Thanks to Deadspin and "The Greatest Blog in The World" for this YouTube find. You can find more clips at the link above. [kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/9W7L-RJH704" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /] They dutifully recreated the awkward Rocky/Apollo man-hug quite well I must say.
Wade Miller takes the mound in Tucson today to face-off against the Diamondbacks. Micah Owings gets the start for them.
Mr. Scoop Ken Rosenthal at Foxsports.com breaks the news that really didn't need to be broken. The Soriano center field experiment has received FDA approval and will be good to go starting in April. The man of few words, Lou Piniella explains:
"We'll know by the third week of March, another seven or eight games," manager Lou Piniella told FOXSports.com on Monday. "But truthfully, I can almost come to that conclusion now."
All in all, a rather flattering piece on our $18 million dollar man. Did anyone else know he speaks English, Spanish and Japanese? I knew he started his career over there, but didn't realize he picked up the language as well. And since Matt Murton's defense seems to be a hot topic in the comments and everyone seems to have an opinion on it, how about we hear what a pro scout has to say about it?
Matt Murton — a solid defender who is "vastly underrated" in the opinion of one rival scout — figures to get most of the playing time in left.
Yeah, "vastly underrated", you hear that, can you pick yourself off the ground after that scathing tongue lash? Just kidding around, but good to know that the "pros" share my viewpoint. I've always felt Murton is at no worse an average left fielder who may run a questionable route or two, but he's got above average speed to make up for it and he may not possess a cannon out there, but you don't need one in left field. Plus he's shown a willingness to work on all aspects of his game, he'll only get better. As spring training winds down over the next three weeks and barring any injury it appears to me that the only real question marks to be answered will be the fifth starter, the fallout from that race affecting the bullpen and the 25th man which seems to be a race between Angel Pagan and Buck Coats.
The Cubs announced 14 roster cuts after today's game in Scottsdale, bringing their Spring Training roster down to 44 players. OPTIONED TO IOWA (AAA): Scott Moore, IF-OF Clay Rapada, LHP OPTIONED TO TENNESSEE (AA): Brian Dopirak, 1B OPTIONED TO DAYTONA (Hi-A) : Jeff Samardzija, RHP SENT TO MINOR LEAGUE CAMP (NRI) Jason Anderson, RHP Tyler Colvin, OF Sean Gallagher, RHP Adam Harben, RHP (rehabbing at Fitch Park after off-season TJ) Ben Howard, RHP Mike Kinkade, IF-OF (broken hand, out 4-6 weeks) Eric Patterson, 2B Chris Walker, OF John Webb, RHP Randy Wells, RHP Also, the Cubs defeated the Giants 10-5 today at Scottsdale Stadium, as Carlos Zambrano narrowly avoided a serious injury to his shoulder (non-throwing) when he fell running the bases. Derrek Lee also tweaked a groin on an awkward slide into second base, and Henry Blanco was forced to leave the game after suffering a bruised knee from a foul tip. Other than the injury report, there will be no game report from me, because I wasn't there. box score
Z takes the mound in Cactus League action against the Giants and Matt Morris. Matt Morris of course was a former Cardinal who married a Cubs beat reporter. What does this have to do with anything? Not much, but it bugged me the first time I read it and it bugs me everytime I see his ugly mug. A few quick notes/links: I received an email about the screening of a Cubs documentary called "Chasing October". You can view the trailer here and read more about it. They are doing a screening in Scottsdale, AZ tomorrow at the Harkins Camelview Theater with proceeds being donated to Derrek Lee's Project 3000 and an exclusive run will start on March 16th at the same theater. It'll also open in Chicago starting on March 23rd. Also, we have a new minor league site here at MVN devoted just to the Cubs, Road to Wrigley. Stop by and say hi. Eventually their posts will show up on our sidebar similarly to the "Division Rivals" box. Don't forget to get your copy of Wrigley Season Ticket 2007 and The Hardball Times 2007 Season Preview. (And yes I'm going to beat you over the head about these, but hopefully in a tasteful and entertaining way!)
Amusing comment from Lou Piniella in Monday morning’s Tribune story about Mark Prior being scheduled for a start in the minor league camp this coming Thursday.
“Get him to go down there and relax, and just pitch. He doesn't have to answer to the media. Hopefully you guys will all be over [at HoHoKam Park] at the 'A' game. Leave him alone, and let him pitch."
Obviously, this will be the most well attended minor league game in Cubs camp in some time. (Here’s hoping AZ Phil’s schedule will allow him to be among those defying Lou on Thursday afternoon.) One man’s relatively uninformed opinion of Mark Prior’s mechanics over the weekend: He didn’t look like a guy pitching through pain or an injury; he looked like a guy who was terrified of getting injured and was throwing accordingly. I say this primarily because of his low arm angle, a fact even commented upon by Ron Santo during the WGN Radio broadcast. It looked like the pitching version of walking with a limp.
If Wishes Were Ponies, Part1
''They are guys that can throw around 200 innings -- they can save your bullpen -- and you can have people win 15 or 16 games no matter what their ERA. If they can win 16 each and I win another 20 or 22, that will be fun.'' -Carlos Zambrano, on new teammates Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis
If Wishes Were Ponies, Part 2
'Boy, we'd be awfully deep and awfully talented.'' -Lou Piniella, on an injury-free pitching staff
Guess Who Said....
