March 2007

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...
Kerry "I Should Really Start Knockin On" Wood suffered a "minor" setback in his last appearance and will not throw for a couple of days. It's being deemed as soreness in his tricep, just above the elbow and Hendry tries to tell us that the cause was "striding too far on the mound at Ho Ho Kam Park, trying to avoid a hole in the pitching surface, and that put the additional strain on the arm". Taking Hendry at his word which is pretty foolish as is, it's our freaking home park, stop the game next time and fill the hole or just walk off the field. What the hell? It should be noted that the injury seems to be nowhere near the shoulder injury that he went under the knife for last time.
Cliff Floyd hit a three-run homer and doubled, Aramis Ramirez hit a two-run home run, Alfonso Soriano went 3-3 with two singles, a triple, a stolen base, and a run scored, and Jacque Jones (a single and a double and two runs scored) and Matt Murton (a single and a walk) reached base twice, as the Cubs defeated the S. S. Mariner (that's "S. S.," as in "Split Squad") before a capacity crowd of 12,771 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa today. box score
Oh, sorry...I mean Mariners @ Cubs. Theodore Roosevelt takes the hill for the Cubbies, the Mariners are in split-squad action and put Cha Seung Baek (Who?) on the mound.
This former Northsider is now feeling as fit as a sub-replacement level fiddle. But that wasn't the case last season:
“(He) fought through a sports hernia all of last season with the Cubs... He underwent surgery for that. Even bigger… he finally underwent an operation to clean out loose bodies in his throwing elbow.”
Any guesses?
Almost every year, one or two Non-Roster Invitees (NRI) contend for a spot on the Cubs Opening Day 25-man roster. This year, it appears that veteran utility INF Tomas Perez has the best shot among the NRI to make the Opening Day 25, since Manager Lou Piniella says he believes the Cubs will need two utility middle-infielders. Ryan Theriot is definitely one, and unless the Cubs go outside the organization and make a trade for somebody like Marlins supersub (SS-2B-CF) Alfredo Amezaga, Perez would seem to be the logical front-runner to become the Cubs second utility infielder. But who are the other candidates, and if Perez does get the job, who gets dropped from the Cubs 40-man roster?
With Lou's declaration that the Fonz has pretty much sewed up center field to start the year, I happened to stumble across John Dewan's Stat of the Week from a few weeks back. He asks, "Can a horrible second basemen become a great outfielder?" Who do you think he's talking about? I don't want to get into too great a detail of his methodology but it's very thorough study of each and every baseball play, and yes they actually watch every inning of every game. His second base numbers are really of no interest anymore but his outfield numbers from last year certainly are and we do love numbers here. Defensive Misplays: 26 (third worst) Good Fielding Plays: 24 (Tied for the top spot) Overall +/- Rating: +15 (Second to only Dave Roberts among LF'ers) He also had a league leading "22 assists of which 15 were straight-to-the-base baserunner kills." That number will certainly go down this year as teams will be far more hesitant to run against him but that's certainly a positive spin, wouldn't you say? Centerfield will of course bring its own unique challenges, including getting use to being captain of the outfield and the most difficult throw in baseball from center to home plate where the player has to contend with pitcher's mound, but as Lou stated, just being average out there would be pretty good since Soriano will certainly hit much better than your average centerfielder.
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.

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