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Micah Hoffpauir hit a three-run homer and reached base three times, Mike Fontenot drove in four runs with a two-run homer and a two-run triple, and Sam Fuld smacked a solo home run, scored two runs, and threw a runner out at the plate, as the Cubs thrashed the Texas Rangers 10-4 at Surprise Stadium today.

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Jake Fox slammed a three-run homer and Joey Gathright had three hits, a walk, an RBI, a run scored, and a stolen base (and made a nice running catch in right-centerfield as well), as the Cubs defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 7-4 in Cactus League action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in sunny Mesa, Arizona this afternoon, before another smallish crowd (6,711).

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Micah Hoffpauir crushed a grand slam in the bottom of the 5th, turning a two-run Cubs deficit into a two-run Cub lead, as the Cubs defeated the Dodgers 5-3 in the Cactus League opener for both clubs at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in sunny and warm Mesa, Arizona 

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Minor League Camp doesn't open for another couple of weeks, but here are the projected Cubs Minor League Camp rosters for the five squads (141 players) at Minor League Camp and also the DSL Cubs Reserve Lists (two teams - 70 players).

The Cubs moved their Spring Training operation a half-mile north up Center Street from Fitch Park to HoHoKam Park today, and as was the case each of the previous two years, Manager Lou Piniella once again eschewed the ubiquitous and traditional intrasquad game most MLB clubs play the day before Cactus League and Grapefruit League games commence. Lou just does not like to play any more games than necessary during Spring Training, even if it's an informal seven-inning intrasquad game.

Twelve Cubs pitchers threw "live" BP at Fitch Park this morning, as Spring Training entered Phase Two.

UPDATE: ESPN AM 1000 reports the deal as a $750K non-guaranteed contract that becomes guaranteed if Bako survives (on the roster) to the end of March. Bako gets $150K if he is released before the contract becomes guaranteed, and he can earn an additional $300K in incentive bonuses, based on At Bats (or more likely Plate Appearances?)... -- AZ Phil

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As expected, the Cubs have signed veteran catcher Paul Bako to a 2009 contract. ESPN's Bruce Levine reported yesterday on XM radio that Bako will get $725,000, but that has not yet been confirmed. Bako replaces Henry Blanco as the Cubs back-up catcher. 

The 36-year old left-handed hitting Bako has spent all or parts of the past 11 seasons in the big leagues, playing for ten different MLB clubs in that period. If you're at a Super Bowl Party on Sunday and the game isn't too interesting, see if anybody can name the ten MLB teams Bako has played for.  

This will be Bako's second tour of duty with the Cubs. He was previously with the Cubs for two seasons (2003-04).

Bako hit 217/299/328 last year as the back-up catcher for the Cincinnati Reds, and has gone 196/239/346 versus LHP and 216/293/271 versus RHP over the past three seasons. He has hit 231/305/317 over the course of his career (745 games). Obviously, he isn't much of a hitter, but he makes up for it by having virtually zero power. But at least he hits left-handed. 

Defensively, Bako threw out 29% of opposing base-sealers in 2008 (Henry Blanco threw out 46%). 

Bako is so old, he attended Louisiana - Lafayette back when it was still called Southwestern Louisiana.

As an Article XX MLB free-agent, Bako will have "no trade" rights through June 15th.

Somewhere, Koyie Hill is warming up the circular saw.

 

MLB has released the 45-man provisional rosters of the national teams that will be playing in the 2009 World Baseball Classic (WBC).

Rosters will need to be cut-down to 28 (with at least 13 pitchers) by February 24th. 

There are presently a total of 17 Cubs major leaguers and minor leaguers on the provisional rosters of the WBC teams:  

In what may be a precursor to an eventual trade for San Diego Padres ace RHP Jake Peavy, the Cubs have traded OF Felix Pie to the Baltimore Orioles for LHP Garrett Olson and minor league RHP Hank Williamson. Olson was thought to be one of the pitchers Padres GM Kevin Towers wanted back in a Peavy deal.

The 25-year old Olson was a Supplemental 1st round pick (48th overall) of the Orioles in the 2005 Rule 4 Draft out of Cal Poly (he was selected with the compensation pick Baltimore got for failing to sign their 2004 #1 draft pick, RHP Wade Townsend), and was rushed to the big leagues by the Orioles after being named their Minor League Player of the Year in 2006, logging MLB time in both 2007 and 2008. A scouting report from his senior year in college showed him having three quality pitches, including a fastball that sits at 88-90 MPH but has touched 93, a 12-6 "hammer" curve (his "out" pitch), and a decent change-up. He has performed very well at AAA over the past two seasons (he was a AAA IL All-Star at Norfolk in 2007), although he has been hit hard to the tune of a 6.87 ERA and 1.82 WHIP with 21 HR allowed in 165+ IP in 33 starts so far at the big league level. Olson was a college teammate of Cubs prospects RHRP Rocky Roquet and 3B-turned-RHP Josh Lansford, and he supposedly wants to be an FBI agent if his baseball career doesn't pan out.

Some of you may wonder how a Spring Training roster is constructed.

The template generally looks like this:

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