04/11/2013 3:15 PM ET
Prospect Soler suspended five games for outburst
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- The Florida State League suspended Cubs top prospect Jorge Soler five games for leaving the dugout and wielding a bat during a game Wednesday night.
"Jorge is tremendously remorseful about what happened and understands what he did was wrong," said Theo Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations. "He didn't sleep last night -- was up all night thinking about it. He was very apologetic. He understands this can't happen again and understands there will be discipline associated with it."
Soler, who is playing for Class A Daytona, was ejected in the seventh inning. Clearwater second baseman Carlos Alonso came down on Soler after he slid into second trying to break up a double play. Soler and Alonso exchanged words and were separated. But Soler re-emerged from the Cubs dugout with a bat and made his way toward the visitor's dugout. He was restrained by teammates, then ejected. Daytona pitcher Frank Del Valle was the first to get to Soler.
"I think he was frustrated by some things, and there was some emotional things he was fighting with," Daytona manager Dave Keller told The Daytona Beach News-Journal after the game.
"When he slid into second base, [Alonso] ended up laying on top of him. He was laying on him, so [Soler] pushed with his arm to get him off him, and I think the second baseman interpreted that the wrong way, like he wanted to fight or something," Keller said.
Epstein reviewed the video of the incident and spoke to Soler Thursday morning. According to the outfielder, there was some talk back and forth during the game, and something was said about Soler's family, and Epstein said, "that's when he lost his cool."
"He understands and we agree that's not an excuse for what happened," Epstein said. "He has to find a way to better manage his emotions on the field. We condemn the act and what took place, but we support the player. We believe in Jorge as a person as well as a player. It's our responsibility to work with him and make sure he has a better way to channel his emotions on the field and make sure something like this doesn't happen again."
Anyone around Soler in Spring Training could see he was well-mannered, friendly and had a quick smile. But he's also young and adjusting to life in the U.S.
"This is a great kid who has already overcome a lot in his life and someone we're not worried about at all for the long haul," Epstein said. "He's been thrust into a very high-profile situation very suddenly, and it's our job as an organization to make sure he has the tools to make good decisions even in the heat of the moment."
The entire incident was over quickly, Epstein said.
"There was no swinging of the bat, whatsoever. There was no physical contact. There was no violent act," Epstein said. "This was merely a situation of grabbing a bat, which he shouldn't have done, and heading toward the opposing dugout, which he shouldn't have done."
The news of Soler's outburst surprised Cubs players, who were with the 21-year-old outfielder in Spring Training.
"He came here to work hard, to be in the big leagues, and [I told him to] not pay attention to the negative in the Minor Leagues, because sometimes there are some people who are negative," veteran Alfonso Soriano said. "I said, 'Don't think about that, just think about how you came here to play hard, and sooner or later, you'll be in the big leagues if you do the right thing.'"
Soler's father lives in Miami, and his mother and sister are still in Cuba. Soriano tried to give the young outfielder advice in Spring Training and planned on calling Soler.
"I'd tell him to focus and play baseball and not listen to anybody. Just play baseball," Soriano said.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he recalled an incident in rookie ball when one of his players grabbed a bat and went after the opposition.
"We had all kinds of incidents. It was a mess," Sveum said. "We only won 17 games."
That doesn't give Soler a free pass.
"Anything like that is surprising, but the circumstances, you don't know because you weren't there," Sveum said. "You don't know what set somebody off. I really don't know all the details yet, except obviously there was an incident you want back."
Soriano said he was surprised to hear about Soler's actions.
"I talked to him a lot in Spring Training, and he looked to be a nice guy, quiet guy," Soriano said.
Soler signed a nine-year, $30 million contract last June, but Sveum said he didn't think that made the outfielder a target.
"When you're in the Minor Leagues, I don't think anybody knows or cares how much money you've got," Sveum said. "The guy's obviously a good player and going to be a really good player. You just have to be able to handle your emotions, that's all."
Anthony Rizzo said Soler, who played just 34 games last season in the Minor Leagues, is still adjusting to life in the U.S.
