Baseball spring training just around the corner

Spring training begins this month for the Cubs, White Sox and Brewers in Arizona—and the rest of the Major League teams in Arizona and Florida.

Cubs pitchers and catchers report Feb. 18, position players Feb. 23 and the first full squad workout will be Feb. 24 in Mesa.

White Sox pitchers and catchers will report Feb. 20, with position players reporting and the first full workout on Feb. 25 in Tucson.

Brewers dates in Maryvale are Feb. 21 for pitchers, Feb. 23 for catchers, Feb. 27 for position players and Feb. 28 for first full workout.

All three teams will play their first games of spring training on March 4.

Cubs News

Landmark Status Near: Wrigley Field is closer to landmark status after a Chicago City Council committee unanimously approved a plan that would declare the ballpark a landmark but still allow some changes. The council is expected to take up the issue today (Feb. 11).

The Committee on Historical Landmarks and Preservation recommended the council approve the ordinance, but with provisions that would allow the Cubs to build about 200 new box seats and make other possible alterations.

Cubs spokeswoman Sharon Pannozzo said the team would not comment.

Alderman Thomas Tunney, whose ward includes Wrigley, said the team doesn’t plan to block the proposal.

The Cubs and the city have been negotiating for nearly three years on the landmark designation. Wrigley Field opened in April 1914.

The Cubs also have finalized a deal to end their dispute with most of the owners of rooftop bleachers that overlook Wrigley.

The deal generally follows a tentative 20-year agreement reached earlier with the help of U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier, according to Alderman Tunney and Beth Murphy, who owns a rooftop bleacher business.

The rooftop business owners agreed to pay the team about 17 percent of their revenue—expected to bring the Cubs between $1.2 million to $1.7 million a year. The agreement also includes provisions for the owners to be reimbursed if their views are hindered by ballpark alterations, including a proposed expansion of Wrigley’s bleachers.

The deal was signed by the Cubs and owners of 10 of the 13 rooftop businesses the team had sued, Murphy said. Cubs President Andy MacPhail told the Chicago Tribune the team will pursue its lawsuit against the three rooftop owners who were not part of the settlement.

White Sox News

Chisox Sign Takatsu: The White Sox have signed reliever Shingo Takatsu, the first Far Eastern player in the team’s history.

Takatsu joins Mets shortstop Kaz Matsui as the latest Japanese star to jump to the Majors. Matsui, who will become one of three Japanese position players in the Majors this season—along with Hideki Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki—signed with the Mets in December.

Takatsu also will join fellow pitchers Hideo Nomo and Kazuhisa Ishii (Dodgers) and Shigetoshi Hasegawa (Mariners) in the Major Leagues.

Takatsu pitched 13 years in Japan for the Yakult Swallows, setting the league’s save record at 260 and closing out four championships. But the 35-year-old right-hander decided the time was right to pursue the challenge of baseball in the United States and declared his free agency in November, walking away from a possible $2 million with Yakult.

After an open workout for 24 Major League teams and some 30 scouts on Jan. 14 in San Diego, the White Sox were picked out of four teams that showed great interest. Takatsu appreciated the White Sox’s enthusiasm, not to mention the $750,000 contract for 2004 with a $2.5 million team option or a $250,000 buyout in 2005.

It didn’t hurt that his wife, Maki, had studied in the Chicagoland area and enjoyed her time near the city.

His English is limited, but he did manage: “I’m very excited to be here. Chicago is my ‘Field of Dreams.’”

The Sox avoided salary arbitration with left-hander Scott Schoeneweis, who agreed to a one-year contract worth $1,725,000.

Schoeneweis went 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 20 games after being traded to Chicago from the Anaheim Angels on July 29. He had a 1.17 ERA in his final nine appearances.

The former starter was used solely as a reliever last season, making a career-high 59 appearances out of the bullpen. He was 3-2 with a 4.18 ERA and 56 strikeouts. Schoeneweis has a 30-32 career record with a 5.08 ERA in 203 games, including 74 starts.

He can earn an additional $275,000 in bonuses based on starts: $25,000 for 10 starts and $50,000 each for 15, 18, 22, 24 and 26.

The White Sox also signed righthanded reliever Cliff Politte to a one-year contract for $800,000 in 2004 with a club option for $1.3 million in 2005. The Sox lost Tom Gordon and Scott Sullivan from their bullpen in the offseason.

Politte, 29, went 1-5 with 12 saves and a 5.66 ERA in 54 appearances with Toronto last season. He assumed the closer role in May from Kelvim Escobar and converted nine of his first 10 save opportunities. However, Politte went on the disabled list for nearly a month with a strained right shoulder and had just three saves the rest of the way.

Sox general manager Ken Williams told shortstop Jose Valentin that he was not going to be traded to the Yankees or to Anaheim as part of a three-team deal, the Chicago Tribune reported.

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