2/17/2014 3:53 P.M. ET
Samardzija hopeful for Dempster to return to game
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- For four years, Ryan Dempster would give Jeff Samardzija a wake-up call, and the two pitchers would work out, although Samardzija was never quite sure what to expect that day.
"He was dragging me out of bed at six in the morning to go do Dempster workouts, whether it's [climbing] Camelback [Mountain] or ice skating or a lot of different things he dragged me out for," Samardzija said Monday. "That was great. He really showed it might be November, December but there are still things you can do for the season to improve."
On Sunday, Dempster announced he is not going to pitch in 2014 because of health reasons and to spend time with his three children. One of the most popular players in the game, the right-hander played for the Cubs from 2004-12, and finished last season with the Red Sox.
One of Dempster's children, daughter Riley, was born with DiGeorge syndrome, a disorder caused by deletions within the 22q chromosome. He created a foundation to raise awareness, and the Cubs were involved with his efforts. Samardzija also saw how Dempster could still focus on baseball despite the issues at home.
"I think it's a great lesson to be learned for everybody in that no matter what's going on in your life, when you come into this locker room and step foot on the field, everything else takes a back seat," he said. "When you get yourself in a sport, that's what it is, and you're giving everything you have to be successful and be part of the team. It's a year-round thing, and he gave his heart and soul to it. It's definitely something to learn from and I was very fortunate to have a lot of time with him and learn a lot from him."
Samardzija said he was "totally blindsided" by the news.
"Demp's a smart guy, he doesn't make any rash decisions," Samardzija said. "He understood maybe it was his time. It doesn't sound like he's totally done -- maybe he needs to take a break. I know how much of a competitor he is, so sitting around watching is probably not going to be the easiest pill to swallow. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw him back."
Prospect Baez ready to show improved defense
MESA, Ariz. -- Javier Baez was one of the early birds in Cubs camp on Monday, arriving one day before position players have to report. The Cubs have said he'll open at Triple-A Iowa, and the highly touted shortstop isn't putting a timetable on when he's going to get to the big leagues.
"I'm still young and still learning how to play the game," Baez, ranked No. 7 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects, said. "I'm going to take my time."
Last spring, Baez batted .298 (14-for-47) and hit four home runs and drove in 10 runs in 17 Cactus League games, and hit two more homers in an exhibition game against Japan. Alfonso Soriano and Dioner Navarro led the Cubs in spring homers with five each.
For the regular season, Baez, 21, hit 37 home runs and 34 doubles and drove in 111 runs in 130 games for Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, batting .282. He was named the Cubs' Minor League Player of the Year. If there's an area to concentrate on, it's his defense. Baez made 44 errors combined.
Could he make the big league team out of spring camp?
"I might make it, I might not," he said. "I'm going to take it day by day and see what's going on."
The Cubs may test Baez at second and third this spring as well as have him play short. After a winter of workouts in Jacksonville, Fla., with his former high-school team, he's ready to get going.
"I'm just going to do my job and try to do what I did last year and [reduce] my errors," he said.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria will talk to Baez about the possibility of playing some second base or third base this spring.
"You never want to remove a shortstop from shortstop," Renteria said. "So if we have the luxury of having Starlin [Castro] at the Major League level and [Baez] at Triple-A shortstop, why wouldn't we do that? [Baez] is a guy who has impressed everybody and he has some skill and we want him to continue to improve and mature and be the player we hope he will become in the end."
• Last year, the Cubs used six different players at third base, with Luis Valbuena, Donnie Murphy and Cody Ransom getting the majority of at-bats.
"Between the three, they made a pretty good, solid one," Renteria said of the trio, which combined for 30 home runs and 70 RBIs.
Ransom is now playing in Japan, and it's too early to say whether the Cubs will use a platoon at third between Valbuena and Murphy, Renteria said. Another option is Mike Olt, acquired last July from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal.
"They all have an opportunity to come into camp and show us what they're capable of doing and as it plays out, we'll make a decision as to where we stand," Renteria said Monday.
• Cubs position players report on Tuesday with the first full-squad workout on Wednesday. Renteria will meet one-on-one with each player to go over goals and expectations this spring, starting Tuesday with the catchers.
• Edwin Jackson is sporting a new and elaborate tattoo on his left side this spring. It's a famous quote by Dr. Martin Luther King: "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
It's one of many Jackson's many tattoos, which include footprints of both of his children, his No. 36, and "Est. 1983," which is when he was born.
"Your body is a story," Jackson said.
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.