March 2009

Torii Hunter crushed a lead-off first-pitch home run to ignite a seven-run 4th inning, propelling the Angels to an 8-4 victory over the Cubs at Ho Ho Kam Park this afternoon in Mesa, as the Cubs set an all-time single-season Cactus League attendance record. (It probably helped that the 2009 Cactus League season was extended by a week and a few extra home games to accomodate the WBC).   

box score

The Angels show up in Mesa today sending prospect Nick Adenhart to the mound -  Sean Marshall will go for the Cubs. Here is the lineup according to Muskat:

LF Alfonso Soriano, CF Kosuke Fukudome, 1B Lee, RF Micah Hoffpauir, 3B
Aramis Ramirez, 2B Mike Fontenot, C Geovany Soto, SS Ryan Theriot, P
Sean Marshall.

Other than Hoffpauir in there for Bradley, it's pretty much what we should expect to see on Opening Day.

On the rumor mill, Paul Sullivan says that Chad Fox will head down to Iowa after the Cubs vs. Yankees series which leaves Patton, Gaudin, Guzman and Samardzija for the final two spots in the bullpen. Sullivan says a trade would have to go down by Wednesday and it looks like the Cubs are trying to move Gaudin or Guzman. Also, Lou said, "There will either be a trade, an option.... anything but (putting one of them through) waivers."

The Cubs trimmed their roster by two more today, releasing Gabor Bako and LHP Mike Stanton. Congrats to Koyie Hill and his bionic hand. The roster now stands at 28 and the position players and bench are set for Opening Day. The spring roster with just a week left in camp.

CATCHERS - Soto, Hill

INFIELDERS - Lee, Theriot, Miles, Fontenot, Ramirez, Hoffpauir

OUTFIELDERS - Soriano, Fukudome, Johnson, Bradley, Gathright

STARTING PITCHING: Zambrano, Dempster, Lilly, Harden, Marshall

RELIEF PITCHING:  Gregg, Marmol, Heilman, Vizcaino, Cotts, Gaudin, Patton, Guzman, Fox, Samardzija

 

I think the first 5 bullpen spots are locked down, leaving Gaudin, Patton, Guzman, Fox and Samardzija for the final two spots and I don't see why they'd keep Samardzija in the majors with the relatively poor spring he has had and the fact that he has options left. And it's quite possible that Rich Harden will see the disabled list to start the season and the Cubs will then just have to move one of the four left  - Gaudin, Patton, Guzman or Fox (Large cartoon blinking arrow pointing at Chad Gaudin's name).

 

Mark DeRosa drove in four runs with two long home runs and a sacrifice fly and scored another run after reaching base on a double, as the Cleveland Indians defeated the Cubs 7-5 before 13,097 fans at sunny and breezy Dwight Patterson Field at Ho Ho Kam Park in Mesa this afternoon.

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Muskat reports the Cubs have optioned Kevin Hart and Randy Wells to Triple A. Outfielders Brad Snyder (who was already outrighted off the 40-man roster) and So Taguchi have been assigned to minor league camp, along with infielders Estaban German and Andres Blanco and catcher Mark Johnson. That gives Joey Gathright the final bench spot with just the decision between Paul Bako and Koyie Hill left for the backup catching duties.

A list of the final 30 players left in camp after the jump.

Gordon Wittenmyer "tweets" that Kevin Gregg has been named the Cubs closer to start the season. While everyone that owns Carlos Marmol in their fantasy league throws their mouse across the room, it's probably the best move for the Cubs...for now. A few blown saves by Gregg and I doubt that Lou will hesitate to flip roles.

The Indians roll into Mesa today with Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood in tow and here's the Cubs' lineup from Muskrat.

LF Alfonso Soriano, SS Ryan Theriot, 1B Derrek Lee, RF Milton Bradley,
3B Aramis Ramirez, 2B Mike Fontenot, C Geovany Soto, CF Joey Gathright
and P Ted Lilly.

Cubs Manager Lou Pniella generally prefers to delegate pitching matters to his pitching coach (that would be Larry Rothschild), but one aspect of the pitching staff Uncle Lou believes he understands is how to get his bullpen ready for Opening Day.

And a big part of this preparation is Piniella's belief that each of his relievers need to throw on back-to-back days once or twice during the last ten days of Spring Training, and each reliever needs to throw two innings one time, too.   

