Cubs Get Ready for Cactus League Play

Seven Cubs pitchers continued their preparation for Cactus League play at Fitch Park this morning.

Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Silva essentially threw a two-inning "sim" game on Field #2, at least to the extent that each pitcher threw a certain number of pitches each "inning" (Zambrano 15 pitches each inning - 30 total, and Silva 20 pitches each inning - 40 total) while the other rested on the bench. (A true sim game would usually involve the hitters rotating out of the cage after putting a ball in play, but each batter facing "Z" and Silva today took their normal five-pitch AB even if they put all five pitches into play). Justin Berg followed Zambrano/Silva to the mound on Field #2 with a single 25-pitch inning. Zambrano and Silva faced Sam Fuld, Darwin Barney, Brad Snyder, Derrek Lee, Marlon Byrd, Bobby Scales, Robinson Chirinos, Blake Lalli, and Brett Jackson in their pseudo-sim game, while Andres Blanco, Micah Hoffpauir, Chad Tracy and Kevin Millar faced Berg in his "live" BP session.

Sam Fuld and Micah Hoffpauir had some really nice swings, and Carlos Silva actually looked fairly ambulatory out there on the mound. He doesn't seem to be hurting, although his pitches sure don't fool anybody. It would probably really help his release point and arm angle (and overall health) if he could maybe lose a few pounds around the gut.

Randy Wells (who did not throw today) has been named the starter in the Cubs Cactus League opener on Thursday versus Oakland, while Zambrano is scheduled to start Friday's game versus Arizona and Silva is slated to start Saturday versus the White Sox in a game that will be televised on WGN-TV. (The Cubs are home at HoHoKam Park for six of the first seven days at the start of Cactus League play and for five of the last seven days at the end of the month, but they only play four games at HoHoKam over the 15-day period running from March 11th through March 25th).

Meanwhile, Ryan Dempster (who will start his first Spring Training game next Monday) threw one 35-pitch inning (he will probably throw a two-inning "sim" game sometime later this week), and Carlos Marmol, Jiohn Grabow, and Esmailin Caridad each threw one 25-pitch inning on Field #3. Tyler Colvin, Matt Camp, Bryan Lahair, James Adduci, and Steve Clevenger faced Dempster and Marmol, while Alfonso Soriano, Starlin Castro, and Kosuke Fukudome hit against Grabow and Caridad. Grabow was hit hard, but Dempster looked good, and Marmol and Caridad were absolutely "lights out" (and Marmol didn't even hit anybody!).

Fukudome hit Grabow pretty well, especially considering Kosuke's perceived weakness versus LHP. Along with Tyler Colvin and Geovany Soto, Fukudome has probably been the most-impressive hitter so far in camp, and I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up hitting lead-off and playing RF most every day this year. In fact, this could well be his MLB "break-out" season.

Soriano (somewhat surprisingly) also has been swinging the bat well so far, although he apparently is not yet able to cut loose running the bases.

Andrew Cashner and John Gaub threw an early-morning "live" BP prior to the full-squad work-out.

While Cashner and Gaub were getting in their work, Ryne Sandberg and Alan Trammell were working out Starlin Castro on Field #5 (the "half-field" - infield-only). No question Castro impressed Ryno and Trammell, but especially Trammell, probablly because this was the first chance Trammell had to work one-on-one with the young Cubs shortstop prodigy. Castro is indeed by all accounts a pleasure to coach.

The Cubs will presumably be moving up Center Street to HoHoKam Park tomorrow, where they will likely have a traditional work-out, with BP, infield practice, and some side bullpen sessions. (Piniella doesn't like intrasquad games).

Uncle Lou probably would have liked to have moved his team out of Fitch Park today, but the Cubs were hosting the Cactus League VIP Brunch at HoHoKam Park this morning. 

The Cubs minor leaguers will now move into Fitch Park, with pitchers & catchers reporting on Thursday, and all other players reporting next Tuesday. The first minor league Spring Training games will probably be on March 18th.  


woo...spring baseball.

mlb network televising the first game of the spring season...ATL/NYM 2-3 mid 7.

cubs playing oakland on the 4th, btw...believe it's a "home" game for the cubs.

Good stuff, as always, Phil.

Aside from the need for Slim-Fast, I was wondering if Silva is showing anything more than his one pitch repertoire (sinker). I read quotes from him earlier this off-season in which he indicated that he had made real progress on a curve ball, which he was looking forward to mixing in with the sinker.

Any sign of the yakker, or is it too soon in ST to be throwing that?

Much appreciated.

about f'n time a sportswriter found this story this spring.

we got this guy for a while...been wondering when a sori-story would drop that had a bit of substance.

The injured quad transformed Soriano from a greyhound on the basepaths to a mutt. It robbed Soriano, seemingly for good, of his difference-making speed.

"That changed him," said Cubs general manager Jim Hendry of the quad strain.

There Hendry goes covering his ass again. The small tear in the quad didn't "change him," he had been running about half as often all season compared to 2006 prior to the quad tear. And he stole the same number of bases in 2008 as he did in 2007. There was no noticeable difference due to the quad injury. In fact, he stole his 19 bases in 2008 playing 24 fewer games than in 2007! So he was actually doing better after the tear.

Nope, in true goofy Hendry fashion, he acquires an old guy who's probably older than posted and whose only natural position is DH and sticks him in centerfield where he promptly cripples himself because, lo and behold! he's not a centerfielder-- or any kind of fielder for that matter. And that's the truth. His legs were gone by mid April 2007 if not spring training the month before.

Well, Jim... that's kind of the risk you take with 10 year, 800 million dollar contracts...

Alfonso Soriano would give anything, including some of his $136 million contract, if you could guarantee him what he hasn't had as a Chicago Cub.

His health.

how about Soriano gives up "some of his $136 million contract" until he's healthy and then the Cubs give it back to him.


And HENDRY, too???

I remember several years ago, Peter Gammons did a piece on Soriano. He was with the Nats at the time and there was talk that Mgr. Frank Robinson was going to move Soriano from 2nd base to the outfield. Soriano resisted the move and caught a lot of flack for it.

In Gammons' report, he talked about what a really nice guy Soriano is, how he is well-respected and well-liked by all of his teammates, and how he genuinely cares about what everyone thinks of him. At the time, Gammons said that Soriano's main concern was that he wouldn't be good enough in the outfield and that his play would hurt his team. Because Soriano had grown up as an infielder, he was afraid that he might never be as good in the outfield as he was in the infield (I know, it seems funny now).

The picture Gammons painted was of a proud guy who wanted to do what was best for his team, but was afraid he might not be able to adjust to the position change. I remember thinking at the time that Soriano was being a selfish SOB, but Gammon's piece made me look at him in a different light.

Because Soriano had grown up as an infielder, he was afraid that he might never be as good in the outfield as he was in the infield (I know, it seems funny now).

considering he was recognized as the worst thing that ever happened at 2b, it appears he's just delusional

MLB Tonight treating PETCOA projections like a 6th grade science/math project.

averaging players vs. actually knowing a person's shape, health, and skills...

no one's a fan and it was one of the quickest "stats" segments they've done in a while.

no...this doesn't prove anything, but they were having a laugh.

Probably fluff like everything else on, but Byrd gives Marmol some "tips"...

Just picked up the 360 version of MLB2K10.

Soriano does his stupid hop in the OF when catching a popup.

Fukudome corkscrews himself into the ground when he swings and misses.

Z blasts homeruns as often as Soriano.

When you pitch with Marmol, it's very difficult not to "overthrow" the ball.

So all and all, it's pretty accurate.


I'll certainly avoid that title this year. Ran out and bought the darned thing at midnight last year, but was incredibly disappointed with the game play. Maybe played 50 total games with it before I put it on the shelf. I miss The Show series and I wish I owned a PS3 instead of a 360.

Wes, I read the reviews of 2k9 and avoided it like the plague.

2k10 is getting good marks, and they've revamped just about everything.

The Show is definitely the better game but 2k10 is much better based on all the reviews (compared to 2k9). it's worth a rental to see if you like the changes.

I'm still playing The Show 07. I'm actually considering getting a PS3 in large part because I'd like to see how much better the 2010 version is. Then again, all told that'd be like $350 that I don't have anyway, so maybe I should be doing other things with my time.

They are down to 299 now.

I've been playing the Show from last year on it. The Road to the show mode on it is really cool. Especially if you turn up the difficulty level.

I lost faith in the system when 2K got the exclusive instead of EA Sports. MVP 2003 is still one of my fav games ever. I hadn't picked up anything in a few years until I got 2K9 and The Show this past xmas for PSP; I've been enjoying the road to the show on The Show, seems pretty fun. They're both a helluva lot better than that 2K disaster in '06 but I still don't know that they measure up in the funmeter to the old MVP Baseball

Reds, WSux, LA Angels, Dodgers

"I think it's a shame to boycott a kickoff breakfast," McComish said. "That's what petulant children do. In this case, they already had their turn at bat, they got their stadium."


