Cubs Spring Training

It's back to Cactus League play as the Cubs host the Royals at HoHoKam Tuesday afternoon at 3:05 Central.

Kosuke Fukudome will see some familiar faces in new Royals manager Trey Hillman, who managed the past five seasons in Japan, and righthander Yasuhiko Yabuta, who pitched the last 12 seasons for Chiba Lotte. Yabuta has given up 14 hits and 8 earned runs in 7 innings pitched and Fukudome is hitting .229--I wonder if they'll talk about the good ol' days.

In Hated Rival News, would-be Brewer trade bait Chris Capuano is now just another guy whose elbow needs watching. And while second baseman Rickie Weeks has been horrible in the field this spring, with a team-high five errors, at least it's deflecting attention from how awful Weeks has been at the plate: 20 strikeouts in 40 AB and a .125 average.

Through it all, the Brewers have gone 14-6 in exhibition play.

We just have to keep repeating:

Spring training records don't mean anything...

Spring training records don't mean anything...

Spring training records don't mean anything...

The Angels (10-6) visit HoHoKam this afternoon at 3:05 to play the Cubs (6-12). The game will be carried on WGN Radio, WGN-TV, mlb.tv and Gameday Audio, but no one will be tuning in, as the world's attention will be focused instead on the University of Illinois' attempt to secure an NCAA Tournament berth.

Carlos Zambrano starts for the fourth time this spring. He's yielded just one earned run and one walk in nine innings--with eight strikeouts.

Among the hitters, Micah Hoffpauir remains the hittingest one we've had--18-for-37 (.486!) with a slugging percentage of .811(!!).

On the other hand, Kosuke Fukudome is getting cranky.

The Cubs are a little over two weeks into spring training with about three weeks before Opening Day. It's time to check in on the yearly ritual of spring training battles. What's the fun of spring training without a little competition? The Cubs have a few spots up for grabs and today I take a look at the competition for the fabled closer role between Bob Howry, Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood. It's the final piece in the series and I know you will all miss my Wrestlemania-inspired graphic.

The closer battle is probably the least crucial of the spring training battles this year, for two reasons. First, the closer role is generally overrated. The closer protects more three-run leads with nobody on than he does one-run leads with the go-ahead run coming up. Set-up men are often asked to wiggle out of more difficult jams than closers, who are usually brought in just to start the ninth inning with a clean slate. Second, all three candidates can do the job just fine, so Lou really can't lose on this one. Sure, you'd like to pick the best, but those outs in the seventh and eighth are just as crucial; and the two "losers" will slide into the set-up men roles. Plus, if the winner out of spring training can't hack it, the Cubs have two ready-made options ready to fill-in, possibly three if Ryan Dempster isn't cutting it as a a starter. As they say in the old country, it's a good problem to have.

Let's take a closer look after the jump....

The Cubs host old friend Greg Maddux and the Pads, Thursday at 3:05 in Mesa. With his family's welfare in the balance, Jason Marquis will start for the Cubs. Marquis has allowed seven hits and two walks in two starts (5 IP) so far this Spring.

The game will be carried live on mlb.com Gameday Audio.

Also, if you haven't placed your bid on any of the CBOE seats, act now. The bidding ends at 3:00 pm.

Ted Lilly goes for the Cubs as they travel to Surprise!, Arizona. The unsinkable Sidney Ponson will waste everyone's time for the Rangers.

The Cubs announced their second round of roster cuts, trimming the roster by seven. Pitchers Jeff Samardzija, Ed Campusano, Juan Mateo were sent to the minors and Shingo Takatsu was released. Jake Fox, Luis Figueroa and JD Closser were the position players sent to minor league camp. 


Today at HoHoKam, Carlos Zambrano takes the mound versus the Athetics, who will send out lefty Greg Smith to start.

The Cubs are a little over two weeks into spring training with about three weeks before Opening Day. It's time to check in on the yearly ritual of spring training battles. What's the fun of spring training without a little competition? The Cubs have a few spots up for grabs and today I'll look at the starting rotation battle between Jon Lieber, Ryan Dempster, Jason Marquis and Sean Marshall. I won't pretend that Sean Gallagher has a legitimate chance, although I guess I am pretending that Sean Marshall does.

