Miller Hammers Nail Into 5th Chair

In what was one of the best outings by any Cubs starting pitcher so far this ST, Wade Miller tossed five innings of shutout ball and appeared (in the process) to have maybe nailed down the 5th starter job, as the Cubs defeated the Giants 3-2 at Scottsdale Stadium today. box score Miller threw five innings (6/4 GB/FB), surrendering only three hits and no walks, while striking out five (including Barry Bonds twice). Angel Guzman relieved Miller to start the 6th, and was apparently tracked to pitch four innings and complete the game. However, he wasn't able to finish, as Will Ohman was brought in to get the final two outs and the save. Guzman went 3.1 IP, giving up four hits (including a double and a two-runner homer to Mark Sweeney), two earned runs (the Sweeney dinger in the 8th), but no walks, and 4 K. An Alfonso Soriano-to-Cesar Izturis-to Aramis Ramirez relay cut-down Sweeney at 3rd base when he tried to stretch a double into a triple in the 6th. Offensively, the Cubs scored a run in the 2nd off SF starter Barry Zito on a solo HR by Aramis Ramirez, and led 1-0 through five innings. Facing Giants RHP reliever David Cortes in the top of the 6th, Ryan Theriot tripled, and scored on a sac fly by Derrek Lee. D-Lee was involved in the Cubs final run as well, as he doubled and then scored on an RBI single by Tomas Perez against RHP Brian Wilson in the 8th. I was not at the game in Scottsdale, but I was at Fitch Park in Mesa and saw the Iowa Cubs (AAA) and Tennessee Smokies (AA) play the Milwaukee Brewers AAA and AA affiliates, the Nashville Sounds (AAA) and the Huntsville Stars (AA). The I-Cubs lost 5-1, while the Smokies won 4-3. Only one Cubs player was at Fitch today, that being Daryle Ward. As is the practice when big leaguers play in the more-informal minor league ST games, Ward went back and forth between the two fields, hitting whenever he had the opportunity, as the #3 hitter in a given inning. It's called "Loading Up on At Bats," and the MLB player does not actually PH for anybody. Rather, he is inserted in the batting order between two spots, usually once each inning, and if possible, one each inning in each game, to get his four ABs as quickly as possible so he can go home. For instance, Ward's first AB was in the bottom of the 1st inning for Tennessee (because Tennessee starter Sean Gallagher got through his first inning faster than Iowa starter Sean Marshall got through his), and he hit between Joe Simokaitis (who was batting 2nd in the order) and Jake Fox (who was batting in the #3 hole). Then Ward moved to the other field, and got his second AB for Iowa in the bottom of the second-inning, when he hit between Jorge Cortes (who was batting 5th) and Scott Moore (who was batting 6th). All together, Ward was 2-4, with two singles (a line-drive single to left for Tennessee that helped them score two runs in the bottom of the first, and a line-drive single to CF for Iowa) in his first two ABs, followed by a pop up to center (for Tennessee) and a ground out to second-base (for Iowa) in his final two ABs. All this by the 4th inning! Then he packed up his bats, shook hands with some of the Iowa players and coaches, and split. Sort of like the Lone Ranger. Or Have Bat, Will Travel. Besides the games being free, and no PA announcer, no concessions, no music, and no lame between-inning contests, other differences between MLB Spring Training games and minor league ST games is that in the minor league ST games, teams can use more than one DH (Iowa had a ten-man batting order today, with Val Pascucci DH #1 and Scott Moore DH #2), pitchers are not allowed to exceed 25 pitches in an inning (and once they hit 25 pitches in a given inning, the inning stops--doesn't matter how many outs--and the game goes on to the next half inning), and sometimes the teams will play an extra inning or two (even if he game isn't tied) just to give pitchers some extra work. Sean Marshall started for the Iowa Cubs (AAA), and he did not fare well. Struggling with his command, bouncing his curve, and unable to spot his fastball, Marshall lasted only 1.1 IP (right around 40 pitches), giving up three hits, two runs (earned), one walk, two K, and a WP. He labored and had difficulty throwing strikes, and was behind on almost every hitter. He is a long, LONG ways away from being ready to help the Cubs, should they need a replacement rotation starter in the early part of the season. (Better keep Angel Guzman stretched out as a starter!). Carlos Marmol pitched three innings in relief (innings 4-5-6) , and had easy 1-2-3 innings in his first two frames, but then got creamed pretty good in his third inning (three hits--including a long triple, two singles to the outfield, a HBP, and two runs). Clay Rapada pitched a 1-2-3 9th, striking out the two left-handed hitters (natch) while making them both look foolish, and then getting the right-handed hitter to pull a GO to 3B. Offensively, the only bright spots for Iowa were a HR by RF Josh Kroeger (ex-AZ) over the high right-field fence and a 2-4 day for 2B Eric Patterson (a triple and a single). Sean Gallagher started for AA Tennessee, and he was simply outstanding, throwing four innings and giving up only two hits, with no walks, 4 K, and one GIDP. He struck out the side in the 2nd. He threw between 50-60 pitches in his four inning stint, and threw first-pitch strikes to 11 of the 13 batters he faced. Tennessee got three RBI from 3B Matt Craig (a bases loaded single in the 1st and a game-tying sac fly in the 7th), and a game-winning walk-off double off the right-centerfield fence by Brian Dopirak (who is running and walking without a limp these days) following a 9th inning lead-off walk to Craig. Unfortunately, Craig (who is NOT a particularly good defender) also committed a costly error in the 5th inning (after Gallagher had left the game) allowing two Huntsville runs to score. And before his game-winning hit, Dopirak had struck out twice, and looked bad both times. Jake Fox was the DH for Tennessee today, and he ripped a double down the LF line in one of his ABs earlier in the game. Besides Gallagher's fine performance, RHP Michael Cooper pitched one inning and threw nothing but his plus-sinker and he threw it for strikes, too (10 pitches, 10 strikes), giving up a ground single before getting a 4-6 FC and then an inning-ending 4-6-3 GIDP. Some of you may remember Cooper as the closer at Boise last season, but he is considered to be an "advanced" pitcher and is being moved fast. (He was the Cubs 26th round draft pick out of Cal-Berkeley last June). The Iowa Cubs and the Tennessee Smokies are waiting on pins+needles for the final Cubs roster cuts from the big league camp, because those cuts will have a definite and specific impact on some of the I-Cubs and Smokies players (and actually Daytona and Peoria, too, as the roster movement filters downward).
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Comments

