Thursday, March 31, 2011
1. Kosuke, RF
2. Starlin Castro, SS
3. Marlon Byrd, CF
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
5. Carlos Pena, 1B
6. Geovany Soto, C
7. Alfonso Soriano, LF
8. Darwin Barney, 2B
9. Ryan Dempster, P
Barney, who made his big league debut last season, earned a spot in the starting nine with a strong spring. He will become the first Cubs rookie to start on Opening Day since Soto and Kosuke in 2008.
Pena will make his Cubs debut, Byrd will be in center for the second straight Cubs opener and Soto will catch the opener for the fourth straight year. Castro makes his first opening day start, while Soriano and Ramirez have been fixtures in the starting nine.
Kosuke, who has started in the outfield for the Cubs that last three openers (two in RF, 1 in CF), will lead-off against the Pirates but Jeff Baker could see time in the No. 1 slot when he plays second base.
Chicago Cubs baseball is less than 24 hours away!
Zambrano started the first game of the season every year from 2005 to 2010. Before that, Kerry Wood (2003-2004) and Jon Lieber (2000-2002) took the honor. Newcomer Matt Garza was also in the mix for the 2011 nod, but he will start the season's third game on Sunday.
Dempster does has previous opening day starting experience, but it has been a while. The last time he took the hill to start a season was in 2002, his second straight Opening Day with the Florida Marlins.
Ryan is set to begin his eighth year as a Cub. It is the final year of his contract, but he is expected to pick up his player option for 2012. A year ago, Dempster went 15-12 with a 3.65 ERA in 34 starts. Quade is not ready to call him the "ace", but he is expected to be the most consistent member of the starting five.
After spending three years as the Cubs closer, Dempster moved into the rotation for the first time in 2008. He had an outstanding year, posting 17 wins and an ERA of 2.96. Surprising performances from he and fellow starter Ted Lilly, who also won 17 games, helped the Cubs win their second straight division title.
Ryan is one of the more charitable and friendly Cubs. He rarely turns down an autograph seeker and raises lots of money for children with illnesses similar to his daughters.
The Opening Day honor is well-deserved for a great pitchers and a great guy. Although the Cubs do not open up until tomorrow, today is Opening Day for some Major League Baseball teams.
Here's the schedule:
Yankees VS Tigers Noon ESPN
Angel VS Royals 3:10
Braves VS Nationals 12:05
Brewers VS Reds 1:10
Padres VS Cardinals 3:15 ESPN
Giants VS Dodgers 7:00 ESPN
I will be at Fitch Park this afternoon to see Andrew Cashner's final tuneup in a minor league game. I'll let you know how it goes later.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
For the major league team, it was a final tune-up for the regular season, which starts at Wrigley Field on Friday. The cost of a ticket was $10 and all proceeds benefited Cubs charities. For all of the prospects that were invited to take part in the game, it was a chance to open the eyes of the Cubs coaching staff.
Randy Wells worked three innings in his tune-up for his first start of the season, which will come against the D'backs on Monday. Wells allowed one run to cross but looked sharp overall.
Marlon Byrd, who is day-to-day with some soreness, sat out for the third straight day. Geovany Soto and Aramis Ramirez also missed the intrasquad contest. Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Pena received one at-bat each, serving as designated hitters.
Blake DeWitt got the start at third base, where he is expected to backup Ramirez this season. Jeff Baker started at first base, where he and Tyler Colvin will serve as backups to Pena. Baker delivered an RBI for the Cubs first run of the game, on a play where Steve Clevenger dropped the ball on what would have been a close play at the plate.
Second baseman Darwin Barney delivered a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning, which was the highlight of the game. Barney is expected to see regular playing time this season. All of the regulars on the Major League team left the game after the fourth inning, except for Koyie Hill.
Hill stayed in the game to catch the remaining big league pitchers that needed to work. John Grabow retired the side in order in the fourth, before James Russell put another zero on the board in the fifth. Marcos Mateo, who was surprised last week when he found out that he had made the Cubs bullpen, was a little wobbly in the sixth. He surrendered two runs on three hits in the frame. Hill, who slumped at the plate all spring, went 1-for-3 with a single and a strikeout against the farmhands. Hill was the final Cub to depart when Michael Brenly took his spot behind the plate in the seventh. Bob Brenly was in attendance to watch his son play.
