Brandon Belt checks in from the Dominican Republic


Brandon Belt checks in from the Dominican Republic

As Brandon Belt gets ready to wrap up his time in the Dominican Republic for winter ball, he took a few minutes to answer some questions via email. Some are baseball related, but I was also curious about the culture, his experiences, and of course the food. --------Hi Brandon! Just wanted to check into see how everything is going down at winter ball. The fans would love to hear from you.I started playing winter ball on October 14th and I'll be coming home on November 23rd. Everything is going good. I've been playing pretty well and I've gotten back to the place where I want to be hitting wise. I have been very fatigued though and I'm ready for some rest, but I want to make sure I finish strong.

Despite the fatigue, are you glad you went?Even though I am exhausted, I am glad that I came because it allowed me to face good competition against good pitchers. As I mentioned, it also allowed me to get back to that place where I want to be as far as hitting goes after a disappointing and inconsistent half year in the big leagues.Aside from baseball, what's been your favorite part?Apart from baseball, my favorite part about being down here in the Dominican is the scenery and going to the beach on the off days. It is absolutely beautiful down here. My hotel is right on the water. On the off days, all of the American guys either go to the beach or the pool which is awesome since for the past 5 or 6 years I haven't had any time to do that because of summer or pro ball. I have had the worst farmers tan over that time so my stomach, back, shoulders, and chest were thanking me for the sunlight.Any weird foods you've tried?The weirdest food I've tried down here has been fried plantains, which are pretty good. Other than that, I usually just eat any American food that I can get my hands on. We have a Champs Bar and Grill here at the hotel so that's where I get most of my food from. I will say that I have eaten some of the best steaks I have ever consumed in my life down here. I don't know why that is but they are delicious.Anyone in particular you've bonded with down there?I haven't bonded with anyone in particular down here I don't think, but I have bonded with just about all of the Americans. I got lucky. I'm on a team that has a lot of cool guys and we all became pretty good friends within the first couple of days. A few of their names are Cole Figeroua, Brett Wallace, Sam Narron, Mike Cervanak, David Carpenter, Everett Teaford, Graham Godfrey and Steve Clevenger.Has your wife been able to visit?My wife did get to come visit for 10 days which made the time go by a little faster. It was nice for her to come see what baseball is like in another country. The people down here have so much passion for the game which makes it even more appealing. We were able to spend a couple of nights on the beach while she was here so that was a lot of fun.Looking forward to getting back? What's on the menu for Thanksgiving?As much fun as I have had down here, I can't wait to get home and spend time with my friends and family. We have so much on the menu for Thanksgiving I can't even write it all down but my favorite is my Aunt Donna's cheese potatoes, my Aunt Nita's rolls, and of course the turkey and ham.

Cubs come alive behind Schwarber, Arrieta; World Series tied 1-1


Cubs come alive behind Schwarber, Arrieta; World Series tied 1-1


CLEVELAND -- Jake Arrieta made a teasing run at history, Kyle Schwarber drove in two runs and the Chicago Cubs brushed off a shutout to even the World Series with their first Fall Classic win in 71 years, 5-1 over the Cleveland Indians in Game 2 on Wednesday night.

Arrieta carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, briefly invoking Don Larsen's name, before the Indians touched him for two hits and a run. However, the right-hander helped give Chicago just what it needed - a split at Progressive Field - before the Cubbies return to their Wrigley Field den for the next three games starting Friday night.

The Cubs hadn't won in the Series since beating Detroit 8-7 in 1945 to force Game 7.

The free-swinging Schwarber, who made it back for Chicago's long-awaited Series return after missing most of the season with an injured left knee, hit an RBI single in the third off Cleveland's Trevor Bauer and had another in the Cubs' three-run fifth - highlighted by Ben Zobrist's run-scoring triple.

Even the presence of star LeBron James and the NBA champion Cavaliers, sporting their new rings, couldn't stop the Indians from losing for the first time in six home games this postseason.

And Cleveland manager Terry Francona's magical touch in October finally fizzled as he dropped to 9-1 in Series games.

With rain in the forecast, Major League Baseball moved the first pitch up an hour in hopes of avoiding delays or a postponement.

It turned out to be a good call as the game went on without a hitch and ended after more than four hours as light rain was beginning to fall.

Arrieta and the Cubs provided the only storm.

The bearded 30-year-old coasted through five innings without allowing a hit, the first pitcher to get that deep in a Series game with a no-hitter since David Cone of the New York Yankees in 1998.

For a brief period, Arrieta looked as if he might challenge Larsen's gem - a perfect game - in 1956 before Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, a die-hard Cubs fan as a kid, doubled with one out in the sixth.

