I don't really want to wait around till Friday on these, so a bit of link-mania. - For some reason folks keep wanting to ruin their fine podcasts by asking me to appear on them. In this case, 14-year old phenom and Red Sox fan Alex Reimer asked me to talk about the NL Central(Episode #111) and do one of my least favorite things, make predictions. I was a bit skeptical at first at the whole 14-year old thing, but once you hear the open to his show you realize he's going to be taking over the world at any point and I'd like to get on his good side. - John Sickels does a prospect smackdown between Red Sox CF Jacoby Ellsbury and Cubs CF (you may have heard of him) Felix Pie. Sickels gives the nod to Pie and has him quite a bit higher than most prospect lists at around #22 overall in baseball, although he originally had Ellsbury one spot above Pie, but seemed to change his mind in the midst of writing his article. - Hardball Times uses their projection numbers that you can find in their preseason book (including an article by yours truly) to try and predict the division races. They've got the Cubs and Cardinals in a virtual dead heat, with the Cards winning by one game finishing with 85 wins. - SI.com has revamped their team pages and made it considerably more fan-friendly. So much so, that our RSS feed (along with a few other fine Cubs blogs) are included at the bottom. Smart way for SI.com to try and differentiate themselves from all the other sports sites if I do say so myself.
Cubs travel to Tuscon and throw Ted Lilly on the mound to start, Ryan Dempster is set to make an appearance as well. Brian Lawrence goes for the Rockies.
Well that didn't take long, two spring training innings and Lou has seen enough to say that Michael Wuertz has made the club.
"He competes well, he throws strikes, he's done a nice job," Piniella said of the right-hander, who compiled a 2.66 ERA in 41 games last season for the Cubs. "As long as he stays healthy the rest of the spring and gets his work in, he'll be on the team."
First, let's commend Lou for realizing how good Wuertz has been over the past two years (that's what happens when you look at the numbers) and not holding a roster spot over someone's head who clearly deserves it with his past performance. Second, that leaves two open spots in the pen and Neil Cotts looks like a good bet for one helping himself with a nice two inning performance today. That leaves one spot left for either Angel Guzman or Rocky Cherry and Lou says he'd be good with either one. Kerry Wood looks to start the year on the disabled list and will likely stay back in Arizona while he gets use to the bullpen grind. Other notes of interest from the same article are that some roster cuts will happen after Tuesday's game and Lou still isn't decided on whether the 25th man will be an extra infielder or outfielder.
A day after they were shutout on two hits by a trio of Angels pitchers at Diablo Stadium in Tempe, a Cubs split squad exploded for 22 hits, defeating a Seattle Mariners split squad 16-4 before a crowd of 8,625 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa today. box score - CUBS VS SEA at MESA
Wade Miller stays behind in Mesa to face-off against the Mariners, while Sean Gallagher and the "B" group go visit the Brewers. Uber-prospect Yovani Gallardo gets the Brewers start and Ryan Feierabend (Who?) goes for the Mariners who are also splitting their roster today.
Lou unofficially officially gave the 5th starter job to Wade Miller and put Angel Guzman into the long relief/swingman role. Lou gives us his take which is one I believe more managers should do with hot-shot pitching prospects:
"Quite frankly, that's the way you should bring up a young pitcher. Put him in long relief and let him get some experience there. … He can be protected, but at the same time he'll get his work and watch other major-league pitchers the way they go about their pitches."
Paul Sullivan speculates the pen will be Dempster, Howry, Guzman, Eyre, Ohman, Cotts and one of Wuertz, Cherry or Wood, but I think it's Cotts who gets sent to Iowa in favor of Guzman and two of Wuertz, Cherry, Wood and the longshot of longshots, Roberto Novoa. It seems Rothschild and company also worked a bit on Guzman's delivery:
"We moved him over to the right side of the rubber," Piniella said after watching a Sunday morning throwing session. "It creates a different angle to the hitter. He felt comfortable with it. I feel that it will help him, especially to right-handed hitters."
Something to keep our eyes on and Muskat goes into greater detail in her article.
Mr. Scoop Ken Rosenthal breaks out another Cubs rumor, saying the Cubs and Rangers are exploring the possibility of a trade for Rockies infielder Clint Barmes. Barmes will be losing his starting job to uber-prospect Troy Tulowitzki this season, but Rosenthal speculates that they'll just hold onto Barmes in hopes that he'll compete for the starting second base job next year. Barmes (27 years old) doesn't look like anything special, really only enjoying one half of a good season in 2005 before an unfortunate accident involving Todd Helton's deer meat (say what?). Rosenthal doesn't speculate on who the Cubs might send their way, although I imagine Angel Pagan might be of some interest along with someone like Carlos Marmol.
Lou says...
