CHICAGO -- An Army serviceman who risked his life to save another's during battle, a Marine who has provided an outlet for veterans to show their artistic side and a serviceman making sure everyone can get a ride are among the finalists in Major League Baseball and People magazine's "Tribute for Heroes" campaign.
The finalists connected to the Cubs include Richard Bennett of DeKalb, Ill., Jim Wagner of Dubuque, Iowa, and Richard Casper of Chicago. They are among the 90 finalists announced Tuesday in the campaign, a national initiative that recognizes veterans and military service members and builds upon both the commitment of MLB and the magazine to honor these heroes.
Fans are encouraged to visit TributeForHeroes.com to view the full list of finalists and to vote on their favorite stories through June 30.
One winner from each of the 30 MLB teams will be included in the All-Star week festivities and recognized in pregame ceremonies leading up to the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field on July 16 on FOX.
The "Tribute for Heroes" winner will be featured in the July 22 issue of People, which will hit newsstands July 12.
Bennett served in the Army's 101st Airborne Division. During a deployment to Afghanistan, his unit came under fire on a daily basis. While on an air assault mission to the Korengal Valley, Bennett ran 35 meters through heavy enemy fire and threw himself on the platoon's fallen medic to shield him from further wounds.
Heavy fire continued all around as he pulled his fellow soldier to cover. That soldier is now recovering.
For his actions, Bennett was awarded the Silver Star. He's pursuing a bachelor's degree at Northern Illinois University and hopes to work with the Wounded Warriors Project after graduation.
Casper survived four different IED explosions during his tour in Iraq as a Marine. But despite sustaining PTSD and traumatic injuries to the left side of his brain, he calls himself "lucky," because those injuries caused the right side to become dominant. He now enjoys all art, focusing on ceramics and photography. After his return to the U.S., he graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago and started CreatiVets, a nonprofit for disabled veteran artists and writers, a charity that helps wounded vets through art and music.
Wagner was wounded in action in Vietnam, and instead of going home after his wounds were treated, he returned to his outfit and served the remaining months of his tour of duty. He received the Purple Heart for his wounds, valor and bravery. In 2009, he founded Operation We Care, which helps honorably discharged vets. In '11, he founded a veterans community center. He's the president of "Give a Lift to a Vet," which supplies a new van every two to three years for transporting veterans to and from medical appointments.
Cubs deal for Nationals reliever Rodriguez
CHICAGO -- The Cubs acquired right-handed reliever Henry Rodriguez from the Nationals for Minor League right-handed pitcher Ian Dickson Tuesday night.
To make room on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Eduardo Sanchez, who was at Triple-A Iowa, was designated for assignment.
Rodriguez, 26, went 0-1 with a 4.00 ERA in 17 relief appearances with the Nationals, totaling 18 innings. He limited opponents to a .203 batting average against, including a .194 mark by right-handers and a .211 mark by left-handers. He was designated for assignment June 4.
He has pitched all or part of five Major League seasons with the Athletics and Nationals, and has a career 4.23 ERA in 143 relief appearances. Rodriguez was not expected to arrive in Chicago in time for Wednesday's game.
Dickson, 22, a 35th-round pick in the 2011 Draft, was 2-2 with a 6.88 ERA in 11 appearances (three starts) with Class A Kane County.
Sanchez, 24, was 0-1 with a 9.82 ERA in six relief appearances at Iowa. He was claimed off waivers from the Cardinals on May 21.
Stewart suspended after Twitter statements
CHICAGO -- Ian Stewart was suspended without pay from Triple-A Iowa by the Cubs on Tuesday after his rant on Twitter about his status in the organization and Chicago manager Dale Sveum, who called the comments "unprofessional."
Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, said the length of Stewart's suspension would be announced either later Tuesday or Wednesday. The Cubs were still "jumping through some legal hoops" regarding the discipline, Epstein said.
"There is a loyalty clause in his contract that requires a certain standard of personal conduct, and [Stewart] didn't adhere to that, so he'll be suspended," Epstein said Tuesday.
Stewart apologized for his comments Tuesday afternoon. He tweeted: "I want to apologize to the entire Cubs organization for my comments on twitter." Stewart added: "I let my frustrations get the best of me and in no way want to be a distraction."
"I am focused on getting back to the big leagues and am working every day to make that happen," Stewart said.
Said Epstein: "He made a mistake, he apologized for it, we're taking some disciplinary action, but it's over at this point."
In particular, Epstein wasn't happy with the comments directed toward Sveum.
"I think it's pretty obvious that it's not appropriate to criticize your manager and organization on Twitter," Epstein said. "I think it's a pretty isolated case, literally and figuratively."
Epstein said he wasn't surprised by Stewart's comments, knowing the third baseman was frustrated with his situation.
Sveum said he lobbied the Cubs to bring Stewart back after the 2012 season, in which he only played 55 games because he needed wrist surgery.
"I was all on board to bring him back and give him another chance and give him a chance to prove what he can do at the big league level with the Cubs, and obviously it didn't work out," Sveum said. "It's unfortunate that people have to vent their frustrations through social media."
