I’m putting together a look at how some of the online pubs and soothsayers foresee the Cubs season ahead. In the meantime, the Sports Illustrated Baseball Preview edition is on the street. SI has the Cubs pegged for second in the NL Central, behind the Cards and out of the post-season picture. The magazine, which ranks the Cubs as MLB’s 15th strongest club overall, figures the Brewers, Astros, Pirates and Reds will fall in order behind our heroes in the Central. In a sidebar to Albert Chen’s full preview of the Cubs, Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus suggests that the Cubs would be 39 runs better off by the end of the season if Michael Barrett hit leadoff and Alfonso Soriano batted cleanup. The conclusion is based on a computer simulation of the season using BP’s PECOTA projections. I agree with the notion that Soriano could help the team more if he hit further down in the lineup, though Matt Murton would strike me as a better replacement in the top spot than Barrett. Still, it’s kind of a cool idea. I wonder if they’d kick Barrett out of the catchers union if he told them he was batting first.
It appears that Ronny Cedeno has won the final bench spot on the team. Piniella likes the improvements he's made with the glove and bat and has told Hendry unless a substantial move can be made, he's ready to go to war with the soldiers currently in camp. (Cedeno apparently did make one of the more spectacular plays you'll ever see today, although I have yet to see it). While it would be foolish to write-off a 24-year old kid who hit reasonably well for his age and position in the minors, he's got plenty of warts on his game. He strikes out far too much for a guy with little power and has never shown much of an ability to draw a walk. And of course, the tool that got him promoted through the minors - his defense - got left somewhere in Venezuela, two winters ago. But he seems to be a different player so far in camp, his spring training stats are promising, although ultimately meaningless. He's hit to a tune of 310/408/429 and more importantly seven walks to only ten strikeouts in about fifty-two plate appearances. Sure, a whole lot of who cares, but better that he's hitting well; rather than not....to state the obvious. And if he's used as a proper 25th man/defensive replacement, this will be a whole lot of nothing.
Just like old times. A Cubs Spring Training game at HoHoKam Park. Sammy Sosa in the outfield. Heck, even Wayne Messmer and his wife Kathy are at the game, singing "God Bless America" before the game and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in the middle of the seventh inning. Best of all... Cubs Win!! Cubs Win!!! Cubs Win!! Yes, Daryle Ward clubbed a one-out grand slam HR in the bottom of the 9th inning, giving the Cubs a hard-fought 11-7 victory over the Texas Rangers in front of 11,674 fans at cloudy and breezy Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa today. Ward, who has now gone 5-10 with 10 RBI in his last three ST games, had earlier given the Cubs a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the 7th, with a two-out line-drive RBI single. box score
Today in Mesa, Arizona, the Cubs will square off against the Texas Rangers in Cactus League action, which would normally pass by without much reason for the casual Cubs fan to pause. Today though will be a little different, today the Rangers bring with them a man that is as synonymous with the Cubs as the ivy planted in the outfield at Wrigley, a man who very much like Ernie, Fergie and Ryno, needs only a first name introduction - Sammy. The rise and fall of Sosa has been discussed and dissected; ad nauseum. What made him famous ending up making him infamous. The rumors repeated so often, they're essentially accepted as facts. Did he or didn't he? The definitive evidence will likely never be revealed to settle the case. But to be convicted in the court of public opinion, the burden of proof is far less stringent and the verdict was delivered long ago. The man abused and fans were not amused, a matter of fact, many felt used.
I wasn't at the game, but the Cubs dropped a 4-2 decision to the Colorado Rockies today at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson. box score After the game, the Cubs announced several roster cuts, optioning C Geovany Soto to Iowa, and sending NRI LHP Ryan O'Malley and Carmen Pignatiello, C Jake Fox, 3B Casey McGehee, and 1B Micah Hoffpauir to the minor league camp at Fitch Park. The Cubs have also released RHP Eli Diaz and Alfredo Francisco, LHP Nate Bland, C Kevin Ciarrachi, 1B Jason Hart and Luther Murphy, INF Derek Wathan, and OF Tony Miller and Nate Price from minor league camp, and OF Davy Gregg has retired. Diaz was a 2006 40th round draft pick out of Texarkana JC who pitched at AZL Mesa last season, Francisco was a one-time hot-shot Dominican 3B prospect who received a big bonus from the Cubs five years ago, but was converted to a pitcher when he couldn't learn to hit curve balls and sliders, Murphy was a 2005 "draft+follow" JC player (selected in the 46th round out of Palm Beach CC) who signed with the Cubs prior to the 2006 Rule 4 Draft and then was assigned to AZL Mesa, Price was a '06 NDFA (University of Iowa) who hit a combined .263 as a "4th OF" at Peoria and Daytona last year, Ciarrachi was signed last December after playing in professional independent leagues the previous five seasons, and Bland (ex-HOU) , Hart (ex-TEX), Wathan (ex-FLA), and Miller (ex-COL) were minor league FAs signed to minor league contracts during the off-season by the Cubs. Gregg was a speedy CF selected in the 27th round of the 2005 draft out of the University of South Carolina who played at Boise in '05 and at Peoria last year.
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.


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