Gameday Open Thread

The Cubs go for a third consecutive win and try to close out the homestand at 4-4 before they get the crap beaten out of them in Philadelphia as they match-up with the Rockies.

Jhoulys Chacin (yo-LEES cha-SEEN), 2-1, 2.66, goes up against Carlos Silva (CAR-los SIL-va). Silva, 4-0, 3.40, is attempting to become the first Cub pitcher to begin a season 5-0 since Greg Maddux did so back in 2006.

The Cubs open a four game set versus the suddenly popular Florida Marlins who are riding a two game win streak and are first in the NL East. They are  just 3-7 over their last 10 though and are fifth in the NL in runs scored (Cubs are 9th) and 10th in runs allowed (Cubs are 8th), so maybe the Cubs bats can start waking up.

Wittenmyer tweets that Aramis Ramirez will avoid the disabled list for at least another day and the lineup for tonight will be: Soriano, Riot, Fukudome, Lee, Bradley, Fontenot, Hill, Miles and Marshall. Also, be sure to check the left sidebar under Quick Links for Wrigley Webcams to see if the game will happen or just below that for a weather update.

The Cubs open a three game set in Phoenix tonight against a team battling their own set of injuries. For the D'Backs, it's Brandon Webb and Stephen Drew on the disabled list, although Tom Gordon should be activated for the series. So far on the season, the Snakes have scored the second least amount of runs while allowing the fifth most. I guess no better time to play them short-handed.

The Cubs go in with a two-man bench with Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Milton Bradley all sitting, and its unclear if any of them can even pinch-hit. The lineup, according to a Wittenmyer tweet, is Soriano, Theriot, Fukudome, Reed Johnson (yep, batting cleanup), Hoffpauir, Soto, Fontenot, Miles and Lilly. They'll try to scratch some runs against Dan Haren and his 1.38 ERA.

In good news, Carlos Marmol's bullpen session today went fine and should be available tomorrow. Aramis, Milton and possibly Lee could all be back before the end of the series Speaking of Lee, Bruce Levine wrote earlier today that Lee has been suffering from a bulging disc that results in upper-neck and lower-back pain...a result of a home plate collision sometime within the last 3 seasons. I can't recall the incident myself, so any Encyclopedia Brown's out there that can uncover when this happened, I'd like to know. Levine then wastes a few paragraphs explaining how Lee is a warrior for trying to play through the pain while Bradley sits through his groin issues. In the same paragraphs, he says how the neck and back injuries are basically contributing to Lee's poor performance. So Levine is basically advocating that Bradley play through the injuries to hurt the team. A grand plan indeed.....


On the top right sidebar, in the "Game Results" block, there's a link now for "Organizational Results". It'll take you to FirstInning.com and the boxscores from all the Cubs' affiliates from the night before.

Two more days of a lackluster offense and Alfonso Soriano is back in the leadoff spot...Soriano, Riot, Fukudome, Lee, Reed Johnson, Fontenot, Soto, Miles and Harden try to avoid the sweep today.

Way to stick with it, Lou.

"We said we'd try it and we did," Lou Piniella said of Soriano, who
struck out three times on Saturday. "We'll just put him in the leadoff
spot. That's where he feels comfortable, and that's where we'll leave
him."

Even Soriano seems confused if this Twitter quote is from him: "Soriano: ''Back again? My goodness, only 2 games?'' I think that's meant to be a quote from Soriano, although maybe it's just Wittenmyer's reaction to it.

On another note, please, please win this game.

Baseball should be back tonight from its two-day unscheduled and scheduled hiatus, as the Cubs start a stretch of 20 straight. Rich Harden gets the nod and says it's the best he's felt in a long time. We'll see how good he's feeling after pitching in 30 degree temperatures and a light drizzle, although that's probably picnic weather in Victoria, B.C. It's also the first night game of the year for the Cubs, where they went 20-8 last season.

Milton Bradley will sit again, bad weather and a bad groin never being a good mixture. The lineup from Wittenmyer's twitter feed is Soriano, Fukudome, Lee, Hoffpauir, Ramirez, Fontenot, Soto, Theriot and Harden. They'll oppose Micah Owings and the 7-5 Reds (5-2 on the road) and of course, thy former Cubs manager - sir Dusty Baker.