Before that, Cleveland hitters had a couple good swings, and drew three walks, but couldn't mount a real threat. Arrieta has two career no-hitters, in fact, including the only one in the majors this year.

Cubs lefty Mike Montgomery replaced Arrieta and worked two scoreless innings before Aroldis Chapman came in and unleashed his 103 mph heat while getting the last four outs.

The teams will have an off day before the series resumes with Game 3 at Wrigley, which will host its first Series game since Oct. 6, 1945, when tavern owner Billy Sianis was asked to leave with his pet goat, Murphy, and a curse was born.

Josh Tomlin will start for the Indians, who will lose the designated hitter in the NL ballpark, against Kyle Hendricks.

Schwarber might also wind up on the bench after two days as the DH.

With a gametime temperature of 43, the weather was more fitting for the Browns and Bears to bang heads than the boys of summer.

The Cubs were the ones who came up thumping after being blanked 6-0 in Game 1 by Corey Kluber and Cleveland's shut-down bullpen.

Zobrist's one-out triple triggered the fifth as the Cubs opened a 5-0 lead, not that Arrieta needed it.

After Anthony Rizzo walked following a 10-pitch at-bat, Zobrist laced a ball off Zach McAllister that was going to be a double until right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall slipped and fell. Rizzo was waved around and Zobrist hustled into third.

Schwarber followed with his second RBI and reliever Bryan Shawn later walked No. 9 hitter Addison Russell with the bases loaded.

Unlike his start in Toronto on Oct. 17, when his stitched cut opened up and Bauer was forced to make a bloody departure in the first inning, his finger held up fine.

The Cubs, though, put a few nicks in him in 3 2/3 innings.

The drone accident has brought attention to the quirky Bauer, and one Chicago fan tried to rattle the right-hander by sending a smaller version of the remote-controlled, flying object that cut him.

Bauer posted a photo of it on Twitter, saying "I see the (at)Cubs fans love me! How nice of them to send me a gift!"

The Cubs, who were off balance from the start against Kluber, scored their first run in a Series game since `45 in the first on Rizzo's RBI double.

Bauer needed 51 pitches to get through two innings, and he was one strike from getting out of the third unscathed when Chicago turned a walk and to singles into a 2-0 lead.

Cubs: Hendricks is coming off his brilliant performance in Game 5 of the NLCS when he pitched two-hit ball for seven innings as the Cubs clinched their first pennant in 71 years. The right-hander went 16-8 during the regular season with a league-leading 2.13 ERA.

Indians: It will be an emotional night for Tomlin, who will pitch on 12 day's rest with his ailing father, Jerry, in attendance. The elder Tomlin became stricken with a spinal condition in August, when Tomlin was struggling on the mound. The right-hander more than recovered and rescued Cleveland's rotation in the postseason, winning both starts.

Giants catching prospect Garcia relishing reps in Arizona Fall League


Giants catching prospect Garcia relishing reps in Arizona Fall League

After the Giants selected him in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft, catcher Aramis Garcia quickly opened eyes with his power. Garcia totaled 15 home runs between Rookie Ball and Short Season Single-A in only 28 games after the draft. 

The next year, Garcia equaled his 15 long balls and spent the majority of his first full pro season at High Single-A. He also improved overall as a hitter, raising his 2014 slash line of .225/.301/.343 to .264/.342/.431 in 2015. Garcia's promotion to the next rung in the farm system ladder -- the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels -- was derailed by a rough injury. 

He sustained a facial fracture in May while sliding into second base, taking a knee to the face in an attempt to break up a double play. The injury kept him out until the end of July and limited Garcia to 47 games in 2016.

When the chance to play in the Arizona Fall League for the Scottsdale Scorpions arose, Garcia jumped at the opportunity. 

"First thing I did was call my parents and let them know," Garcia told on Monday. "I was just really excited for getting the opportunity to play against guys who are extremely talented and obviously make up for reps, which are extremely important."

Garcia never did exactly find his rhythm after the injury and finished the season batting .257/.323/.340 with two homers in 41 games. In the first half, the 23-year-old hit .298/.359/.369 compared to a lowly .200/.273/.300 in the second half. 

The catcher known more for his offense than defense is off to a slow start at the plate while facing some of the top prospects in baseball. Through six games, he has gone 3-for-17 at the plate, good for a .176 average. But, Garcia acknowledged he's focusing heavily on his defense in the AFL. 

"I feel like when somebody tries to steal on me, I tend to take it a little bit personally," he said. "It's definitely something I take pride in, something I work on hard every day. There's a little routine I do with receiving and footwork, things like that every day."

Behind the dish, Garcia caught 38 percent of base runners looking to swipe a bag on him last season. Through his three years in the minors, Garcia has erased 34 percent of base stealers and owns a .993 fielding percentage.