking over the big league duties. He is familiar with some of the batters because of his role as the Cubs' Minor League hitting coordinator, and said he makes sure to individualize his instruction.

"I say that because every player has his own thing," Rowson said. "I'm here to try to find out how each one of these guys reacts and what helps them."

Cubs see renewed fortitude in Marmol

CHICAGO -- As long as Carlos Marmol keeps throwing strikes, he'll remain the Cubs' closer.

Marmol picked up his first save since May 2 on Friday in Chicago's 3-0 win over Boston, although it wasn't a pretty 1-2-3 ninth as the Red Sox loaded the bases against the right-hander. He got Dustin Pedroia to hit into a force at third to end the inning and preserve the win.

"He got back in counts with his fastball and threw four, five fastballs in a row at one time," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "That's what you want to see, and that's why I put him back in there because it seems like he's capable of pulling it off."

  • 142 wins
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The Cubs' bullpen has been out of whack since Marmol was removed as closer in early May, then sidelined with an injury. Now, Sveum hopes to have players in roles they are accustomed to.

The Cubs felt Marmol had his swagger back on Tuesday against the Tigers when he entered the game in the eighth and got two outs.

"He came to the mound like, 'Let's go, game on, I don't care about the past,' and you could see the emotion and conviction he was throwing the baseball with," Sveum said.

Cubs sign 15 First-Year Player Draft selections

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have signed 15 players selected in the First-Year Player Draft, including right-handed pitcher Paul Blackburn out of Heritage High School in Brentwood, Calif., who was selected in the supplemental round, 56th overall.

In addition, the Cubs signed right-handed pitcher Josh Conway (fourth round) of Coastal Carolina University; infielder Stephen Bruno (seventh round) of the University of Virginia; left-handed pitcher Michael Heesch (eighth round) out of the University of South Carolina Beaufort; and catcher Chadd Krist (ninth round) out of the University of California, Berkeley.

Blackburn, 18, went 8-3 with a 1.27 ERA for Heritage High School, striking out 84 over 77 1/3 innings. In May, he recorded his first career no-hitter, striking out eight and walking two in a 6-0 win over state-ranked Deer Valley of Antioch.

Others to sign include outfielder Rashard Crawford (11th round); right-handed pitcher Corbin Hoffner (14th round); catcher Carlos Escobar (15th round); left-handed pitcher Nathan Dorris (17th round); and right-handed pitcher Stephen Perakslis (21st round).

The list of signees also includes 28th-round pick Lance Rymel; 30th-round pick Izaac Garsez; 32nd-round selection Timothy Saunders; 35th-round pick Ben Carhart; and 40th-round pick Jacob Rogers.

Cardenas helps unveil Cubs Classroom for kids

CHICAGO -- Infielder Adrian Cardenas was part of a contingent that helped unveil the Cubs Classroom at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago on Saturday, and he won't forget the energy of one of the patients he met.

"She was chanting the Cubs song, which was awesome," Cardenas said. "She was going, 'Go, Cubs, Go,' and she was excited when she got a [Cubs] hat."

Shortstop Starlin Castro, catcher Steve Clevenger, baseball operations president Theo Epstein and Cubs Charities board chair Laura Ricketts were in the group that took part in the ribbon cutting ceremony.

The new 350-square-foot classroom, donated by Cubs Charities, will serve as the focal point for all of the hospital's education-based programming, providing a wide variety of learning and enrichment activities to keep children engaged while in the hospital.

Cardenas admitted he didn't know why they were making the hospital visit.

"I went there not knowing what they were celebrating, but, obviously, knowing I was going to cheer some of the patients up, and they in return cheered me up," he said. "It was nice to hear it was for the school opening. It was just great and a great experience."

The classroom will provide space for volunteer tutors and teachers to help children with their schoolwork and offer grade-appropriate enrichment activities, such as science experiments, computer games, art and multimedia projects, reading, and resources to teach kids about their own health and medical care.

Interactive technology-based learning will be a primary focus. Patients will have access to a bank of computers, video resources, educational software and a vast library of multilingual books for all age levels.

Cubs, ASU trying to come to an agreement

CHICAGO -- According to a story in the Arizona Republic regarding the Cubs and Arizona State University sharing use of the team's new Spring Training complex in Mesa, Ariz., ASU president Michael Crow sent Mesa Mayor Scott Smith an email suggesting that the Cubs are being "erratic" and "not people of their word" in negotiating the stadium deal.

The university wants to redevelop the site of the team's current facility, Packard Stadium, where ASU has played baseball since 1974. The Arizona Board of Regents approved the stadium-sharing idea last October.

Julian Green, Cubs vice president, communications and community affairs, released a statement on Saturday, saying they hope to work together.

"The Cubs very much hope ASU will be part of the new Spring Training facility," the statement said. "Our first priority, however, is building a world-class facility for use by the Cubs year-round. This is what Mesa voters approved by referendum and what is at the core of our Spring Training development. We were able to reach an agreement with Mesa, which benefits the Cubs and Mesa, and we hope an agreement can be reached with ASU."

Crow states in his email that the Cubs "have all but told us that they want us out of the deal."

Mesa voters approved the stadium in November 2010. The city will spend $84 million on baseball facilities and $15 million on related infrastructure.

The Cubs have a July 11 groundbreaking scheduled on the former site of the Riverview Golf Course, which is west of the team's current location at Fitch Park and HoHoKam Stadium.

Extra bases

• Cubs catcher Geovany Soto was scheduled to play back-to-back games for nine innings each Saturday and Sunday for Triple-A Iowa in Des Moines as part of his rehab before being activated from the disabled list. However, Soto was scratched from Saturday's lineup because of a wet field.

Soto has been sidelined since May 17 after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair a torn meniscus.

Third baseman Ian Stewart, on the disabled list with soreness in his left wrist, will see a specialist Monday at the Cleveland Clinic. Stewart was batting .201 in 55 games this season.

• Sveum said he's talked to Starlin Castro about whether or not the shortstop wants a day off. Castro has played in all of the Cubs' games this season, but this month was 12-for-59 (.203).

"He's such a huge asset on the field every day," Sveum said. "It's just hard when you're not winning a lot of ballgames to take one of your best players out of the lineup."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.