Great report. Thanks, Phil.

AZ Phil, have you heard of any indication about where Tyler Colvin will start the year? Also do you think Chris Huseby and Drew Rundle will be in Extended Spring Training or Peoria? Have you seen how Mark Pawelek looks this spring?

Hey AZ Phil,

Thanks for the update.

One suggestion would be to more clearly define the AAA and AA game in the report. This one is a bit mixed up. Maybe use the firs paragraph to highlight the top stories in each game.

OPS for Cubs OF Candidates in Spring Training.

Floyd .900
Soriano .882
Jones .853
Murton .823
Pie .782

Great Job AZ Phil - just curious regarding Marshal is he the same pitcher as he was last year for the Cubs pre-All Star game or is he simply injured?

Rory — March 24, 2007 @ 8:43 pm
Great Job AZ Phil - just curious regarding Marshal is he the same pitcher as he was last year for the Cubs pre-All Star game or is he simply injured?

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RORY: He is NOT the same pitcher he was pre-ASB '06. He is very rusty and needs a lot of work. His shoulder may still be bothering him some, too, I don't know.

(Better keep Angel Guzman stretched out as a starter!).

What am I missing with Angel Guzman? What is it about his pitching so far that screams, put me in the rotation?

Frankly, it wouldn't surprise me if he turned into a fine Closer.
But an SP? I think he needs more "seasoning" before that happens.

It's not the first time someone has mentioned Guzman for closer. I think the reason the Cubs are not considering that yet is because Angel has at least 3 MLB caliber pitches (fastball, curve, change). What I see with Guzman is that he hasn't turned "the confidence corner" yet similar to what happened to Rich Hill late last year. When/if he does that we have a potential #1 or #2 starter.

btw, I've also noticed that in Zambrano's ST pics this year that he appears to have really tanned. Phil, could you shed any (sun)light on this?

That headline sounds like some kind of arcane reference to a cricket tournament or the British Parliament. And no, I am not certain there's a difference.

It's good to see Miller deliver; he's been underperforming for a couple of years now, but he's definitely still full of potential.


ScoutingBook.com: Baseball's Top Prospects, Closer Charts and more, updated daily.

Manny--

I'm in New Haven. A game sounds good.

