Cleat Geeks

Wrigley Weekly Wrap-up

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iThe Cubs announced that Javier Baez will start the season on the 15-day disabled list with a thumb contusion. Baez suffered the injury during a spring training game on March 20th. “I’m mad I’m losing my first Opening Day, but, you know, I feel good,” he said last Wednesday. “I hit two days in a row. When they come back (to Arizona) I’ll be ready.” Baez said he didn’t try to talk the team out of placing him on the disabled list even though he indicated several days ago that he was healthy. The issue isn’t the thumb, it’s mostly about that he hasn’t had enough at-bats to get ready.

Baez hurt himself by sliding head first into first base and it’s the second time in as many years he’s gotten a hand injury sliding head first. “I think it’s an instinctive thing where you want to reach for the bag with your hands,” manager Joe Maddon stated. “First of all, run through the bag at first base. You don’t have to slide.” Baez will stay in Arizona to get at-bats while the team starts their season in Anaheim. He’ll be eligible to come off the disabled list on Saturday when the Cubs are in the middle of a series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Then they head back to Chicago for their home opener on April 11th. “I’ll be there when we go to Chicago,” Baez said. “We’re all on the same page. We don’t want to rush anything.”

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The Cubs set their Opening Day 25-man roster. Along with Javier Baez, these players will also start the season on the disabled list: RHP Dallas Beeler (right shoulder inflammation), RHP Aaron Brooks (hip contusion), and infielder Christian Villanueva (right fibular fracture). The Cubs’ final 25 includes 13 pitchers: Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks. Plus, relievers: Clayton Richard, Travis Wood, Adam Warren, Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, Trevor Cahill, Neil Ramirez, and Hector Rondon. The rest of the roster includes catchers David Ross, Kyle Schwarber, and Miguel Montero; infielders Tommy La Stella, Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, and Anthony Rizzo; and outfielders Jason Heyward, Dexter Fowler, Matt Szczur and Jorge Soler.

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As I mentioned last week, Wrigley Field will now have metal detectors and the Cubs have assured fans that arriving early will be well worth it. The marquee gate has been restored and the ticket windows have shifted several feet north of the main entrance. New ramps have been constructed near the location of the Western gate. The restoration of steel and concrete on the main concourse will continue. All bleacher sections will open with the addition of the Budweiser Bleacher Bar at the entrance serving V2-160339949.jpg&maxw=300&q=100&cb=20160331133559&cci_ts=20160331133556beverages. Among the new drink options will be Chicago Dog Bloody Mary, classic Bloody Mary with a celery salt and poppy seed rim, skewer with a mini Vienna Beef Chicago dog served in a souvenir mason jar. Chicago favorite ‘Hot Doug’s’ will also continue to offer a rotating menu of sausages in the bleachers.

The Wrigley marquee has been restored and will be reinstalled before the home opener against Cincinnati. About 7,000 new seats were installed in the left field terrace section. The team will also open a Marquee Grill serving traditional ballpark food in the back of the marquee on the terrace level. To stay with their plan of maintaining Wrigley’s authentic look of the 1930s, the return of the ornamental fencing and terracotta along the façade on the west side is nearly completed. Much of the work near the Marquee Gate has been completed, as well. The physical structure of the Western Gate is nearly completed, but work will continue throughout the season, with the entrance open to fans once the plaza opens in 2017. Wrigley will have the same number of women’s and men’s bathroom fixtures as it had at the end of last season.

Not only do the fans get upgrades, but so do the players. Their narrow, shoebox-sized clubhouse will turn into a temporary batting tunnel. Their walk to the field will be longer, but they will be preparing in a 30,000-square foot clubhouse that is second only to the New York Yankees in size. Joe Maddon will no longer have to walk through the clubhouse and a narrow corridor to address reporters in a dinky room, he will only need to cross a short path to address reporters. But he was more anxious to see his players make the most of their new digs and not spend as much time preparing on the field. “The old configuration was probably more difficult for our guys mentally to have confidence in their ability to get ready during part of the game, based on facilities,” Maddon said. “So I think this year they’ll feel better about it, which I’m happy about.” Maddon added: “There’s just a whole myriad of items that will be there that will permit them to get ready in a more intelligent manner and not just wear themselves out.”

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