Spring Training Battles

Spring Training Battles: Closer

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....

Spring Training Battles: Starting Pitching

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...

Spring Training Battles: Center Field

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....

Recent comments

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  • Rick Renteria was a great idea! Seriously! I feel bad for the guy, although it happened the way it had to.

  • Hey, whatta bout me?

    -Ian Stewart

  • ....and Theo thought EJax, Sveum and Ricky were good ideas. Win some, lose some.

  • I thought he was better than Archer?

    /f u Hendry

  • The Padres signed RHP Trey McNutt to a minor league contract...

  • Yeah, she's a good egg. The whole superdelegate thing is shady as fuck though.

  • the perks of being a big fundraiser model representative citizen.

    honestly, though...the dnc could do worse and she's involved in all kinds of dem party stuff.

  • I didn't realize Laura Ricketts is a superdelegate.

  • pretty much...also agree that it wouldn't surprise me to see him land with the cubs, too.

    the trade to free up room for him would be interesting.

    it would help if he didn't play such a mixed-bag CF. he's anything but sure out there with his wacky routes.

    the O's are favored because of links for weeks and they're about to land y.gallardo (giving up that draft pick).

  • holy crap...j.mejia got busted AGAIN for PEDs.

    3rd time...lifetime ban.

    at one point he was the "closer of the future" (and the actual closer) for the mets. 26 years old. unreal.

  • I agree with what you said, but isn't it so weird that the White Sox are not linked to Fowler? They seem like an ideal fit.

  • oddly...or not...fowler's been strongly linked to the O's lately.

  • Olmos takes another 40 man roster Roulette bullet. The new lefty will be gone when Fowler comes back.

  • seen him in the minors...rather boring lefty. really slow secondary stuff (very slow slider) and a fastball that barely hits 90 on a good day.

  • The Cubs have claimed C.J. Riefenhauser LHP on waivers from the Orioles. Edgar Olmos was again DFA.

  • They should have someone standing behind him to take the ball out of his glove when he's looking for a sign from the catcher, and throw to first. I vote for Baez. That way he can cover the rest of the infield, too.