Thursday, March 29, 2012

Breaking News: Cubs Make Roster Decisions

Today Dale Sveum announced several spots that were available entering Spring Training. Although the roster is not yet finalized, many of his decisions were made clear today.

The 2012 Cubs starting rotation has been announced. Jeff Samardzija and Chris Volstad have won the final two spots, joining Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Paul Maholm in the starting five.

The Cubs also announced today that Steve Clevenger has made the team as the backup catcher. Sveum said that sending Welington Castillo to Iowa was the toughest decision he had to make, but he envisions Castillo as a starter at the big league level some day. Sveum feels that Castillo will benefit from more time at the minor league level.

Although the bullpen is not yet settled, we do not that Randy Wells will not be a part of it. The Cubs optioned Wells to Triple-A Iowa today. The Cubs feel that it will benefit the team to have a "sixth starter" stretched out so that when someone in the starting five struggles or goes down with an injury, Wells is ready to step in.

As expected, Blake DeWitt and Joe Mather have made the 25 man Opening Day roster. DeWitt will be used as a utility infielder, while Mather claimed the fifth outfield spot. Travis Wood, Dave Seppelt and Scott Maine were all optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Matt Tolbert, Blake Parker, Blake Lalli and Edgar Gonzalez were reassigned to minor league camp.

Casey Coleman was not officially sent back to minor league camp, but according to multiple reports he has been told that he will not make the team. Wood and Coleman will join Wells in the Iowa starting rotation.

With Wells and Coleman out of the mix, it looks as if Rodrigo Lopez may have a spot in the bullpen. Lopez is competing for the final three bullpen spots with Lendy Castillo, Shawn Camp, and Frankie De La Cruz and Manny Corpas. Three of those five will likely make the club along with young right hander Rafael Dolis, who has not officially made the team but is expected to snag the fourth bullpen spot behind Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood and James Russell.

The compensation for Theo Epstein was completed as the Cubs received Jair Bogaerts, a 19 year old first base prospect, as a Player to be Named Later.

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cubs Roster Shaping Up

Dale Sveum and his coaching staff are expected to make the Cubs final roster decisions after today's Cactus League game. Many of the choices are starting to leak and it appears that much of the roster is set. Sveum would like to use his players in the roles that they will be in during the regular season for the final five games of Spring Training. Expect announcements regarding the roster today or tomorrow.

Here is how the roster is expected to break down.

Starting Rotation
1. Ryan Dempster
2. Matt Garza
3. Chris Volstad
4. Jeff Samardzija
5. Paul Maholm

Starting Lineup
1B- Bryan LaHair
2B- Darwin Barney
SS- Starlin Castro
3B- Ian Stewart
C- Geovany Soto
RF- David DeJesus
LF- Alfonso Soriano
CF- Marlon Byrd*
*According to the Sun-Times, the Cubs have been trying to trade Marlon Byrd and still could pull off a last minute deal before Opening Day. The Braves and Nationals are among the teams in the mix. Byrd could be dealt at some point before the deadline even if he is not moved before Opening Day. If Byrd is traded sometime before the season or early in the season, it does not necessarily mean Brett Jackson will take over centerfield duties. Tony Campana or Dave Sappelt could be called up to split time with Reed Johnson and Joe Mather if the Cubs feel that Jackson needs more time to develop. Bruce Levine feels that the Cubs will hold on to Byrd until Jackson is ready.

INF- Jeff Baker, lock to make the team
INF- Blake DeWitt, near lock to make the team
OF- Reed Johnson, lock to make the team
OF- Joe Mather, near lock to make the team
Backup Catcher- Either Welington Castillo or Steve Clevenger will fill the final spot on the Cubs bench and serve as the backup to Soto. Bruce Levine mentioned in his chat that he gives the edge to Clevenger since he is more ready to a call a game at the big league level.

Closer- Carlos Marmol
RH Setup- Kerry Wood
LH Setup- James Russell
The other four bullpen spots are still to be determined, but many people feel that Shawn Camp and Rafael Dolis will take two of them. That leaves a slew of guys in the mix for the other two including Randy Wells, Rodrigo Lopez, Casey Coleman, Manny Corpas, Lendy Castillo and Scott Maine. Wells will likely be traded if he does not make the team, all the rest have minor league options. Marcos Mateo will start the season on the disabled list.

