5:59 AM EST, Sun March 01, 2015

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.

Travis Wood: 2014 a 'humbling experience'

MESA, Ariz. -- Let the battle for the No. 5 starter begin. The Chicago Cubs have three candidates for one spot -- lefties Travis Wood and Tsuyoshi Wada and righty Edwin Jackson. Wood and Jackson are coming off down years while Wada was a pleasant surprise after being called up from Triple-A Iowa last season. Only two of three are likely to make the team as the bullpen doesn’t have room for two long relievers and neither of the left-handers are serious candidates for late-inning specialist.

Podcast: Pedro Strop on bullpen

Chicago Cubs reliever Pedro Strop talks with ESPNChicago's Jesse Rogers about an offseason car accident and the personalities in the Cubs bullpen. Click here for more audio from ESPN Chicago.

Bullpen (not closer) by committee

MESA, Ariz. – Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon got one thing out of the way after morning workouts Saturday at spring training: Hector Rondon will be his closer. That’s hardly a surprise, as Rondon saved 29 of 33 games the past season, while his best competition for the job -- newcomer Jason Motte -- is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery. As much as Maddon likes to mix and match, he’s not going to mess with a good thing in the ninth inning.

Cubs notes: Some pitchers will bat eighth

MESA, Ari. -- Expect some pitchers to bat eighth instead of ninth for the Chicago Cubs this season, but the determining factor isn’t how that pitcher fares in the batter’s box, according to manager Joe Maddon. “If you have a pitcher that you believe is going to go deep into the game you normally want him ninth to delay the decision to pinch hit for him,” Maddon said Saturday at spring training. “If you have a pitcher that has a history of going five, possibly six innings, you may want to hit him eighth, possibly to pinch hit for him sooner rather than later.

Cubs players not in favor of speed-up rules

MESA, Ariz. -- Add several Chicago Cubs players to the list of those who aren’t in favor of artificially speeding up the game. “I’m not a fan of how everything goes down,” outfielder Chris Coghlan said Saturday morning. “From our standpoint, this is the way the game has been played. Even when you start to listen to radio shows, fans don’t seem to have a major issue.” On Friday, baseball announced several initiatives to eliminate some of the down time that takes place during games.

Podcast: Javier Baez talks swing changes, weight loss

Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez talks with ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers about his offseason swing changes and his weight loss. He didn't drop the pounds in the most conventional of ways. Click here for more audio from ESPN Chicago.

Lester an ace on the mound and golf course

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein may have put it best in talking about the new ace of his pitching staff. “It’s good to be Jon Lester,” Epstein said with a smile on the first day of spring training on Thursday. It is indeed. Lester signed a six-year, $155 million deal with Cubs this past winter, showed up early to spring training to get acclimated and then promptly nailed a hole-in-one at a local golf course before ever throwing a pitch for his new team.

Podcasts: Joe Maddon talks Cubs

New Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon talks to the media to discuss his first spring training in Chicago and the upcoming season. Part 2: Part 3: Click here for more audio from ESPN Chicago.

Cubs Notes: Breaking down 3rd base

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs positional battles will play out throughout the spring, but already there are questions about who’s on third. With Luis Valbuena in Houston now and uncertainty when the Cubs will hand the job to top prospect Kris Bryant, manager Joe Maddon was asked Friday who the possible candidates are for the hot corner. “Gosh,” Maddon responded. “You tell me.” Maddon said he’s willing to try anything, so you’ll see the obvious candidates -- Mike Olt and Arismendy Alcantara -- but don’t be surprised if Javier Baez gets time there along with several others.

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