"I was embarrassed by the way I threw the ball last year. I want to improve on that." - Answer, Jacques Jones
For the first time since 1996, the MLB Playing Rules Committee has voted in several rules changes for 2007, including a couple of changes to MLB Rule 10 (official scoring).
On Friday, All The News That’s Fit To Print included an account of Lou Piniella’s first day as captain aboard the good ship Heartbreak. The piece, by Lee Jenkins, describes Piniella as most fans, myself included, have long seen him: “fiery” “known for his outbursts” “naturally animated and restless” “a manager who really knows how to vent” “as famous for his dirt kicking…as he is for any pep talks” “a man…who clearly hates to lose” “(reacting) to every booted ball…with a tortured expression or a fit of rage” But the story isn’t just a string of clichés.
The Cubs may be short these days on professional centerfielders and recent World Championship banners, but the Wrigley Boys are positively drowning in lefthanded pitching candidates. In fact, with five southpaws in line to make the big league roster (see Arizona Phil’s post from early Thursday), it’s difficult to even recognize them as the Cubs. Assuming Ted Lilly and Rich Hill each make 30 starts this season—a big stretch for young Hill; Lilly has hit 30 in three of the last four years—the duo would become the first pair of lefties to do so since Dick Ellsworth and Kenny Holtzman way back in 1966. For a little historical perspective, last season, led by Hill and Sean Marshall, lefthanders accounted for just over 31% of all Cubs IP. That’s the highest total since 1986, when the 70-90 Cubs relied on six lefties for 31.2% of their total IP. (For the record, the “Southpaw Six” were Steve Trout (161 IP), Jamie Moyer (87), Ray Fontenot (56), Guy Hoffman (84), Frank DiPino (40), and Drew Hall (23.7). I’m not sure, but I’m guessing that’s the first time Guy Hoffman’s name has ever been mentioned at The Cub Reporter. Congrats, Guy!)
Today when asked by the Podunk Free Press about his current contract status, TCR writer Rob G. had this to say:
"Rob G. demands that a new deal be done by Opening Day, otherwise you give Rob G. no choice but to test the blogging free agent waters. That's what Rob G. thinks. I know Evan Brunell spent a lot of money this offseason on the new site. I hope he has more for Rob G's contract. I'm ready to sign and I'll do my job this year if a deal doesn't get done, but if there's no new deal by Opening Day, Rob G. must go."
In unrelated news, Zambrano backed off his comments from earlier this week and says they were misconstrued. He also said the Cubs made their first formal multi-year offer "a five-year proposal 'very close' to what the San Francisco Giants gave free agent pitcher Barry Zito this winter. That would mean an offer worth close to $90 million." If Z is willing to take the shorter deal so he can cash-in again in five years, it seems like the finalizing of a deal is a mere formality. He also leaves Cubs fans with this message of optimism:
‘‘This is the team that gave me the opportunity to play baseball since I was 16 years old. I want to stay here. ... I want to sign with the Cubs. But I just don’t want to talk about contracts during the season.’’
While disappointed that he stopped referring to himself in the third person, the (apparent) sense of loyalty to the franchise is an encouraging sign.
The smell of freshly-cut grass, and temperatures in the 60's with nary a cloud in the sky. A smilin' Lou Piniella strolling from field to field, bantering with the fans and signing autographs. The sound of bat on ball, and pitchers practicing covering first on a ball hit to the first-baseman. Ah, yes. While it might not be absolutely as good as it gets, it's pretty close. Your pal AZ Phil and about 100 hopeful Cub fans attended the Cubs first Spring Training workout of 2007 this morning at Fitch Park in Mesa. It was a mandatory work-out for the Cubs' 30 pitchers and six catchers, but six position players (infielders and outfielders) who were not required to report showed up anyway.
Just letting you guys know that you can read my NL Central prediction over at MVN's Pittsburgh Lumber Co. A little roundtable with some fellow NL Central bloggers. Also I've got a bit on the Cubs in The Hardball Times 2007 Season Preview. I don't know the particulars yet on when it ships or the cost, but I did want to give everyone a heads up so you can save your allowances.
The rain has stopped, skies have cleared, Kerry Wood is a lean, mean, fighting machine, and with pitchers, catchers, and a few of the position players having reported to Fitch Park yesterday (minus Carlos Zambrano, whose arrival was delayed), and with the first offical Spring Training workout scheduled for this morning, here is the up-to-date Cubs 40-man roster and ST NRI list, the contract status and minor league option status for all players on the 40-man roster, the list of Cubs minor league players who will be eligible to be free-agents after the 2007 season and those who will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft next December, and AZ Phil's pre-ST Cubs organizational depth chart:
Reader "Virginia Phil" recently brought up an interesting comparision of some recent "5-tool" prospects in the comments last week on our "Prospect List-mania" article. He's expanded a bit on his original effort and we hope you enjoy....
"If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all." --Hamlet
Is Felix Pie ready? Here are Felix Pie's minor-league stats and those of three other fairly recent toolsy centerfield prospects, Carlos Beltran, Vernon Wells and Carl Crawford. (Actually, Crawford plays left in a crowded young outfield at TB.)

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