Expanded Wrigley renovation plans receive approval
Revised $575 million plan includes up to seven outfield signs, video scoreboard
CHICAGO -- Cubs owner Tom Ricketts had an upbeat demeanor as he perused Wrigley Field on Friday.
The Cubs got the approval from the Chicago Landmarks Commission on Thursday for their expanded renovation plans for 100-year-old Wrigley Field.
"It's a day we've been looking forward to for a while now," Ricketts said. "It's great to get to the hearing and get it behind us. We're excited about moving forward.
"Obviously, it's very important for us to get those approvals to move forward. We're excited to begin the renovation process, as opposed to the political process. … We're just glad that it's behind us. I'm not worried about anything that happened in the past. We're just going to go forward."
The commission ruled 6-0 in support of the revised $575 million plan, which includes as many as seven outfield signs, a video scoreboard in left field and a bullpen shift from the foul lines to under the bleachers, which will be demolished and restructured. The outfield bricks and ivy will not be removed.
Ricketts said he was optimistic throughout the process that Thursday's decision would eventually come to pass, and he thanked those who supported it, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
"I was confident that everyone has an incentive to work together to save Wrigley Field," Ricketts said. "Obviously, we've always had a very long-term perspective, so [through] a lot of short-term setbacks or friction in the process, we just kept [it] in perspective and tried to take the high road and keep moving forward. I think we're in a good spot now. We're looking forward to getting things rolling.
"I think [Mayor Emanuel] understands that this is a project that needs to get done -- not only to save an iconic ballpark, but for the jobs and economic development it both saves and creates. I appreciate all the mayor's involvement in the process from start to finish."
Ricketts didn't identify a specific date to break ground, but he noted that the outfield cosmetics will be coordinated throughout the offseason and said the overall project would take an estimated four years to complete.
The five additional signs are limited to 650 square feet each, and they must be spaced at least 20 feet apart. They can be either script or neon, but they can't be billboards or have flashing lights. Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney said the revenue generated from the additional advertising will help finance much of the renovation.
The Cubs delayed the overhaul last year, because rooftop owners threatened to sue over the hindered visibility that the new scoreboard would bring. It has been reduced to 3,990 square feet, down from the original request of 5,700.
Ricketts was cordial yet succinct when discussing the ongoing conversations with the rooftops owners. The rooftop association recently said it would approve the original plan, which had two signs, but it was opposed to adding seven
"Obviously, the hearing was just yesterday. We'll reach out and talk to everybody," Ricketts said. "We're confident there will be a solution that works."
Cubs players and manager Rick Renteria also chimed in on the approval Friday before opening the weekend series against the Braves.
"I think just, in general, just to have the approval to move forward is a big thing for the Cubs, for us," Renteria said. "I know it's been in the making for a long time. I'm just here for the first year, so I know it's kind of been worked through."
Cubs reliever Wesley Wright said he'll miss the intimate fan interaction through the field-level bullpen, but the shift under the bleachers is the safest option.
"It's unique for our fans, because they talk to us and get to see what a Major League-quality pitcher looks like right in front of them," Wright said. "But from a player's perspective, being off the field and kind of out of that area allows you to do a little more … as far as preparing for a game."
"I think the additions and the improvements will just add to [Wrigley Field] and kind of bring us into the modern era," Renteria said. "But I don't think you could ever take away from the reality that we're still in the throes of a very historic ballpark."
Rizzo grateful to fans, Cubs organization
CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo walked into the visitors' clubhouse at Great American Ball Park following the Cubs' 6-4, come-from-behind victory in 12 innings over the Reds on Thursday thinking he had fallen just short in his bid to become an All-Star.
A Cubs public relations staffer had a look on his face like "his dog had just died," so Rizzo assumed he didn't win the National League's Final Vote contest. But manager Rick Renteria called a team meeting to drop the charade: He told Rizzo that he had, in fact, been awarded the final spot on the NL's All-Star roster, and the clubhouse erupted into celebration.
"It's incredible. I walked over to the offices and thanked all the front-office people who were working behind the scenes to promote it and pump it up," said Rizzo, who garnered 8.8 million votes to secure his first All-Star selection. "I'm just very, very appreciative. My family is ecstatic; we've come a long way all together.
"Myself, everyone else around me that has coached me and helped me out through good times and bad times, it's just an accomplishment that I will cherish forever."
