Results tagged ‘ Dexter Fowler ’

Seven Cubs named to the NL All-Star team

The Chicago Cubs today had seven players named to the National League All-Star team, the second-most in franchise history, trailing only the eight Cubs named in 2008.

First baseman Anthony Rizzo, second baseman Ben Zobrist, shortstop Addison Russell, third baseman Kris Bryant and outfielder Dexter Fowler were all voted by fans to start the 87th Major League All-Star Game Tuesday, July 12 at San Diego’s Petco Park. Right-handed pitcher Jake Arrieta was named to the All-Star team through the player vote, while left-handed pitcher Jon Lester was named to the club by manager Terry Collins.

The Cubs are just the second team in major-league history to field the starting infield, joining the 1963 St. Louis Cardinals (1B Bill White, 2B Julian Javier, SS Dick Groat, 3B Ken Boyer). The Cubs have never had five players named to start the All-Star Game and are the first team to do so since the 1985 San Diego Padres. Chicago’s five position players are its most since also having five in 1988 (Andre Dawson, Shawon Dunston, Vance Law, Rafael Palmeiro and Ryne Sandberg).

Rizzo became the first Cub to lead the National League in fan voting since Derrek Lee in 2005. A three-time All-Star (2014, 2015 and 2016), Rizzo is the only first baseman in franchise history to be named to three-straight All-Star teams. He is only the fourth Cubs first baseman with three or more appearances, joining Ernie Banks (five All-Star Games as a first baseman), Mark Grace (three times) and Phil Cavarretta (three times). Rizzo is the first Cubs player to start at first base since Derrek Lee in 2005, as Rizzo was the starting designated hitter a year ago.

Zobrist has been named to his third-career All-Star team, joining his selections to the AL squad in 2009 and 2013. He is the first Cubs second baseman to be named to the squad since Ryne Sandberg started the game in 1993 and the fourth Cubs second baseman to be named to the club in the last 50 years, joining Sandberg, Manny Trillo and Glenn Beckert.

Russell has been named to his first All-Star team and is the first Cubs shortstop to start the game since Don Kessinger in 1972. At 22 years old, he is the youngest player in franchise history elected to start the game and second youngest All-Star overall, trailing only shortstop Starlin Castro who was named as a 21-year-old reserve in 2011. Russell is only the fourth Cubs shortstop named to the All-Star team in the last 50 seasons and the seventh overall.

Bryant earns his second All-Star honor in his second season, becoming the first Cubs third baseman to start the game since Aramis Ramirez in 2005. He is the first Cubs third baseman to earn All-Star honors in consecutive seasons since Ron Santo (1971-73) and the fifth Cubs third baseman to earn multiple All-Star honors, joining Aramis Ramirez (twice), Ron Santo (nine times), Randy Jackson (twice) and Stan Hack (four times).

Fowler has earned his first-career All-Star honor and is the first Cubs outfielder elected to start the game since Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome in 2008. Fowler is the first Cubs center fielder named to start the game since Frank Demaree in 1937. He is the first Cubs outfielder overall named to the game since Marlon Byrd in 2010.

On the pitching side, Arrieta earned his first-career All-Star honor and is the first Cubs right-handed starter to make the game since Jeff Samardzija in 2014. Lester has been named an All-Star for the fourth time in his career, first time as a Cub, as he previously earned American League honors in 2010, 2011 and 2014. He is the first Cubs left-handed starter to make the club since Travis Wood in 2013. The last Cubs lefty to pitch in the game was Randy Myers in 1995.

The Cubs have not had multiple pitchers make the game in the same season since four pitchers in 2008, when Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Marmol and Ryan Dempster all pitched in the game (Kerry Wood did not appear).

Cubs place OF Fowler on 15-day DL, recall RHP Edwards Jr.

Edwards(Photo by Stephen Green)

The Cubs today placed outfielder Dexter Fowler on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to June 19) and recalled right-handed pitcher Carl Edwards Jr. from Triple-A Iowa.

Edwards, who will wear uniform No. 6, will be available for the Cubs tonight when they open their three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

The 24-year-old Edwards joins the Cubs for the second time this season, as he served as the club’s 26th man for a doubleheader on May 11 vs. San Diego (he did not appear in a game). Edwards made his major-league debut for the Cubs last season, posting no record with a 3.86 ERA (2 ER/4.2 IP) in five relief appearances. He is 1-1 with one save and a 4.26 ERA (12 ER/25.1 IP) in 24 relief appearances with Iowa this season, limiting opponents to a .185 batting average while striking out 35 batters in 25.1 innings, an average of 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings.