When, oh when, are the Cubs' pitching coaches going to realize that Mark Prior is still better than Jason Marquis and Rich Hill? Two years ago, Prior was the best pitcher in the organization, and now he's getting the shaft. If the Cubs want to demote him to Iowa, I hope they shop him around, as Prior is still young and deserves a chance outside of the Cubs' organization.

prior needs to prove himself. i wish him all the best and with the cubs, but he needs to prove himself.

What has Prior done to show that he deserves a spot in the rotation at this point?

- Nothing

Reports from ST in Florida say SERGIO MITRE with an impressive performance in his last outing has secured the #5 spot in the Marlins' rotation to go along with former Cubs prospects DONTRELLE WILLIS and RICKY NOLASCO.

Good work Hendry. You're doing a better job for Florida than Chicago.

CWTP: Good job on the "Neg" stance! How about we see what happens during the real season - say 60 to 90 days, and then renew your Hendry bashing?

Having watched Mitre pitch, mostly badly in Wrigley (other than one great outing against Halliday and Toronto I was at), I am as impressed about as much as most folks here are with Novoa. His potential has never been realized, and I will not hold my breath that he'll outpitch any of our 5th starters this year.

I'm not a Hendry apologist, and always will be mad as hell that he fucked up so badly two years in a row - but to cry over D. Willis (that has been anaylized to death) when the team SHOULD have been in the World Series based on the acquisition trade, and Sergio frickin' Mitre?! Not worth the anguish, in my opinion. Nolasco is another story - but the one thing we do have plenty of - and AZ PHIL recently attested to this in detail several threads ago - is strong up and coming arms.

florida has a what...27m payroll...something stupid like that?

you get the kids, you get the kids at/near mlb-prime...you supliment with dependable mlb tallent...you are competitive.

this is just a waste of time and tallent until they move on to other organizations.

you wanna talk about a GM doing a "great" job...what kind of great job is a GM who cant even get his owner to cough up the money to make the team worth a damn?

besides, the club got exactly what it expected and wanted out of j.pierre and got a few cheap years outta clement.

um..I'm not exactly sure the Cubs got exactly what they wanted out of Pierre last year.

why not?

played 162 games...career high in doubles...58sb...hit .290/.330...

that's about all you could expect outta pierre aside from maybe 5-10 more hits/walks and maybe a few less SB.

few less CS, i mean...

he also tied his career 3rd and HR totals, but while 13 triples might be worth mentioning his 3hr are kinda...whatever...even if he hit 4hr for a career high it'd still be boring.

Pierre also tanked the first 2 months...and he was here for one season.

They may have gotten what they wanted for the one season, but it wasn't worth a one season rental, that's for sure.

cubswinthepennant — March 25, 2007 @ 10:19 am
Reports from ST in Florida say SERGIO MITRE with an impressive performance in his last outing has secured the #5 spot in the Marlins’ rotation to go along with former Cubs prospects DONTRELLE WILLIS and RICKY NOLASCO.

Good work Hendry. You’re doing a better job for Florida than Chicago.

=============================

CWtP: I agree that the Cubs losing Ricky Nolasco in the deal for Juan Pierre was regrettable, but I don't agree that Sergio Mitre (or Renyel Pinto) was any great loss.

Like Todd Wellemeyer, Mitre was out of minor league options LAST Spring Training, and just as happened with Wellemeyer, it's unlikely that Mitre would have made the Cubs 2006 Opening Day roster, and thus would have probably been traded before Opening Day '06 for a couple of middling prospects (as happened with Wellemeyer). So if Hendry had to include Mitre to get Pierre, that's fine. And even if Mitre had not been traded before the 2006 season and had somehow been kept on the Cubs 25-man roster for the entire '06 season, I doubt that he would make their Opening Day roster this year. He had a sore shoulder at the end of the '06 season, and if he had still been with the Cubs, he probably would have been outrighted or non-tendered last November-December to clear a spot on the Cubs 40-man roster. And then the Cubs would have gotten nothing for him.

Renyel Pinto is also now out of minor league options, and he has had a poor ST for FLA. The Marlins are in a position with him where either they carry him on their 25-man roster, or risk losing him via waivers if they try to outright him to the minors (as happened last year, when Wellemeyer was claimed off waivers by KC when the Marlins tried to outright him to the minors).

