Cubs' chairman Ricketts sees progress on Wrigley renovation plans

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MESA, Ariz. (AP) -- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said the team is making progress with Chicago city officials on Wrigley Field renovation plans.

However, the efforts to get more night games at Wrigley this season are on hold for now.

"I don't think that's on the table at the moment," Ricketts said of an effort for additional night games in 2013.

The issue was derailed by ongoing conflict with neighborhood leaders, causing Mayor Rahm Emanuel to delay support for the request until the sides reach an agreement on multiple issues.

"All the discussions on night games is toward the future."

Speaking Sunday during his annual spring training address with reporters, Ricketts praised the mayor for being involved in the Cubs' efforts to get the permission to closing Sheffield Avenue for game day street fairs and to lift restrictions blocking the team from putting up more advertising at the ballpark.

He said he believes enough progress will be made on that "in the next few weeks" to ensure the renovation project can begin on time next fall.

The team last month unveiled a $300 million Wrigley renovation plan it says ownership will pay for entirely on the condition it gets the concessions it seeks to allow more stadium-related revenue streams.

"The mayor's been helpful. It'll help move the process forward," Ricketts said.

Ricketts said no new advertising at the ballpark is planned for this season and reiterated that the team has no intention of attempting to play home games somewhere else as a means to accelerate what is scheduled to be a five-year project at the ballpark.

"I think the most important thing we want to remind people is that this is all about winning," said Ricketts, whose family purchased the Cubs in the fall of 2009.

"It's about doing what we have to do to get the resources to give to the baseball organization and the resources we need to restore the park.

"I think we've made a lot of progress. We're still working forward. The mayor's office has been very helpful, but it's still in progress right now."

Ricketts also said he thinks the 2013 team is great and praised the progress his second-year front office, led by president Theo Epstein, has made.

"I just have complete, total confidence that they're moving us in the right direction every day," he said.

GARZA SUFFERS STRAIN

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs right-hander Matt Garza suffered a mild back strain on his left side while throwing batting practice to teammates Sunday and is expected to miss at least a few days of practice.

Whether it will delay his start to the regular season, team officials said they would know more about his prognosis after he is examined again Monday.

"It looks like a mild lat strain," manager Dale Sveum said. "We'll see what happens when he wakes up and see where we are a little bit more (Monday). But it's subsided, and he seems to be doing a lot better now."

Garza got halfway through his throwing schedule when he felt a twinge and left the field with the trainer.

"The ball felt good coming out of my hand. I think that's what I'm most upset about," said Garza, who was considered a candidate to be the Cubs' opening day starter. "But it shouldn't be a big thing, and we'll see (Monday)."

Garza hasn't pitched in a game since July 21, when he left a start in St. Louis because of a "stress reaction" in his pitching elbow.

He has looked impressive the first week of spring training.

"Hopefully, it's really nothing and he doesn't even get really set back as far as opening day, and if not, then we'll have to obviously evaluate the (timetable)," Sveum said. "We have the depth. It's not that big a deal that way. It's just too early to know what plan we're going to take."

With six weeks left before the season opens, Garza said he doesn't think he'll miss any time.

"They tell me good things, and I look forward to (Monday) and see what's going on."

INGE CONFIDENT

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Brandon Inge knows what it's like to be ignored. Even worse, he knows what it's like to be mocked.

The veteran third baseman spent the first half of his career in Detroit playing for some of worst teams in recent memory during the early 2000s. It didn't exactly qualify as a good time.

"It started out, we were a laughingstock for awhile," Inge said.

Then it got even worse. As the Tigers rebuilt, people stopped talking about them at all.

"If it's quiet, it's not really a good thing," he said.

Detroit, however, eventually got itself together thanks in part to Inge's relentless play. At 35 and recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Inge thinks he can still bring it. And he thinks the Pirates are on their way just like the Tigers were not so long ago.

"I can tell they're in the transitioning stages right now," Inge said. "It's going to be fun to be a part of."

Provided his right (throwing) shoulder cooperates. Inge battled the aching joint much of 2012, heading to the disabled list four times in all, the last time coming when the shoulder popped out of place on Sept. 1 while making a place at third for the Oakland Athletics.

The six-month recovery period is almost up and the Pirates felt good enough about Inge's rehab to sign him last week hoping he can provide some depth as a utility player.

"If I started at a different position every day, I don't care," he said. "I love competing and being a part of a team I think I can help. It's more fun."

JETER ON SCHEDULE

TAMPA, Fla. -- Derek Jeter had a miserable offseason he would rather forget.

Not only did the New York Yankees captain not win another World Series ring, his season ended when he had to be helped off the field because of a broken ankle.

"Absolutely terrible," Jeter said Sunday, the spring training reporting day for New York's positions players. "Mentally it was rough, too, but more physical. I was stuck on the couch for a good five, six weeks where I couldn't really move around too much. I had a little scooter to move around. It was not fun."

The 38-year-old broke his left ankle lunging for a grounder in the AL championship series opener against Detroit on Oct. 1, and had surgery a week later. He could start running on a field in the next couple days and expects to be ready for opening day against Boston on April 1.

"Why wouldn't it be realistic?" Jeter said. "I'm right where I'm supposed to be. Opening day, yeah, it's been a goal all along."

CRAWFORD FEELS GOOD

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Injuries, inconsistency and the spotlight of playing in Boston weighed on Carl Crawford, even had him doubting himself for the first time in his career.

It also made him question why he ever left Tampa Bay to sign a $142 million, seven-year contract with the Red Sox.

"You hear a lot of talk about how I just wanted money," Crawford said. "At some point, you just wondered if you made the right decision."

After bottoming out, Crawford feels as though he has a second chance, ready to show the Los Angeles Dodgers and the rest of the baseball that he can again be the player who was one of the best left fielders in the game before those two lost seasons in Boston.

"Coming from over there to here is definitely a different feel," Crawford said.

Crawford was a four-time All-Star during his nine seasons with Tampa Bay, a superb fielder and slasher who could hit for average and wreak havoc on the bases. He led the majors in steals four times with the Rays and hit over .300 five times, earning Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards during his final season with them in 2010.

That set up Crawford for a huge payday on the free-agent market and he decided to play for the Red Sox, hoping for a chance to win a World Series.

Instead, Crawford foundered in Boston, setting career lows with a .255 average and 18 stolen bases in 2011. Then he was limited to 31 games last season due to injuries.

"There definitely was a dark cloud over me when I was in Boston," Crawford said.

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