In Spring Training, Sveum said the third-base job was Stewart's to win, but he lost it to Luis Valbuena. Stewart strained his left quad in the first intrasquad game and never played any Cactus League games.
What about Stewart's tweet that Sveum didn't like the infielder?
"Everybody doesn't like me," Sveum said. "That's the way it is."
Stewart's agent, Larry Reynolds, issued a statement on Tuesday, saying it might be better if the third baseman was released.
"Ian is very apologetic for venting his frustrations with his situation in that manner," Reynolds said. "He has apologized to the Cubs organization and does not want to be a further distraction.
"With that being said, if the Cubs don't have Ian in their future plans, I feel that it is in the best interests of both parties for the Cubs to release him and end this relationship," Reynolds said.
Stewart, 28, who started at first base Tuesday for Iowa against Oklahoma City, was 1-for-3 with a RBI double Monday night. After the game, he vented on Twitter after a fan asked if there was "any word when you're heading back to Chicago." Stewart replied: "Probably never."
Another person responded, saying Stewart should quit baseball. Stewart's response: "Why should I quit? I'm making 2 mill in AAA like u would give that up by quitting."
Stewart signed a one-year, $2 million contract last December after the Cubs non-tendered him.
Someone else said that if Valbuena was hurt, Stewart would be called up. Stewart's response: "I honestly believe if Valbuena were to get hurt cubs wouldn't cal [sic] me back up just MHO."
He then added: "I said that because the cubs are done with me ... there [sic] going to let me rott [sic] in AAA all season and then non tender me after."
Stewart suggested the Cubs "might as well release" him so he could sign with another team. Stewart said Sveum was the reason he won't play for the big league team.
"I think dale doesn't like me and he's running the show," Stewart tweeted.
In an interview with MLB.com in May, Stewart said he enjoyed playing for the Triple-A team and had accepted that he might be there the entire season. On May 3, Stewart was activated from the disabled list, then placed on waivers and eventually outrighted to Iowa.
"He had the right to elect free agency and decided not to, so he decided to become a Minor League player with us and he is," Epstein said.
When the Cubs made the roster move, Epstein told Stewart that Josh Vitters will get most of the playing time because he was "the future at third." Vitters is currently rehabbing at the Cubs' facility in Mesa, Ariz.
In 39 games with Iowa, Stewart was batting .164 with four home runs, six doubles and 19 RBIs in 110 at-bats. He began his pro career with the Rockies in 2007, was traded to the Cubs in '11, and signed with the Cubs as a free agent in December '12.
Baez puts on 'quite a show' with offensive performance
CHICAGO -- Theo Epstein was in his office when he saw Javier Baez's first home run Monday night. He was in his suite at Wrigley Field when the Daytona shortstop hit his second of the game.
When it was Baez's turn to hit, a crowd gathered. The Cubs' No. 1 prospect didn't disappoint. Baez hit four home runs Monday night, only the second four-homer game in Florida State League's 94-year history, and finished with seven RBIs to help the Class A team.
"It was quite a show," said Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations. "He sprayed it around, covered different parts of the strike zone, different pitches. His swing is really under control and that's the great thing about Javy and his bat speed. He doesn't have to swing for the fences. He can take a nice, normal under-control swing, the type that would normally produce a line drive or a ball in the gap, and in his case, there's plenty of carry over the fences."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum watched video of Baez's blasts.
"I wish I could've seen where they landed," Sveum said Tuesday. "The swings were pretty good. I've been watching the video anyway, but one good thing about it is he's calmed down. He's cut down his movement [on his swing] about 40 percent, 50 percent. It's a lot more calm and controlled."
Baez, 20, the Cubs' No. 1 Draft pick in 2011, was batting .291 with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs in 57 games. He's also been charged with 26 errors.
"A lot of his errors have been extreme plays at the end of his range or weird things on rundowns, or trying to do too much," Epstein said. "He needs to polish that up. We actually feel better at this moment about his ability to play shortstop every day in the big leagues than we did on Opening Day because of the way he's playing shortstop. He needs to clean it up, but I have no doubt he can play shortstop at the big league level."
• Cubs pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa underwent successful Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Tuesday.
Orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure in Pensacola, Fla. An MRI in May revealed ligament damage to the reliever's elbow.
In 12 games this season, Fujikawa had a 5.25 ERA, giving up seven runs over 12 innings. This is his first season in MLB.
• Reliever Shawn Camp faced five batters in the sixth inning Tuesday for Class A Kane County, giving up one hit and striking out one. It's his first Minor League rehab appearance since going on the disabled list with a sprained big toe on May 22. The plan is for Camp to make another rehab outing Friday with the Minor League team.
• Epstein is a little divided this week. He grew up a Boston Bruins fan, but they are playing the Blackhawks in the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, which starts Wednesday in Chicago.
"Original Six hockey is fantastic," Epstein said. "The passion for the 'Hawks in town here reminds me a lot of the way it is for the 'B's in Boston. It's going to be a heck of a series."
And his pick?
"I'm hoping for a great series, good health all around," Epstein said diplomatically.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.