6/4/2014 11:02 A.M. ET
Cubs plan to take best available player at No. 4
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- The last two years, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has selected a position player with his first pick in the First-Year Player Draft. What will the team do Thursday with the fourth pick overall?
"We're going to take the best player for us," general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. "We will take a lot of pitching over the course of the Draft. What we do at No. 4 is still a mystery.
"The only team that can really know what they're going to do is No. 1," he said of the Astros, who have the first selection.
In 2012, nine of the Cubs' first 12 picks were pitchers, and last year, they chose 11 pitchers in the first 15 selections.
In his latest mock draft, MLB.com's Jim Callis predicted the Cubs would take Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto in the first round if North Carolina State pitcher Carlos Rodon isn't available.
The 2014 Draft will take place from Thursday through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday at 5 p.m. CT. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 6 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network.
Cubs will switch flagship radio partners in 2015
CHICAGO -- The Cubs are switching flagship radio partners and moving up the dial from WGN-AM 720 to WBBM-AM 780. The team was expected to formally announce the news on Thursday, but WGN Radio executives confirmed the news on air Wednesday.
The Cubs have reportedly signed a seven-year deal with the CBS-owned station to carry the games, starting in 2015.
WGN Radio president Jimmy De Castro said Wednesday "today is a tough day," because of the station's 90-year relationship with the team.
"It's not that we don't love the Cubs," de Castro said. "It's that it just doesn't make business sense on an AM radio station given today's new media opportunities and ways for advertisers to buy the Cubs."
WGN Radio had exercised an option to re-open its contract.
WBBM-AM 780 also carries the Chicago Bears' NFL games.
Cubs radio broadcasters Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer were expected to stay.
Castillo to DL with rib-cage strain; Whiteside called up
CHICAGO -- Welington Castillo said he felt something "pop" during his first at-bat Sunday. The pain didn't go away, and on Tuesday, the Cubs placed their regular catcher on the disabled list after an MRI revealed a strained left rib cage.
Chicago selected the contract of catcher Eli Whiteside from Triple-A Iowa, and he joined the team Tuesday.
Castillo came out of Sunday's game in Milwaukee after four innings because of soreness in his side. The Cubs had hoped that a day off on Monday would help, but he still had pain and underwent the MRI.
"I took a swing, my first swing, and I just felt something pop," Castillo said Tuesday. "I tried to keep playing, but it was getting worse and worse."
Castillo was batting .242 in 43 games with five home runs and 21 RBIs. Whiteside was a non-roster invitee this spring, and he was batting .171 in 33 games at Iowa. John Baker has been matched up with Jason Hammel and will likely get most of the work behind the plate.
"We'll continue to match up," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "We'll see as we move forward how it works out. Bake has done some steady catching before, and I think he's done a nice job doing the duty he has with Hammel, and he's caught [Edwin] Jackson. We'll mix and match and see what we can do moving forward."
How long will Castillo need?
"It's a situation with the rib that doesn't seem to be long term," Renteria said. "We're hopeful the inflammation surrounding it can go down. Hopefully, it's not a long stint on the DL."
Veras designated as Rondon returns
CHICAGO -- The Cubs decided they liked their young relievers in the bullpen and designated Jose Veras for assignment on Tuesday.
The move was necessary to create a roster spot for reliever Hector Rondon, who returned from paternity leave after the birth of his son, Ian Jose, on Friday.
Veras, projected at the start of the season as the Cubs' closer, had an 8.10 ERA in 12 games. Rondon replaced the veteran as the Cubs' closer before Veras went on the disabled list April 26 with a strained left oblique. The Cubs signed Veras on Dec. 27 to a one-year, $4 million deal with a club option for 2015.
"You're disappointed when you sign a free agent and bring in a veteran and it didn't work out," Chicago general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. "I think he'll land on his feet."
The Cubs had hoped Veras, 33, would stabilize the bullpen, but he struggled at the start of the season, giving up 10 earned runs over 5 2/3 innings in April for a 15.88 ERA. Last year, he walked eight over 19 2/3 innings for the Tigers; this year, he walked 11 over 13 1/3 innings.
"He was throwing the ball really good the last couple outings he had," Cubs catcher Welington Castillo said. "I feel really bad for him because he's a really good person. You just wish him the best, and hopefully some team will pick him up."
Rondon was 6-for-7 in save situations with a 1.59 ERA in 22 games overall, and the Cubs have relied on young hurlers Brian Schlitter, Neil Ramirez and Justin Grimm.
"For us, when we sat down and made the decision, ultimately we have a lot of young guys playing well and competing well in important leverage situations," Hoyer said. "We want to stick with those guys right now."
The Cubs will continue to carry 13 pitchers. Most teams have 12, but manager Rick Renteria said he didn't feel short-handed, and they want to be careful with pitch counts for the young relief corps.
"We're still mindful with the younger guys and we have to watch how we use them," Renteria said.
Cubs want Bryant to stay at Double-A for now
CHICAGO -- Last year's first-round Draft pick, Kris Bryant, has done everything the Cubs have asked him to do at Double-A Tennessee, but general manager Jed Hoyer said they want the third baseman to stay at that level for now.
Bryant, the Cubs' No. 2 overall prospect, is challenging for the Southern League triple crown, leading in batting average (.351), home runs (18) and RBIs (49).
"Looking at his stats for the month of May, it's fun to see a guy put up that kind of month," Hoyer said of Bryant, who batted .407 last month with 12 homers and 34 RBIs in 29 games. "We tell every prospect to go dominate, and he's obviously doing that. We want to see it for a little longer. It's only been two months at that level."
Last season, Bryant split time between short-season Boise and Class A Advanced Daytona, combining to bat .336 with nine homers, 14 doubles and 32 RBIs in 36 games. He then played in the Arizona Fall League and was named the Most Valuable Player.
"Everything, from defense to baserunning to what he's done offensively, he's everything we hoped for, and hopefully he'll keep it up," Hoyer said.
Bryant was one of six players at Tennessee named to the Southern League All-Star team.
• Manny Ramirez, hired to be a player-coach at Triple-A Iowa, was at the Cubs' complex in Mesa, Ariz., this week to get some at-bats in extended spring training, then join the Minor League team this weekend, Hoyer said Tuesday.
• Javier Baez, the Cubs' first-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, has not started the last two games after being hit on the hand, but he has been able to pinch-hit. Hoyer said the injury was not serious.
• Kyuji Fujikawa, who underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow nearly one year ago on June 11, threw in extended spring training in Mesa, Ariz., and was continuing to make progress.
"It's been an up-and-down rehab process, but yesterday was certainly a positive," Hoyer said.
• Six players on Double-A Tennessee's roster, including Bryant, were named to the North Division squad for the 2014 Southern League All-Star Game, which will take place on June 17 at AT&T Field in Chattanooga, Tenn. Bryant will be joined by Stephen Bruno, John Andreoli, Corey Black and Armando Rivero. Catcher Rafael Lopez also was named to the All-Star team, but he was promoted on Tuesday to Triple-A Iowa.
• Class A Kane County will welcome Lee Smith, Gary Matthews and Steve Trout as part of the Chicago Sports Night on June 26. The trio of former Cubs will sign autographs for fans during the game.
• Tickets are still available for the third Hot Stove Cool Music concert on June 20 at Metro, which will feature Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, John Stirratt of Wilco and Epstein. The fundraiser will benefit Cubs Charities and Epstein's Foundation To Be Named Later. This year, the event will pay homage to Chicago's history of music. General admission tickets are $50. Go to www.ftbnl.org for more information.
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.