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted on Everything Cubs as always.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Getting to Know the Cubs: Ian Stewart

With Spring Training winding down, we continue our player-by-player breakdowns of Cubs newcomers with Ian Stewart, who was acquired to take the third base position vacated by the departure of Aramis Ramirez.
  • Born: April 5, 1985 in Long Beach, CA
  • Age: 27
  • Drafted: by the Rockies in the first round (10th overall) of the 2003 draft
  • Signed: June 11, 2003
  • Teams: Rockies (2007-2011); Cubs (present)
  • Contract Situation: 2nd year arbitration eligible, free agent in 2015
  • Career Stats: .236 average, 54 home runs, 187 RBIs
  • 2011 Stats: .156 average, 0 HR, 6 RBIs
  • B/T: Left/Right
  • Positions: 3B (354 career games), 2B (33 career games), LF (6 career games) and RF (3 career games)
  • ESPN projects that a change of scenery might be exactly what Stewart needed to jump-start his career.
  • Jersey: #2
  • Acquired by the Cubs: in the trade that sent Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu to Colorado in December. The Cubs also netted minor league pitcher Casey Weathers.
  • According to Fangraphs, Stewart is an above average defensive third baseman

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Getting to Know the Cubs: David DeJesus

Today we continue to profile some of the new Cubs players by taking a closer look at the background of right fielder David DeJesus, who signed with the Cubs this offseason.

  • Positions: Center field (527 career games), left field (289 career games) and right field (219 career games)

  • Drafted: by the Royals in the 4th round of the 2000 draft

  • High School: Manalapan (Englishtown, NJ)

  • College: Rutgers

  • Acquired by the Cubs: Signed this winter to a 2 year, $10 million deal with a team option for 2014

  • Teams: Royals (2003-2010), A's (2011) and Cubs (present)

  • B/T: Left

  • Height: 5'11"

  • Weight: 190 pounds

  • MLB Debut: September 2, 2003

  • Career MLB Stats: .284 average, 71 HR, 436 RBIs in 1007 games

  • 2011 Stats: .240 average with 10 HR and 46 RBIs in 131 games

  • The first free agent brought in by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer after they took over the Cubs front office

  • Known as a good defensive outfielder

  • Expected to lead-off for the Cubs

  • Doesn't still a lot of bases, but it still a smart baserunner

  • Has a wife and kids

  • Known to be a good clubhouse guy with a positive attitude

  • 32 years old

  • Bill James projects that he will hit .271 in 2012 with 8 home runs and 46 RBIs

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Weekend Quick Hits: Opening Day Starter, Roster Cuts & More

Here's the latest from Cubs Spring Training!
  • According to a tweet from Patrick Mooney, the Cubs have named Ryan Dempster their Opening Day starter. Matt Garza will be the number two.
  • The Cubs made some additional roster cuts today. Brett Jackson, Anthony Rizzo, Jim Adduci, Andrean Cardenas, Jay Jackson and Bobby Scales were all sent to Fitch Park.
  • Tim Kurkjian of ESPN caught up with Dale Sveum.
  • Sveum's main message this spring has been preparation. In the interview with Kurkjian, Sveum indicated that Chris Volstad will be in the rotation as the number four starter. Sveum said that the last spot it still up for grabs, but Jeff Samardzija has been very impressive.
  • David DeJesus is the one guy on the Cubs who has a track record of leading off.
  • Carrie Muskat tweeted that Sveum said it was tough to send Jackson down because he is ready now.
  • Marcos Mateo left yesterday's Cactus League game against the Rangers with a right arm injury. He was expected to have an MRI/arthogram last night.
  • Ron Villone is taking over as the Peoria Chiefs pitching coach this season. Tom Pratt has left the position after recently being diagnosed with brain cancer.
  • Andy Sonnanstine was assigned outright to Triple-A Iowa yesterday. He was removed from the 40 man roster.
  • Muskat tweets that Paul Maholm will be the fifth starter. Sveum will name the third and fourth spots on March 28. It looks as if Chris Volstad and Jeff Samardzija will take those two spots.
  • Travis Wood has been off track this spring, so his next appearance will be in either a minor league game or a simulated game.
Here is the Cubs lineup for today's game against the Rockies.
1. David DeJesus, RF
2. Ian Stewart, 3B
3. Starlin Castro, SS
4. Bryan LaHair, 1B
5. Geovany Soto, C
6. Marlon Byrd, CF
7. Reed Johnson, LF
8. Darwin Barney, 2B
9. Jeff Samardzija, P

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted on Everything Cubs as always!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Breaking Down Cubs Position Player Battles

With over two weeks left in Spring Training, there are still many spots on the Cubs roster up for grabs. Early this week we took a look at Dale Sveum's pitching staff decisions, click here for that post.

