Cubs, White Sox Tuesday spring-training report

Does Joe Maddon have a sixth sense?

The last thing we will do here is climb into Maddon’s mind — we can only imagine the possibilities.

Maddon has been hinting about a six-man rotation for his Cubs, but in Joe Speak, he’s calling it having “co-No. 5 starters.” In honor of Pi Day, we did the math, and that adds up to six pitchers in the rotation.

In the old-school world where John Lackey resides, that’s too many cowboys in the wagon.

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 15: Jon Lester #34 is congratulated by teammate Jake Arrieta #49 of the Chicago Cubs following his complete game win against the Pittsburgh Pirates during game two of the doubleheader at PNC Park on September 15, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

“Starters, we like our routines,” Lackey said when discussing the notion of a six-man rotation. “We like to know what we’re doing every five games.”

If you’re a starter in a six-man rotation, that precious fifth day is what most of us call a day off. That can disrupt routines of seasoned starters who were trained to think in five-day thoughts. But for a team that has made two consecutive deep dives into the postseason — plus has stayed remarkably healthy over that span — and is gunning for a third straight trip to October, prescribing a little extra rest along the way makes perfect sense.

Though some of us want dearly to question everything Maddon does, we all should have learned last season that there is definitely a method to this dude’s madness. And a six-man rotation — especially for a team that is blessed with the arms to pull it off — could be the key to helping the Cubs repeat.

Besides, Lackey isn’t in the mood to question Maddon.

“I just work here, man,” Lackey said.

By the way, in case you missed it, there are some people out there not affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals, who DO NOT want to see a Cubs repeat.


Reliever Hector Rondon departs Cubs camp today to make the beautiful trip across the desert and mountains to San Diego, riding to the rescue for Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.

Rondon is joining Venezuela for the final two rounds of the WBC and he is making some lofty comparisons.

“I feel it’s going to be intense for me, and exciting, too,” Rondon said. “I feel like the adrenaline is going to be like playing in the World Series.”


If they handed out an MVP Award for the Cactus League — and soon enough, it’s likely the MLB Network will eventually figure out a way to turn this into an hour-long, prime-time event — Ian Happ would be atop the power rankings.

As our Steve Greenberg pointed out after the Cubs beat the Padres on Monday: The 22-year-old is now 14-for-30 (.467) with an OPS of 1.351. Small sample size, sure, but this kid has big talent.

“I’m feeling really good at the plate,” he said. “Just trying to enjoy my time and learn as much as I can.”


Sportswriter/sportscaster Tom Verducci is out with a new book that will definitely appeal to Cubs fans. Verducci — who works for Sports Illustrated and FOX Sports, among others — takes an in-depth look at the club in The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building The Best Team In Baseball And Breaking The Curse.

Sports Illustrated released an excerpt of the book today on its web site. The excerpt goes behind the scenes during Game 7 of the World Series, starting like this:

“Game 7 of the World Series moved to the bottom of the ninth with the score tied 6–6. Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman, distraught and weary, returned to the mound at Progressive Field. Miguel Montero was his catcher, and he practically creaked with rust behind the plate. He had caught only two games in the past 32 days.

“The top of the Indians’ lineup was due up: Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor. Chapman was poor at holding runners, and Montero was poor at throwing. With stolen bases in order, Cleveland seemed one base runner away from winning the World Series.

“ ‘They had all that momentum and three really good hitters to start the inning,’ Chicago general manager Jed Hoyer said. ‘I thought, “This is unbelievable. How is Chapman, on total fumes, going to get through these guys?” It is the untold story of the World Series.’ ”

With so many quick books on the 2016 Cubs on the market, this is among the best.


You can question the real motivation behind the White Sox’ trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton in the offseason, but there is no question about the level of talent acquired. General manager Rick Hahn, in a nice story Daryl Van Schouwen posted this morning, says the key is letting these prospects develop naturally, with no rush.

“None of them seem satisfied with making it to the big leagues,” Hahn said. “They all want to have a significant impact on this organization.

“That’s a great thing but at the same time, we need to impart to them that none of the seven individuals needs to justify the trade, justify the decision.”


The curious case of Charlie Tilson took another twist with an MRI confirming the center-field prospect has a “stress reaction” in his right foot that will land him on the disabled list to start the season.

Tilson tore his left hamstring in his major-league debut last season, rehabbed the injury and came to camp as the top contender to start the season in center field.