Left hander J.R. Mathes got the nod for the minor league team, managed by Iowa skipper Bill Dancy. Mathes worked five inning, allowing five runs on ten hits. J.R., a longtime minor leaguer, will start the season at Triple-A Iowa. Trey McNutt, rated the top pitching prospect in the organization, was the only other hurler to work for the minor league team. He went four innings, surrendering only one run on three hits.
Justin Bour (grounder), Ryan Flaherty (single) and Marquez Smith (double) all drove in runs for the Major League team to extend the lead. The minors chipped away as Tony Campana scored on a double play bouncer and Sergio Durrell rapped a run scoring single in the sixth. Josh Vitters, who started at third base and then moved across the infield to first, cranked a triple to drive in a run in the eighth.
In the top of the ninth, Evan Crawford delivered an RBI triple to tie the game at six. Then Campana put the minor squad in front with a single and DJ LeMahieu tacked on an insurance tally with a double. Frank Batista was the pitcher who allow the minors team to grab the lead. He was charged with four runs in 0.2 innings. Mike Quade came to the mound to make a pitching change, bringing in RHP Justin Berg to notch the final out. McNutt sent the "big league" team down quickly in the bottom of the ninth to secure the victory.
The final totals-
Minor League Cubs: 8 runs, 16 hits, 3 error
Chicago Cubs: 6 runs, 13 hits, 2 errors
Winning Pitcher: Trey McNutt
Losing Pitcher: Frank Batista
After the game, Mike Quade's squad got on the bus to head to the airport, where they will fly to Chicago!
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Soto hit .280 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs last season. After hitting fifth in 2009, he spent most of 2010 in the bottom part of the batting order. If he can stay healthy most of the season, Soto should match his numbers from his Rookie of the Year 2008 season, when he hit .285 with 23 homers and 86 runs batted in.
The Cubs backstop saw a huge dip in his production in 2009, when he hit just .219. Geo's defense is solid, but he has trouble throwing out runners that try to steal. He caught just 22% of men that attempted to run on him last season, and that number is expected to become even smaller after his surgery. Soto is an underrated piece to the 2011 Chicago Cubs.
His success is just as critical as that of Pena, Soriano and Ramirez. If the Cubs can get bounce back years from at least three of those four sluggers, they will have a chance to compete in the Central. They also need Marlon Byrd, Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin to continue to provide stability to the lineup. The starting eight that Mike Quade will run out there on a daily basis has a lot of potential, but there are also a lot of question marks.
Geovany lost 20 pounds prior to the start of 2010 and has done a good job keeping the weight off. If it weren't for the injury, his number last season would have been better than his 2008 stats. Entering his fourth full season as a big leaguer, Soto has only had one down season. He could be a better bet to produce than veterans like Ramirez and Soriano. Geo could become a mainstay in the Cubs middle of the order. He is expected to hit seventh to start the season, but he could move up to fifth if he hits well to start the season.
Monday, March 28, 2011
- Last season: 57-105 (6th)
- Additions: Lyle Overbay, Matt Diaz, Kevin Correia and Joe Biemel
- Manager: Clint Hurdle (1st season)
- ESPN Projected Record: 70-92 (5th)
- Star to Watch: Andrew McCutchen
- Last Season: 75-87 (5th)
- Additions: Matt Garza, Carlos Pena, Kerry Wood and Reed Johnson
- Manager: Mike Quade (2nd season)
- ESPN Projected Record: 82-80, 4th
- Star to Watch: Aramis Ramirez (Click for my article on him over at VFTB)
- Last Season: 76-86 (4th)
- Additions: Bill Hall and Ryan Rowland-Smith
- Manager: Brad Mills (2nd season)
- ESPN Projected Record: 69-93, 6th
- Star to Watch: Carlos Lee
- Last Season: 77-85, 3rd
- Additions: Mark Kotsay, Yuniesky Betancourt, Shaun Marcum, Sergio Mitre and Takashi Saito
- Manager: Ron Roenicke (1st season)
- ESPN Projected Record: 85-77, 1st
- Star to Watch: Prince Fielder
St. Louis Cardinals
- Last season: 86-76, 2nd
- Additions: Lance Berkman, Ryan Theriot and Gerald Laird
- Manager: Tony LaRussa (16th season)
- ESPN Projected Record: 83-79, 3rd
- Star to Watch: Matt Holliday
- Last Season: 91-71, 1st
- Additions: None
- Manager: Dusty Baker (4th season)
- ESPN Projected Record: 85-77, 1st
- Star to Watch: Jay Bruce
The Cubs open up the regular season on Friday!
