Inbox: Can the Cubs keep up the fun?

Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers questions from fans

Inbox: Can the Cubs keep up the fun?

With the departure of David Ross and Dexter Fowler, who will help the young Cubs keep the mood light in the dugout when the going gets tough? Seems like all of the veterans (especially pitchers) are no-nonsense kind of players, which might make it hard for the young guys to get loose and keep it fun. Last year's team seemed like they were all about playing for the fun and love of it all, while this year's team seems a bit more stiff.
-- Joshua D., Albuquerque, N.M.

This team is all about playing for fun and the love of the game. It takes time for chemistry to develop, and the leaders will emerge as the season progresses. They may not have invited any live animals to camp yet, but they've got strength coach Tim Buss, who sets the tone. Anthony Rizzo learned a lot from Ross, and Jason Heyward obviously can deliver inspirational speeches.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs star Rizzo 'forever thankful' to Red Sox

First baseman began cancer treatment in 2008 in Boston's Minor League system

Cubs star Rizzo 'forever thankful' to Red Sox

CHICAGO -- The last time the Cubs played in Boston was in 2014. Anthony Rizzo drove past Massachusetts General Hospital at the time and got a knot in his stomach, because that's where he began his treatment for cancer. He was diagnosed in 2008 while a Minor Leaguer in the Red Sox's organization.

On Friday, Rizzo will be back in Boston, and he is expecting some flashbacks, but he is focusing on rekindling some friendships from his brief time there.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

For Ricketts, Cubs' blueprint began with Red

Chairman returns to Fenway with ring after using Boston's model for success

For Ricketts, Cubs' blueprint began with Red

CHICAGO -- How often does a baseball executive catch a home run ball?

It happened when the Cubs visited Boston during the 2011 season. Chairman Tom Ricketts and president of business operations Crane Kenney were taking in a game from the Green Monster Seats when Jarrod Saltalamacchia sent a homer their way. 

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Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Happ belts eighth homer for Triple-A Iowa

Happ belts eighth homer for Triple-A Iowa

Tyler Mahle's chances of throwing his second straight perfect game came undone just two batters into his start on Thursday. The Reds' No. 10 prospect still was plenty good, tossing six dominant frames to extend his scoreless innings streak to 19 2/3 for Double-A Pensacola.

Mahle needed just 88 pitches in his previous start to record the first nine-inning perfect game in the Southern League since 1970. He threw 94 (64 strikes) on Thursday, allowing four hits and one walk with seven strikeouts before departing with a 3-0 lead. The Blue Wahoos' bullpen would give back those runs in the subsequent frames, however, ultimately falling to Biloxi, 4-3, and costing Mahle an opportunity at his fifth win in as many starts.

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Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rizzo homers, drives in 4, but Cubs fall short

Rizzo homers, drives in 4, but Cubs fall short

PITTSBURGH -- After seeing his team score five runs over the previous three days, manager Clint Hurdle decided it was time for a change atop the order. Hurdle turned to Josh Harrison, his "Tabasco sauce" leadoff man, and Harrison helped spice up the Pirates' lineup in a 6-5 win over the Cubs on Wednesday night at PNC Park.

"Put something else on there," Hurdle said before the game, "and see if we can enlighten the flavor a little bit."

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Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Missed chances, botched defense cost Lester

Missed chances, botched defense cost Lester

PITTSBURGH -- Jon Lester began Wednesday as the only Major League pitcher with at least four starts this year without a decision. That changed, although not in the way the Cubs' lefty would've liked.

Lester served up five runs over 5 2/3 innings in the Cubs' 6-5 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park. He was upset about three pitches that resulted in a home run by Josh Harrison in the first, a double down the left-field line by Phil Gosselin in the second and a homer by Josh Bell in the sixth.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Maddon looking forward to Fenway return

Maddon looking forward to Fenway return

PITTSBURGH -- Joe Maddon remembers his first trip to Boston in 1995. He was a coach on the Angels, the team arrived around 6 a.m., and it was raining. That didn't stop him from exploring.

