Middlebrooks’ three homers send Sox Brandon Phillips Jersey home happy

Before the Red Sox cleared customs and headed home for Monday’s Fenway Park opener, Will Middlebrooks put on a Sunday afternoon power display that won’t soon be forgotten.

The right-handed slugger belted three homers as part of a 4-for-5 performance, as Boston connected for six in a 13-0 rout of the Blue Jays in the finale of a three-game series at Rogers Centre.

“Good Lord,” said Red Sox Brandon Phillips Jersey lefty Jon Lester, who worked seven shutout innings for the win. “About 2,000 feet of homers it seemed like. He obviously feels pretty good at the plate. It’s fun to watch when we’re on that side of it.”

Middlebrooks lofted a two-run, opposite-field shot to right as part of a five-run first-inning against Jays ace R.A. Dickey. After doubling in his second at-bat, Middlebrooks drilled a two-run homer to left-center in the fifth. That one also came against Dickey.

He hit his third in the seventh, leading off against right-hander Dave Bush.

There was almost a grand finale in store — something that would have put Middlebrooks in even more select company. In his final at-bat in the eighth, Middlebrooks smashed one to deep left, and it looked gone off the bat, but Melky Cabrera flagged it down just in front of the wall.

“Hit it too high,” said Middlebrooks, whose last three-homer game came in high school. “They must’ve turned the AC off on me. I thought it had a chance, just the way the ball flies here. I was blowing on it running down the line, but it didn’t have enough steam.”

The Boston dugout also thought Middlebrooks was about to make his fourth home-run trot of the day.

“From where we were sitting and the reaction in the dugout, yeah, it seemed to be,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “Especially the way the ball was carrying in this ballpark. Balls were flying out of here left and right, and that’s not to take anything away from the power that guys have. When the crowd is full in here, and the temperature is warm, the ball really jumps in here.”

The Sox hit six homers, and Daniel Nava, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli were the others to go deep.Brandon Phillips Shirt.

The most important thing for Boston was taking two out of three from the Jays to finish their season-opening road trip with a 4-2 mark. By contrast, the 2011 team went 0-6 before opening at Fenway. Last year’s team was 1-5.

“That’s huge,” said Middlebrooks. “I feel like we were already going to have momentum going home and playing at Fenway in front of our fans. Everyone was already really excited about that, but to go in rolling like this with 13 runs and Jonny going seven shutout innings, it’s huge.”

Not only was it the first three-homer game for Middlebrooks, but it was only the second multi-homer game of his career. The third baseman smashed two against the Royals on May 7, 2012. The 24-year-old Middlebrooks was the youngest Sox player to hit three homers in a game since Jim Rice, who was also 24 when he did it in 1977.Cheap Brandon Phillips Jersey.

It was the first three-homer game by a Boston player since Dustin Pedroia did it in Colorado on June 24, 2010.

“We’re counting on him to be a big run producer,” Pedroia said. “He’s got that ability.”

Middlebrooks is proving emphatically that a broken right wrist he suffered last August to end his rookie season won’t have any lasting impact.

“Well, everyone is going to point to the three home runs today,” said Farrell. “But you look at the slow roller that he made, and he also handles a couple of hot shots down at third base, as well. He’s an all-around player, a guy that profiles the position to a T. He’s a very good athlete. He was interrupted a year ago because of the broken wrist, but he’s clearly back with no restrictions.”Brandon Phillips Cincinnati Reds Jersey.

Ellsbury (3-for-6), Pedroia (2-for-4), Napoli (2-for-5, four RBIs) and the red-hot Jose Iglesias (.529 batting average) also had multi-hit games.

For Dickey, who won the National League Cy Young Award last season, this was just one of those rare days that happen over the course of a long season.

“You certainly try to forget about it as soon as you can,” said Dickey Brandon Phillips Jersey , who exited with two on and two out in the fifth. “Throughout the course of the season, you’re going to have a clunker or two that you have to try to forget as soon as you can. Obviously, today was one of those days for me. A lot of this game is about how to handle adversity and manage regret. That will be it for me tonight.”

Then there was Lester, who put together a textbook display of what a veteran ace should do with a big lead.

Lester carved up the Jays in a performance that seemed effortless at times, exiting after seven dominant innings — five hits, no walks, six strikeouts — with the game well in hand.

A notoriously slow starter for much of his career, Lester has opened this season 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA.

“It feels good, obviously,” Lester said. “Anytime you get off to a good start like this, it just adds to your confidence.”

And make no mistake about it. The Red Sox are a confident bunch as they get ready to open their 81-game home slate.