Sunday, March 27, 2011
- Mike Quade will lead the team to the division title and be named the NL Manager of the Year.
- Starlin Castro will win the NL batting title.
- Aramis Ramirez will have a bounce back season with 30 homers and 100 RBIs.
- Carlos Marmol will only blow two saves all season.
- Carlos Zambrano, Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster will combine for 55 wins.
- Darwin Barney will join Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin to form a trio of young talented players that carry the offense.
- Reed Johnson's glove work will make several appearances on Sports Center's Top 10 Plays.
- VCU will win the NCAA tournament... wait- how did that get on this list?
- Welington Castillo will take Koyie Hill's job by the end of May.
- Marlon Byrd, Ryan Dempster and Starlin Castro will represent the Cubs in the All-Star game.
- The NBA champion Bulls will sing the 7th Inning Stretch at Wrigley in July.
- Jim Hendry will pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade in July to help put the Cubs in position for their playoff run.
- The Cubs will wear their #10 patches all the way to a World Series title.
I'm always optimistic... Go Cubs Go!
Saturday, March 26, 2011
- Andrew Cashner was named the Cubs fifth starter today. Carlos Silva was told that he will not make the team.
- Silva was not happy with the way the Cubs handle the competition and the way Mark Riggins informed him about the decision.
- Jim Hendry is trying to work out a trade for Silva, but if that does not happen he will be given the option of going to Triple-A Iowa or becoming a free agent. Silva said today that there is "no chance" of him going to Triple-A.
- Marcos Mateo has made the team. Mike Quade announced today that Mateo has won the final spot in the bullpen. Jeff Stevens and Casey Coleman were both sent to minor league camp today.
- There are currently only 27 guys in big league camp. The two extra players are both catchers trying to recover from injuries- Welington Castillo (finger) and Max Ramirez (wrist). Carrie Muskat reports that they are in camp for insurance and Koyie Hill is still expected to make the roster.
- Ramirez will take BP tomorrow and if it goes well he could get in a Cactus League game before camp breaks.
- Q expects Mateo, Russell and Samardzija to all be able to go 2+ innings on some days.
- Augie Ojeda, who was already sent to Fitch Park, is dealing with more back spasms.
- Jeff Baker is day-to-day and expects to play in Goodyear on Monday.
- Randy Wells will start the Cubs intersqaud scrimmage on Wednesday, while Cashner gets his final tune-up on Thursday in a minor league game.
- On a personal note, today I saw a game at Surprise Stadium for the first time. I was very impressed with the field, which is a bit smaller than HoHoKam. It's a good place to take in a ballgame.
- This morning I watched early batting practice at HoHoKam Park before the team left on the bus. It's a great idea if you would like to get close to the players and have a shot at an autograph or two in addition to seeing some extra BP.
That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted!
Friday, March 25, 2011
- Braden Looper announced his retirement today. He was told that he was not going to be on the Cubs roster so he decided to call it quits.
- James Russell, Andrew Cashner and Jeff Samardzija have all been told that they are on the team.
- The Cubs announced five more roster cuts yesterday. Scott Moore, Bobby Scales, Fernando Perez, Augie Ojeda and Matt Camp were all sent to minor league camp.
- Speaking of minor league camp, I went to Fitch Park to see the workouts this morning before going down the street to HoHoKam for the game. I enjoyed seeing the young guys practice, I would recommend stopping by Fitch Park if you're in the area.
- To relay another personal experience, I saw Cubs GM Jim Hendry at Don & Charlie's tonight. Don and Charlie's is a great place to go for a baseball fan. The restaurant is literally covered wall-to-wall in baseball memorabilia.
- Last night I went to Diamond's to eat. Ivan DeJesus was there hanging out and I've hear that Greg Maddux is a frequent visitor. Diamond's was originally called Harry and Steve's owned by Harry Caray and Steve Stone. It has been under several different owners and had several different names since then.
- Since Perez was sent down to Iowa, Reed Johnson will make the team as the Cubs fifth outfielder.
- I've been especially impressed by Darwin Barney during the two games I've seen. He was rewarded by being named the starting second baseman, to platoon with Jeff Baker, earlier this week. Blake DeWitt, who homered today, will start the season on the bench.
- The Sun-Times reports that Carlos Silva is expected to make the team unless he is traded.
- Randy Wells was officially told today that he is the fourth starter.
- The roles of Andrew Cashner and Carlos Silva have yet to be determined. One will be the fifth starter, while the other will pitch in middle relief.
- RHP Kevin Correia will pitch for the Pirates on Opening Day at Wrigley Field.
- Robert Redford, an actor, will throw out the first pitch for the opener. Ron Santo Jr. will sing The 7th Inning Stretch.
That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted from Mesa!
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Click here for my first article over at View From the Bleachers. I will be doing some writing over at VFTB, so please check out that great site.
A lot of news lately, let us get you caught up.
- The Cubs made four more roster cuts today. Justin Berg, Todd Wellemyer, Scott Maine and Angel Guzman were all assigned to minor league camp.
- Randy Wells has been awarded the job as the Cubs number four starter.
- Aramis Ramirez has been battling a fever, but he is starting to feel better and is back in Cubs camp.
- Carrie Muskat tweets that Carlos Silva, Braden Looper and Andrew Cashner are all still in the mix for the final spot in the rotation.
- Muskat reports that Max Ramirez was expected to have an MRI on his sore wrist today.
- Arizona Phil from TCR saw Carlos Marmol and Justin Berg pitch at Fitch Park yesterday and wrote up a full report.
- Matt Garza will pitch against the White Sox tomorrow. Kosuke, Castro, Byrd, Ramirez, Pena, Soriano, Barney and Hill are expected to be in the starting lineup.
That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted!
Saturday, March 19, 2011
- Bruce Miles reports that the Cubs will not go after Luis Castillo, who was recently released by the Mets.
- Miles is hoping that the Cubs throw Andrew Cashner into the rotation and cut Carlos Silva.
- Augie Ojeda has not been able to play due to back spasms. Darwin Barney has emerged as the favorite to take the final infield spot.
- According to Carrie Muskat, Todd Wellemyer has been out of the spring rotation because of a sore right hip.
- Casey Coleman has been sent over to Fitch Park to get some innings in.
- Here is a picture of the new Ron Santo plaque at HoHoKam Park.
- MLB Trade Rumors, citing ESPN Deportes as their source, says that the Cubs are interested in Castillo.
- Bruce Levine thinks that the decision on the final two spots in the rotation could be made as soon as Monday or Tuesday.
- The Sun Times reports that Reed Johnson is pulling away from Fernando Perez for the final outfield spot and Barney has the final infield spot all but wrapped up.
My final four picks: Florida, Duke, Ohio State and Kansas.
That's it for now, I'll keep you posted!
Thursday, March 17, 2011
- Chris Carpenter
- Jay Jackson
- Brett Jackson
- Josh Vitters
- Steve Clevenger
- Trey McNutt
- Bryan LaHair
- Marquez Smith
- Jim Adduci
- Luis Montanez
- Brad Snyder
- Scott Rice
- Chris Robinson
- Roberto Coello
- Kyle Smit
- Rafael Dolis
- Alberto Cabrera
- Thomas Diamond
There are now 40 players left in camp competing for 25 spots. The following players are locks to make the pitching staff, in now particular order:
- 1. Carlos Zambrano
- 2. Ryan Dempster
- 3. Matt Garza
- 4. Randy Wells
- 5. Carlos Marmol
- 6. Sean Marshall
- 7. Kerry Wood
- 8. Andrew Cashner
The following guys are "on the bubble" for the final 4 spots on the pitching staff.