Edwards began the 2015 campaign with Tennessee and turned in a 2.66 ERA (7 ER/23.2 IP) in 13 relief appearances to earn his first promotion to Triple-A in late May. He was named to the U.S. Team in the 2015 Futures Game (0.2 scoreless innings pitched) before capping his Triple-A campaign with a 3-1 record, two saves and a 2.84 ERA (10 ER/31.2 IP) in 23 relief outings.

The right-hander joined the Cubs with right-handed pitchers Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez and infielder Mike Olt in the trade that sent pitcher Matt Garza to Texas in 2013. Edwards is 20-11 with seven saves and a 2.21 ERA (78 ER/317.2 IP) in 110 career appearances, 49 as a starter, in five pro seasons. He has struck out 404 batters in 317.2 innings pitched, nearly 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings.

Fowler, 30, is batting .290 (69 for 238) with 19 doubles, three triples, seven home runs and 28 RBI in 64 games for the Cubs this season.

Cubs bring back OF Dexter Fowler on one-year deal

FowlerGettyImages-492406022The Chicago Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler have agreed to terms on a 2016 contract with a mutual option for the 2017 campaign. To make room for Fowler on the 40-man roster, left-handed pitcher Zac Rosscup has been placed on the 60-day disabled list with left shoulder inflammation.

Fowler, who turns 30 next month, returns to the Cubs after batting .250 (149-for-596) in 156 games and setting career highs in many offensive categories, including 102 runs scored, 17 home runs, 149 hits and 84 walks, which contributed to his .346 on-base percentage, 96 points above his batting average. He batted .272 (73-for-268) with a .389 on-base percentage and a .463 slugging percentage, good for an .852 OPS, in 71 games after the All-Star Break to help lead the Cubs to the National League Championship Series.

The switch-hitter is a career .267 hitter with a .363 on-base percentage in all or part of eight major league seasons with the Colorado Rockies (2008-13), Houston Astros (2014) and Cubs (2015). Per 162 games, Fowler has averaged 29 doubles, 11 triples, 11 homers, 20 stolen bases, 82 walks and a .418 slugging to contribute to a career .781 OPS. Including a .326 average (44-for-135) and .399 on-base percentage last year, Fowler is a career .303 hitter with a .392 on-base percentage when batting from the right side of the plate.

Fowler has exclusively played center field since his first full season in the big leagues in 2009, when he finished eighth in National League Rookie of the Year voting, and his 65 triples since 2009 lead all major leaguers covering the last seven seasons. He set the Rockies record for triples in a single season in 2010 (14) and again in 2011 (15), when he also recorded a career-high 35 doubles.

A native of Atlanta, Fowler was originally selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 14th round of the 2004 draft out of Milton (GA) High School.

1000 Words: Winning in style

On Tuesday, the Cubs punched their ticket to the National League Championship Series with a 6-4 win over the Cardinals in Game 4 of the NLDS. Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber all blasted home runs, and the bullpen sealed the game late to give the Cubs a 3-1 series win.

Yesterday marks the first time in franchise history that the Cubs clinched a postseason series at Wrigley Field. They now await the winner of the Dodgers-Mets NLDS series. The NLCS will get underway on Saturday.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Dexter Fowler is setting the table for the Cubs

Fowler

 (Photo by Stephen Green)

At just 29 years old, Dexter Fowler has already played parts of seven big league seasons and solidified himself as one of the better leadoff hitters in the game. But many still believe the best is yet to come for the talented center fielder. The following story can be found in the April issue of Vine Line.

Prototypical leadoff hitters are a dying breed in baseball. As speed has declined in value and the importance of power has spiked around the game, there are fewer and fewer players who are able to work the count, take walks, run well and get on base at a decent clip.

Since the turn of the century, the Cubs have had only four guys you could truly label leadoff men—and one of the best, Alfonso Soriano, probably would have been much better suited to the middle of the order. Prior to that, there was one year of Juan Pierre in 2006, a few fleeting moments in the mid-2000s when it looked like Corey Patterson might be a decent table-setter, and then you have to go all the way back to Eric Young in 2000-01.