To hold you over until game time, some fancy plate disclipline trend charts from Harry at Cubs F/x. I also wanted to mention the "Cubs' Bullpen Usage" table on the right sidebar below the first ad, a nifty little shorthand to see who might be available out of the pen each night and a countdown to Carlos Marmol's inevitable arm injury.

Ted Lilly's first start of the season and him and the TLFC are all amped up to try and take the first series of the year.

"It's the biggest game of the year," Lilly said.
 

Wow.
Ted's Intensity (aka Tedtensity) just made us punch through the TLFCHQ
Italian Granite counter tops... and our hand doesn't even hurt. Damn
right it's the biggest game of the year, Ted continues,

"Because
it's the first one," Lilly said. "They're all important. Every one I'm
starting is the most important, and that's the mentality you have to
have."
 
Here's the lineup courtesy of Wittenmyer's twitter feed: Soriano,
Fukudome, Lee, Bradley, Ramirez, Fontenot, Theriot, Hill, Lilly

Some minor site news after the jump...

That was the title for my entry for the Maple Street Press team preview I wrote, and pretty much sums up how I'm approaching the 2008 season. Oh sure, I should be grateful for the back-to-back playoff appearances and the fact that the Cubs are the favorites to do it again. But I'm just having a hard time mustering the excitement right now. It seems a lot like the 2008 team, and sure I'm curious about the new blood, but they don't quite have my full attention yet. Plus, after last year, what could they possibly do during the season to make me any more confident about their postseason chances than I was last year? Well they could be healthy and Harden and Z could be hitting 95+ regularly in Septemeber, but that's about it. And I have to wait until September for that to happen.

So now that I peed all over your Opening Day enthusiasm (send hate mail to carriedotmuskatatcubsdotcom)...on to the game we go.

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."

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.

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.

Rich Harden gets his first start of Cactus League play with Aaron Heilman set to pitch as well. Lineup is Miles 2b, Theriot SS, Hoffpauir 1B, Fox DH, Fontenot 3B, Johnson CF, Deeds RF,  Hill C, Taguchi LF

Ronny Cedeno will start at 2B  and Cub-for-a-minute Garrett Olson will start for the Mariners.

The Rangers travel to Mesa and Sean Marshall has another audition for the 5th starter spot.  Milton Bradley is playing right field as well and batting fourth. Matt Harrison goes for the Rangers.

Please take a moment today or tomorrow to vote on the best Cubs Season Ever.

The Cubs return to Mesa and take on the Dodgers. Batting second and pitching for them is Randy Wolf, the Cubs send out Dempster. The lineup from Muskat:

3B Aaron Miles, SS Ryan Theriot, 1B Derrek Lee, RF Milton Bradley, LF
Micah Hoffpauir, 2B Bobby Scales, C Koyie Hill, CF Joey Gathright and P
Ryan Dempster.

Rich Harden threw a 43-pitch simulated game and could start Tuesday.

The Cubs finish their Vegas tour with Aaron Heilman taking the mound. The game is on WGN television and WSCR radio and on MLB.com as well.

A few more links from this afternoon and an invitation to Parachat for tonight's game on WGN per request by Carlos. I may stop by after the kids are in bed.

- If you're worried about Milton Bradley being healthy enough this season and need a national writer in your corner, Joe Sheehan has your back.

That's why this signing was a mistake. It has nothing to do with Bradley's anger-management issues, ones that have defined his career. It has nothing to do with Bradley's skill set as a hitter. It has nothing to do with the money, which was in line with what Adam Dunn and Raul Ibañez signed for. No, the problem is that the Cubs signed a player to do a job that he's not capable of doing. Signing Milton Bradley to be an everyday outfielder is like signing Mark Prior to make 34 starts, or trading for Carlos Delgado to be your catcher, or bringing in Will Carroll to endorse hair-care products. You're asking people to do things their bodies long ago stopped being able to do, and that's a recipe for failure.

- Bradley did return to the lineup and went 1-3 with a double. On cue, the beat writers get to file their weekly "Is Milton Crazy or Not?" report.  

- This shouldn't be news to any of our loyal readers, but Fangraphs notices that the Cubs pitchers have a eight year streak of leading the majors in strikeout rate and wonders if the Giants staff can surpass them this year. I'm a bit too lazy to look it up, but I believe the Cubs were in second or third for a good portion of last season until they acquired Rich Harden (and probably some injuries to the staffs ahead of them).

- "Blame Paul Bako" - the title says it all. (Hat tip to Wrigleyville23)

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