"He hasn't even been here a year in the States," Rizzo said. "He's got to adjust. That's why he's not in Triple-A or Double-A. He has to learn the ropes. Everyone has made mistakes. Everyone in this clubhouse has made a mistake playing. It's something you learn from."
Sveum keeps warm in battery-operated vest
CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Dale Sveum has figured out a way to deal with the cold weather at Wrigley Field. He wears a battery-operated heated vest. It's getting lots of use lately.
"You do have to manage according to the weather, and you know that with these kind of games, wind blowing in and all that, they'll be low scoring, and you have to manufacture runs somehow and do things that way because your fly balls won't be home runs," Sveum said Thursday.
Wednesday's game against the Brewers was postponed because of rain and cold temperatures, and snow is in the forecast for Friday's game against the Giants. Thursday's high was forecast to be in the 40s at Wrigley Field. Can the Cubs use the weather to their advantage?
"No," Anthony Rizzo said. "There's no advantage in this weather for either team. You've got to try to get ahead early and hope the other team shuts it down. The other night, we could've easily shut it down with the wind and the wind chill. It was a big win the other night."
Sveum did have an additional heater installed in the Cubs dugout to make it more tolerable.
"You just try to stay warm and then go hit," Rizzo said. "You let your adrenaline take over."
Still, Rizzo is from Florida, and not quite prepared for temperatures in the 30s.
"I need to get a couple winter coats," he said.
Castillo learning how to set up for Fujikawa
CHICAGO -- When Kyuji Fujikawa is pitching, watch where Cubs catcher Welington Castillo sets up behind the plate. You'll be able to tell when the right-hander is going to throw his fastball because Castillo holds his mitt high and centered.
It worked on Tuesday against the Brewers as Fujikawa picked up his second save, his first since taking over as the Cubs' closer for Carlos Marmol.
"That means it works," Castillo said of his style.
Castillo didn't catch the Japanese pitcher much in Spring Training, but learned what Fujikawa wanted when they talked before a game. What if the hitter sees where Castillo is set and anticipates the pitch?
"They might know," Castillo said. "We can change it, too."
Fujikawa has a variety of other pitches, and Castillo is learning what the right-hander likes to throw in certain situations and how to set up for those, too.
"That's why this game is interesting," Castillo said.
• Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney will get the stitches out of his left knee on Friday and begin a rehab assignment on Saturday with Triple-A Iowa.
Barney suffered a knee laceration on March 30 in the last spring game when he slid into the right field wall at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Barney has been able to take batting practice and grounders.
The Iowa Cubs play their first home game Friday against Albuquerque, and Barney is expected to play Saturday through Monday and rejoin the Cubs on Tuesday.
• Cubs' right-fielder Nate Schierholtz came up through the Giants system, and was part of the 2010 World Series championship team. But last July, he was dealt to the Phillies while the Giants went on to win another championship. Schierholtz will get a ring from 2012 but most likely not until the Cubs travel to San Francisco in July. A Giants official said there were no plans to do anything during the four-game series, which began Thursday.
One thing Schierholtz did learn with the Giants was what it takes to win.
"I think it all starts in the locker room -- team chemistry -- as well as playing the game the right way, playing solid defense behind your pitching, and playing the game the right way from hitting to pitching to defense," Schierholtz said. "Small ball is obviously important, and I think it'll be important this series because of the weather."
Does he see that with the Cubs?
"I felt that right away here," he said. "We've got a great group of guys, and they want to win as much as we ever did there."
• Police are investigating who dropped off a goat head at Wrigley Field on Wednesday. The package was addressed to Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts but intercepted before he got it.
"It's just obviously an unfortunate fan doing something pretty stupid," Sveum said.
Said Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo: "That's probably just an upset fan or a fan of another team. My opinion is it's just dumb, but it is what it is. It's kind of funny."
A curse was supposedly placed on the Cubs in 1945 when the team would not allow Billy Sianis to bring his goat to a game at Wrigley Field. The Cubs have not won a National League pennant or gotten to the World Series since.
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.