Former manager Rick Renteria deployed seven different leadoff men in 2014, and they combined to hit just .253 with a .303 on-base percentage. In other words, like most major league teams, the Cubs have had a big hole in the leadoff spot for years.

Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and Executive Vice President and General Manager Jed Hoyer hope they have solved that problem—and added a proven center fielder to boot—with the Jan. 19 trade that sent Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily to Houston in exchange for switch-hitter Dexter Fowler. At just 29 years old, Fowler has already played parts of seven big league seasons, and, despite floating around the Houston lineup last year, he has all the skills to be an old-school leadoff man.

“I see a lot of pitches,” Fowler said. “It’s a fact of knowing when to be aggressive and knowing when not to. Just being a leadoff hitter for my whole career, basically, it’s a job that I’ve become accustomed to. [Getting on base] is part of my game, and it’s been part of my game since early in my career, so it’s nothing new to me.”

FAST TRACK
After the Rockies made Fowler a 14th-round draft pick in 2004, he quickly worked his way up to the majors, making his big league debut in 2008 at the age of 22. He was a mainstay at Coors Field until December 2013, when he was traded to the Astros. During his career, the athletic outfielder has played all but one defensive inning in center field and has taken the majority of his cuts from the leadoff spot, a role he’s expected to fill in Chicago.

Despite relatively high strikeout totals—he’s averaged 115 K’s per year over his six seasons of regular playing time—he’s exactly what you want in a leadoff man. During that same six-year stretch, he hit .272 with a stellar .368 on-base percentage, averaging 65 walks and 16 stolen bases per season.

“He has a very good idea of his swing,” said Cubs hitting coach Jon Mallee, who worked with Fowler last season as Houston’s hitting coach. “His approach is second to none in the box, the way he recognizes pitches and the way he doesn’t expand out of the strike zone. He’s one of the best in baseball at just swinging at strikes.”

Though Fowler has always been an above-average big league player and has all the tools to be a star, injuries and inconsistency have thus far kept him from reaching his ceiling.

Between 2009-14, he averaged 128 games per year. But as he enters his age-29 season, the true prime of his career, many on the Cubs are expecting the 6-foot-5, 195-pound player to have a breakthrough campaign.

“This guy is probably on the verge of becoming really, really good,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. “He’s at that age when things start making sense all the way around. He’s a young veteran. He’s had enough experience. So I’m really eager to watch this all unfold.”

For his part, Fowler is glad to be making a return to the National League, where he’s more familiar with the pitchers, and he is ecstatic to be reunited with Mallee in Chicago. He’s also spent several years watching what the Cubs have been building from afar. On a brief rehab assignment at Triple-A Oklahoma City last year, he matched up against the Cubs’ Iowa affiliate and came away impressed with what the organization has percolating.

“It’s an exciting lineup, with the guys coming in,” Fowler said. “We’re all pretty young, but we all have some time in the big leagues. There’s experience there and definitely a lot of talent. My role is just to get on base and just play my game—get on base any way I can, whether it’s hitting a line drive in the gap and running or taking a walk.”

And if Fowler takes his share of walks, that’s just fine with Maddon and the Cubs. The team’s major offensive weakness in recent years has been a low on-base percentage coupled with too many strikeouts. The Cubs ranked 28th in the game last season with a .300 team OBP and led all of baseball with 1,477 whiffs.

While most agree that patience at the plate is more innate than learned, the Cubs coaching staff is hoping Fowler’s pitch recognition and approach will rub off on some of the organization’s younger hitters. At the very least, having an experienced player at the top of the order who can grind at-bats will give the rest of the lineup a better chance to see what the starting pitcher’s stuff looks like on a given day.

“It does help to have a guy who has that [leadoff experience] because the younger players will see how he goes about his business, how he goes about his at-bat,” Mallee said. “It kind of sets the tone. And then he does a really good job of talking to the young guys and telling them, ‘Hey, in this situation, just try to look for something right here. If not, just take your walk.’ Coming from a coaching perspective, it’s nice to have players who have that experience to be able to help the younger guys.”

