6:38 AM EST, Fri February 27, 2015

Cubs Notes: Bryant bombs away, Alcantara to play all over

MESA, Az. -- Chicago Cubs prospect Kris Bryant started slow but finished with a bang in his first live batting practice of spring training. Facing righty Neil Ramirez and then lefty Joseph Ortiz, Bryant missed four straight pitches before going deep his next two times in the batter's box Thursday morning. "That's the first time getting to see him up close," 2014 first-round pick Kyle Schwarber said afterward. "That's impressive. The swing is there.

Maddon's humor on display with TV talk

MESA, Ariz. -- New Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon doesn’t watch film of his team’s spring practices at night nor is he pouring over video of bullpen sessions. Instead, he unwinds by watching reruns of one of his favorite television shows, "The Office." “I watch two episodes every night,” Maddon said on Thursday. “I’ve been here, what, 10 days? I’ve probably watched at least 20 episodes of The Office.” Maddon says he prefers watching “a comedy to go to sleep” but prefers episodes of "The Office" prior to star Steve Carrell leaving.

Twitter mailbag: Dexter Fowler

MESA, Ariz. -- New Chicago Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler took some time to answer your Twitter questions in this player mailbag. Follow Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) to join in on the next one. Fowler: I didn't have to go up there too many times. I went up there twice against Josh Hamilton. I caught it. No injuries. One time I fell on my knee and the other time just ran it down. DF: I don't have a goal. Run when I get a green light and steal a lot of them.

Cubs Notes: Rose/Kane injuries a reminder

MESA, Ariz. -- Word of injuries to Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks stars Derrick Rose and Patrick Kane made its way to the Chicago Cubs locker room on Wednesday morning, and it became a stark reminder that everything in sports is fleeting: A player’s career, even a team’s hopes. “I’m going to be tip-toeing today,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo half-joked. “That’s unfortunate. Especially with those seasons coming down to the stretch.

Rockin' Joe Maddon opens camp

MESA, Ariz. -- With Jimi Hendrix blaring in the background as the Chicago Cubs went through their warm-up drills, the Joe Maddon era began in earnest with the team’s first full-squad workout on Wednesday. “I wanted to have the stretch louder,” Maddon said after the day was over. “Get the blood going. And it seems to have helped.” Maddon kept up a “personal” tradition of talking to his team on Day 1 on the field and not in the locker room.

Ricketts on Cubs: From Tampering to Sosa

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts gave his state-of-the-team address to reporters on Wednesday after speaking to his players as the Cubs opened camp for full-squad workouts. There were no verbal shots taken at Wrigleyville rooftop owners -- which he’s done in the past -- and nothing new to report on Sammy Sosa's exile from the organization. Here are some highlights from his media session: On Joe Maddon tampering charge: “From everything I know we did nothing wrong,” Ricketts said.

Podcast: Manny Ramirez on new gig

New Chicago Cubs hitting consultant Manny Ramirez talks with reporters about his new job with the Cubs. Click here for more audio from ESPN Chicago.

Cubs Notes: Manny's in, Sosa next?

MESA, Ariz. -- With former PED user Manny Ramirez being hired Tuesday as a hitting consultant for the Chicago Cubs, the conversation at spring training turned to their own controversial former star, Sammy Sosa. Sosa hasn’t been welcomed back to the team since leaving in 2004, despite being the franchise’s all-time home run leader. “That one’s being handled in other circles, but assuming things get worked out, certainly be open to having him around in some capacity and working with our young guys,” president Theo Epstein said.

Castro hoping to finally be part of a winner

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro has never played on a winning team since breaking into the major leagues in 2010. Five consecutive fifth-place finishes have tried his patience and perhaps hampered his focus at times. Mental lapses at the plate and in the field have dogged him, though he became an All-Star for the third time last season after rebounding from a poor 2013 campaign. Now those dark days for the team might be over as the Cubs are primed for an upturn in the standings.

Francona on Cubs: 'They're too smart and work too hard not to figure it out'

PHOENIX -- Former Boston Red Sox manager and current Cleveland Indians skipper Terry Francona never doubted his former bosses would turn the Chicago Cubs around. “They’re too smart and work too hard not to figure it out,” Francona said Monday at a gathering of Cactus League front-office personnel and managers in Arizona. “And you’re starting to see that’s exactly what they’ve done.” Francona beat out current Cubs manager Joe Maddon for the job in Boston following the 2003 season and went on to win two World Series titles under Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

Manfred: Maddon tampering case over soon

PHOENIX -- Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred reiterated his stance Monday that the investigation into the Chicago Cubs' hiring of manager Joe Maddon should be complete before Opening Day. “It’s easy to do a quick investigation and reach a quick decision,” Manfred said at a gathering for Cactus League teams in Arizona. “Our preference here, because it is a very important issue in terms of the way clubs interact with each other, was to do a very thorough investigation and make sure we make the right decision.

Cubs notes: Maddon says Bryant 'gets it'

MESA, Ariz. -- New Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is just getting to know top prospect Kris Bryant. And like others, he’s impressed as much with his demeanor as he is with his power. “He gets it,” Maddon said Monday after morning workouts. “Great body, great power, good arm. A lot of good things, but he gets it. Meaning that he understands the work involved necessary to be great. He’s rather humble for me. He knows he’s good but there’s humility about it too.

Bryant and Olt have eyes on third base

MESA, Ariz. -- The two people most invested in Kris Bryant making the Chicago Cubs roster this spring -- Bryant and manager Joe Maddon -- didn’t even broach the subject at Bryant's pre-camp meeting with Maddon and the front office on Monday morning. “That wasn’t talked about,” Bryant said matter-of-factly. “Just kind of what I need to work on and how much fun we’re going to have.” So while everyone else is wondering when the reigning minor league player of the year will make his MLB debut, Bryant seems to work best when he tunes out the noise around him.

CJ Edwards spring diary: 'I'm just taking notes'

MESA, Az. -- Chicago Cubs pitching prospect C.J. Edwards is experiencing his first big league camp after spending last spring on the minor league side. Edwards was acquired in 2013 from Texas as part of the deal that sent Matt Garza to the Rangers. He produced a 2.35 ERA in 12 starts split between Class A and Double-A last season while limited by a shoulder ailment. But he's healthy now, is ranked the Cubs' No. 5 prospect according to MLB.com, and periodically, he will provide a first-person spring training diary.

Cubs notes: Maddon playing to win

MESA, Ariz. -- While Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon says he won’t necessarily make personnel decisions based solely on Cactus League games, it doesn’t mean those contests won’t matter starting next month. “I do like to win in spring training,” Maddon said Sunday after Day 3 of workouts for pitchers and catchers. “My message to the group when they show up (Wednesday) is I really want us to play the game the same whether it’s March 15 or July 15 or October 15.

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