Cubs, White Sox Thursday spring-training report

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny took a cute swipe at the Cubs and manager Joe Maddon after his team improved to 6-0 in home games in Jupiter, Fla.

It’s no secret the Cardinals struggled last season in St. Louis, where they open the 2017 season against the Cubs with a Sunday night showdown.

So after their latest victory Wednesday at Roger Dean Stadium, Matheny cracked: “I think we have T-shirts somewhere that say something about winning at home.”

Whoa! Sounds like a shot at the Cubs.

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 30: Manager Joe Maddon of the Chicago Cubs speaks to the media after the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians 3-2 in Game Five of the 2016 World Series at Wrigley Field on October 30, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Our old pal Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch gave Matheny the opportunity to walk back his apparent jab at the Cubs and Maddon. Here’s what happened.

Matheny’s comments were relayed to Maddon this morning, and he took them in stride.

“Imitation is always the sincerest form of flattery,” Maddon said in Mesa, Ariz. “And necessity is the mother of invention.”

So what if the Cardinals start making their own T-shirts?

“If it goes to anybody’s foundation,” Maddon said, “I’ll be happy to purchase some.”

Any ideas for Cards T-shirts?

“No, not at all,” Maddon said. “We’re saturated here with korkedbaseball.com. That’s where you can buy ours.”

Always the pitchman.

Maddon and his antics have long been fodder in managerial circles around baseball. Our Gordon Wittenmyer had a great tale in October of how veteran Giants manager Bruce Bochy reacted to a Maddon text that read “Groovy” last spring training.

There’s no question Maddon isn’t your typical manager. But looking at his resume, it’s hard to argue with the results — even if the hazing and overuse of magicians need to be reeled in. And with the biggest achievement of his career (winning a World Series with the Cubs), Maddon is now tied with Bochy and Angels manager Mike Scioscia as baseball’s highest-paid managers at $6 million a year, according to a report by Jon Heyman at FanRag Sports.

Maddon’s original five-year, $25 million contract includes an escalator clause, Heyman reports, that tacks on an extra $1 million each year for the final three years of the deal (Maddon is entering Year 3). Maddon told Wittenmyer this morning that he didn’t even realize the clause existed.

“Honestly, when this all came about, my first thought was the more you could make, the more you could give back,” Maddon said. “I guess in some way it’s an honor to be considered in that position. But also it’s a function of where I work.”

Of course, this was all part of the Cubs’ grand plan.

“With an escalator of that type, it’s the kind of escalator you hope you’re paying,” general manager Jed Hoyer told Wittenmyer this morning. “I’m glad we are.”

Money well spent for the Cubs.

Can’t get enough Maddon? Jayson Stark at ESPN did a fun video with managers, including Maddon, on how they plan to signal for the new intentional walk rule. Check it out here just to find out which manager called it — correctly! — a “rinky-dink rule.”

READY TO FACE THE WORLD

It was a busy Thursday morning at Cubs camp.

After just two Cactus League appearance, setup man Hector Rondon pronounced himself ready for the World Baseball Classic, where he will represent Team Venezuela.

Rondon is the only pitcher from the Cubs’ projected opening roster to participate in the WBC.

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER

Reliever Koji Uehara is the oldest player in a Cubs’ clubhouse that still mostly gets checked for its ID any time a round of drinks is purchased. He’s no Grandpa Rossy, but Uehara, who turns 42 during the first week of the regular season, says he’s still a kid at heart.

“He’s probably one of my favorite guys to have played with,” Jon Lester said of his former Red Sox teammate. “Just the energy that he brings, the competitiveness, the high fives in the dugout after he gets out of an inning are pretty special. I can’t wait to see some of the faces when he does that for the first time.”

THE KING RETURNS

On the South Side, Paul Konerko returned to White Sox camp on Wednesday. They used to call him The King when No. 14 was running the clubhouse.

There’s a different look to the rebuilding White Sox, but Konerko likes what he sees.

“As they keep getting better and better, there will be things pulling them away from keeping together,” Konerko said. “The money guys are making, guys getting married and having kids, all that kind of stuff. You start to spread out. Hopefully, the idea is you build that core and they show up each day for each other because they’re built that way, and the wins are just a byproduct.”

A FIGHTING CHANCE

Peter Bourjos is in the White Sox’ camp on a minor-league contract, seeking a job as a backup outfielder.

The veteran discussed this morning trying to crack the roster of a rebuilding Sox team.

“I’m really not, like, overly concerned about how I fit on the roster,” he told our Steve Greenberg. “If I go out and play well, good things will happen.”

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