Today, we take a look at the position player battles that are going on in Cubs camp. The starting lineup is pretty much set, but there is some great competition for the five bench spots.

Backup Catcher
The backup catcher's position is often up for grabs during Spring Training. Seemingly every year the Cubs are trying to decide that spot. Some teams use the backup as a spot for a veteran, while other use it on a younger player who may have a future with the team as a starter. The Cubs will most likely use the latter this season. Jason Jaramillo was invited to camp, but an injury early on appears to have eliminated him from the competition. That leaves Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger battling it out. Castillo appears to have the edge as a guy who has been in the mix for several years and seems to be ready. However, the Cubs may elect to give Castillo everyday playing time at AAA-Iowa instead of having him sit on the big league bench. Clevenger is also a talented player, but I am still giving Castillo the edge to win the job.

Fourth & Fifth Outfield Spots
With David DeJesus, Marlon Byrd and Alfonso Soriano penciled in as the everyday outfielders to start the season, the only spots open in the outfield will come on the bench. Fan favorite Reed Johnson is the type of the player that a team should want on its roster, so he appears to have the fourth outfield spot nailed down. That leaves Dave Sappelt, who was acquired from the Reds this offseason, speedster Tony Campana and non-roster invitee Joe Mather in the mix for the other spot. Campana is a nice weapon as a pitcher runner and defensive replacement, but Mather is making a good case with a .409 average this spring. I'm leaning toward keeping Mather as the team's number one pinch hit, while sending Campana back to Triple-A.

Reserve Infield Spot
Assuming the Cubs carry 12 pitchers, two catchers and five outfielders, there will be six spots left on the roster for infielders. Five of those will, unless there is an injury, be filled by Bryan LaHair, Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, Ian Stewart and Jeff Baker. Baker will backup Stewart, Barney and LaHair, while Barney can slide over to shortstop when Castro needs a day off. That leaves a final spot open for an utility infielder. Blake DeWitt, who was released by the team but then brought back as a non-roster player, is one candidate. Adrian Cardenas, who played for the A's last season, is also in the mix even though he is hitting just .150 in Cactus League play. Other non-roster infielders in camp include Alfredo Amezaga, Edgar Gonzalez, Matt Tolbert and Bobby Scales. The last infield spot is very up in the air, but DeWitt receives my vote partly because of his .462 average in eight spring games.

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted on Everything Cubs as always!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Breaking Down the Cubs Pitching Staff Battles

The Cubs are a team with a lot up in the air entering the 2012 season. Under the direction of a new president, general manager and manager, there is an air of change surrounding Cubs camp. Many younger players are receiving an opportunity in Spring Training as the team builds for the future. Here is a look at a few of the battles going on within the pitching staff right now.

Opening Day Starter
Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza are in the mix for the chance to get the nod against Washington on April 5. There is no question that Garza will be the ace of the staff, but Demp is an experienced veteran and could get the nod as more of a lifetime achievement recognition from Dale Sveum. However, Garza had a better season a year ago and is the clear ace of the staff. Demp took the loss on Opening Day 2011 against the Pirates, so this time I believe it is Garza's turn.

Rest of the Rotation
Dempster and Garza have the top two spots in the pitching rotation nailed down. It looks as if lefty Paul Maholm could secure the third spot if he bounces back from being slowed down early in camp by an illness. Maholm will make his Spring Training debut tomorrow. That will leave Travis Wood, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Volstad and Randy Wells competing for the final two spots. Out of the four, there is no odds of favorite for either spot, nor is there a longshot to make the rotation. Wells pitched well in relief last week and could be ticketed for the bullpen after several years in the starting five. Samardzija has made his desire to start clear. He has pitched well in his first few spring outings. The last few weeks talk has been heating up that Samardzija is a serious candidate that could end up with a spot. Wood and Volstad are both young arms that the Cubs are high on. Many feel that the Cubs would like to toss a second left hander (Wood) in the rotation. The Cubs are also high on Volstad. My guess would be that Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood start the season in the rotation, while Chris Volstad and Randy Wells pitch in relief.

Bullpen Battles
Carlos Marmol will start the season as the Cubs closer and is expected to improve on his 2011 season. James Russell has earned a spot as a primary left handed setup man, while Kerry Wood returns for eighth inning duties. However, Wood cannot pitch every day because of his age and injury history. The Cubs are searching for another arm that can be relied upon in the late innings. The two leftovers from the rotation mix could be penciled into middle relief spots, which would leave at least two other spots on the pitching staff open. Andy Sonnanstine, Casey Coleman, Marcos Mateo, Scott Maine, John Gaub, Casey Weathers, Rodrigo Lopez, Jay Jackon and Trever Miller are all in the mix. I'm leaning toward Lopez, who's pitched well this spring, and Maine to beat out Gaub and Miller for the other left handed slot.

That's it for now, but I'll have position player related battles later in the week.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Reviewing Week 1 of the Cactus League

A week of Cactus League play is in the books. It is great to see and hear baseball action from beautiful Arizona. Regardless of how good the team is expected to be, there is something special about baseball on the North Side of Chicago during the summer. Spring Training is the annual prelude to Opening Day.

The team finished the week with a record of 3-3 through the first six spring games. Two rounds of roster cuts have already been made. Here is a list of the players headed back to minor league camp early.

C Micah Gibbs
RHP Dae-Eun Rhee
RHP Marco Carrillo
RHP Trey McNutt
INF Jonathan Mota
OF Jae-Hoon Ha

The Cubs spring training roster now stands at 57 players.

Yesterday Cubs fans had the chance to see baseball on the television for the first time this season with White Sox broadcasters doing the first Crosstown Showdown game of the year on WGN-TV. Today Len Kasper and Bob Brenly make their 2012 debut on WGN-TV for today's game against the Brewers in Maryvale, which can also be heard on WGN Radio.

Former Cubs star Aramis Ramirez is in the lineup for the Brewers today, hitting cleanup. Dale Sveum is managing against his former team for the first time. Ryan Dempster will pitch for the Cubs, battling ninth in the lineup and becoming the first Cubs pitcher to take some at-bats this spring. Geovany Soto is in the Cubs lineup for the first time today after missing the first six games with a groin injury. Here is the complete starting nine.

David DeJesus, RF
Reed Johnson, LF
Starlin Castro, SS
Bryan LaHair, 1B
Geovany Soto, C
Ian Stewart, 3B
Darwin Barney, 2B
Tony Campana, CF
Ryan Dempster, P

Here is a look at the week ahead.

Sunday @LAD 2:05 CT, WGN-TV, Matt Garza
Monday VS Cin 3:05 CT, WGN Radio, Paul Maholm & Jeff Samardzija
Tuesday @San Francisco 3:05, Chris Volstad
Wednesday VS Milwaukee 3:05, Randy Wells & Travis Wood
Thursday ss VS Arizona 3;05; @Colorado 3:10
Friday VS San Francisco 3:05
Saturday ss @Oakland 3:05; VS Texas 3:05 in Las Vegas
Sunday March 18 ss VS CWS 3:05, VS Texas 3:05 in Las Vegas

Other news and notes from this week-
  • Catcher Jason Jaramillo has been out with sore legs. His chances of making the team have dwindled because of the injury, so the backup catcher's job could come down to Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger.
  • Welington Castillo, Paul Maholm and Casey Coleman have all advanced to the final four in the bunt tournament. The final spot will be determined by a matchup between David DeJesus and Starlin Castro.
  • Carrie Muskat mentioned in her inbox this week that Randy Wells does have one minor league option left. Jeff Samardzija and Marcos Mateo are both out of options, so they would have to clear waivers in order to be sent to Triple-A.