Unable or unwilling to trade for some of the top notch talent that was moved over the offseason, such as Johan Santana, Erik Bedard or Dan Haren; the Cubs head into 2008 with much of the same talent that was good for the second best ERA among NL starting staffs last year. Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly and Rich Hill
will anchor the staff, and if Marquis and Marshall win the jobs, you'll have the same starting five that took the mound for the bulk of last season.

That though, appears to be the least likely scenario, as Ryan Dempster is getting his wish to compete for a starting spot and the Cubs signed Lieber on a one year deal. It appears to be a bit of a logjam at the moment, but the bullpen or the trade market can alleviate that "problem" at the end of spring training.

Let's take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate after the jump...

The Cubs "travel" to Phoenix today to take on their Central rivals, the Brewers. Rich Hill goes for the Cubs with Mark DeRosa set to return to the lineup. Dave Bush will start for the Brewers.

The Cubs are a little over two weeks into spring training with about three weeks before Opening Day. It's time to check in on the yearly ritual of spring training battles. What's the fun of spring training without a little competition? The Cubs have a few spots up for grabs and today I'll take a look at the center field spot between Felix Pie and Sam Fuld.

The Cubs had the opportunity this offseason to shore up center field with a more reliable veteran, as a few stars hit the market including Torii Hunter and Andruw Jones
. The Cubs were obviously determined to give their youngsters a shot at the job, as they didn't even bother to call Hunter, which leads to the obvious conclusion that they probably didn't call any of the available center field free agents. We'll all soon find out if that confidence will be rewarded.

Felix Pie has been one of the Cubs top prospects and usually the Cubs top prospect ever since he joined the organization as a wide-eyed 17-year old out of the Dominican Republic. Pie has often been compared to the Cubs last great center field prospect, Corey Patterson, both being left-handed hitters with five-tool talent and questionable strike zone judgement. A tenous comparison, superficial at best, and, to be honest, a lazy comparison. While Corey Patterson struggled with each promotion in the minors and was truly rushed to the majors, Pie has taken each promotion in stride, often putting up better numbers than the previous stop.

Let's compare the two after the jump....

The Cubs (4-7 in Cactus League play) meet the Royals (5-5) in Surprise, Arizona (which, if it had any real guts, would add an exclamation point after its name. "Surprise!, Arizona"--now that's a town with character).

Ryan Dempster starts against Brett Tomko. Making his third appearance of the Spring, Dempster comes in at 1-0/3.60.

Yesteday, the Cubs split the squad and beat the Diamondbacks 4-1 in Mesa, while losing 7-6 to the A's on the road. Jon Lieber's four shutout innings against the D-Backs were one of the day's highlights.

So far this Spring:

Cub starters--2-1/3.38 ERA; 22 K, 7 BB; 26 H in 29 1/3 IP.

Cub relievers--2-6/6.55 ERA; 38 K, 38 BB; 73 H in 67 1/3 IP.

Alfonso Soriano returns to the lineup today with Jon Lieber taking the mound against the Snakes at HoHoKam Park. Sean Marshall will face Rich Harden against the A's in Phoenix for the other game.

Daryle Ward hit a PH two-run home run to cap a four-run 4th, as the Cubs defeated the Seattle Mariners 6-4 before a capacity crowd at HoHoKam Field in Mesa this afternoon. Ward was making his 2008 Cactus League debut, after being out of action the past couple of weeks with a sprained butt.

box score

After a grueling two-day road trip, the Cubs return to HoHokam Park to take on the Mariners. Ted Lilly will start for the Cubbies and Carlos Silva takes the mound for the Mariners. Aramis is set to make his spring debut as well.

The Cubs play the A's this afternoon at 2:05 Central Time in Phoenix. You can hear the game via the mlb.com Web cast.

Jason Marquis starts for the Cubs against former White Sox farmhand and non-roster invitee Gio Gonzalez. The lefty led all of minor league baseball in strikeouts last season and fanned three Giants over two scoreless innings in his Oakland debut last Saturday.

Marquis also threw last Saturday and, you may recall, pitched like hell.

The Cubs and Diamondbacks play in Tucson, their first meeting since the clubs matched up in last season's NLDS. (I don't recall who won.) Carlos Zambrano makes his second appearance of the Spring after pitching two scoreless innings against the Giants last Friday. Kosuke Fukudome had a big day in yesterday's loss to the Brewers, collecting three hits while batting in the two hole. Plus he has learned how to yank Bruce Miles's chain.

And what in the world is Jim Hendry talking about? He must not read Jeff Zrebiec.

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