Sunday, February 27, 2011

Game Preview: Cubs VS A's

The start of the baseball season is here at last! Today the Chicago Cubs take the field for the first time in 2011 as they battle the Oakland A's at HoHoKam Park in the Cactus League opener.

The Cubs will get a look at four different pitchers today. Carlos Zambrano will start the game and is expected to pitch two innings. Matt Garza will pitch for the first time in a Cubs uniform after Z leaves. Carlos Marmol and Jeff Samardzija will also work in the game.

Marmol is preparing for his second full season as the Cubs closer, while Samardzjia is trying to earn a job in the bullpen. Since Jeff is out of options, it is likely that he will end up with a spot in the 'pen. If Samardzija makes the pitching staff then five bullpen spots are locked up. Marmol will close, Kerry Wood and Sean Marshall will setup and John Grabow will pitch in middle relief. Whoever does not make the rotation between Andrew Cashner, Carlos Silva and Randy Wells will likely fill the sixth spot. The seventh rotation gig will probably belong to James Russell, but Scott Maine is also in the mix.

Other guys trying to earn a spot on the pitching staff include Todd Wellemyer, Braden Looper, Casey Coleman, Robert Coello, Thomas Diamond, Justin Berg and Esmalin Caridad.

Rain is expected in Mesa this morning, but it is supposed to clear up by game time. The weather is better than it is in the Chicago land area, but it is not hot. The high is just 53 degrees.

This game marks the start of a new era of Cubs Radio. Veteran play-by-play Pat Hughes enters his 16th season as the voice of the Cubs on WGN Radio. For the first time, Ron Santo will not sit next to Pat. Keith Moreland, who has filled in on TV and radio several times in the past, will start his career as the Cubs color commentator.

It all starts with Cubs Insider, hosted by David Kaplan at 1:00. Judd Sirott has Cubs Central Pregame at 1:30 leading up to the first pitch at 2:05. Trevor Cahill, who was an all-star last season, will start for the A's against Zambrano. Brad Ziegler, Joey Devine and Danny Farquhar are also expected to take the hill for Oakland.

Mike Quade starts his first full season as the manager of the Chicago Cubs today. Here is the lineup that he will run out there.
1. Kosuke, RF
2. Starlin Castro, SS
3. Marlon Byrd, CF
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
5. Carlos Pena, 1B
6. Alfonso Soriano, LF
7. Geovany Soto, C
8. Blake DeWitt, 2B
9. Carlos Zambrano, P

I cannot wait to hear Pat Hughes say the words, "Chicago Cubs baseball is on the air!"

Today I will be thinking about Ron Santo.

And for the first time this year...

"I don't care who wins as long as it's the Cubs!" -Bert Wilson

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