Chicago Cubs open Cactus League play Saturday vs. Brewers

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, here talking with the media during the team's annual convention last month, is the favorite player of Bartlett's Jonathon Holiday, who is in Mesa, Ariz., as a special guest of the team.

    Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, here talking with the media during the team's annual convention last month, is the favorite player of Bartlett's Jonathon Holiday, who is in Mesa, Ariz., as a special guest of the team. Associated Press

 
 

MESA, Ariz. -- Ready or not, the Cactus League season begins Saturday for the Chicago Cubs as they take on the Milwaukee Brewers at Sloan Park.

Another day of rain Friday limited the Cubs to mostly indoor work. There was even some snow in the northern extremes of the Valley of the Sun.

"It's kind of entertaining except that it's messing up our day a little bit," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We got everything in. We did really well. Of course, the actual pitchers throwing to hitters did not occur.

"From my perspective, it was a really good day. We're just missing that one element (work on the practice fields). The facility itself, even in spite of bad weather, permits us to do things other groups are not able to do. So I'm pretty grateful about that."

Let the games begin:

Rain could not dampen the spirits of seven families from Advocate Children's Hospital in Park Ridge. The kids, who are undergoing treatment for serious illnesses, received an all-expense-paid trip to Mesa to meet Cubs players and coaches.

They're scheduled to attend Saturday's Cactus League opener.

Despite a steady rain, the families were able to watch an abbreviated workout and meet and get hugs from some of their favorite players.

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"It's just really exciting," said 13-year-old Jonathan Holiday of Bartlett. "I never thought I'd meet any of the coaches or players. It's really fun, and it's a new experience."

Jonathan, a pitcher when he plays baseball, said Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is his favorite player and that infielder David Bote took a photo with him and signed a ball and jersey for him.

Minor matters:

The Cubs made several changes in their minor-league system.

Mark Johnson, manager at the Cubs' Class AA Tennessee affiliate, was promoted to catching coordinator for the system. Johnson managed the Kane County Cougars to the 2014 Midwest League title.

Jimmy Gonzalez, who had been manager at Class A South Bend last year and was set to be at Class A Myrtle Beach, moves up to Tennessee. Longtime organizational manager Buddy Bailey takes over at South Bend.

Steve Lerud moves from short-season Class A Eugene to Myrtle Beach. Lance Rymel, who had managed one of the Cubs' clubs in the Dominican Republic, goes to Eugene.

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