But Nolasco is another matter. He could have been a rotation starter for the Cubs last year and this year. What it comes down to is this: Who do the Cubs get with the 48th overall pick in next June's Rule 4 Draft? (That's the "sandwich" compensation pick the Cubs get for losing Type "B" FA Pierre).

To me, the trade was Nolasco for Pierre. And so if the Cubs end up with a pitcher or a player who ultimately is the equal or near-equal (in terms of value to the Cubs) of Nolasco, then the Pierre deal was an OK trade. Then the Cubs will have gotten their CF/lead-off guy they wanted at the time, and replaced Nolasco with a quality prospect.

We'll have to wait to see how that turns out. But I do wish the Cubs could have acquired Pierre without having to trade Nolasco. That hurt.

it was a bad gamble in retrospect given prior/wood/d.lee all tanked and no one picked up the slack.

even maddux/aram tanked in the absence of d.lee...oddly or not.

he was brought in to compliment a team that never showed up past april. if it was believed that the team wouldnt be competitive the trade most likely would not have been done.

How about we see what happens during the real season

How about looking at what happened the last two seasons?...The Marlins had a better pitching staff and a better record than the Cubs both years. And they weren't doing it with mirrors, they were doing it with Cubs.

Last year with a staff that featured familiar names like Nolasco, Mitre, Wellemeyer, Pinto, Borowski and Willis, the Marlins posted the 5th best ERA in the NL while the Cubs were down at the bottom --- 14th.

I don't care who the individual names are, the fact remains that this year the Marlins are going to start with a 5 man rotation featuring three young pitchers the Cubs developed.

It's almost like Hendry was the vice-president in charge of player development for the Marlins all those years he was being paid to do it for the Cubs.

Remember that the Pierre trade was done with the added pressure that they had just lost out on Furcal. So blame whoever decided that paying Furcal 3/39 was crazy (vs. 5/50 which I believe was Hendry's offer and this has become very ironic as that's what Pierre got from Coletti this offseason)...either Hendry or Andy Sweatervest decided that $13M for a leadoff hitter (aka Furcal) was too much. If they had landed Furcal, I'm not so sure Hendry would have been as eager for Pierre (although he's been quoted as saying he wanted both Furcal and Pierre). He wound up spending $6M and got his money's worth, no more no less in retrospect. I think it reflected the Andy McFail "small market" regime's thinking as much as anything.

the caveat of signing furcal means d.lee doesnt break his arm is extra...weird/unpredictable positive of actually giving wild-throwing furcal the same money you'd pay a slugger.

another caveat, though, is how much dlee (and maybe aram) would have wanted from the cubs if theyre gonna throw 13m at a guy like furcal.

meh...

CWTP: How about looking at what happened the last two seasons?

You obviously love to be mired in the past. I can tell this from your "argument" professing the great 2nd half of Roberto Novoa in 2006. That's worked out great, right?

Yes. It has been admitted by Hendry himself that he FUCKED UP, CWTP!

So this offseason, more than ANY time in my 40+ years of being a fan of the team, they SPARED NO EXPENSE and attemped to give the team a shot at winning it all. Grudgingly, I HAVE to tip the cap for the effort - but will be convinced when the team actually wins...

So, suit yourself and just live off the past errors, or just move forward and see what happens this year. We can revisit this by mid-season and see how the Marlins and Cubs are playing THIS YEAR on the field and in the standings.

DLee, Aramis, and The Riot with a well earned day off today. I assume the Cubs had no problems when the Angels asked for the DH. Probably wanted to get Clifford some more AB's anywho:

Soriano 8
Cedeno 4
Jones 9
Floyd DH
Ward 3
Barrett 2
Murton 7
DeRosa 5
Izturis 6

Lilly 1

From Paul Sullivan in the Chicago Tribune: "The Los Angeles Angels agreed to use a designated hitter in Sunday's game at HoHoKam Park so the Cubs can get Floyd some at-bats without playing the field"

game on WGN at 4pm (EST)...there's a pre-game special on Cubs something-or-other at 3:30 (EST).

The Pierre trade was a total fiasco. It blocked Pie and cost us some fine pitching talent we needed last year. 2006 should have been a real re-building year instead of the cruel joke it turned out to be.