Sabermetrics gains ground with Cubs

then it talks about using day/night splits and Hendry preferring scouts, but saying enough jibberish that he isn't roasted at the spit for saying he ignores them. Cubs are embracing sabermetrics at the pace they embraced signing black players.

at least Ricketts is on board...

Yes, but like Ernie, the first sabermetric they embrace will turn out to be a superstar. But they won't put up with uppity sabermetrics or ones that don't 'know their place'.

Sabermetrics gains ground with Cubs

Then promptly loses that ground when Jim Hendry realized it wasn't a new Korean donut shop franchise.

"When it comes to crunch-time, believe me, all the (statistical) information has been processed," Hendry said. "But by the end of the day … I'm going to look at (scouting advisers) Kenny Kravec or Dave Littlefield or Gary Hughes, and say: ‘This is what I think. What do you think?' "

But not what Tim Wilken thinks... The three guys mentioned are all asst.s to the GM.

Clearly Tim Wilken's job is far far below the decision level in the Hendry organization.

Could it be, and I am just spitballing here, that he's not talking about the amateur draft?

Director, Amateur & Professional Scouting - Tim Wilken

Tim Wilken: Once the draft is over, I turn my attention to professional scouting, which I coordinate with Randy Bush and Jim Hendry. We talk frequently about potential deals between May and the trade deadline.

Do you realize that guys in short season and A ball are professionals? The article is about MLB players.

Actually I didn't realize that, at least in the context of Wilken's title (Director of Amateur and Professional Scouting). I've been taking professional to mean MLB, and assuming that Wilken must have bought into the acquisitions of Fukudome and Bradley.

I hope you're right. If Wilken was out of the loop, that's better. I'd rather blame it on Gary Hughes.

I'm pretty confident that is the way most if not all teams are set up. The MLB scouts do not report to the scouting director. Maybe AZ Phil or one of our other experts will chime in.

Were going to look at Batting average. Were going to look at Rbi's. Were going to look at Win-loss records. No stone will be left unturned.

I believe he is talking about scouting ML players here. I don't think Wilken has much input on veteran players.

But Jim Hendry admits that he'll "always be a scouting guy first." I wonder if the Cubs would be better if he just went back to being a scout, period.


You really know the game is simulated when it only takes Zambrano 30 pitches to get through two innings.

AZ PHIL: Do you believe Andrew Cashner will be on this club as a set-up man? Yesterday you alluded to the idea that as a college closer, primarily, he was lights out at that level - going only an inning or so.

Barring a trade, do you think the Cubs would give the guy a shot it being only the start of his 3rd year in pro ball?

Seeing him more regularly in your neck of the woods, how do you think he will project out, and do you think the Cubs plan on keeping him rather than trading away. He was our #1 or #2 draft pick, IIRC, right?

Cubs "may have signed" Juan Yasser Serrano, a 20 year oldish pitcher from Cuba, though MLB Trade Rumors is using their exentesive network to confirm that he hasn't signed.

BP's top 100 is out:
Vitters 31
Castro 37
Lee 63
Jackson 96

Pretty 3/44 here, I believe on the BP?

considering it came out today, probably not

My bad. Sorry.

Why are we talking baseball when today is the NHL trade deadline?


n case you missed this piece by Gene Wojochowski, here is a fun excerpt on our $18MM a year left fielder:

"I show Soriano's 2009 numbers to a major league scout. Says the scout:

"He hit .241 -- geezus. He had 20 home runs and 55 RBIs in 447 at-bats. That is not even close to average. That's terrible. He had 118 strikeouts and 40 walks. Terrible."

In other words, the Cubs paid $850,000 per Soriano dinger last year. Worse yet, he hit 12 of those homers in his first 35 games, then only eight in his final 82 games.

Soriano was a defensive liability. He couldn't steal. His on-base percentage from the leadoff spot was a gruesome .295. He got hurt again.

And by the way, there are five years left on his deal at $19 mil per year."


I can't lie, in that I was floored, and excited when I found out Hendry actually signed the number one FA coming out of 2006-2007, but SHIT - I really wonder if the "Cubs Jinx" is an actual phenomena as golden pick has turned to dust, truly handicapping the team.

Signing Sori wasn't the problem. It's that he outbid everyone else by 3 years and about 50 million dollars.