The Angels were staying in Cambridge, Mass., and Maddon asked the hotel van to drop him off in Harvard Square.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lester eager for first visit to Fenway since '14

Veteran lefty won't pitch in Interleague series, but is excited see old friends

Lester eager for first visit to Fenway since '14

PITTSBURGH -- Jon Lester will return to Fenway Park on Friday for the first time since he was traded in 2014 by the Red Sox to the Athletics, however, the lefty won't pitch in the Cubs' Interleague series. He's starting on Wednesday against the Pirates, which may be just as well.

"Obviously, it'd be a unique situation to go back there and pitch," Lester said Tuesday. "It wouldn't be like pitching against David [Ortiz], or if [Dustin] Pedroia is healthy enough to play."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs open Interleague set at Fenway Park

Cubs open Interleague set at Fenway Park

Kris Bryant's dad marked this weekend on his calendar as soon as he saw the Cubs' schedule. So did Jon Lester's wife and his parents and Anthony Rizzo's family.

On Friday, the defending World Series champion Cubs will open a three-game Interleague series with the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the first meeting between the two historic franchises since 2014.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hendricks outduels Cole as Cubs edge Bucs

Hendricks outduels Cole as Cubs edge Bucs

PITTSBURGH -- A night after scoring a season-high 14 runs and pounding out 17 hits, the Cubs were limited to two hits Tuesday at PNC Park. But they only needed one, compounded by a timely mistake by the Pirates, to escape with a 1-0 win over Gerrit Cole and the Bucs.

"I told them to save a couple [runs]," Cubs starter and winner Kyle Hendricks said. "Sometimes one is enough."

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Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Velo differential helps Hendricks get on track

Righty shakes slow start to season with 6 scoreless vs. Pirates

Velo differential helps Hendricks get on track

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates had a runner at second base and two outs in the sixth inning against the Cubs' Kyle Hendricks, who was protecting a 1-0 lead. Hendricks got Francisco Cervelli to strike out swinging at a 78-mph changeup and pumped his fist, although you had to be paying attention to see it.

After three outings in which there wasn't much difference in velocity between his pitches, Hendricks looked more like the pitcher who finished with the best ERA in the Major Leagues last year. It was good enough for the right-hander to get the win in a 1-0 victory over the Pirates, who got a stellar effort from starter Gerrit Cole.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Heyward: No preference for placement in OF

Schwarber penciled in to DH vs. Red Sox; Uehara focused on future in return to Boston

Heyward: No preference for placement in OF

PITTSBURGH -- Jason Heyward won his fourth Gold Glove Award last year as the top defensive right fielder in the National League. This season, he's started seven games in center and on Tuesday, made his 11th start in right field for the Cubs. Would he prefer to play right field?

"I know what I can bring in right, and I don't feel anybody brings it better," Heyward said. "For any team, you have to do what's best for the team, and that's that. Whatever will help us go as a group is the best thing in the world. I just concentrate getting my foot down in the outfield and trust my instincts."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Blue Monday: Cubs put on show vs. Pirates

Blue Monday: Cubs put on show vs. Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- The first time the Cubs and Pirates met this season, the Bucs came from behind three days in a row to sweep the series at Wrigley Field. The Cubs ensured there would be no comeback Monday night, running up a big lead in the first two innings and cruising to a 14-3 win at PNC Park.

Addison Russell led the Cubs' assault on Chad Kuhl and the Pittsburgh bullpen with a career-high four hits, including an RBI single in the first inning. Jason Heyward followed by crushing the first pitch he saw into the center-field seats. After scoring four runs with two outs in the first, the Cubs put up five more in the second, capitalizing on Kuhl's rough night and the Pirates' sloppy defense behind him. Ben Zobrist cleared the bases with a double to right, Heyward's groundout plated another and left-hander Brett Anderson singled to drive in Russell.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ross goes boy band on Dancing With the Stars

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Ross goes boy band on Dancing With the Stars

Every successful boy band has its elder statesman, the one guy in the group who's slightly older than everybody else. If the 2016 Cubs were a boy band, well, David Ross was obviously their Kevin Richardson or Chris Kirkpatrick.

