Cubs shift affiliate from Kane County to South Bend

New Class A partnership to run through 2018 season

Cubs shift affiliate from Kane County to South Bend

CHICAGO -- The Cubs announced a partnership with South Bend (Ind.) to host their Class A Midwest League affiliate, leaving Kane County after two seasons. The deal with South Bend runs through the 2018 season.

"It's tough to disappoint those people [in Kane County] and leave, but I wouldn't be doing my job if we weren't doing the right thing for our players," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Thursday. "One area we don't mess around with is player development. Our success will be impacted in large part by how we develop our young players and get them ready for the big league level."

South Bend had been the Diamondbacks' affiliate from 2007 through this season.

The Cubs had moved to Kane County (Geneva, Ill.) because of its proximity to Chicago, and even though the Cougars' ownership had promised to make changes that met the Chicago team's specifications, it wasn't enough to stay. Epstein knows the news wasn't well received in Kane County.

"I don't think in this industry you can avoid looking like 'bad guys,' and [you] just have to roll with it and make sure you're making decisions for the right reasons," he said. "And in this case, we have to do what's best for our prospects and the organization moving forward."

South Bend will announce new names, logos and uniforms on Sept. 25, as well as some renovations planned for the facility. The South Bend Silver Hawks won five Midwest League titles and 12 division titles in 26 seasons as an affiliate of the D-backs and the White Sox. The Cubs' Kane County team won a franchise-record 91 games this year and went unbeaten in the playoffs to win the Midwest League championship.

"Today is a turning point," said Andrew Berlin, owner of the South Bend franchise. "I made a promise to the thousands of people and local government officials who welcomed me with open arms three years ago. I promised that I would return the team to its former glory days. And I promised that I'd do everything I could to bring people back downtown and prove that this is a wonderful place to invest in.

"Now, one of the best and most beloved brands in the history of Major League Baseball is making a bold statement about this place, too. The Chicago Cubs are giving this region a big vote of confidence."

Epstein complimented the ownership and staff at Kane County, saying they did a "first-class job."

"The South Bend renovation offers a facility that we feel will make a profound difference for our prospects, and that was the key factor in the end," Epstein said.

Extra bases

• According to reports late Thursday, the Cubs have signed a two-year deal with the Class A short season Eugene Emeralds, ending the Minor League team's 14-year relationship with the Padres. The Cubs had a team in Boise since 2001 until the Hawks signed a new player development contract with the Rockies.

• Outfielder Arismendy Alcantara, who suffered a mild right wrist sprain on Monday, was able to hit off a batting tee and took batting practice Thursday, and he could return to the Cubs' lineup soon. Alcantara was injured when he ran into the brick outfield wall.

Anthony Rizzo did not start Thursday, part of the Cubs' plan to ease him back into game action after missing three weeks with a lower back strain. The first baseman is expected to be in the lineup on Friday.

• Pitching coach Chris Bosio asked Cubs reliever Carlos Villanueva to sub for bullpen coach Lester Strode, who had to attend to a family matter. Villanueva made his debut Wednesday, and closer Hector Rondon complimented the veteran.

"I didn't want to mess up," Villanueva said. "My job depends on how those guys do. I'm glad to help. I feel good that they trust me. It was definitely a first."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.