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Cubs ‘blown away’ by new digs; Theo talks wait; and other notes

A large backlit picture of Cubs legends Ron Santo and Ernie Banks hangs just outside the Cubs' new clubhouse.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon said it was so late when the team got in Sunday night, and the scene so unfamiliar, that “I was bumping off walls a bit.”

But mostly what happened when the Cubs got their first look at their new clubhouse and work facilities at Wrigley Field, said Jake Arrieta, was “we were all speechless.”

The second-largest clubhouse in the majors – and possibly the most luxurious – greeted the Cubs as they arrived from their season-opening, 5-1 road trip for Monday’s home opener.

It replaced what for years was easily the smallest and worst home clubhouse in the majors.

“We had an idea what it was going to look like, but I think everybody was blown away,” Arrieta said. “It’s kind of overwhelming coming from where we did. This organization’s come a long way. It’s special to be a part of it right now.”

A plush, circular dressing room with blue mood lighting, included in adjacent rooms state-of-the-art training facilities, a large weight room, batting cage where the old clubhouse existed, a game room (with air hockey, ping-pong table and hoops), an Arrieta inspired/requested Pilates studio and, yes, a dance-party room for postgame celebrations.

“It’s about time. We’ve been preaching for that for years,” Maddon said of the unique, Rizzo-inspired party corner.

Rizzo downplayed the competitive effects such amenities can have.

“If you’ve got to go to a parking lot you’ve still got to play baseball,” he said. “Now we’re in a country club. So when we step on those lines we’d better be ready to play.”

 

No extension tension

Another opener has passed without the contract extension for team president Theo Epstein that he and others suggested might naturally get done by the end of spring training.

But what’s expected to be the largest contract for a baseball executive in the game still appears to be a matter of when, not if.

“We haven’t talked about it [since asked a week earlier],” Epstein said before Monday’s home opener. “But the few talked we’ve had have been very amicable, productive and gone in a real good direction. When things stabilize, and we get through this injury situation and get into the rhythm of the season, I’m sure we’ll pick up talks again sometime.

“I’m not really concerned.”

Epstein is in the final year of a five-year, $18.5-million deal. Chairman Tom Ricketts said during spring training he considers Epstein the best in his business and expects to pay him accordingly.

Sources say they expect a five-year extension in the range of $45 million.

 

Notes: Utility man Javy Baez (thumb) started an injury rehab assignment with Class AAA Iowa on Monday. Maddon said before considering activating Baez from the DL he wants to see “about 20 solid plate appearances where he feels good and the people that are watching him say he looks ready.” … The Cubs added left-handed pitching depth Monday when they acquired reliever Giovanni Soto from the Indians for cash and optioned him to AAA Iowa. Kyle Schwarber (knee) was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster.