Cubs, White Sox Wednesday spring-training report

Let’s get something straight: Manager Terry Collins has already made it clear it’s highly unlikely Tim Tebow will break camp with the Mets.

Try explaining that to the national media assembled in Port St. Lucie, Fla., for Tebow’s spring training debut today. This Grapefruit League game has taken on a postseason air. Tebow has been penciled in to bat eighth as the Mets’ designated hitter in a split-squad game against the Red Sox and reigning American League Cy Young wintter Rick Porcello.

First pitch is scheduled for 12:10 p.m. Chicago time and you can bet Twitter will be exploding with instant updates. Heck, the Red Sox lined up in the dugout to watch Tebow take batting practice this morning. This doesn’t ordinarily happen in spring training.

As stated, Collins doesn’t see a scenario where Tebow makes his roster. Usually, 29-year-old “prospects” don’t get this much attention unless their name is Michael Jordan. Speaking of which, considering his age and limited skills, Tebow probably is on White Sox VP Kenny Williams’ radar.

There’s no question Tebow has been the buzz of Mets camp.

“I’m curious to see what happens,” teammate Michael Conforto told the New York Post. “From what I’ve heard from everybody, he works really hard. I’m excited to have him come out here and meet the guy. He’s had quite the journey.”

Still, the former first-round pick (ahem, of the NFL’s Denver Broncos) hit .194 in 70 plate appearances during the Arizona Fall League. Some of the Mets, however, see Tebow’s journey as inspiring.

“It’s gonna be fun having him around,” Conforto told the Post. “We play in New York, so we deal with craziness all the time. This group is used to that. You look at his career, it seems like he inspires people. That can’t hurt.”

How did Tebow do in his long-awaited showdown with Porcello? Tebow led off the third inning by taking the first pitch for a strike. On a 1-2 count, he was called out on a pitch that was a little low and away. The borderline call drew boos from the crowd. Cy Young winners get those calls, Rook.

SPEAKING OF PROSPECTS …

OK, now it’s time to discuss a legitimate prospect.

Right-hander Dylan Cease might not be getting the same kind of attention as Tebow, but the pitcher with a 100-mph fastball could be the key to the Cubs’ future, writes our Gordon Wittenmyer in a terrific feature.

When Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey move on, Cease is expected to be a real homegrown pitching talent for the Cubs. Player development boss Jason McLeod has called Cease, who underwent Tommy John surgery in high school, a lottery ticket. The TJ surgery dropped Cease on the draft boards, but the Cubs had a keen eye.

“He’s absolutely one of the more exciting prospects that we have in our organization,” McLeod said during the Cubs Convention in January, “which is so fun to say in Year 5 that we’re talking about a pitcher as one of the most exciting players in our organization.”

Check out Gordon’s story for the full report on Cease.

I WANNA BE A COWBOY

Lackey has added a new pair of cowboy boots to his collection and, well, you just have to see them to believe them.

They’re Cub-themed. Not sure if the Cubs and cowboys go together, but Lackey seems to really like his new kicks.

“Those are going to get a sporting around, for sure,” Lackey said of his new boots.

You’ve been warned.

CHICAGO RIBFEST

The Cubs have a scheduled day off today, so we will offer up this tidbit to satisfy your appetite.

Arrieta weighed in on the idea of bat flips during a segment with one of our favorite radio hosts, David Kaplan at ESPN-1000.

According to Arrieta’s unwritten rule book, bat flips are OK in certain situations.

“Some of that might have to do with the situation, the magnitude of the game and who was doing the bat flipping,” Arrieta told Kaplan. “If it’s a young guy, he might not have earned that right yet. Somebody might wear the next one in the ribs.

“But if it’s a guy like Bautista, then you got to tip your cap. Certain guys have earned the right to do that. It’s something that I think the fans enjoy. It just shows some enthusiasm. In big spots like that, there’s so much on the line and sometimes it’s nice to see guys lay loose and let that excitement really show.

“One thing that can be negative is when you see kids in Little League doing it. Obviously, they all look up to us and we’re their idols, role models. I think there’s a fine line, but it really doesn’t bother me that much either.”

Click here to listen to the full interview.

SZCZUR’S PALETTE

Turns out Cubs outfielder Matt Szczur has a previously hidden talent that shocked some of his teammates.

I would give it away, but you must check out Wittenmyer’s morning post. Pretty cool stuff.

ON THE SOUTH SIDE

Charlie Tilson arrived at White Sox camp with the inside track to winning the starting job in center field. Then he promptly injured his foot and was shelved.

He’s off the shelf and hopes to be back in the lineup a week from today, Tilson told our Steve Greenberg this morning.

“It’s a frustrating feeling. But it’s still early,” Tilson said. “I keep reminding myself that it’s a long season, and when I get that clearance and my body’s ready, I won’t have to look back.”

SPANKY NOW MIGHTY MOUSE

You could make an argument that the White Sox got a better package from the Nationals for Adam Eaton than they did from the Red Sox for Chris Sale — but that’s an argument for another day.

Washington Nationals’ Adam Eaton. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Nationals are feeling blessed to have Eaton in their lineup, moving him from right field to center field, allowing Trea Turner, who hit .342 as a rookie last season, to move from center back to shortstop.

General manager Mike Rizzo told the New York Times he has been watching — and coveting — Eaton for years. And Rizzo has no regrets shipping top pitching prospects Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning to the White Sox for the 28-year-old Eaton.

“We’re always looking at win now, but we’ve never made a move that’s ‘win now but forget about the future,’ ” Rizzo told The Times. “This is a win-now and win-later deal, because we have ourselves a really good player in the prime years of his career for a long-term contract.”

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