Few athletes are willing to dub themselves a “team leader,” especially when they’re new to an organization, and Fowler is no exception. But people who have played with him before rave about the intangibles he brings to the clubhouse. The charismatic Georgia native, who came through the famous East Cobb Little League program and was recruited in multiple sports by Dartmouth and Harvard before deferring to his big league dreams, is a cerebral hitter who studies pitchers and is happy to pass his knowledge along to others.

“He’s an awesome teammate,” said pitcher Jason Hammel, who played with Fowler in Colorado from 2009-11. “[He’s] a high-energy guy, always a positive guy. He fits the mold of what they’re trying to bring in here now. [He’s] obviously a guy who is ready to play, understands his duties. He’s prepared, and then he also knows how to have a good time.”

Throughout his career, Fowler has had many influences. He grew up idolizing Ken Griffey Jr., which is why he wears No. 24, but he also watched Andruw Jones patrol the outfield for his hometown Braves. One of his biggest mentors since he turned pro has been none other than all-time home run leader Barry Bonds. When Fowler was still in Colorado, he connected with Bonds through former Rockies coach Glenallen Hill. Fowler said Bonds preaches patience at the plate and the value of getting a good pitch to hit, lessons Fowler first learned from his father years ago.

FIELD WORK
Though Fowler fills another big need for the Cubs as a proven center fielder, one of the knocks on him throughout his career—at least as far as stat-heads are concerned—has been his defense. Long and lanky with a graceful stride, Fowler glides through the outfield, covering a ton of ground, and he’s blessed with a cannon for an arm. Yet, in 111 games in center field last season for the Astros, he had a -21.8 ultimate zone rating and -20 defensive runs saved, well below what you’d expect from an elite center fielder.

It basically comes down to the eye test versus advanced metrics. By the naked eye, Fowler more than looks the part and makes his share of outstanding plays. But the numbers seem to contradict what the eye is seeing. Fowler said all he cares about is what his pitchers think. And if Hammel is any indication, the Cubs’ hurlers will be more than happy to have Fowler prowling the Friendly Confines’ vast outfield.

“I want him out there,” Hammel said. “I couldn’t care less. I don’t even know what the hell all the new [analytics] things that you put together are—FIP and all that crap, whatever it is. I know when he has a glove on, he’s going to go run the ball down. Any time you get a guy in center field who can basically cover all three outfield positions from one, it’s going to help your team.”

Though Fowler has heard the questions about his defense before, he puts very little stock in the critique. And he is definitely not going to be cowed by playing defense at Wrigley Field, which is notoriously tough on outfielders. In his career so far, he’s manned center field in two of the game’s most expansive ballparks—Colorado’s Coors Field and Houston’s Minute Maid Park. He knows what he can do and is confident that Cubs fans will appreciate the effort he gives every day.

“Come watch me,” he said. “That’s the best answer for that. If you know the game, you can watch the game, and you’ll see me go get fly balls and do all that. Then I think you’ll be a fan. You ask pitchers, you ask coaches, ‘Who do you want in center field?’ See what they say. It doesn’t matter what the computer says. Ask the guys who are in the game and watching the game.”

SETTING THE TABLE
Fowler is smart enough to know he’s joining the Cubs at the right time. After several subpar years, the team had a big offseason, adding players like Jon Lester, Miguel Montero and Hammel to an already strong core. Though Fowler becomes a free agent after 2015, he’s most certainly not looking ahead to the offseason or focusing too much energy on putting up a great walk year. He’s too focused on what Epstein calls “the single greatest pursuit left in professional sports.”

“My expectations are to win a championship, as always,” Fowler said. “The excitement around the team right now is second to none. We just want to go and do it for Ernie [Banks].

“It’s awesome being here. You really see what the ‘C’ stands for when you look at the fans, and you look at the organization. To have that on your chest is definitely an honor. It’s a historic organization, and it’s very exciting.”

Many, including Mallee, believe the next step for Fowler is increased power at the plate. His career high is 13 home runs, which he hit with Colorado in 2012. Like most switch-hitters, his overall numbers are better from his natural, or right-hand, side. He didn’t pick up switch-hitting until he was drafted by Colorado in 2005, and he’s worked hard to even out his left-handed swing ever since.

“He’s got more power than he’s shown,” Mallee said. “He’s really an amazing right-handed hitter, and he’s a really good left-handed hitter that gets on base. I think he’s going to hit for more power this year left-handed than he has in the past.”