“It’s huge,” said Pedroia. “Last couple of years, we were searching, and now we have a good road trip. Hopefully we can build on the momentum, head home and play even better there.”

 

Cubs, Red Sox Brandon Phillips Jersey among seven to open home slate

They’ve come to the end of a long road, and they can finally see the bright lights of home.

For nine Major League teams, the beginning of the 2013 season was a character-building journey of airline miles, hotel beds, raucous opposing crowds celebrating their home debuts, and uniforms stitched in grey.

Monday and Tuesday will change that.

Seven of those nine clubs will enjoy their home openers on Monday, one will partake on Tuesday, and all the frills and fanfare will go along with it.

It might have taken a while, but it will have been worth it.

In St. Louis Brandon Phillips Jersey, it’ll be Cardinals vs. Reds at Busch Stadium, and while it’ll be a celebratory welcome back to the boys who almost made it to the World Series last year, it’ll be a somber, reflective mood. That’s because it will be the first home opener since the death of Hall of Famer and team and city icon Stan Musial earlier this year.

Long before St. Louis left-hander Jaime Garcia toes the slab against Reds righty Mat Latos in the 3:15 p.m. CT start, the red-clad crowd will honor Musial in a pregame ceremony, a prelude to a full tribute on Friday, when the team will dedicate a plaque in honor of “The Man.”

On Monday, Musial’s four children will unveil an outfield wall marker as part of the Opening Day ceremony that begins at 2:30 p.m., with the Budweiser Clydesdales, and the ceremonial first pitch to be delivered by former Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen, who will throw to former St. Louis outfielder Jim Edmonds. Isringhausen and Edmonds are new members of the Fox Sports Midwest Cardinals pregame and postgame broadcast team.

Monday’s openers will span from one legendary baseball city to another, when Fenway Park hosts its season opener. The Red Sox vs. Orioles matchup is set to commence at 2:05 p.m. ET in the old ballpark along Yawkey Way.

Clay Buchholz will start for the Red Sox against Baltimore lefty Wei-Yin Chen on a special day for the Sox, who will pay tribute to the team’s charity, the Jimmy Fund, honoring its 60th anniversary with a performance by a choral group. The club will also keep its flyover tradition alive with the appearance of two vintage P-51 Mustangs, which first entered World War II combat in December 1943.Brandon Phillips Shirt.

The Red Sox will play 17 home games in this month, the first season in 23 years that Boston had had as many as 17 home games scheduled in April, and only the second time in the 113-year history of the franchise.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” new Red Sox catcher Mike Napoli said. “This is my first Opening Day in Boston. When I went and played there before, it was always exciting. I can imagine it’s going to be a little sweeter being on the right side. I’m excited. I’m going to have family in town, it’s going to be a fun day for me, I’m going to enjoy it and take everything in.”

Opening Day festivities will also extend to Wrigley Field in Chicago, where it’ll be the Cubs vs. Brewers at 1:20 p.m. CT, with Chicago starter Edwin Jackson taking on Milwaukee right-hander Marco Estrada. The forecast calls for a 60 percent chance of rain.

“There’s only one Opening Day at home,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “It’s always a special day, the feeling, the atmosphere and all that, and the fans. Hopefully, we have good weather or decent enough weather.”

Over in Cleveland, Indians vs. Yankees will be the featured attraction for the home opener at Progressive Field, and it will be Ubaldo Jimenez for the Tribe against Hiroki Kuroda for the Bronx Bombers in the 4:05 p.m. ET start.Brandon Phillips Cincinnati Reds Jersey.

Fans will receive a magnet schedule and one of Cleveland’s newest stars, outfielder Nick Swisher, will present, along with his wife, JoAnna, a check worth $75,000 to Providence House, a Cleveland shelter that works to assist at-risk families.

Ceremonial first pitches will be delivered by the the fathers of Indians players Swisher (Steve), Michael Brantley (Mickey) and Zach McAllister (Steve), as well as bench coach Sandy Alomar (Sandy Sr.) and manager Terry Francona (Tito).

The Indians will try to add to their 58-54 record in home openers and even up their 2-3 record in home openers against the Yankees.

An American League Central rival of the Indians will enjoy its home opener Monday, too. At Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, it’ll be Royals vs. Twins, and Kansas City will try to get its 2013 season off to a good start in front of its favorite crowd.

The Royals’ new-look roster will be trying to win behind one of its newest starters, right-hander Ervin Santana, who will be opposed by Twins righty Kevin Correia in the 3:10 p.m. CT start.