Probably false, but since Hendry jumped way out in front of the market and high-balled Soriano before the market could completely develop, we'll never know.

Consensus was certainly that Sori was going to have no problem getting a 7-year deal.

If I recall directly, part of the justification for signing him at that lofty level was that he was going to play CF and give the Cubs their first real power/speed threat at the position in memory.

That CF experiment lasted about 3 days in ST, as I recall.

Your memory is really bad.

they signed him to play a corner spot and Lou in spring or right before spring training thought center field made more sense(which most of us at least agreed with). They also had JJ, murton, floyd, and Pie in the mix, so no real Cf option. It lasted 12 games before Soriano hurt himself going in on a ball, IIRC, and JJ, Pagan and Pie played there most of the rest of the way.

Mostly Jones, who played a surprisingly adequate CF.

We're lucky he ran out of money at that point.

to name one team, and most thought the deal was out there. 3/50 is a bit of an exaggeration though. I think teams were in the 6/7 yr range at similar yearly figures.

We hadn't seen many guys (non Arod/manram in 2000 anyway)get more than 5 years at that point on the Free Agent market. Especially not since after the 2002-2003 free agent downturn.

Hendry, as is his MO jumped out of the gate and "Set the market". Then you saw it raise the $/years on Carlos Lee and Vernon Wells directly after.

I know that Washington publicly offered Soriano a 5 year extension to stay.

THE best move by Hendry: Greg Maddux. We have a bunch of wide-eyed youngsters due to trades, etc., and now coach Greg will show them Game Preparation, mound Thought Control, and Pitch Placement Theology. Everyone shall have a come to Dejesus moment. Blessed are the poor in arm, for they shall be prepared. Game on. Jinx Nix. 31 rules!

(anyone got any hyssop? and holy water? now where did I leave my beads...)

"come to Dejesus moment"

Really like this. : )

Recent comments

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  • HAGSAG: I have not seen Joe Nathan out on the field, but he is supposedly at the UAPC. 

    Arizona Phil 2 hours 36 min ago view
  • ERIC S: Best outing I've ever seen from Manny Rondon, and I've seen most of his outings since the Cubs got him from the Angels. 

    M. Rondon is competing with six others (Dylan Cease, Bryan Hudson, Jose Paulino, Pedro Silverio, Jesus Castillo, and Erling Moreno) for a starting slot at Eugene, and (as you can probably tell from the EXST box scores)  the competition has gotten fierce over the last couple of weeks, With the exception of Moreno, the Eugene SP candidates have upped their game lately, and M. Rondon's outing yesterday was especially impressive/dominating. 

    Arizona Phil 2 hours 39 min ago view
  • E-MAN: Pierce Johnsion was mixing a 92-94 MPH fastball with a plus-change-up AND curve, and he threw strike-after-strike-after-strike with all three of his pitches. I believe that was the best command and pitch-efficiency I've ever seen from Johnson, who often pitches from behind in the count and issues too many walks.  

    Of course now he has to avoid a recurrence of the lat strain (whch he has had previously in his career) as well as all of the other miscellaneous physical problems he's had over the last three years (hamstring, quad, back, etc).  

    Arizona Phil 2 hours 48 min ago view
  • PHIL: Any movement on P. Johnsons pitches? What was his "out" pitch? I know he was working on a 4th pitch, so wondering what he is looking like these days. Thanks.

    The E-Man 3 hours 31 min ago view
  • AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.

    Hagsag 8 hours 17 min ago view
  • Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!

    Hagsag 8 hours 18 min ago view
  • Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.

    Eric S 17 hours 59 min ago view
  • With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.

    johann 20 hours 57 min ago view
  • it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.

    crunch 21 hours 9 min ago view
  • It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.

    Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.

    The E-Man 21 hours 18 min ago view
  • That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.

    I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.

    Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...

    These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.

    No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.

    The E-Man 21 hours 23 min ago view
  • a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...

    it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...

    crunch 21 hours 42 min ago view
  • Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.

    johann 22 hours 18 min ago view
  • Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.

    johann 22 hours 35 min ago view
  • Soler BB acumen and plate awareness is excellent. Not unusual for even the best players to react as if they were about to hit them, "even though they weren't that close" from your vantage point sitting on your deck, or wherever.

    The E-Man 22 hours 37 min ago view
  • soler vs inside breaking balls is scary.

    he's had 2 inside curve balls today where he reacted as if they were about to hit him even though they weren't that he bailed out of the box on, it was a called strike.

    crunch 22 hours 55 min ago view