If the Cubs have, in fact, found a true leadoff hitter who can consistently get on base for the heart of the order, they’ll have a commodity that’s growing ever rarer in today’s game.

They’ll also have a perfect mentor and role model for a young offense still searching for its identity. And that might be just what the organization needs as it turns the corner and becomes a perennial contender in the NL Central.

“The experience is a huge thing,” Mallee said. “Plus, he’s a switch-hitter so it’s like having two guys—a righty leadoff hitter and a lefty leadoff hitter. … For what we’re trying to do to increase our on-base percentage and then get some guys on base in front of the big boys who can drive them in … having that guy set the tone, and leading off the game, and really putting an at-bat on the pitcher, and wearing him down, and seeing pitches and taking pitches for the other guys—that’s just great to have. I’m so excited that we got him.”

—By Gary Cohen

Hot Off the Press: April issue featuring leadoff man Dexter Fowler

VL1504_Cover_NewstandCubs fans from all over the country are understandably excited about the 2015 season. We here at Vine Line feel the same way.

All winter long, we couldn’t wait for Spring Training to arrive so we could catch our first glimpse of Jake Arrieta, Starlin Castro, Dexter Fowler, Jon Lester, Miguel Montero, Anthony Rizzo and the rest. Add in Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, C.J. Edwards, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler, and it portended to be a hot time in the desert.

But just how much more exciting this team really is became readily apparent on our second day with the club at Sloan Park. Like all Spring Training complexes, the Cubs’ beautiful facility in Mesa, Arizona, has a number of practice fields in addition to the main stadium field. Most of the veteran major leaguers—or, as manager Joe Maddon called them, the “varsity squad”—took batting practice in the stadium, while the high-level prospects did their work on Fields 1 and 2.

Though it’s certainly easy to get from one field to the other, there is a bit of distance between them so you need to allot a few minutes for travel.

We were making our usual series of Spring Training videos (check them all out at here on the blog), so we needed to capture footage of several different players. To figure out where we should set up camp that day, we checked the batting groups, which Maddon had posted in the clubhouse. On Field 1 was uber-prospect (and world’s nicest future superstar) Bryant. Well, we had to see him. But Field 2 boasted Almora, Russell and Schwarber. We definitely wanted to catch them too. Of course, there was also the stadium field, where players like Baez, Castro, Fowler, Montero, Rizzo and Soler were taking their hacks.

This posed a bit of a dilemma because, as of this spring, we still hadn’t figured out a way to be in three places at one time.

We ran into this same quandary all through spring camp. It’s not that the Cubs didn’t have exciting players scattered throughout the practice fields in previous years. There just wasn’t quite this volume. And it’s not like you didn’t believe Cubs personnel when they said they felt the playoffs were a possibility in, say, 2014—spring is a time of boundless optimism. But this year, when person after person, without hesitation, said his goal for 2015 was to win the division—or, better yet, the World Series—there was a different intensity to it.

These guys know they are good, and they expect to win. Anything less would be a disappointment.

“The goal is always to win the World Series,” Maddon said. “I don’t understand how a team goes to Spring Training and doesn’t believe that. We have a young core group with some really nice veterans. I want our guys to believe we’re getting to the playoffs and going to the World Series and winning it.”

For the April issue, we got our first chance to meet new center fielder and leadoff man Dexter Fowler, acquired in an offseason trade with the Astros. For a Cubs team that struggled to get on base, lacked a leadoff hitter and was short on everyday outfielders last year, he might just be the perfect acquisition.

We also sat down with new bench coach—and familiar face—Dave Martinez, who was drafted by the Cubs in 1983 and has spent the last seven years by Maddon’s side in Tampa Bay. He spoke with us about returning to Wrigley Field, working with the Cubs’ new manager and setting lofty goals for 2015.

Finally, as the team embarks on a new relationship with CBS Radio WBBM-AM 780, we go back in time to look at the Cubs’ storied history on the dial. The organization was one of the first to see the value of broadcasting games to a wide audience and has remained at the forefront of the medium for nearly a century.

So there you have it—postseason or bust. We like the sound of that. Stick with us for the entire journey in print, on the blog and on Twitter at @cubsvineline. It should be an exciting ride.