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted on Everything Cubs as always!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Previewing the Cactus League Opener

Today, the Chicago Cubs return! All winter long, we've waiting for the return of baseball. Spring Training play finally starts today for the Cubs at 2:05 CT against the Oakland A's at HoHoKam Park. Expectations are low for the team this season, but the great thing about baseball is that you never know for sure what is going to happen.

Rodrigo Lopez will be on the mound for the Cubs today. Here is the rest of the Cubs lineup in the order of today's batting order. Geovany Soto is out with a groin injury and could miss the first week of Cactus League play.

1. Alfonso Soriano, LF
2. Ian Stewart, 3B
3. Starlin Castro, SS
4. Bryan LaHair, 1B
5. Marlon Byrd, CF
6. David DeJesus, RF
7. Jeff Baker, DH
8. Darwin Barney, 2B
9. Welington Castillo, C

Pitchers expected to work in today's game
Rodrigo Lopez
Carlos Marmol
Dae-Eun Rhee
Rafael Dolis
Lendy Castillo
Marcos Mateo

Today's game will be broadcast on and for free with Len Kasper and Mick Gillispie. will air most Spring Training games that cannot be heard on WGN-720. Pat Hughes and Keith Moreland will have their first broadcast of the year tomorrow.

Here is the Cubs schedule for the rest of this week along with broadcast information and starting pitchers.
Monday VS Oakland 2:05 WGN Radio, Ryan Dempster
Tuesday VS Colorado 2:05 WGN Radio, Matt Garza
Wednesday @Kansas City 2:05 WGN Radio, Jeff Samardzija
Thursday VS Seattle 2:05, Chris Volstad
Friday @CWS 2:05
Saturday @Milwaukee 2:05 WGN-TV, WGN Radio

Yesterday the Cubs tied in a five-inning intrasquad game 3-3. Brett Jackson hit his second home run in as many scrimmages. Jay Jackson pitched three scoreless frames and did not allow a base runner. Joe Mather took Trey McNutt deep in the fourth inning, while left hander Chris Rusin surrendered the long ball to Jackson. Tony Campana displayed his speed stealing two bags, one after it appeared that he was picked off.

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

Friday, March 2, 2012

Bruce Levine on ESPN 1000 & More

Bruce Levine was ESPN 1000 with Carmen, Jurko and Harry-
  • Levine explained the new playoff system that was announced today. An extra wildcard spot in each league has been added for this season. The two wildcards will have a one game playoff.
  • For this season only, the team with the worst record in the Division Series will host the first two games with the better record hosting the final three games of the series.
  • Not many people like the idea of hosting the World Series at a neutral site at a warm weather location, but Bruce likes the idea.
  • Travis Wood did not look good in the intrasquad game today. Both Matt Szczur and Brett Jackson took him deep. The Cubs are going to do everything they can to make sure that he is in the rotation.
  • Bruce is looking for Jeff Samardzija to get a good shot because the Cubs have only one power arm in their rotation.
  • Bryan LaHair has a good idea of the strike zone, takes pitches and works hard. He went to winter ball after his banner year at the minor league level. Levine would not bet against LaHair.
  • "Never say never," Bruce said when asked about the Cubs chances of ended up with a playoff spot. "The chance is always there."
  • Josh Vitters is a talented young hitter who finally showed power last year, but has not worked hard enough yet to reach the big leagues.
  • The chances of Brett Jackson being on the roster on Opening Day are pretty slim, but by Opening Day Levine thinks that there is a 75% chance that Jackson will be called up by July. Anthony Rizzo could also be called up by midseason.

Other Cubs notes-

  • The first Cactus League game is Sunday at 2:05 CT against the Oakland A's at HoHoKam Park. Rodrigo Lopez will be on the mound for the Cubs. It will be broadcast on Gameday Audio with Len Kasper and Mic Gillespie.
  • Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza will pitch the second and third Cactus League games, respectively.
  • The blue team beat the white team 10-4 in today's intrasquad game. The blue team was made up of mostly minor leaguers and backups.
There were four matchups today in the Cubs bunt tournament to complete the Sweet Sixteen. Here are the Sweet 16 matchups.

Beliveau vs. McNutt

Rusin vs. Coleman

Samardzija vs. Wells

Maholm vs. Sveum

Cardenas vs. Lalli

W. Castillo vs. Clevenger

Mather vs. Castro

Baker vs. DeJesus

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted!