Spring Training

Alex Cintron laced a two-out bases-loaded PH GW single into right-field, scoring Matt Murton with the winning run, as the Cubs defeated the Padres 3-2 this afternoon at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.

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Jack Cust hit a solo homer run and a two-run double, and Bobby Crosby slugged a three-run homer, leading the Oakland A’s to a 6-4 victory over the Cubs this afternoon at warm and sunny HoHoKam Park in Mesa.

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Not counting NRI RHP Mike Smith (who flunked his physical and got released the day the pitchers & catchers reported in February), the Cubs made their first roster cuts today, sending nine players to the minor league camp at Fitch Park.

Felix Pie hit a solo HR and Andres Torres hit a two-run shot, but it wasn't enough to overcome an atrocious relief outing by Neal Cotts, as the Giants defeated the Cubs 8-6 before a capacity crowd at sunny, cool, and breezy HoHoKam Park in Mesa (otherwise known as the far, FAR southwest side of Chicago) this afternoon.

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The Cubs traveled down the Red Mountain Freeway (AKA "Loop 202") to Tempe Diablo Stadium today, facing the Angels before a capacity crowd of 8,808 (probably more than half of them Cubs fans) under the bright, sunny Arizona skies. 

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Loop 202 was closed for most of the day yesterday due to a tractor-trailer fire that involved a HazMat response by the Tempe & Phoenix fire departments. Too bad it wasn't closed again today, because then the Cubs could have just stayed home in Mesa and saved themselves a trip.

The San Francisco Giants rallied to defeat the Cubs 8-6 this afternoon at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.

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The game was played under sunny skies with temperatures in the 80’s, but it was far from a capacity crowd at HoHoKam, as the announced attendance was only 8,838. There was a time when the Cubs Spring Home Opener was an automatic sell-out (which would be just under 12,000), but not this year.

OK, so it wasn't literally "Peter Gammons Day" (per se), but the Hall of Famer was at Fitch Park today, as the Cubs continued their workouts in preparation for the 2008 season.

It was a cold, blustery, overcast morning in Mesa today, as the Cubs continued their Spring Training work-outs at Fitch Park.

Today marked another milestone in the annual Cubs Spring Training ritual, as the "full squad" took the field together at Fitch Park for the first time (which is to say Aramis Ramirez finally arrived) under sunny skies and temperatures in the high 50's, and under the watchful eyes of The Brain Trust (Jim Hendry wandering from field-to-field with a cell-phone glued to his ear while patting players on the back, Lou Piniella with a cup of coffee in hand schmoozing with the fans, Randy Bush and Oneri Fleita following Hendry around, Gary Hughes tooling around in a golf cart, Carrie Muskat feverishly taking notes, et al).

With security understandably tight (well, there was one off-duty Mesa cop in the players parking lot), the Cubs had their first "official" work-out of the 2008 season under mostly cloudy skies (around 60 degrees, with a wind chill of about 59) this morning at Mesa's Fitch Park, as Pitchers & Catchers and eight position player "early birds" took the field. It was a smaller crowd than usual for the first day (maybe about 40 or 50 fans), but at least nobody got arrested.

As you might have heard, and if you haven't...well you certainly will, the Cubs will go 100 straight years without a championship if 2008 is not the year. And at least one Cub is ready for battle:

"I think we're going to win the World Series. I really do. I wouldn't have worked as hard as I did and everybody worked as hard as they did to not believe that."

That Cub would be Ryan Dempster and I applaud his optimism. What fun would it be if they didn't believe that on the first day of spring training in the warm Arizona sun, a place where optimism should flow like water over Niagara Falls. I hope Dempster is equally optimistic he'll still be a Cub by the time October rolls around because I'm not so sure he will be.

There isn't much else to be said, the first workouts are scheduled for tomorrow, and I think we're all jonesing for any brief snippet of information. I did find this passage amusing though:

The first day was a chance to get reacquainted and organized as coaches discussed the game plan for most of the morning. Zambrano showed off his sleek, black Lamborghini, Michael Wuertz brought red licorice for his teammates, while early bird position players like Ryan Theriot, Tyler Colvin, Sam Fuld, Jake Fox and Koyie Hill took grounders on the half field at Fitch. Position players don't have to report until Feb. 18.

Yes, nothing shows the difference between arbitration-eligible and first free agent contract like a Lamborghini and red licorice.
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The only other news of the day comes from Lou who says that he'll try to settle on a closer about three-quarters of the way into spring training. The other spring training competitons will be center field between Felix Pie and Sam Fuld and coming up with the five-man rotation (three of which are set). LDM (Lieber, Dempster, Marquis), and the two Sean's will compete for the final 2 spots and I suppose Kevin Hart might be in there as well. The losers of that competition will likely round out the bullpen which has five set in stone (Howry, Marmol, Wood, Eyre, Wuertz). Tim Lahey and Jose Ascaino will also be in the mix and dont' be surprised if Chad Fox ends up on the Opening Day Roster somehow....and then ends up on the DL by May 1st.

With Cubs pitchers & catchers scheduled to report to Fitch Park in Mesa this week, and with position players scheduled to report next week, let's take a quick look at the Cubs 2008 Spring Training roster:

What a difference a year makes. During the 2007 spring training, the starting rotation discussion centered around which of these three candidates would be our number five starter: Wade Miller, Mark Prior, and Angel Guzman. Combined, they started six times (three apiece for Miller and Guzman) Trachsel also started four games, with the next smallest total belonging to Sean Marshall, at nineteen.  Congrats to Marshall for grabbing the "Ruben Quevedo Fifth-Man" mantle, and running with it.

This year? Carrie Muskat gives the rundown on the candidates for the two open spots in the rotation. The first bit of news is this notion that the fourth spot is open, that Marquis evidently has to apply for his old job. The other applicants being Dempster, Lieber, Marshall (also applying for his old job) and Gallagher.

Among the more interesting observations from the Muskat article is that Marquis has a history of fading in the second half. A quick check of ESPN's stats page shows Marquis with a 4.41 ERA pre-All Star break for the last three years, 5.54 after it. How stupid and unrealistic would it be to let him have the fifth spot for the first half of the season, then ship him off to some unsuspecting foe, and bring up Gallagher for the second half?

The Cubs invited the following 19 players to spring training, which begins February 13th for pitchers & catchers:

Pitchers
Ed Campusano
Geoff Jones
Les Walrond
Esmailin Caridad
Jose Ceda
Chad Fox
Mike Smith

Catchers
Welington Castillo
JD Closser
Josh Donaldson
Koyie Hill

Infielders
Andres Blanco
Luis Figueroa
Micah Hoffpauir
Casey McGehee
Bobby Scales

Outfielders
Tyler Colvin
Josh Kroeger
Andres Torres

They will join the current, and any future members of the Cubs 40-man roster in Mesa. Our very own Arizona Phil took a guess on the NRI invites a few days ago and nailed 13 of them - nice work. He also included some brief write-ups on those guesses, so you can read up on them if you wish.

The Cubs have signed 37-year old RHP Chad Fox to a minor league contract and have invited him to Spring Training.

Fox last pitched in the big leagues in 2005 with the Cubs, when he suffered what was thought to be a career-ending injury to his right elbow in a game at Houston in April of that season.

But back when he was healthy, Fox had some decent years as an MLB reliever, and had some excellent IP/K ratios and OppBA numbers. In 214 MLB games, Fox went 10-11 with 45 saves, a 3.57 ERA, and a 1.43 WHIP, but in 224.1 IP, Fox allowed only 193 hits, with 128/261 BB/K.

Somebody must have some reason to believe Fox is healthy enough to compete for a big league job. I mean, I enjoy blood and gore as much as the next guy, but I really don't necessarily want to see his arm fall off in front of the old folks and kiddies at HoHoKam.

Although their complete list of Non-Roster Invitees (NRI) to Spring Training has not yet been released, and while additional players may be subsequently signed to minor league deals and get an NRI to ST, I believe the Cubs NRI list will ultimately probably look something like this:

(And again, this is just speculation on my part)

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