Rizzo narrowly edged the Rockies' Justin Morneau and the Braves' Justin Upton. He trailed Morneau until late Wednesday, took a slight lead early Thursday and took control later that day as fans took to Twitter and voted for the Cubs' first baseman using #VoteRizzo.
Rizzo has consequently become a big fan of Twitter.
"Yeah, I love it. I'm just a big fan of how the Cubs went about this," Rizzo said. "They promoted it like no other. The whole city of Chicago, all the fans, I love this city, and it makes me even more proud to be playing for this team and this city."
Rizzo even joked about his reason for exchanging heated words with the Reds on Thursday, which led to both benches clearing.
"I knew there was 30 minutes left in the Final Vote, and I didn't hit a home run that day, so I had to do something," he said.
The incident told Renteria that Rizzo and fellow All-Star Starlin Castro are embracing their increasingly important roles.
"I thought Anthony standing up in that moment yesterday during the ballgame showed that he's got a little bit of heart in what it takes to be a leader, and I think everybody gravitated to it," Renteria said. "They're growing up."
Barney returns, but Alcantara staying for now
CHICAGO -- The Cubs will keep Arismendy Alcantara on the roster through Sunday, but it's unclear if he'll still be with the club following the All-Star break.
He further strengthened his case for an extended stay in the bigs in Friday's 5-4 win over the Braves. A day after going 4-for-5, Alcantara singled with two outs in the ninth, stole second and scored the winning run on Justin Ruggiano's walk-off single.
Alcantara was called up on Wednesday to fill in for Darwin Barney, who was on paternity leave. Barney returned Friday, but the Cubs decided to keep Alcantara around longer than originally planned because of their current pitching situation. With the All-Star break around the corner and starters Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood lined up for the final two games of the first half, the club optioned right-handers Kyle Hendricks and Blake Parker to Triple-A Iowa and recalled lefty Zac Rosscup from Iowa before Friday's game.
That allowed the club to keep Alcantara, who is considered an offensive upgrade at second over Barney. The 22-year-old hit .307/.353/.537 with 21 stolen bases and 11 triples in 89 games for Iowa this season, while Barney has posted a .224/.261/.316 line in 70 games for the Cubs.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria said the organization will determine after this weekend what it will do with Alcantara.
"Again, I think that any player, when they impact you and show you what they have, I think the easiest thing to do is for people to start to speculate if he will stick around," Renteria said. "We'll have to make that decision as an organization when we come to it. It would be premature and irresponsible for me to say something like that, but he does impact the way you view him, for sure."
Renteria plans to move Alcantara -- who played 70 games at second base, six at shortstop and 11 in center field at Triple-A this year -- around the diamond so that he plays on a consistent basis. Renteria said Alcantara worked out in center fielder prior to Friday's game, and he may get the start there on Saturday.
"I think that any time you bring up a young prospect ... they have to play. We have to see them," Renteria said. "I'm going to see what I'm going to do in terms of keeping him in there and balancing out the lineup a little bit."
Bonifacio beginning rehab assignment
CHICAGO -- Emilio Bonifacio will begin his rehab assignment on Friday with the Arizona League Cubs, the organization's Rookie-level affiliate.
Bonifacio has been on the disabled list with a right oblique strain since June 13. He sustained the injury the previous day against the Pirates. In his first at-bat, he took a swing that caused him to fall to the ground, and he limped off the field with the support of head athletic trainer PJ Mainville.
Bonifacio is hitting .261/.307/.340 in 61 games this season.
• Thursday's victory over the Reds snapped a six-game losing streak, which Renteria said wasn't caused by the July 4 trade involving Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
"I'll be honest with you, I think it's coincidental. We didn't hit well with runners in scoring position as well as we should have," he said. "We had a couple of games where we weren't able to hold it, and I don't think it had anything to do with the change."
• Rizzo became the first Cub to win the NL Final Vote contest, and he became the youngest Cub to make the All-Star team as a first baseman.
• By making his Major League debut on Thursday, Hendricks became the third Cubs starter to do so in a 13-day stretch that started June 28. Per Elias Sports Bureau, that marked the first time three Cubs starters made their big league debuts in a span of 13 days or fewer since 1948, when Bob Rush, Cliff Chambers and Dutch McCall did it in a six-day span.
• Castro is the third shortstop in Cubs history to earn three All-Star nods, joining Ernie Banks (nine times) and Don Kessinger (six times).
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. Joe Popely is a contributor to MLB.com. Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.