With that in mind, Monday's installment of "Dancing With the Stars" saw Ross cast in perhaps his most perfect role yet: as a member of #TeamBoyBand featuring the remaining men in the competition. They went head-to-head with #TeamGirlGroup in a showdown that was really only missing Carson Daly for maximum throwback appeal.

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Heyward continues to impress at the dish

Outfielder crushed 3-run homer vs. Pittsburgh, leading team in RBIs

Heyward continues to impress at the dish

PITTSBURGH -- If it looks as if Jason Heyward is hitting the ball harder, he is.

The Cubs' outfielder belted his third home run in the last four days, a three-run shot in a 14-3 win over the Pirates on Monday night, and continued to impress in his makeover.

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Maddon sticking with Schwarber in left field

Maddon sticking with Schwarber in left field

PITTSBURGH -- Kyle Schwarber started in right field at PNC Park during the 2015 National League Wild Card Game, and Cubs manager Joe Maddon hinted in Spring Training that may happen during the regular season as well. But Schwarber made his 10th start in left field on Monday as the Cubs opened a three-game series against the Pirates.

"It didn't seem strong enough for me to move him tonight," said Maddon, who looked at the scouting report and Pirates' tendencies. "It's something we could still do. He's so used to playing out there [in left field] now. The other part is the unpredictability of where the ball is going to be hit."

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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

3 HRs in 3 days? Simply business for Rizzo

Cubs 1B keeps perspective as he extends hit streak to career-high-tying 12 games

3 HRs in 3 days? Simply business for Rizzo

CINCINNATI -- Anthony Rizzo says that, for him, the components of a sizzling hot streak pretty much resemble the components for any other day at the office.

"You just play baseball really," the Cubs' first baseman said Sunday after extending his hitting streak to 12 games during a 7-5 loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park. "You just hit balls where they're not standing. You go through the process. It's no different than not getting any hits."

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Andrew Call is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Russell gets autographs on Pokemon cards

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Russell gets autographs on Pokemon cards

Typically, when you're the 23-year-old starting shortstop for the defending World Series champions whose Game 6 grand slam helped snap a 108-year title drought, you're the one giving out autographs. Addison Russell, however, recognizes that being a big leaguer affords him the rare opportunity to get signatures from all his favorite players. So that's exactly what he does -- with Pokemon cards.

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Cubs outmuscled as Cincy sweep bid denied

Cubs outmuscled as Cincy sweep bid denied

CINCINNATI -- It's been a rough first few weeks of the season for Reds right fielder Scott Schebler. But pitcher Bronson Arroyo was fortunate to have Schebler's contributions supporting his strong start in a 7-5 victory over the Cubs as Cincinnati salvaged one game from its three-game series at Great American Ball Park on Sunday.

After Billy Hamilton gave the Reds a 1-0 lead in the first inning by singling, stealing second and third base and scoring on Joey Votto's sacrifice fly, Schebler hit a solo home run to right field in the second inning to make it 2-0 against John Lackey. Schebler then added a jam-shot of a bloop single to center field in the fourth to snap a 2-2 tie.

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Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Andrew Call is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati and covered the Cubs on Sunday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Contreras' slam leads Cubs' HR show in Cincy

Contreras' slam leads Cubs' HR show in Cincy

CINCINNATI -- On a chilly and blustery Saturday afternoon, the Cubs' bats provided plenty of heat with three home runs and a 12-8 victory over the Reds that gave Chicago its first four-game winning streak of the season. Meanwhile, Cincinnati has dropped four games in a row, and seven of nine, to drop to a .500 record at 9-9.

The first-place Cubs (10-7) took a 3-0 lead on lefty starter Cody Reed after three batters with Anthony Rizzo's three-run homer. The Reds answered in the bottom of the first with Joey Votto's three-run homer and a solo shot by Eugenio Suarez -- both against Jake Arrieta. Suarez added a second solo homer, off Cubs reliever Justin Grimm, in the eighth, while Votto added a fifth RBI with a ninth-inning double to finish a triple shy of the cycle.