It’ll be the 40th anniversary at “The K,” and a pregame ceremony will begin at 2:30 p.m., and will honor Billy Butler as the 2012 Silver Slugger Award winner at designated hitter in the AL and outfielder Alex Gordon will be presented with his second Rawlings Gold Glove Award.

Cheap Brandon Phillips Jersey.Then it’ll be on to Miami, where Marlins vs. Braves will kick off the 81-game slate at Marlins Park. Kevin Slowey will take the ball for Miami against Braves left-hander Paul Maholm in the 7:10 p.m. ET start.

Slowey Brandon Phillips Jersey said he’s excited to pitch a home opener for a new, young team.

“There’s a lot of excitement,” Slowey said. “There are a lot of guys who are really looking to make a name for themselves and to kind of carve out a niche for themselves in the Major Leagues. There’s a lot of opportunity and a lot of enthusiasm.”

When the Safeco Field crowd is treated to Monday’s final home opener, Mariners vs. Astros, Seattleites on hand will revel before their starter, Joe Saunders, throws the first local Mariners pitch of the season.

That’s because Jamie Moyer, the winningest pitcher in the history of the franchise, will do the ceremonial first pitch honors, and it’s likely he won’t throw the ball that much slower than he did during his career.

More intrigue will be on tap in the form of Houston starter Philip Humber, who threw a perfect game here last April 21 as a member of the White Sox.

Meanwhile, Safeco will pull out the ceremonial stops with Seattle band Pickwick performing three songs, the first run around the bases by 11-year-old Marlee Burkett of Sammamish, Wash., a Make-A-Wish child who underwent a recent liver transplant, and fireworks during the introduction of the revamped Mariners lineup.

Seattle is 21-15 all-time in the first home game of the season, including going 6-5 in home openers after starting on the road.

On Tuesday, Petco Park will be visited for the first time this season for Padres vs. Dodgers, and San Diego will try to rebound from a difficult road trip.

Clayton Richard will take the hill for the Padres against Dodgers righty Josh Beckett in the 3:40 p.m. PT start.

San Diego is 22-22 all-time in the first home game of the season, and Tuesday will mark the second straight and third time in the last five seasons that the club has faced the Dodgers in its home opener.

The final home opener of the season will take place with Angels vs. A’s in Angel Stadium. Angels lefty C.J. Wilson will go up against A’s righty Jarrod Parker in the 7:05 p.m. PT start.

The AL West rivals will go at it for the first of many times this year, and Wilson says it’s about time his team hit Anaheim.

“It’s always fun to start an opener,” Wilson said. “The home opener is going to be exciting — the home environment … It’s always cool.”

Oakland’s Party Continues.Aroldis Chapman Jersey

The A’s came out of spring training with a freshly choreographed home-run celebration, guaranteed to offend someone in pinstripes. They left for their first road trip Thursday afternoon with a potential catch phrase hanging in the air, too long for a T-shirt but irresistible nonetheless.

“It’s my face, I’ll do what I want with it.”Aroldis Chapman Cincinnati Reds Jersey.

An 0-for-10 start to the season triggered pleas on Twitter for extravagantly bearded rightfielder Josh Reddick to bring on the razor, followed by a resounding “NO” from his feed.  “Way too superstitious,” he said in the clubhouse Thursday. “We’re four games in. Let it go.” His towering home run and double in an 8-2 win over the Mariners made the same point at higher volume.

The A’s Aroldis Chapman Jersey had two chances to perform their new ritual in the dugout, raising their arms to form a slugger’s arch for Reddick and then Yoenis Cespedes. They should be repeating the routine often this year. These two combined for 55 home runs last season, Reddick’s first of more than 100 games and Cespedes’ first in the United States. More seems nearly certain for 2013.

But if baseball players always did what’s expected of them in April, the 2012 A’s wouldn’t have reached the playoffs with a roster stripped of three All-Star pitchers from the year before.  They wouldn’t have won a division title with a staff that contained four rookie starters down the stretch. They wouldn’t have become — with all due respect to Baltimore — the most exhilarating team in Major League Baseball.Aroldis Chapman Jersey.

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Will the good times lead to another playoff appearance? Do we even want to get into the chicken-egg debate about team chemistry and winning? Not really. The fun will be its own reward, offsetting the bleakness of low attendance and memories of enormous talent traded away or chronically injured (see Rich Harden, Bobby Crosby and Dallas Braden).

Aroldis Chapman Jersey Replica Jersey.Cespedes should find this season particularly lighthearted. Relatives, including his mother, tried to leave Cuba last year and ended up in detention for almost four months as illegal immigrants in the Turks and Caicos Islands. They were arrested on the last weekend of the 2012 regular season. They finally came to Miami, and Cespedes took a short break from spring training to go see them.

