2/25/2014 4:21 P.M. ET
Venezuela on the minds of Cubs coaches, players
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs coach Franklin Font calls his family in Venezuela twice a day and sometimes more to make sure they're safe. There have been violent clashes as Venezuela citizens are protesting against the government, citing a shortage of goods, lack of freedom of speech and poor security. Font's parents live in Caracas, and the reports from there are not good.
"[Monday] was real bad," Font said. "People started going into the supermarkets to steal food and tried to get in some houses."
Font has a friend who is panicked because her husband has a good job, and she's afraid people will break into their home to steal things.
On Monday, Font, Venezuelan Luis Valbuena, and some of the Cubs' other Latin players, including Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara and Alberto Cabrera, posed with a Venezuelan flag to show support for the country.
Font's wife and children are in the U.S. with him.
"It's scary," he said of the uprising. "I call twice a day every day. They say everything's fine, but they are panicking. They're waiting for something to happen. The whole situation makes everybody scared."
Baker happy with 'compromise' of new collision rule
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs' John Baker called the new rule involving catchers a "great compromise" and feels it will be successful. On Monday, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association added Rule 7.13, which covers collisions at home plate, on an experimental basis for the 2014 season.
The rule states a runner may not run out of a direct line to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher, or any player, covering the plate. The rule also states the catcher may not block the pathway of a runner attempting to score unless he has possession of the ball.
"To my understanding, it's exactly the same as the college rule that a lot of us played under," Baker said Tuesday. "It makes a lot of sense, and I like some of the language in the rule, and that they talked about how the umpires will have discretion on the ball on the line because that's the thing we were worried the most about.
"There's going to be incidental contact when the baserunner is coming in and the throw is up the third-base line," he said. "We didn't want to put ourselves in a position where we catch the ball and tag the guy but they say we were blocking the plate because we didn't have the ball. That's going to make pitchers very frustrated."
Baker said umpires will not only use their discretion but also have instant replay to help them make decisions on close plays.
The Cubs were working on sweep tags but Baker said the problem there could be runners trying to hook slide behind the catcher. Baserunners could reach their hands back and catchers would be at a disadvantage because they couldn't cover the plate.
"I think as the rule stands now, we catch the ball, we can now move into that position," Baker said. "I think it's a great compromise, and I think it'll be a rule that'll be successful this season."
The goal of the rule is to protect everyone from serious injury.
"Baserunners understand they can get hurt as well," Baker said. "Obviously, the catcher is in such a compromised position, looking one way, trying to catch a small five-ounce object with a 235-pound man running full speed at you, you know that's in the back of your mind. This kind of gives us a little bit of peace of mind that we know we're not going to get blasted trying to pick that tough throw in the dirt."
Coomer respects Santo's legacy in radio booth
MESA, Ariz. -- Tuesday would've been Ron Santo's 74th birthday. His latest replacement on WGN Radio, Ron Coomer, was at the Cubs' Spring Training complex to prep for his first season in the broadcast booth.
Coomer, 47, is replacing analyst and former Cubs player Keith Moreland, and will join play-by-play man Pat Hughes. Coomer has nothing but respect for Santo, who was doing the Cubs broadcasts when Coomer played for the Cubs in 2001.
"You don't replace Ronnie," Coomer said. "I'm not looking to be the next 'Pat and Ron' show. Hopefully, I can just do my job."
Coomer has a No. 10, which the Cubs retired in Santo's honor, hanging up in his pool room at home. He attended Lockport (Ill.) Township High School, and still has links on the south side of Chicago. Coomer expects his favorite sandwich place, Parisi's, to deliver to Wrigley Field. He also has some Santo stories to share with listeners. They talked about playing third several times.
"We were headed to Cincinnati, and he came walking to the back to the plane and says, 'Hey, big boy, what are you doing tonight?'" said Coomer, who knew he'd be talking baseball with Santo that evening.
"He was a legend," Coomer said.
• The Cubs will play a six-inning intrasquad game at new Cubs Park on Wednesday, starting at 2 p.m. CT. Kyle Hendricks and Eric Jokisch are scheduled to start. The game is a tune-up for Thursday's Cactus League opener, when the Cubs play host to the D-backs.
One of the players eager for a game is third baseman Mike Olt, who batted .201 last season in the Minor Leagues, first with the Rangers and then the Cubs. So far, Olt, who struggled with vision problems, has passed all the tests in batting practice.
"Everyone's going to be a little rusty, but I feel I'm at a different stage than I was last year, heading into the first scrimmage," Olt said. "I'm just excited to get back in the box and have that competitive edge. Even with live [batting practice], you don't have the competitive edge that you would in a game."
Other pitchers scheduled to throw on Wednesday include Arodys Vizcaino, Neil Ramirez, Tsuyoshi Wada, Brian Schlitter, Chang-Yong Lim, Marcus Hatley and Armando Rivero.
"It's going to be good for me and for the staff to see the guys put themselves out there between the lines with a little more competitive aspect of the game," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "They'll be able to see where they're at as far as timing, and pitchers will see where they're at with the hitters and game-type situations, which is what we're building up to do. It'll be good to see them out there playing."
• Kyuji Fujikawa threw 20-25 pitches in a bullpen session on Monday, his first time off a mound since undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last June.
"It went very well," Renteria said of the pitcher's session. "He gave me a thumbs-up."
• The new rule adopted Monday by Major League Baseball in regard to plays at the plate will affect baserunners, not just catchers. The Cubs will work on sliding drills on Wednesday.
"We all understand the biggest key is to eliminate the possibility of a baserunner actually going after the catcher who's not covering the plate, and eliminate injuries that come from that," Renteria said.
• Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins addressed the players in the big league camp as well as the 50-plus taking part in the Minor League mini-camp on Tuesday. Jenkins noted that when he was with the Cubs, they had 40 players sharing one field in Spring Training. Now, the Cubs have six fields, a half field and the stadium at the new facility.
• Single-game tickets for the 2014 Cubs season go on sale March 7 at 10 a.m. CT on cubs.com. Fans who use Mastercard can take advantage of a pre-sale on March 4 at 10 a.m. CT, and will get a 15 percent premium. Fans using other forms of payment on that date may purchase tickets at a 20 percent premium.
In celebration of Wrigley Field's 100th anniversary, the Cubs have introduced a section of MasterCard Century Seats with tickets priced at $19.14 before tax for every game of the season. This 350-seat section is located in the upper-deck box level in left field. Tickets must be purchased with a MasterCard and are available at www.cubs.com/CenturySeats.
On April 23, the Cubs will host the D-backs a century after the Chicago Federals opened then-Weeghman Park against the Kansas City Packers. Both teams will wear commemorative uniforms, and the first 30,000 fans receive a replica 1914 Chi-Feds jersey.
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.