—Gary Cohen

Cubscast Mesa: Goals for the 2015 season

Success can be defined in many ways by Major League Baseball players. Some set personal goals, while others just want to stay healthy for the duration of the season. But when we sat down with Cubs personnel to find out their goals for the 2015 season, one thing became abundantly clear: This club expects to win.

We’ll be posting videos and stories from Sloan Park all spring, so make sure you’re watching the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.

Check out the other videos from our Spring Training series:

Cubscast Mesa: Spring sit-down with manager Joe Maddon
Cubscast Mesa: The Lighter Side, If I weren’t a ballplayer …
Cubscast Mesa: Checking in with the 2015 Cubs coaching staff
Cubscast Mesa: The Lighter Side, If I could have one talent or superpower
Cubscast Mesa: The Cubs are setting a positive tone in camp
Cubscast Mesa: The Lighter Side, What the Cubs are watching on TV
Cubscast Mesa: The next wave of Cubs talent
Cubscast Mesa: The Lighter Side, The best thing I did this offseason

Cubscast Mesa: The Lighter Side, If I weren’t a ballplayer …

It’s not easy to make it to the big leagues, and some of the guys who do make it can have short careers. That’s why it’s important to have a fallback plan. We asked some of your favorite Cubs players what they would be doing if they weren’t involved in professional baseball.

You may think you know your Cubs, but do you know which man dreams of running a resort hotel? Or who wants to join the FBI? Check out the above video to learn the answers. Some of them might surprise you (we’re looking at you, Pierce Johnson).

We’ll be posting videos and stories from Sloan Park all spring, so make sure you’re watching the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.

Check out the other videos from our Spring Training series:

Cubscast Mesa: Spring sit-down with manager Joe Maddon

1000 Words: Dexter Fowler is ready for his close up

Fowler-Photo
New Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler smiles for the camera as a storm front blows in at Cubs photo day in Mesa Monday.

Cubs acquire outfielder Dexter Fowler from Houston

Fowler

Dexter Fowler brings much-needed on-base skills to the Cubs lineup. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty)

The Chicago Cubs today acquired center fielder Dexter Fowler from the Houston Astros for infielder Luis Valbuena and right-handed pitcher Dan Straily.

Fowler, 28, is a switch-hitter with a career .271 batting average (726-for-2,682) and a .366 on-base percentage in all or part of seven major league seasons with the Colorado Rockies (2008-13) and Houston Astros (2014). Per 162 games, Fowler has averaged 29 doubles, 12 triples, 10 homers, 19 stolen bases, 81 walks and a .419 slugging to contribute to a career .786 OPS. He is a career .299 hitter with a .391 on-base percentage when batting from the right side of the plate and a career .259 hitter with a .356 on-base from the left side.

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Fowler batted .276 with a .375 on-base percentage—99 points higher than his batting average—and a .399 slugging percentage in 116 games for the Astros last season, his lone season in Houston following his offseason trade from Colorado. He drew at least 65 walks for the fourth season in a row (66). This is also a chance for Fowler to reunite with former Astros hitting coach John Mallee in Chicago.

Fowler has exclusively played center field since his first full season in the big leagues in 2009, when he finished eighth in National League Rookie of the Year voting, and his 57 triples since 2009 lead all major leaguers covering the last six seasons. He set the Rockies record for triples in a single season in 2010 (14) and again in 2011 (15), when he also recorded a career-high 35 doubles. Fowler set career bests in many offensive categories in 2012, including batting average (.300), home runs (13), RBI (53), walks (68, tied), games played (143) and OPS (.863).

A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Fowler was originally selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 14th round of the 2004 Draft out of Milton (Ga.) High School.

Valbuena, 29, batted .249 (119-for-478) with 16 home runs and 51 RBI in 149 games with the Cubs last season.  He was originally claimed off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays on April 4, 2012. Valbuena is a career .229 hitter with 45 homers and 173 RBI in 576 games covering all or part of seven big league seasons with the Seattle Mariners (2008), Cleveland Indians (2009-11) and the Cubs (2012-14).

Straily, 26, is 13-12 with a 4.54 ERA (123/243.2 IP) in 48 big league appearances covering parts of three big league seasons with the Oakland Athletics (2012-14) and Cubs (2014). He was acquired by the Cubs as part of the trade that sent pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland for infielder Addison Russell and outfielder Billy McKinney.