That's where Minor League Spring Training games can really come in handy. 

While Ryan Dempster, Jeff Samardzija, Randy Wells, and Kevin Hart made the two-hour bus trip to Tucson to pitch against the Colorado Rockies at Hi Corbett Field, Kevin Gregg, Chad Fox, and Luis Vizcaino took the 20-minute van ride to the Papago Park Baseball Complex in Phoenix (a former WWII POW Camp) to get their work in versus the Oakland A's AAA squad in a minor league game.      

The Cubs scored seven runs in the bottom of the 1st, and cruised to a 9-4 victory over the White Sox this afternoon at Ho Ho Kam Park in Mesa, in front of a Cactus League record crowd of 13,327, a game that I'm sure many of you watched on WGN-TV.

box score  

Last week, Arizona Phil offered a thoughtful, reasoned analysis of the Cubs' threats to vacate their spring training home in Mesa, absent major improvements at Fitch Park. In the meantime, with in-laws living in Vero Beach and no baseball to watch out at Dodgertown during my family's annual spring visit to Florida, I have been thinking about what a swell replacement the tradition-rich Cubs would be for the tradition-rich Dodgers, who began training in Vero way back in 1949. The Dodgers are currently enjoying their first spring training out west, at the Camelback Ranch complex in Arizona Phil territory.

Author Charles Fountain, who recently wrote a book about the history of Major League spring training, took up the Cubs to Vero Beach question in a column published in a local paper on Friday. He writes that the notion of the Cubs moving into Dodgertown is beyond a longshot. Beyond even a long, long, longshot.

I had so much fun watching the Iowa Cubs yesterday at Fitch Park, I decided to follow the Cubs' AAA affiliate to neighboring Tempe today as they took on the Angels AAA affiliate (the PCL Salt Lake Bees) at the Angels Minor League Complex at Diablo Park. 

While it isn't unusual for one or more Cubs major leaguers to play in a AAA game (esprcially when the big club has a night game), that wasn't the case today  

Kyle Reynolds smashed a two-run homer and Doug Deeds blasted a solo shot, but that's all the runs the Cubs could muster. And since tthe four Cubs pitchers were (mostly) ineffective, the I-Cubs lost, 7-3.

Here is today's abridged box score (Iowa Cubs players only). Some of the more observant among you might note that most all of the I-Cubs who played today were at big league camp not too long ago...  

I recently purchased a copy of the Bill James Handbook 2009...I know, a little late to the party...but it does a great job of presenting information that isn't readily available, information I'll pass along as they become relevant throughout the season. I'm also going to get a subscription to BillJames.net to update everyone as the season progresses.

But thumbing through the book they have all kinds of stats on relievers and let's see if any of it will help Lou pick his closer on the year.

Rich Harden threw four shutout innings and Welington Castillo's two run home run capped a five-run 5th, as the Iowa Cubs (Cubs AAA affiliate) edged the Sacramento River Cats (Oakland A's AAA affiliate) 5-4 before an unusually large Minor League Camp crowd of 50+ at cool & breezy Fitch Park Field #3 this afternoon

Cubs Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild and Assistant Pitching Coach Lester Strode were in attendance, and the place was absoluely crawling with beat writers, bloggers, and assorted Cubs fans intent on watching an actual Cubs major league pitcher throw on a day when the big club had the day off, and they were not disappointed.

However, very few stayed for the whole game. 

So for those of you who want to know how Harden looked, but also just HAVE to know how the Iowa Cubs did it,.. here is... the... rest...of... the... story...

With the Cubs announcing that #31 will be retired in honor of Ferguson Jenkins and Greg Maddux, waxpaperbeercup recently asked if the Cubs should retire #21 in honor of Jason Marquis? Suprisingly, 40% thought the Cubs should do so...which I thought was a bit high for someone that was a Cub for just two years. 

All kidding aside, it's an intriguing question and I imagine I'll get a similar response here, but let's try it anway. For anyone who reads this site regularly, they'll know where I stand when it comes to Sammy Sosa. The man deserves far more gratitude from Cubs fans than the vitriol that seems to be prevalent, but let's put it to a vote and see if we can up the sample size.

 

The Cubs have released 2003 #1 draft pick OF Ryan Harvey.