- 1. Jeff Samardzija
- 2. Carlos Silva
- 3. Todd Wellemyer
- 4. Braden Looper
- 5. Casey Coleman
- 6. James Russell
- 7. John Grabow
- 8. Casey Coleman
- 9. Scott Maine
Little/no chance to make the staff:
- 1. Angel Guzman
- 2. Jeff Stevens
- 3. Justin Berg
- 4. Marcos Mateo
Position Player Locks
- 1. Marlon Byrd
- 2. Kosuke
- 3. Alfonso Soriano
- 4. Geovany Soto
- 5. Tyler Colvin
- 6. Carlos Pena
- 7. Jeff Baker
- 8. Blake DeWitt
- 9. Starlin Castro
- 10. Aramis Ramirez
- 11. Koyie Hill
Players "on the bubble" for the final two spots on the bench:
- 1. Fernando Perez
- 2. Reed Johnson
- 3. Darwin Barney
- 4. Augie Ojeda
- 5. Scott Moore
- 6. Matt Camp
Guys with little to no chance to make the club:
- 1. Bobby Scales
- 2. Welington Castillo
- 3. Max Ramirez
That's it for now, I'll have more this weekend as we creep closer to Opening Day
Saturday, March 12, 2011
1. Ryan Dempster: Demp is having a good spring, looking ready for his first Opening Day start as a Cub.
2. Carlos Zambrano: Big Z is off to a good start this spring. He suffered a minor injury, but he is on schedule now. He will start tomorrow in Vegas.
3. Matt Garza: Garza has struggled more than any other pitcher that will actually make the team so far this spring. Matt is trying to adjust to pitching in Arizona and is trying to ease into throwing different types of pitches. Nobody is overly concerned about his slow start.
4. Randy Wells: The Sun-Times has reported that Wells is a lock to make the rotation. He has been a fixture in the rotation for the last three years, so I would be shocked if he doesn't get the fourth spot.
5. Andrew Cashner: In my mind, the fifth spot is up for grabs between Carlos Silva and Cashner. With Silva's struggles, which continued today, and his dugout incident with Aramis Ramirez, there is no reason that he should be on this team. Although Cashner was valuable to the bullpen last year, I expect him to do a great job moving into the rotation.
Closer- Carlos Marmol: got roughed up in Vegas today, but his stuff has looked as nasty as every despite the climate in the valley.
LH Setup Man- Sean Marshall: was dubbed the Cubs MVP by some experts last season. After years of bouncing back and forth between the pen and the rotation, he has finally settled in to a relief role.
RH Setup Man- Kerry Wood: He will get a warm welcome back to the Windy City this year. Let's not forget, this man can still pitch.
LH Middle Relief- John Grabow: He has said that he was embarrassed by his performance as he tried to pitch through injuries last season. John will be a key to the 'pen and need to bounce back.
RH Middle Relief- Jeff Samardzija: Since he is out of options and has a large contract, The Shark is considered a lock to make the team. In the final year of his contract, the ex-Notre Dame football standout needs to have a big year or dust off his helmet.
LH Long Relief- James Russell: Stuck in the bullpen last year after he was called up in April. Russell was one of the most effective young pitchers on the Cubs team. He is still in contention for the rotation, but will most likely end up edging Scott Maine as the third lefty in the pen.
RH Long Relief- Casey Coleman: After a fantastic rookie campaign in the starting five, it is possible that Casey will be sent back to Triple-A to be stretched out. I think he could give the bullpen a lift. If not, Berg or Silva will fill the final bullpen spot.
Starlin Castro, SS
Marlon Byrd, CF
Aramis Ramirez, 3B
Marlon Byrd, CF
Alfonso Soriano, RF
Geovany Soto, C
Blake DeWitt, 2B
Koyie Hill: The Cubs like his defense and the way he deals with the pitching staff. Hill will return as the backup catcher.
Jeff Baker: Hammers left handed pitching. Baker could platoon with DeWitt at second base.