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Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Andrew Call is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati and covered the Cubs on Saturday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Maddon: Heyward's adjustments 'very effective'

Outfielder homers for second straight game; adds stellar defensive play

Maddon: Heyward's adjustments 'very effective'

CINCINNATI -- Last April, Jason Heyward was the new kid on the block. This April, he is just one of the guys.

Well, not exactly. He's one of the guys who has been one of the stars of the first month of the Cubs' season. Heyward blasted a three-run home run Saturday, his second in as many games, and made a key defensive play during Chicago's 12-8 win over Cincinnati at Great American Ball Park.

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Andrew Call is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati and covered the Cubs on Saturday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Reds tease Cubs fans with 'Bandwagon Cam'

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Reds tease Cubs fans with 'Bandwagon Cam'

There's no fault in losing to the Cubs. After all, that's a team loaded one-to-nine with sluggers and stars coming off a World Series championship.

So, though the Reds lost an extra-inning heartbreaker on Friday and went down, 12-8, in a slugfest on Saturday, they at least won the hearts and minds of those in attendance thanks to their Bandwagon Cam. 

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La Stella to Minors as Cubs keep 8 in 'pen

La Stella to Minors as Cubs keep 8 in 'pen

CINCINNATI -- Chicago manager Joe Maddon gave another endorsement to the eight-man bullpen concept Saturday when infielder Tommy La Stella was activated from the bereavement list and optioned to Triple-A Iowa.

"I kind of like it," Maddon said of carrying an extra pitcher instead of an extra utility player. "I prefer eight guys if possible. There is greater potential negative impact to beating up your bullpen than being caught short on the bench."

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Andrew Call is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati and covered the Cubs on Saturday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rizzo HR helps Cubs to another dramatic win

Rizzo HR helps Cubs to another dramatic win

CINCINNATI -- In 2016, the Cubs won 15 of 19 games vs. the Reds. They also won 15 of the previous 19 games at Great American Ball Park the past two seasons. That trend continued on Friday, but it was far from easy as the game went 11 innings before a 6-5 Cubs victory.

Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen had a three-run lead and was one out away from notching a six-out save in the ninth inning. That was until his first-pitch fastball was scorched for a three-run home run into the right-field seats by Anthony Rizzo to make it a 5-5 game. Until that moment, the Cubs were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

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Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Andy Call is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Cubs on Friday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Down, but not out: Rizzo comes through in 9th

Down, but not out: Rizzo comes through in 9th

CINCINNATI -- Yep, he's Anthony Rizzo for a reason.

The Chicago first baseman and No. 3 hitter was 0-for-3 with a walk Friday night when he stepped to the plate in the ninth inning with two outs, two on base, and the Cubs trailing Cincinnati, 5-2. Reds right-hander Michael Lorenzen was working his second inning and Wandy Peralta, Cincinnati's only left-hander, was warmed up. Cincinnati manager Bryan Price decided to stick with Lorenzen.

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Andy Call is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Cubs on Friday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Happ hits seventh homer for Iowa, leads Minors

Happ hits seventh homer for Iowa, leads Minors

No pitcher has been more dominant than Class A Columbia's Merandy Gonzalez to begin the season. That trend continued on Friday night, as the Mets' No. 14 prospect extended his scoreless innings streak to 20 2/3 by tossing seven frames in a win against Lexington.

Gonzalez allowed just three singles and struck out a season-high seven batters en route to his third win in as many starts for the Fireflies. He retired nine consecutive batters at one point before setting down the final seven he faced to finish with 88 pitches (64 strikes).

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Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Russell hitting ball harder this season

Russell hitting ball harder this season

CINCINNATI -- Addison Russell says he isn't obsessed with statistics. But he was OK with this one.

According to Statcast™, Russell was leading all Major League players with 26 batted balls with an exit velocity of 95 mph or more through Wednesday and was leading the Cubs with an average exit velocity of 92 mph per batted ball.

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Andy Call is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Cubs on Friday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.