"I've never really bunted early. I'm going to run, hit-and-run, steal, double steal, but I don't like the idea of bunting early in a game. Late in the game with a 3-2 lead, 4-2 lead, you get the first couple of runners on, you're looking to tack on, I like the bunt then."
and for $800
"I've already told my team I don't want to run into an out just to get a run in on a base hit to the outfield. I want to get my big boys up there five times a game if I can."
The article also says Alfonso Soriano will be the only player on the team with a green light to steal and it looks like the #2 spot in the lineup will be a mix between Matt Murton, Mark Derosa, Ryan Theriot and Jacque Jones. The OBP and P/PA for those four: Murton: Career .404 vs lefties and 3.64 P/PA (righties and lefties) Derosa: Career .316 vs righties, .367 vs lefties and 3.57 P/PA (3.92 and 3.70 thought the last 2 years) Theriot: Career .395 and 3.69 P/PA Jones: Career .343 vs. righties and 3.55 P/PA (3.65 last year)
Z takes the mound versus the "Mighty Angels of Anaheim located near the metropolis known as Los Angeles" who put John Lackey on the mound. The game happens to be on television out here in L.A., so I'll mention anything worth mentioning after the game that I didn't miss while trying to keep an eye on the NCAA tournament.
Jose Cruz, Jr and Kevin Kouzmanoff each hit two-run home runs, as the San Diego Padres defeated the Cubs 7-3 before a capacity St. Patrick's Day crowd of 12,764 and an international WGN-TV audience at extremely hot (record-setting mid-90's) and sunny Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa today. box score
St. Patrick's Day (Drink) and the Cubs and Padres break out the green caps (Drink). Rich Hill is on the mound for the Cubs (Drink) and has given up three early runs through the first inning and two-thirds (Drink). Maddux was supposed to start for the Padres (Drink) but was held back in favor of a minor league start and Tim Stauffer started (Drink) for the Padres and gave up an early three-run dinger to Derrek in the first (Drink).
This time I'm SURE the game was on WGN-TV (because that's how I watched it), so I'm not going to go into a complete review of the game, but the White Sox defeated the Cubs 7-6 yesterday at VERY hot (upper 90's) Tucson Electric Park. box score
In honor of Wade Miller (the Frontrunner), Angel Guzman (the Contender, at least until earlier today), and Mark Prior (the Bystander), here is a list of recent Cubs' #5 starters, defined as the pitcher with the fifth most starts in a given season. Note: portions may be unsuitable for more sensitive viewers. 1997: Frank Castillo, 19 starts, 98 IP, 6-9, 5.42 1998: Geremi Gonzalez, 20 starts, 110 IP, 7-7, 5.32 1999: Terry Mulholland, 16 starts, 110 IP, 6-6, 5.15 2000: Ruben Quevedo, 15 starts, 88 IP, 3-10, 7.47 2001: Julian Taverez, 28 starts, 161.3 IP, 10-9, 4.52 2002: Carlos Zambrano, 16 starts, 108.3 IP, 4-8, 3.66 2003: Shawn Estes, 28 starts, 152.3 IP, 8-11, 5.73 2004: Mark Prior, 21 starts, 118.7 IP, 6-4, 4.02 2005: Jerome Williams, 17 starts, 106 IP, 6-8, 3.91 2006: Carlos Marmol, 77 IP, 5-7, 6.08 On average, this group managed 19 starts, 113 IP, a won-loss record of 6-8 and an ERA of 5.22. I don't know how those numbers stack up to other teams during these last 10 years, but I would think Williams in '05, Prior in '04, certainly Zambrano in '02, and maybe even Tavarez in '01 would have compared quite well.
Angel Guzman takes the mound in another round of "5th Starter Idol", will he do enough against the homer happy White Sox (leading all teams in homers this spring and tied for third in total runs) to keep from getting voted off? The White Sox send Javier Vazquez to the mound for us to tee off on (hopefully). Michael Wuertz is set to make his first appearance in Cactus League action as well.
Mr. Scoop Ken Rosenthal breaks out the rumor mill:
Alex Sanchez seems likely to win the Marlins' center-field job, but the team has kicked around the idea of pursuing the Cubs' Angel Pagan, a switch-hitter who might not make the team's Opening Day roster. The Cubs are looking for a middle infielder who can play shortstop, and the Marlins' Robert Andino could fill that role.
It appears he's just throwing Andino's name out there, but he was a hot prospect for the Marlins about two seasons ago before they acquired themselves Hanley Ramirez and before Andino decided to never evolve with his bat. He still received "best defensive infielder" and "best infield arm" honors in the latest Baseball America Top Prospect rundown of the Marlins organization and in 2005 he was ranked as high as #6 on their list. He'll turn twenty-three this year but his minor league numbers suggest he's just Ronny Cedeno which sort of makes this trade rather pointless other than getting something for nothing because I believe Angel Pagan would have to go through waivers if he doesn't make the 25-man roster.  CORRECTION: Angel has two option years left making a trade less necessary, but if they want him off the 40-man roster he would need to go through the waiver process. Thanks to AZ Phil as always...


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