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While most Cubs fans were watching some stupid, meaningless, late-September game between the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field, the REAL fans were gathered at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa.
With Cubs manager Lou Piniella announcing that Rich Hill, Carlos Zambrano, and Ted Lilly will pitch the final three games of the regular season at Cincinnati (with Jason Marquis to pitch the Game #163 tie-breaker at Wrigley Field, if necessary), and with Pirates manager Jim Tracy announcing last night that Cub-killer Zach Duke will make his first start since June 28th on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field, the pitching match-ups for the Cubs final nine games now look like this (all still subject to change): PIT at CUBS FRI - Paul Maholm vs Jason Marquis SAT - Zach Duke vs Rich Hill SUN - Tom Gorzelanny vs Carlos Zambrano MON - OFF CUBS at FLA TUE - Ted Lilly vs Dontrelle Willis WED - Jason Marquis vs Sergio Mitre (or Scott Olsen) THU - Steve Trachsel (or Sean Marshall) vs Scott Olsen (or Byung Hyun Kim) NOTE: The Marlins are skipping Mitre's turn this weekend versus the Mets and are talking about removing Mitre from the rotation for the rest of the season, and if that happens, Willis-Olsen-Kim would be the the likely starters for the Marlins versus the Cubs next week. CUBS at CIN FRI - Rich Hill vs Bronson Arroyo SAT - Carlos Zambrano vs Aaron Harang SUN - Ted Lilly vs Tom Shearn NOTE: Lilly would be held back for first game of NLDS if Cubs have clinched by SUN. MIL at CUBS (if necessary) MON - TBD vs Jason Marquis If the Cubs win the N. L. Central (and based on the current N. L. standings)... NLDS schedule: WED 10/3 - Game #1 - CUBS at AZ THU 10/4 - Game #2 - CUBS at AZ FRI 10/5 - OFF SAT 10/6 - Game #3 - AZ at CUBS SUN 10/7 - Game #4 - AZ at CUBS (if necessary) MON 10/8 - OFF TUE 10/9 - Game #5 - CUBS at AZ (if necessary)
With two weeks left in the 2007 MLB season, the Cubs lead the Brewers by one game. The Cubs also trail the Padres by four games in the Wild Card standings, in case that becomes an issue later.
With several recent trades and other roster moves, here are the updated roster and salary projections for next off-season and 2008, as well as a list of Cubs minor leaguers assigned to the Arizona Instructional League, AFL, and HWL:
Cubs manager Lou Piniella and pitching Larry Rothschild have been talking lately about the stress and strain Cubs relievers are under this month, what with the Cubs playing twenty days in a row, the "Dog Days" of August, and the pressures of a pennant race. Both Cousin Larry and Uncle Lou have mentioned that on September 1st, bullpen reinforcements can be added, because that's when the rosters can be expanded from 25 to 40 players. And that's true. They are correct. But actually, they really don't have to wait that long...
With Carlos Zambrano signing a multi-year contract extention today, here are some Cubs 2008 payroll and post-2007 off-season roster projections:
The Daily Herald is reporting that the Cubs have called a 10:15 AM (CDT) press conference where they are expected to announce a multi-year contract extension for RHP Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano, who is eligible to be a free-agent after this season, is presently signed to a one-year contract for a $12.4M base salary, plus another $2M+ in potential incentive bonuses related to All-Star selection (didn't get that), Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, a top three finish in the Cy Young Award vote, a top three finish in the MVP, and MVP in the LDS, LCS, and WS. AZ PHIL UPDATE #1: ESPN Radio 1000 is reporting the deal will be five years for $90M. That means an average salary of $18M per year over the length of the deal. Still unknown are any player options, club options, and/or vesting options that will be built into the contract.
The August 15th deadline has passed, and the first 68 players selected by MLB clubs in this past June's Rule 4 Draft (First-Year Player Draft) opted to sign, including all players selected in the 1st round and the Supplemental 1st round. A total of 98 of the first 100 players drafted ended up signing pro contracts. The Cubs signed 33 of the 50 players they drafted, including the first 18, and 23 of the first 24. #1 pick Josh Vitters was signed with just hours to spare. Notables who got away include 25th round pick Victor Sanchez (third-baseman on the Team USA Junior National Team) and 33rd round pick and University of Texas catcher Preston Clark (the #1 catcher for Team USA who was rated the #5 college catcher going into the draft by Baseball America). Here is the current status of players selected by the Cubs in the draft, as well as players signed as Non-Drafted Free-Agents (NDFA) after the draft, and 5th Year College Seniors and Draft+Follows (DNFs) signed prior to the draft:
Jeff Vorva at The Daily Southtown reports that sources are claiming the Cubs will call-up 24-year LHP Carmen Pignatiello from AAA before tonight's game at Wrigley Field versus CIN, and that RHP Sean Gallagher will be optioned to Iowa, where he can get regular work as a rotation starter. Pignatiello was named Illinois Baseball Player of the Year by Gatorade and the Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year in 2000, as he went 14-0 with a 0.79 ERA for Providence Catholic HS in New Lenox, before being selected by the Cubs in the 20th Round of the 2000 Rule 4 Draft. Tiggy led the Florida State League in strikeouts while pitching for the Daytona Cubs in 2003. The Cubs have been operating with one lefty in the pen (Scott Eyre) since Will Ohman was optioned to Iowa a week ago. As you can see by his stats at Iowa, Pignatiello is not just a LOOGY, but he is in fact more effective against left-handed hitters (.163 Opp BA and 0.80 WHIP) than he is versus right-handed hitters (.245 Opp BA and 1.28 WHIP). In his last eight appearances, Pignatiello has thrown 8.0 IP, allowing one run on six hits and one BB, while striking out eight. Tiggy is eligible to be a minor league FA on October 15th if he isn't added to the 40-man roster by that date, so doing it now merely keeps the Cubs from further postponing the inevitable. Pignatiello was eligible to be a six-year minor league FA after the 2006 season, too, but he opted to re-up with AAA Iowa after getting a Cubs slot in the Arizona Fall League and an NRI to Spring Training. To make room on the 40-man roster for Pignatiello, I would think the Cubs will likely transfer injured catcher Henry Blanco (neck) to the 60-day DL. Since Blanco has already spent 60+ days on the 15-day DL (and since time spent on the 15-day DL counts toward time spent on the 60), he can be reactivated at any time. UPDATE FROM ROB: Jake Fox is on his way up too, no word on the corresponding roster move.
Apparently the Baltimore Orioles had some problems with their waiver wire this week, because 1B Brian Dopirak has cleared Outright Waivers without being claimed, and has been assigned outright to Hi-A Daytona.

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