The 24-year old Harvey had one of the top two or three RF arms in the organization and awesome power (he hit four home runs for Daytona in one game a couple of years ago), but he just was not a good hitter (he is a first-ball fastball hacker--247/298/448 with 83 HR and 539 strikeouts in 471 career minor league games), and he suffered from nagging injuries (knee, hamstring, back, etc) throughout his career,

Harvey's release comes almost exactly a year after the Cubs released Harvey's one-time HS teammate and fellow slugger 1B Brian Dopirak (Cubs #2 pick in 2002). Dopirak signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays after he got released and spent most of the 2008 season playing in hometown Dunedin, FL. B-Dope then re-signed with the Blue Jays (he was a minor league free-agent post-2008) and got an NRI to ST with the Jays this Spring as part of the deal (although he has been returned to Tornoto's minor league camp) 

So I wouldn't be surprised if Harvey follows Dopirak to the Blue Jays organization, even if it means he has to go back to the Florida State League again (where he would play for his hometown team) in 2009, although the Jays would probably agree to give him a shot in AA first.  

Harvey's release is definitely not a surprise. He will be a minor league free-agent after this season, and was just not progressing fast enough to think that he would be a candidate to get added to the Cubs 40-man roster post-2009. So cutting him now is probably just the best thing for everybody, especially for Harve. .

Harvey was a combination RF-RHP in HS, and I had thought (and have written here at TCR) that he might be converted to pitcher at some point with the Cubs when he continually struggled as a hitter, but while the Cubs have converted more than a dozen postion players to pitcher over the past couple of years (and no organization converts position players to pitcher to the extent that the Cubs do), they never do it unless the player agrees to the move. So I think it's pretty likely that the Cubs asked Harvey to consider a move to pitcher, but he declined.  

 

I mentioned it when Manny signed with the Dodgers, but here are the final standings for our Free Agent Frenzy contest for this season. Congrats to "CincyKid" for the win, you are the proud owner of "Crazy '08" by Cait Murphy. Email me your address so I can send your prize out.

Alfonso Soriano drove in two runs and reached base four times on two singles and two wallks, Milton Bradley had three hits including a double and a solo home run, and Geovany Soto drove in two runs with a double and a sacrifice fly, leading the Cubs to a hard-fought 9-8 victory over the Colorado Rockies this afternoon in front of a record Ho Ho Kam Park crowd of 13,298.

box score

Colorado strolls into Mesa today with lefty Franklin Morales to start and Lou trots out what might be the regular lineup versus lefties to start the season.

LF Alfonso Soriano, SS Ryan Theriot, 1B Derrek Lee, RF Milton Bradley,
3B Aramis Ramirez, CF Reed Johnson, C Geovany Soto, 2B Aaron Miles, P
Chad Gaudin.

Also, Sam Fuld and Jake Fox have been sent to minor league camp and there should be more roster cuts later today.

UPDATE: As suggested, there were more cuts...Jose Ascanio will join Fuld and Fox in Triple A for the time being, with pitcher Jason Waddell and INF Bobby Scales being assigned to minor league camp. That leaves 37 left in camp. Also, Richie Robnett was outrighted to Triple A, which now leaves two spots open on the Cubs 40-man roster.

 

Thanks to reader Hollinger for this fantastic Photoshop work.

I'm worried.

I'm worried that our best hitter and best pitcher are two of the most injury-prone players in the game

I'm worried that we signed Dempster back before the economy completely tanked, and wound up over-paying.

I'm worried that the Dempster overpay caused us to trade away DeRosa, which, I worry, has greatly weakened our bench.

And, I worry, has greatly weakened our chemistry, whatever the hell that is.

I'm worried that Carlos Marmol will tire of his experiment living
amongst humans, and decide to return to his normal, alien form, go back
to the mothership, and report to the Martians that no, the earthlings
do not offer any worthy baseball competition.  Marmol the Martian will
then leave us as he explores other worlds in search of competition.

I'm worried that Carlos Zambrano is on the Livan Hernandez Career Arc.

I'm worried that you, gentle reader, won't follow me below the fold...

Tags: 

Alfonso Soriano ripped a two-out two-run single to cap a three-run 7th, and Carlos Zambrano threw six innings of one-run ball, leading he Cubs to a 5-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners in Cactus League action before 13,002 fans at Dwight Patterson Field at Ho Ho Kam Park this afternoon in hot & sunny Mesa, AZ.

box score

Jake Fox had three hits and drove in five runs with a two-run double and a three-run homer, Milton Bradley drove in three runs with a two-run home run and an RBI single, Alfonso Soriano drove in two runs with a solo HR and an RBI single, and Sean Marshall started the game and pitched five strong innings (getting ten ground balls), as the Cubs drubbed the White Sox 13-2 in Cactus League action at Camelback Ranch this afternoon

box score  

So I take off for a few days and Cubnut takes out Corey Koskie's career...I hope he uses these newfound powers for good in the future. An article from Muskat at cubs.com does say that Koskie has made it official and has quit baseball for good.

My brush with baseball while I was in Las Vegas for three days was seeing Pete Rose at a "Field of Dreams" store doing an autograph signing. Appropriately he was counting the money he had made as I passed by...a shame I didn't have my 1972 Topps card of him on me.

Cubs take on the White Sox today and the game is on MLB.tv at least. Here is the Cubs' lineup courtesy of Muskat:

LF Alfonso Soriano, SS Ryan Theriot, CF Reed Johnson, DH Milton
Bradley, 1B Jake Fox, 3B Mike Fontenot, 2B Aaron Miles, C Koyie Hill,
RF So Taguchi.

Sean Marshall will be doing the starting.

I know many of you probably watched today's game on WGN, but for those of you who didn't, or for those of you who did but weren't paying attention....

There has been a lot of talk out here this Spring about if and when the Cubs will leave Mesa.

-- Tigers, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Astros; that's your complete list of the teams which ranked lower than the Cubs in Kevin Goldstein's organizational rankings at Baseball Prospectus (subscription required).

Goldstein's comments about the Cubs, who stood 16th in his '08 rankings:

"Josh Vitters is one of the best pure hitters in the minors; 2008 top pick Andrew Cashner's post-draft struggles were a fluke and his stuff will play; Jeff Samardzija finally began figuring things out."

"Other than Vitters, there is
really not a single hitter in this system that excites anyone; the
weakness in terms of the organization's depth is the key reason that
the long-rumored Jake Peavy deal never went down."

"Samardzija is the only player who is likely to lose his prospect status; there's no reason to see (the Cubs) moving up considerably (in the rankings)."

--We all know that spring training numbers mean next to nothing, but since Opening Day is, what, another 11 weeks away?, they're the only numbers we have, so let's enjoy them, dammit!

Paul Sullivan reports in the Tribune that Sean Marshall has been officially anointed the Cubs' 5th starter.

Says Manager Lou:

"Marshall is going to be the fifth starter, and [Aaron] Heilman is going to pitch in that seventh-eighth inning role."

Less positive news on Corey Koskie, subject of our earlier post. Koskie came out of today's win over the Mariners in the third inning.

"I think when he dove for [a grounder] it caused him some problems,"
Piniella said. "He mentioned he wasn't feeling well, so we just took
him out."

Haven't seen a lineup yet for this afternoon's Cubs-Mariners game, but Lou Piniella's stated plan with Corey Koskie is to "probably play him every couple days and see how he does..."

Koskie started Tuesday's game against the Dodgers and ripped a double off the centerfield wall in his first at-bat. He also walked and grounded out.

In looking for some information on Koskie, I came across an mlb.com article from April of last year, when the longtime Twin, still suffering from the after-effects of a concussion he suffered as a Brewer, dropped by the Metrodome.

"...Elton John's going to help us win some ballgames."

So says Crane Kenney in explaining how the extra revenue the Cubs will realize from three Wrigley Field concerts this summer, including the Elton John/Billy Joel event in late July, will translate into additional payroll flexibility.

More from Kenney:


"The CBOE [seat] auction last year paid for Rich Harden. The 'Road to Wrigley' game sponsored our Asian scouting operation. That's the way, from the business end, we look at these things. All
these elements really help our business move forward. My view is if
you're a Cub fan, you should enjoy the concerts whether you're an Elton
John fan or not."

Nick Noonan capped a five-run 9th with a two-out grand slam, as the Giants rallied to defeat the Cubs (and leave a lot of Cubs fans speechless) before a record crowd of 13,024 under sunny skies at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa this afternoon.   

box score

Also, the Cubs sent have sent non-roster RHPs Esmailin Cardidad and Ken Kadokura to minor league camp. This brings the Cubs Spring Training roster down to 43 (including Ted Lily and Kosuke Fukudome, who are still playing in the WBC) 

The 35-year old Karokura was making his U. S. debut after spending 13 years playing in Japan, and I suspect he will be released (or will request his release) prior to Opening Day and will return to Japan. He probably isn't at the point in his career where he would want to spend a year playing AAA ball. He didn't really have a bad Spring with the Cubs, but he had a tendency to get ahead of hitters 0-1 or 1-2 and then nibble, nibble, nibble. I don't think Manager Lou Piniella likes that approach too much.  

Caridad is a different matter, however, I have him rated as one of the Cubs Top Ten prospects, and he pitched very well so far this Spring and could surface sometime this season in Chicago. Now 25, Caridad was (like Alfonso Soriano and Timo Perez) originally signed by the Hiroshima Carp and was assigned to their Dominican Academy, before pitching in Japan in 2007. But Caridad became a free-agent on a technicality after that season, and Cubs Player Personnel Director Oneri Fleita personally signed the right-hander while on a trip to the Dominican Republic in December 2007  Caridad pitched at Daytona and Tennessee in 2008 (going a combined 13-7, 3.73 ERA, 1.11 WHIP), and then pitched in the AFL with the Mesa Solar Sox in October-November '08. He can start or relieve.

As for today's game...      

The Giants visit the Cubs in Mesa Wednesday afternoon (3:05 Central). Ryan Dempster and A-Ram are expected to be in the starting lineup. The game can be heard via mlb.com Webcast.

Here's your Cactus League Attendance Trivia for Wednesday:

The two highest-drawing Cactus League games ever have been played in the last three weeks. The top draw was yesterday's Cubs/Dodgers game at Camelback Ranch (13,046). Now in second place is a February 28th game which drew 13,010. It was also played at Camelback, this one hosted by the White Sox...also against your Chicago Cubs.

There seems to be a pattern here.

Muskat says nine have been cut and they are (drumroll please)....

Pitchers Mitch Atkins, Justin Berg and Jeff Stevens have been optioned to Triple A, with Marcos Mateo headed to Double A(for now).  NRI's C Welington Castillo, INF Luis Rivas and Darwin Barney and OF Doug Deeds and Jason Dubois have been assigned to minor league camp.

The Cubs travel to Glendale to play the Dodgers, Carlos Zambrano gets his fourth start of the spring.  Randy Wolf goes for the Dodgers.

The batting order from Muskat:

LF Alfonso Soriano, 2B Miles, CF Reed Johnson,
1B Derrek Lee, RF So Taguchi, 3B Koskie, C Koyie Hill, SS Andres
Blanco, P Carlos Zambrano.

Let's take a quick glance at how the battles for the few roster spots and jobs has been going down in Mesa.

Matt Brown crushed a bases-loaded double to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 lead, as the Angels rallied to defeat the Cubs 6-4 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park this afternoon, in a game many of you probably watched on WGN-TV.

box score

Time for that Player A, Player B, Player C contrivance, using the average of the five different 2009 projection systems available at FanGraphs.

 

  Ave.  Obp.  Slg.  OPS
 Player A  .277  .311  .412  .723
 Player B  .212  .285  .301  .585
 Player C  .229  .292  .363  .655

 

Player A also has 13 Gold Gloves, 12 All-star Game appearances, an MVP award and a World Series ring.

Player B also has...  well...  uh...  A Funny Middle Name.  He's 7 months younger than player A, too.

Player C also has... well...  uh...  A Funny First Name.  And middle name.  He's hurt just a bit in this comparsion because he's so incredibly anonymous that he didn't get included in Bill James' projection system, which usually has a tick or two higher offensive projections than the other four projection systems.

If you haven't figured it out yet...

 

- Lou says Sean Marshall is well on his way to securing a spot in the rotation.

"He has done absolutely nothing to hurt his chances," Piniella said.
"He's throwing the ball as well as I've seen him throw it. He came in
here as the front-runner and, truthfully, he hasn't lost that status."

- If you're missing Wrigley Field, you can print out and assemble your own thanks to this link I found through Baseball Musings. Or if you need some set pieces for a Godzilla movie you're filming.

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