His homer on Thursday slammed a concrete embankment in left field and bounced away as if, left to its own devices, the ball had miles to go. The Mariners intentionally walked him in the eighth with a man on third and one out. They were losing 7-2 at the time. If you need a prediction on Cespedes’ season, extrapolate from that.

Tigers’ hit parade continues against Yankees Aroldis Chapman Jersey

In case you forgot last fall, this is what a fully functioning lineup looks like when hitters get going. Actually, this might be better.

Austin Jackson starts it all. Torii Hunter was the missing piece.

“Austin gets on base, and you’ve got to commend him. He’s the table-setter for us,” Hunter said. “And those guys at the table, Prince Fielder and [Miguel] Cabrera, those guys want to eat. So I’ve got to kind of be the server.”

With back-to-back wins against the Yankees, it’s looking like a feast. Not even former Tigers nemesis Phil Hughes could push them back from the table in Saturday’s 8-4 win.

After scoring a total of eight runs in a season-opening three-game series at Minnesota, including two runs in back-to-back losses, the Tigers have now scored eight runs in back-to-back games, something they hadn’t done against the Yankees since 2004.

Detroit’s offense has found its panacea with New York’s pitching staff, with a chance at a three-game sweep if the Tigers can hit CC Sabathia, their first opposing left-handed starter of the season. They have found a catalyst in Jackson, who led off the season with a base hit and seemingly hasn’t cooled down since.

Jackson Aroldis Chapman Jersey has reached base to lead off the opening inning in each of the Tigers’ first five games, including Saturday when Yankees shortstop Jayson Nix booted a ground ball for an error. Four times, the Tigers have brought him around and driven him in, three times on an out.

“Hopefully it can kind of put some pressure on them early in the ballgame,” Jackson said. “I’m really trying to focus on getting good pitches, having good at-bats and getting on there for the guys behind me. It just puts a lot pressure on the opposing teams.”

On Saturday, it had to feel like a replay for Yankees pitching. Jackson led off four of the Tigers’ eight innings, and reached base in three of them. All three times, the hitters that followed drove him in.

Add Jackson’s four times on base with a three-hit game from Hunter and a four-hit performance from Cabrera, and the top third of Detroit’s order accounted for seven of the eight runs.

“It’s a long season, we just have to keep this going,” Cabrera said. “We have to stay focused and do our jobs so we can win as many games as we can.”

Jackson had a .377 on-base percentage last year, including .393 in his first at-bat of the game, so it isn’t a major jump for him. Out of the 56 times he reached base to start off a game last year, he scored 33 runs. Add in other innings he led off, and the on-base percentage rose to .409, with 60 runs out of 107 times on base.

That success, though, came without a consistent hitter batting second in the lineup to bridge the gap between Jackson and Cabrera. Hunter, like he did batting between Mike Trout and Albert Pujols with the Angels, seems to be thriving in it.

“When I see Austin over there and I’ve got these guys hitting behind me, I’ve never been that guy to have hitters like Cabrera, Prince and last year Pujols hitting behind me,” Hunter said. “And that’s a lot of fun. I’ve always hit behind the [Justin] Morneaus and [Joe] Mauers and Vladimir Guerreros, and I was their protection. Who wants Torii as their protection?”

Hunter’s game, in turn, has adjusted.

“I don’t swing as hard,” he said. “I just try to stay inside the ball, shoot it to the right side sometimes, not all the time. I’m more mature at the plate.”

The error by Nix, filling in for injured shortstops Derek Jeter and Eduardo Nunez, put Jackson on base before Cabrera’s single sent him from first to third ahead of Fielder’s sacrifice fly.

Vernon Wells’ homer off Max Scherzer leading off the next inning promptly tied the game, setting up a pitching duel for the next few innings despite command problems for both starters. Hughes stranded Hunter and Cabrera in scoring position on Brett Gardner’s sliding catch to rob Victor Martinez in the third, then struck out Ramon Santiago to leave Jhonny Peralta on second in the fourth.

Once Jackson Aroldis Chapman Jersey singled leading off the fifth, however, Hughes never recovered. Hunter added another opposite-field hit, but powered it all the way to the right-field fence for an RBI double, before Cabrera singled him home and chased Hughes.

“I think it puts more pressure on the other team when those guys are out there and you’ve got the big guys coming up,” manager Jim Leyland said. “That’s pretty stressful.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi tried to stop the bleeding by giving lefty Boone Logan a rematch with Fielder, who homered off him to break open Friday’s 8-3 win. This time, Fielder’s single moved Cabrera along for a Martinez sac fly and an Andy Dirks single.

Once Peralta greeted Phelps with an RBI single, the Tigers had a 5-1 lead. Three Yankees runs in the sixth nearly brought them back, fueled by two walks each from Scherzer (1-0) and reliever Al Alburquerque ahead of Lyle Overbay’s two-run single. Alburquerque stranded the potential tying run on third with a Nix groundout, then Darin Downs held down the Yankees’ offense for a pair of innings.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi complained to home-plate umpire Jerry Layne that Alburquerque was balking on his move out of the stretch, but didn’t get the call.

“I think Alburquerque balks every time,” Girardi said. “One time his foot goes up twice. One time it goes up once. If a guy’s trying to steal a base and he goes up twice one time and goes up once one time, if you’re going to squeeze, you don’t know when to go as the runner. I think it’s a balk.”

Back-to-back singles from Jackson and Hunter leading off the sixth set up two insurance runs in the sixth, including a Dirks RBI single.

Sveum Aroldis Chapman Jersey can relate to injured Louisville star

Cubs manager Dale Sveum Aroldis Chapman Jersey cringed when he saw the replay of Louisville guard Kevin Ware breaking his leg during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

In 1988, Sveum’s career changed after a freak collision with Brewers teammate Darryl Hamilton. Sveum was playing shortstop and chased a pop fly down the third-base line, crashing into Hamilton, who was playing left. Sveum broke his left leg, which had to be re-fractured a year later because it didn’t heal properly.

Seeing Ware go down brought back lots of memories for Sveum.Cheap Aroldis Chapman Jersey.

“I felt horrible about it,” Sveum said of Ware, who is in Atlanta with his Louisville teammates for the Final Four. “I went through the same thing. It was kind of a freak accident. His was even stranger to come down and do something like that in such a horrific way. It makes you nauseated, that’s for sure. It was one of the more horrible injuries, if not the most horrible injury, we were able to see and witness. Hopefully, he can come back. I don’t know if he can come back from something like that. That was eye opening to say the least.”

Sveum Aroldis Chapman Jersey recalled his injury immediately.Aroldis Chapman Cincinnati Reds Jersey.

“It’s a flashback, knowing exactly how much pain you’re in when something like that happens,” Sveum said. “You basically kind of go into shock. It’s something you’ll never forget. I flashback every time [Darwin] Barney or [Starlin] Castro go down this line for a popup.

“It’s such a traumatic incident that you’ll never forget it,” Sveum said.

 • Friday’s game marked the start of a stretch of 19 in a row for the Cubs against teams that finished .500 or better last year. Thirteen of those games are against teams that reached the playoffs, beginning with the Braves.

It’s going to be challenging.Aroldis Chapman Jersey Replica Jersey.

“That was last year’s playoff teams,” Cubs pitcher Matt Garza said. “Things change.”

• There were too many ballplayers on the field during the Braves’ batting practice. The Cubs’ relievers were doing their normal pregame routine, but they were in left field while the Braves were hitting. Atlanta general manager Frank Wren asked the players to get off the field, but they didn’t.

“[Wren] came in and asked me a favor, if I could keep the guys off the field, because they were trying to do defensive work,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “Realistically, two teams can’t be on the field at the same time, but we all know that at the end of [batting practice], everybody always goes and throws and everybody’s work is done by then. The [batting practice] times got all goofed up. That’s part of why that happened.”

The Cubs’ pitchers were amused that they were being chased off.

• Hall of Famer Ernie Banks will sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch Monday at the Cubs’ home opener. Another Cubs Hall of Famer, Fergie Jenkins, will sing on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, members of the 1963 Loyola men’s basketball team, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary of its NCAA championship, will sing, and be followed on Thursday by Blackhawks Hall of Fame goalie Tony Esposito.

Castro Aroldis Chapman Jersey plays in consecutive game No. 200

Friday was Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro’s 200th consecutive game played. He’s got a long way to go to catch Cal Ripken Jr.’s streak, but Castro’s 200 is the longest active streak in the National League.

“If 200 is hard, how can you think about 2,000?” Castro Aroldis Chapman Jersey said.

“It’s nice to have a guy, let alone your shortstop, who can go out there every day,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Knock on wood, he’s very durable. He doesn’t ever have anything wrong or anything. He’s just a guy who likes to play, which is really nice to have from one of your best players.”

Aroldis Chapman Jersey Replica Jersey.Past Cubs managers Lou Piniella and Mike Quade both gave Castro off-days when they felt the young shortstop needed a break. He doesn’t want any more breathers.

“If my body lets me play, I’ll keep playing,” Castro said. “That’s my goal for this year is 162 games. Every year. I don’t want a day off. That’s why I prepare. Sometimes, when you have a slump, you get a day off. Lou Piniella did it to me and Quade, and then I come back hard again.”

Did he tell Sveum no days off?

“I don’t have to tell him,” Castro said. “He knows I like playing.”

The Tigers’ Prince Fielder has the longest active streak in the Major Leagues, having played in 346 consecutive games.

“We were talking the other day about what Ripken did,” Sveum said of the Iron Man’s 2,632 consecutive games played record. “Did he go through his whole career without any broken bones or broken fingers? I’m sure something happened. … There’s a lot of luck in that and, obviously, some grit involved, too.”

Matt Garza Aroldis Chapman Jersey  rejoined the Cubs on Friday, one day after his first bullpen session since mid-February, and said he was already penciling himself into the rotation for May.

“I’m pushing for early May and pushing hard, too,” Garza said.Cheap Aroldis Chapman Jersey.

The right-hander is on the disabled list with a strained left lat, which he first felt during a live batting-practice session on Feb. 17 in Mesa, Ariz. He had not thrown off a mound from that date until Thursday when he threw 25 pitches in Mesa.

“The first throw was kind of like ‘ah’ and after that it was, ‘Let’s go,'” Garza said of Thursday’s outing. “I felt strong and I felt good. About 18 of the 25 [pitches] were strikes. [It’s progressing] slowly, but I’m coming back. Another [bullpen] on Sunday. I can’t wait.”

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Garza feels the arm strength is there, and that he needs to work on his mechanics. Garza will stay with the Cubs while he continues his rehab.

“It made sense to stay there in 90-degree heat [in Arizona] than go to Pittsburgh and try to play catch in 30-degree weather,” Garza said. “It was more logic than anything. Now, I’m fine. I want to get off the bump with these guys and just go.”

Cubs narrow list of potential Draft picks.Aroldis Chapman Jersey

The Cubs have narrowed the list of players they’re looking at for the upcoming First-Year Player Draft to a half-dozen, and spent this week working out Georgia high school outfielders Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier.

The Cubs have the second pick overall in the Draft Aroldis Chapman Jersey, to be held June 6-8.

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Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, watched Meadows and Frazier, and then flew to California to scout Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, who struck out seven over 8 2/3 innings against USC.Aroldis Chapman Cincinnati Reds Jersey.

Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and player development and scouting director Jason McLeod all watched the two outfielders. Meadows, who is prepping at Grayson (Ga.) High School, has speed, an outstanding arm and good bat. Frazier, who is starring at Loganville (Ga.) High School, is similar to Meadows, except he’s slightly smaller. Frazier is 6-foot-1, 190; Meadows is 6-3, 200.

Appel ranks first among MLB.com’s Draft prospects list, while Meadows ranks third and Frazier is fifth.

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• Ian Stewart, on the disabled list with a strained left quad, was the designated hitter in a game at the Cubs’ extended Spring Training in Mesa, Ariz., on Saturday, and could be a few weeks away from rejoining the team.

Stewart, injured Feb. 21 during an intrasquad game, was able to run at 80-90 percent on Friday, and is making progress. He has yet to play in the field in a game.

Sveum said if all goes well, Stewart could be ready in two to three weeks.

• Second baseman Darwin Barney, on the disabled list with a left knee laceration, was able to take batting practice on Saturday. He had five stitches in his knee because of the cut, and was expected to get the stitches out this week.

• Matt Garza Aroldis Chapman Jersey, on the disabled list with a strained left lat, was to throw his second bullpen session on Sunday. Garza threw 25 pitches on Thursday in Arizona, and has had no problems since the workout. He’s expected to return in May.

Rizzo Aroldis Chapman Jersey, like team, searching for success at plate

After four games, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo Aroldis Chapman Jersey had one hit, and that was a home run in his first at-bat of the season on the first pitch.

Since then, he had gone 0-for-11, entering Saturday’s game against the Braves. He wasn’t alone. The Cubs were batting .133 as a team before Saturday.

“That’s baseball,” Rizzo said. “It’s four games. Hitting is contagious. Once someone gets going, I’m sure everyone will get going.

“It’s four games out of 162,” he said. “I’m sure guys will go and have worse stretches than this in their careers over time. This is baseball. We’re due for an explosive day.”

The Cubs did just that on Saturday, pounding 13 hits off the Braves in a 6-5 loss. Rizzo picked up his second hit and second home run in the fifth inning, and also singled with one out in the seventh.

However, Cubs manager Dale Sveum did see something else in Rizzo’s approach. The first baseman may be thinking too much.Aroldis Chapman Jersey Replica Jersey.

“I said it early in camp, when somebody asked about the adjustments he has to make and what he has to get better at,” Sveum said Saturday. “I think what he’s doing now is what he did in that one stretch where he struggled [last year]. He starts analyzing and thinking too much about what the pitcher is going to do to him, instead of getting a good pitch to hit and being ready to do that instead of always trying to guess along with each pitch.”

On Friday, Rizzo Aroldis Chapman Jersey struck out three times, and all three were on off-speed pitches.

“They’re hitting their spots, pitchers are making their pitches,” Rizzo said. “You tip your hat. Our job is to hit the ball over the middle of the plate, not their best pitch.”

Rizzo, who batted .285 in 87 games last season after he was called up in late June, said it’s encouraging that the team is 2-2, considering the offensive struggles.

“If our pitching stays the way it is now, the bats will come around,” Rizzo said. “You get hot streaks, cold spells. To be 2-2 is good, and we have to take advantage of our record now and our pitching and score some runs.

“Obviously, as a team, we’d like to be getting more hits, more situational hits,” he said. “We can hit .200 as a team, but if we get those big hits … I’m pretty sure that’s how the A’s did it last year, they had big hits at big times.”

Sveum has been shifty with Cubs’ defense.Cheap Aroldis Chapman Jersey.

ATLANTA — If you’ve watched the Cubs’ first four games, you must have noticed all of the defensive shifts they’ve used. There have been times when third baseman Luis Valbuena is positioned between the second baseman and shortstop Starlin Castro as the infielders shift to the right.

“I think we just happen to play a couple teams that are no-brainers, so to speak, when it comes to that,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the infielders’ movement. “There’s less than a one or two-percent [chance] of balls hit to the opposite side.”Aroldis Chapman Cincinnati Reds Jersey.

Cubs third base coach David Bell positions the infielders while first base coach Dave McKay handles the outfielders. Their charts break down players’ averages when there are no runners on, when there are two strikes, when they have runners in scoring position, and when there are two outs.

On Friday, the Cubs overloaded on the right side against Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman, but he poked a single to left. Sveum was OK with that.

“If you’re going to get beat one percent of the time, and you take away 99 percent of his hits on the ground — [that’s why you shift],” Sveum said.

Marmol Aroldis Chapman Jersey’s role in doubt after Cubs lose heartbreaker

It’s only five games into the season, but Carlos Marmol may have lost his job as the Cubs’ closer.

B.J. Upton led off the ninth with a game-tying home run off Marmol and his brother, Justin, followed one out later with a walk-off blast, his second homer of the game and fifth of the season, to lift the Braves to a 6-5 victory on Saturday night over the Cubs at Turner Field.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum said they would discuss Marmol’s role on the team, and may consider using Shawn Camp or James Russell as closer. Set-up pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa didn’t have his split-finger pitch, and was roughed up as well, giving up three runs on four hits in the eighth inning, as the Braves closed within 5-4.

Marmol Aroldis Chapman Jersey now has served up five runs on six hits over 1 2/3 innings in three games for a 27.00 ERA.

“We’re definitely going to talk about it now,” Sveum said about Marmol’s situation. “Fujikawa struggled, too. You’ve got Camp and Russell, who seem to be pretty efficient when they pitch. They’ve never had to do the last three outs of the game.”

It’s tough to pinpoint Marmol’s problems.

“I don’t know whether it’s mechanical, the arm angle or what,” Sveum said. “When he throws strikes, he’s getting hit now, too.”

Trailing 5-4 in the ninth against Marmol, B.J. Upton launched a 3-1 pitch to straightaway center. After Jason Heyward flew out, Justin, who had homered in the first, drove a 1-2 pitch to center for the game-winner. This was the first time the brothers have homered in the same game with the Braves, and the 25th time in baseball history that brother teammates have connected in the same game.

Marmol Aroldis Chapman Jersey said the problem was locating his pitches.

“I tried to do my best,” Marmol said. “I’m trying. I’m trying to do my best. I’ve got my confidence. They hit my pitch.”Cheap Aroldis Chapman Jersey.

The loss spoiled a solid effort from Carlos Villanueva, who struck out six over 6 2/3 innings and scattered six hits. Villanueva knows Marmol well; they faced each other in the Minor Leagues.

“I’m more concerned for how he feels,” Villanueva said. “Results are going to change, obviously. We all want to do well, we want to win every game. I’m more concerned about him as a human being. I’ve known him for a long time, and I know he’ll come back tomorrow and try to get it done again.”

The Cubs’ offense came alive. David DeJesus and Luis Valbuena didn’t have a hit prior to Saturday’s game and Anthony Rizzo had one in 12 at-bats, which came on the first pitch he saw on Opening Day. That changed as Rizzo belted a two-run home run, DeJesus doubled and scored in the first, and Valbuena hit a tie-breaking solo home run in the fourth to spark a 13-hit attack. Aroldis Chapman Cincinnati Reds Jersey.

But the Cubs didn’t get hits in crucial situations. They loaded the bases with none out in the eighth and failed to score, and stranded two more in the ninth.

“It could’ve been a lot more, too,” Sveum said of the offense. “Just to get one out of that [eighth inning] would’ve been nice. We still have to get better that way. We still have to understand pitch selection and all that. The fact of the matter is we had a chance to put the game away and we didn’t do it.”

The Cubs began the day batting .133 on the season, and had scored seven runs on 16 hits in their first four games. Sveum wasn’t worried about the lack of offense.

“I’d be lying if I said we weren’t struggling,” Sveum said. “It’s too early to push the panic button, if that’s what you’re asking. These guys are the core guys and guys are going to come around. The media guide doesn’t lie.”

Nate Schierholtz hit a RBI single in the Chicago first, but Justin Upton made it 1-1 with his first home run of the night. Valbuena’s first hit of the season came with one out in the fourth, when he homered to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead.

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 Rizzo, whose only hit had been his Opening Day home run last Monday against the Pirates, collected his second hit and second home run with one on and one out in the fifth. Welington Castillo added a RBI single to make it 5-1.

The Braves began their rally in the eighth. Justin Upton doubled to lead off against Fujikawa and scored on Freddie Freeman’s single for the first run off the Japanese right-hander. Dan Uggla singled, and one out later, Gerald Laird walked to load the bases.

“When those guys don’t have their splits, you better locate your fastball and he didn’t locate his fastball tonight,” Sveum said of Fujikawa. “It was up in the zone.”

“I think I put myself in a bad situation putting the leadoff guy on,” Fujikawa said.

Ramiro Pena then hit a two-run single to cut the deficit to 5-4, but Fujikawa got pinch-hitter Reed Johnson to hit into an inning-ending double play.

The Braves had no trouble in the ninth against Marmol. Fujikawa shouldered some of the blame.

“I shouldn’t be the one saying it, but if I got that eighth inning in a better way, I could’ve passed it on easier to Marmol, so it’s my responsibility as well,” Fujikawa said.

It may be a long night for Marmol.

“He’s a strong guy. I’m sure he’ll recover from this,” Villanueva said. “You’ve got to take the positives out of it. It’s tough and it’ll be tough for a little bit. He’s been a closer for a while, so he has that mentality. He’s got to have confidence that he’ll bounce back and lead us to some victories.”

B.J. Upton Aroldis Chapman Jersey hopes hitting leadoff leads to hits

B.J. Upton Aroldis Chapman Jersey’s first four games with the Braves did not go according to plan. But the veteran center fielder got a chance to shake things up when he was moved to the leadoff spot to replace the injured Andrelton Simmons on Saturday night.

The move proved to be beneficial, as Upton’s presence at the top of the lineup allowed him to experience something special. His game-tying homer to open the bottom of the ninth set the stage for his younger brother Justin Upton to give the Braves a 6-5 win over the Cubs with the walk-off home run over the wall in center.

B.J.’s home run was his first with the Braves, who signed him to a franchise record five-year, $75.25 million contract in November. Two innings earlier, he had notched his first hit with an infield single that snapped the 0-for-16 stretch that began his career in Atlanta.

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“We’re winning, and that’s the main thing,” B.J. said. “I’ll get it together and start hitting the ball a little bit better. But overall, the goal is to win.”

Upton is certainly not the first player to experience a slow start after signing a large contract the previous offseason. Even the calm, cool and collected Greg Maddux said he felt added pressure after he signed as a free agent with the Braves before the start of the 2003 season.Aroldis Chapman Jersey Replica Jersey.

“His at-bats just kept getting better and better through the course of the week,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I think after the chopper base hit, he got the curse off his back a little bit.”

Simmons is expected to return to the lineup by Monday. At that point, B.J. will likely return to the lineup’s fifth spot.

 Worth noting.Cheap Aroldis Chapman Jersey.

• Mike Minor has compiled a 2.09 ERA in 15 starts since last year’s All-Star break. The only other Major League pitcher with a better ERA during that span is the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw (1.94).

• Justin Aroldis Chapman Jersey Upton hit his third home run in his 11th at-bat and fourth game of this season. His third home run last year came on May 2, in his 72nd at-bat and 22nd game of the season.