Chicago Cubs look to make a run at smart, assertive baserunning

  • Chicago Cubs' Javier Baez beats a throw to third for a triple on Saturday in Mesa, Ariz. New Cubs coach Brian Butterfield has been vocal this spring about improving the team's baserunning.

    Chicago Cubs' Javier Baez beats a throw to third for a triple on Saturday in Mesa, Ariz. New Cubs coach Brian Butterfield has been vocal this spring about improving the team's baserunning. Associated Press/file

Updated 2/26/2018 4:01 PM

MESA, Ariz. -- The Chicago Cubs are not going to become a swashbuckling, basestealing team anytime soon.

That's even with Kyle Schwarber's 2 stolen bases in one inning Sunday.


"It's not a big goal," Schwarber said with a smile Monday. "Situation dictated it."

But there is one thing the Cubs are trying to do, and that's become a good baserunning team. You don't have to steal a lot of bases or even possess a lot of speed to accomplish that.

Manager Joe Maddon was happy that the slimmer and trimmer Schwarber was able to nab a couple of bags. He also seems satisfied with the baserunning as a whole in the early going.

"Obviously you can see that he does look better, that he is running better, he is moving better," Maddon said. "I just like the assertiveness on the bases in general. How about the scoring of the run (Sunday) by (Mike) Freeman? Great job by him. Great job by the third-base coach. You can't do those kinds of things unless you get good secondary leads and you have that in your mind to begin with.

"And I really appreciated that about that with Mike. I let him know that."

In addition to crediting the runners, Maddon also has sung the praises of new third-base coach Brian Butterfield, who has been a vocal and demonstrative presence in camp regarding baserunning.

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"I talked to Butter about it; it's one of those things that you want to be able to do during the course of the season but you can't do it unless the runner gives you a chance to do it. If the runner does not come at you hard, if he doesn't get a good secondary (lead), if he doesn't do that, it can't happen. That's something that goes beyond data. That's good old-fashioned horse sense, baseball horse sense."

Schwarber also had good words for Butterfield, who came to the Cubs last fall from the Boston Red Sox.

"Butter's doing a really good job with all of us," Schwarber said. "He's really good at breaking things down and really explaining why, what our focus needs to be out there. It's like he's on the bases, too, with us when he's at third base. Just the short time that we've had him, he's definitely made an impact on our baserunning."

Debut for the new guy:

Tyler Chatwood, the Cubs' No. 5 starting pitcher, made his Cactus League debut Monday. He threw 12 pitches, 8 strikes, in the first inning before exiting. Speedy Dee Gordon reached on Addison Russell's throwing error leading off. Russell rushed the throw.

After a sacrifice bunt and a single, Chatwood ended the inning by getting former Cub Junior Lake to ground into a 4-6-3 double play.

"It was awesome," said Chatwood, who signed a free-agent deal with the Cubs in the off-season after pitching for the Rockies. "I was nervous. I'm not going to lie to you. The different uniform for the first time in awhile. It was nerve-wracking a little bit. Once I got out there and threw the first pitch, I was good. And just try to throw strikes and get outs. So that was my focus. But it was definitely exciting to be a part of that now."


Scary moment:

Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez was hit on the upper right forearm by a line drive Monday off the bat of Cubs catcher Victor Caratini in the second inning. Hernandez grabbed his arm in pain and left the game. A Mariners spokesman said Hernandez was being taken back to the team's spring facility to determine if X-rays or further tests were needed.

Bryant out:

Third baseman Kris Bryant was a late lineup scratch because of illness. The Cubs expect him back in camp Tuesday.

• Twitter: @BruceMiles2112

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