Felix should have been our CF and have a full season of MLB experience by now. A powerful arm in CF would have made a huge difference . We had three popguns out there that allowed runners to take extra bases with alacrity.
.
Murton should have played the whole year in LF , not undermined by Pierre (and Baker) who thought Bynum should be starting in LF, and not been forced to try to pull the ball instead of hitting to all fields. .
Nolasco should have been an SP. (He sure proved he could be at Florida.)
Ryan Theriot should have starting at second base and leading off instead of Pierre. Does anyone remember that Theriot had actually been named to the 25 man opening day roster until he was bumped off by a last minute trade for Freddie Bynum?

With a starting 3 of Z, Maddux, and Nolasco the Cubs would not have finished 30 games below .500 and Maddux might still be with the Cubs today instead of Marquis. (Z, Lilly, Nolasco, Maddux, Miller-Prior-Guzman)

pie was not blocked by pierre...that's a stretch to say he was.

felix pie is a free swinger...him getting up here and hitting singles and K'ing a ton as a 21 year old is not what felix pie is worth to the organization. give the power some time or risk paying a ton for him after 3-4 years of "learning on the job" putting in a sub-par performance vs. a more developed pie brought up closer to his expected performance level.

from Phil Rogers in the Sunday Tribune:

It looks like the Tigers are going to keep Neifi Perez and send the slick-fielding Ramon Santiago and Mr. April, 2006, Chris Shelton, to Triple A. . . .

cwtp's rant about Fast Freddie made me think about the impact playing 25th men who can't possibly have a future in the organization beyond being a 25th man...just hearing the rumors that this spring Hendry's been looking for a 2nd bench infielder sent chills down my back (but apparently they decided to go with Cedeno over a trade for Clint Barmes). I've decided that Cedeno will be more valuable to this team on the bench than could have Neifi or Bynum. Granted that's not saying much but it is somewhat comparable to Theriot's situation (in reverse) last year. I think the 25th man decisions have as much to do with the manager/coaches than with the GM. So this yr starts with Theriot in Neifi's role (with the added OF value that Bynum supposedly brought) and Cedeno is in Bynum's role (minus the OF value, making it a value wash)...I'll take Theriot/Cedeno happily anyday.

pie was not blocked by pierre…that’s a stretch to say he was.

Oh, come ON!! WHO blocked PIE if not Pierre?? Who played CF for the Cubs last year, crunch?

Let me remind you the Cubs finished something like 66-96! They were out of the pennant race in May. it was a perfect situation to bring up Pie. And yet Juan Pierre played every game so that he could reach personal goal$$$$$ like 200 hits even to the detriment of FP's development. Pie wasn't called up in September because Baker wasn't going to play him. NOT because he wasn't ready.

.

pie blocked himself in 06, imo...he's not ready in 07, either, imo...im not the only one with this opinion including the cubs it seems.

i dunno why you think pie in 06 would do as well or have any impact on the 06 club. its not like nolasco was ready last year, either. he played in the NL east featuring 3 of the biggest ballparks in the game(atl/nym/fla) and still didnt do so hot.

"Pie wasn’t called up in September because Baker wasn’t going to play him. NOT because he wasn’t ready."

umm....

no. he wasnt brought up cuz he was injured not because another baker conspiracy broke out.

oh, september...nevermind.

stilll, hendry makes the call on who gets up/down and it sure as hell didnt stop him from calling up theriot every chance he got last year even if he wasnt gonna play and was there to work with coaches.

the rush to start the clocks on players is a real concern...esp. when you got a 21 year old who's not fullfilled his power potential.

Nolasco would have brought a championship to the Northside last year. His below league average ERA and .287 BAA would have put them over the top.

agreed. Nolasco has a 3rd starter type ceiling. Mitre and Pinto were no loss in the Pierre deal. Sure we'd liked to have had Nolasco last season instead of Carlos Marmol and Juan Mateo getting starts but giving up Nolasco for a proven leadoff hitter (even for 1 year) isn't setting the franchise back at all. It's not going to go down as the worst Cub trade ever, and it's not like giving up Aj Pierzynski for F.Liriano, Joe Nathan and Boof, or Houston leaving Johan Santana unprotected in the Rule 5 draft.

if the Cubs got exactly what they wanted from Pierre last year, he would still be a Cub. Hendry didn't give up that much on a guy he knew was going to let go after a year...and he's said as much. Pierre underperformed and the Cubs made no more than a cursory(sp?) effort to keep him at any point last year.

Dusty baylor:
"They may have gotten what they wanted for the one season, but it wasn’t worth a one season rental, that’s for sure."

That was my stance last year too.

It could also be possible that they thought Pierre would be a Type A free agent.

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