3/1/2014 8:43 P.M. ET
Cubs liking prospects' attitudes, performance
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- Jeff Samardzija is like Cubs fans. He can't wait to watch Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler play.
"Even with all the attention they've been getting, they've really kept their heads on straight and kept their mouths shut," Samardzija said of the four top prospects.
Bryant made the most of his first Cactus League game when he homered in his first at-bat Friday against the Angels.
"He had a great at-bat," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "A lot of those kids did. ... They showed well and we're glad that they showed well. It's obviously a confidence-building moment for all of them. Certainly Bryant put a charge into that particular pitch."
During his football days at Notre Dame, Samardzija watched top recruits report and be the center of attention.
"They seem like they're sponges and they want to learn," he said. "You combine that with real raw talent, usually you have something pretty special."
All four are expected to open the season in the Minor Leagues. If that's the case, why have them in big league camp? It's all part of the development process.
"It's more the arena, and just being in Major League camp and being around Major League players in this forum where they're gaining ground," Renteria said. "They're going to face somebody in the Minor Leagues who throws 95, 96 or 97 [mph]. It's not the skill set, it's actually the environment in which they're participating. I think that's what refreshing for them and this is the place where they'll ultimately be someday."
Lake getting plenty of work adjusting to outfield
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs are making sure Junior Lake doesn't waste any time. To help him feel more comfortable in the outfield, they've asked Lake to "power shag" during batting practice and take advantage of any balls hit his way.
"He's unbelievable out there," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of Lake, who was an infielder until last season. "He chases almost every ball that's hit."
Lake was promoted to the big leagues in mid-July and batted .284 in 64 games. His effort impressed pitcher Jeff Samardzija.
"He came up, did his work, got to the field early, was never late, played hard, he was prepared, and I think that's a good guy for [young players] to look at and see how he came in and had immediate success and why," Samardzija said. "He wasn't expecting to come in and be the guy right from the beginning. He did his job, and all of a sudden, we were finding spots to put him in the lineup and the field. That's what you want, is to be a versatile player."
Lake prefers center but also can play left. Renteria will experiment with where he puts Lake in the lineup this spring.
"He's a multi-faceted individual who can slot in any number of positions in the lineup," Renteria said. "As the spring progresses and we see how he's coming along and the adjustments he's making, that will help us determine how we'll slot him in the lineup."
Wright shrugs off first Cactus League outing
MESA, Ariz. -- Wesley Wright knows it's early in Spring Training, so the Cubs reliever won't lose too much sleep over his line in his first Cactus League game.
"It was good to get back on the field -- that's the big thing -- and get in a game environment," the lefty said Saturday about his outing in the Cubs' spring opener Thursday. "To face that many batters in the first game is a good thing. I got stretched out. I'd like to execute a little better; that's always the case. I think for overall first day, first performance, I'll take it."
Wright, one of the new additions to the Cubs' bullpen, gave up three runs on two hits, including a home run, in one inning of work.
"I just want to keep improving," he said. "As a team, that should be our focus. You'd like to have results early in spring but the most important thing is making sure that as a team and as an individual, you're improving and getting ready for Opening Day and being able to progress from Opening Day throughout the season. A lot of times in Spring Training, you'd like to win a lot of games, but I don't know who had the best record in spring last year. I think it's a matter of preparing yourself and making sure you're ready."
James McDonald had a rough outing in his first game Friday against the Angels, giving up six runs on three hits and three walks in one-plus inning. Cubs manager Rick Renteria looked for McDonald in the clubhouse Saturday.
"I actually spoke to James this morning," Renteria said. "[I told him,] 'That's just a blip. Don't worry about that.' He's going to have plenty of opportunities to go out there and put himself in position to show everybody what he's got."
Weather scuttles Cubs' games vs. Giants, D-backs
MESA, Ariz. -- New Cubs Park can handle up to 15,000 people, but it had a tough time with the rain Saturday.
The Cubs' Cactus League game against the Giants at the new facility was canceled because of rain and unplayable conditions, and the club's night game on the road against the D-backs also was washed out.
The afternoon game was the Cubs' second game at the new spring stadium, and a sellout crowd was expected. On Thursday in the opener, the Cubs drew a Cactus League-record 14,486.
The first pitch was scheduled for 1:05 p.m. MT, and the field was ready at that time, but heavy rains came just before 1 p.m. After the rain left, the grounds crew pulled the tarp and Cubs manager Rick Renteria surveyed the field. The game was then called.
Fans with tickets to Saturday's game can use them for a future Cactus League game at Cubs Park.
Travis Wood, who was scheduled to start, threw a two-inning simulated game at the Cubs' complex instead.
Edwin Jackson, who was scheduled to start Saturday night, will now start Sunday against the Royals in Mesa. He'll be followed by Carlos Villanueva. Jason Hammel, who was to make his first start for the Cubs on Sunday, now will pitch in a "B" game on Monday against the Angels in Tempe. Hammel, who was the Orioles' Opening Day starter, signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Cubs after going 7-8 with a 4.97 ERA in 26 games (23 starts) for the Orioles last season.
Sunday's game can be heard live on Gameday Audio, with Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer having the call for WGN Radio.
Caray remembered on day of 100th birthday
MESA, Ariz. -- The seventh-inning stretch would've had a little more meaning at Saturday's Cubs game. March 1 would've been Harry Caray's 100th birthday.
Cubs fans didn't get a chance to sing as Saturday's game at Cubs Park against the Giants was called because of rain and unplayable conditions.
Caray, who was behind the microphone for the Cardinals, Athletics, White Sox and Cubs, died in February 1998. He not only interviewed players and managers but also presidents -- Ronald Reagan stopped at the Wrigley Field television booth in September 1988.
The gregarious Caray began his Major League broadcasting career in 1945 with the Cardinals and handled World Series coverage in 1964, '67 and '68. He was dismissed after the '69 season and replaced by Jack Buck. Caray spent one season with the A's, then joined the White Sox in 1971. With them, he would do broadcasts from the bleachers.
But it was when Caray joined the Cubs and their games were broadcast on cable superstation WGN-TV that he developed a national following. His arrival was well timed as the Cubs won the National League East in 1984.
Caray started singing during the seventh-inning stretch with the White Sox and continued that tradition with the Cubs at Wrigley Field, often punctuating it with, "Let's get some runs." He joked that he always sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" because it was the only song he knew all the words to.
Caray received the Ford C. Frick Award in 1989 from the Baseball Hall of Fame for major contributions to baseball.
"There's no person alive who got his money's worth better than my old man," Caray's son Skip once 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.