Darwin Barney: Barney is expected to beat out veteran Augie Ojeda for the final spot on the infield. He could see some time starting at second, and will back Castro up at short.
Reed Johnson: He is a quality leader who plays good defense and small ball. This fan favorite will most likely beat Fernando Perez out for the fifth outfield spot because Perez can be sent to Iowa.
Tyler Colvin: Colvin is expected to be in the starting lineup for the majority of the game this season. He will platoon with Kosuke in right in addition to backing up Byrd, Soriano and Pena.
Opening Day is less than three weeks away!
Thursday, March 10, 2011
A lot of news and notes to catch up on from this week in Cubs camp, so let's jump right in.
- According to Carrie Muskat, John Grabow has not pitched in a Cactus League game since the opener on Feb. 27 due to some shoulder tightness.
- Mike Quade has not decided who will get the bulk of the playing time at first base.
- Todd Wellemyer has a soar right hip.
- Bruce Levine reports that the Cubs will have to eat a lot of Carlos Silva's $12M contract in order to trade him.
- Levine is not worried about Matt Garza despite his early struggles.
- Bruce says that Jeff Samardzija is "on the team." There is very little chance that he will not make the roster since he has a big contract and is out of options.
- Carlos Marmol has impressed Levine the most so far this year. He has continued to look unhittable.
- Mike Quade has locked Starlin Castro into the two hole and Aramis Ramirez into the cleanup spot. The rest of the batting order has yet to be determined.
- Geovany Soto could move up to No. 5 or No. 6 in the lineup, but most likely he will not hit as high as three.
- The Cubs like Koyie Hill because of his defense and relationship with pitchers.
- Levine believes that the Cubs can win 80-85 games.
- Bruce expects Brett Jackson to be the biggest surprise this season.
That's it for now, I'll keep you posted!
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Hughes started his first year with a new partner, Keith Moreland, when Spring Training started two weeks ago. He took last weekend off the broadcasts but will return when the Cubs play the Reds on WGN-Radio on Saturday.
Tomorrow will be Ron Santo day in Mesa, Arizona. A pregame ceremony will honor Ronnie before the Cubs take on the Indians at HoHoKam Park. The March 10 date was chosen because of Santo's jersey number. MLB.com's pregame show will include a special tribute.
It will be interesting to see how else Ron Santo is honored this season in addition to this book. WGN Radio released a Pat & Ron Show CD several years back, so perhaps a part two is in the works. Pat Hughes does a great series called Baseball Voices, but that mostly focuses on Hall of Fame announcers.
On a side note... I appologize for the lack of posting this week, I'll catch everyone up with a post on Friday or Saturday.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
- It is only the first week of Spring Training.
- There were no major injuries.
- Matt Garza was okay after being hit with the line drive.
- Alfonso Soriano is off the a good start at the plate.
- The Cubs have only made to errors in the last three games.
- Tyler Colvin looked comfortable at first base.
- Both Colvin and Castro are having good springs at the plate.
- Big Z is lookin' good.
- Carlos Pena and Marlon Byrd called a team meeting and acted like leaders.
- The confrontation between Silva and Ramirez.
- The sloppy defense.
- Starlin Castro's defense in particular.
- Pena is hitting .111.
- The loss of Ron Santo has made the radio broadcasts tough to listen to.
- Koyie Hill is 0-for-7.
- The Cubs blew four run leads two straight days.
- The team's record is 2-5.
All in all, this team had a rough first week... but once again it is just the start of Spring Training.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
- The Cubs defense has made 14 errors in the first four games of the spring.
- Mike Quade had a meeting with his team behind closed doors today that he said was for the whole team, not just Silva and Ramirez.
- Carrie Muskat reports that Silva will stay in the spring rotation.
- Quade does not think apologies are necessary.
- Andrew Cashner will get his first start of the spring on Saturday. Matt Garza will look to bounce back as he faces the Royals on Friday.
- Cubs Vineline magazine has gotten smaller in size.
- Mick and Len are doing a nice job calling the games on MLB.com this week.
- The first televised game of the spring will be on Saturday! Tune in for Len and Bob on WGN-TV, while Pat and Keith also have the contest over the radio.
That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted.