Posted on 19 February 2009 by Lou
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Posted on 19 February 2009 by Lou
Ryan Dempster was the Cubs most consistent pitcher during the 2008 MLB season – 33 starts, 17-6 record, 206+ innings pitched, 2.96 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 187 strikeouts against 76 walks. Dempster helped the Cubs win 97 games – the most of any National League team – as well as the team’s 2nd straight NL Central Division title, and his bold Spring Training training prediction that the Cubs would win the 2008 World Series looked more and more like a reality. Then came Dempster’s atrocious Game 1 start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and another 3-game sweep out of the playoffs without winning a single post-season contest, and the Cubs were right back where they started – 100 years and counting.
Cubs pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training last week, but this time, there were no predictions from Dempster – except for what the club would serve the players for breakfast the next day. Dempster is occupying Kerry Wood’s old locker this spring and he admitted that it is hard not having this generation’s “Mr. Cub” in the clubhouse anymore. Dempster likes the Cubs chances in 2009 and although he wouldn’t mind seeing Jake Peavy in a Cubs uniform instead of a San Diego Padres uniform, he believes the Cubs have just as good a chance to get back to the post-season in October 2009:
“Let this team stand on its own merit as the 2009 Chicago Cubs, and hopefully we’ll do a really good job this year and take it one game at a time and keep playing hard. With the talent we have, we can do some really good things again. I don’t want to replace anybody on our team, because they’re all great. Any time you talk about having a guy of his caliber, it’s something that’s exciting to everybody. If that’s something that happens, great, but at the same time, I think we’ll do just fine with what we have.”
Let’s hope he is right. The Cubs and GM Jim Hendry made some minor tweaks this off-season, while no one in the NL Central – Brewers, Cardinals, Reds or Pirates – made any significant moves which should make the Cubs worry about their chances of winning a 3rd straight NL Central division title. Let’s hope the Cubs stay healthy, play good hard baseball, and actually show up in October for 11 big wins to capture that elusive World Series crown.
Posted on 18 February 2009 by Lou
Spring Training is here, so we’re getting lots of updates about all of your favorite Cubs players. Obviously we’re all concerned about the health of our pitchers and the progress they made during the off-season, but here’s a story about one of our outfielders – Reed Johnson. Johnson watched what he ate more during the off-season and he dropped right around 14 pounds because of the new diet. Johnson says he feels a lot better both physically and mentally. It should also help him avoid certain back issues that he has had to deal with on and off during his major league career.
Johnson was a kinesiology major at Cal State Fullerton and he says he has retrained his body to eat better and eat less, and not feel hungry after the meal. He has also worked hard at being ready to play all 3 outfield positions. Johnson understands that Manger Lou Pinella will continue to give players more and more time off this season in the hopes of keeping everyone fresh throughout the long MLB season. Giving Pinella the option of putting Johnson in 3 positions as opposed to 1 or 2, will make life easier on Pinella and Johnson. He’ll get his days off for sure, but he’ll also be helping the team by allowing some of the other guys – Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley Kosuke Fukodome – an extra day off that they might not have otherwise received.
During the 2008 MLB season, the 32-year old Johnson played in 109 games and recorded 333 at-bats. He hit .303 with a .358 on-base percentage, while scoring 52 runs and driving in 50 runs. Great numbers for a guy they picked up at the end of Spring Training after he was released by the Toronto Blue Jays. The Cubs expect similar production from Johnson in 2009 and look forward to his relaxed laid-back style ensuring another good clubhouse during the upcoming campaign.
Posted on 17 February 2009 by Lou
When it became official that Rich Harden would not pitch for Team Canada in the 2009 World Baseball Classic next month, many media critics, including yours truly here at MyCubsToday, thought this was another case of a Cubs pitcher being hurt and Cubs management not making full disclosure about the health status of said player. Were we right or were we wrong? The long and the short of it is, only time will tell.
According to the Cubs and Rich Harden, Harden is on schedule to be ready for the start of the 2009 MLB season. Instead of returning home to Canada during the off-season, Harden stayed in Arizona to work with Cubs strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss. His 25 combined starts with the Oakland A’s and Chicago Cubs in 2008 was the 2nd most starts made ever in his career, and the most since he started 31 games for the A’s back in 2004. Harden wanted to build off the momentum from the 2008 season, and also continue to make sure that he is in the best possible condition for the upcoming campaign.
Harden was electric for the Cubs following his acquisition from the A’s. He made 12 starts, pitched 71 innings, went 5-1 with a 1.77 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. He struck out 89 batters and walked only 30. The Cubs would love it if he could reach that 25-start mark again in 2009, but Harden is setting his sights higher – he wants to reach the lucky number 30. He also wants to put the rumors to rest about the tear in his shoulder and the decrease in his velocity as the 2008 MLB season wore on. Harden says that he originally injured the shoulder trying to field a come-backer that took an awkward hop over his pitching shoulder. Since then he has had to listen to his body when his body tells him that he can’t pitch as long or throw as hard. He seems to have the right take on the cards dealt to him: “It’s not just the Cubs, it’s on me. Every year I learn more about my body and how I feel. You want to be out there every single game for 100-plus pitches. That’s the way I am – I want to be out there every game no matter what. You have to take a step back sometimes and evaluate how I’m feeling and manage it properly so I’m strong at the end of the season. I have to be consistent with my mechanics and get my arm in a good spot to throw without putting strain on my shoulder or the rest of my body. That’s going to be big for me – - and that’s what I’m working with Larry with.”
Let’s hope it pays off for Harden. Until he takes the bump that first week of the 2009 MLB season, I will still be a little skeptical no matter what he or the Cubs say. If he is healthy, the Cubs will be in great shape – he can dominate a game and usually puts his team in a position to get that all-important W. If he isn’t healthy, the Cubs could miss a beat in the starting rotation, with a Sean Marshall moving up to the 4th spot in the rotation and a Aaron Heilman or Chad Gaudin having to fill the starts missed by Harden. Not the best of situations, but at least the Cubs continue to add depth in the pitching staff to take some pressure of the rest of the crew in case the injury bug flares up…
Posted on 16 February 2009 by Lou
Sean Marshall has a lot going for him in the race for the 5th spot in the Chicago Cubs starting rotation. He has logged 50 major league starts in his 3 years in the big leagues and continues to improve on his numbers each and every season. In 2006, Marshall made 24 starts, and finished the season with a 6-9 record and a high ERA of 5.59. In 2007, Marshall made huge strides – in 19 starts, he finished with a 7-8 record and lowered his ERA all the way to 3.92. A big key of his success was walking less batters – 25 less batters than he did the year before. In 2008, Marshall was all over the place – bullpen, starting rotation (7 starts) and back at Triple-A Iowa. Despite all the change, Marshall pitched 65 innings, went 3-5, and lowered his ERA to 3.86 with a 1.27 WHIP. Most importantly, he never once complained. Cubs Manager Lou Pinella summed it up well: “He did what the organization wanted, and he’s improved. He’s gotten stronger. He’s got a good feel for pitching. I’d feel extremely comfortable with him in the fifth spot. I would think with him coming into this camp that our starting pitching is in pretty darn good shape, assuming everybody stays healthy.”
Marshall would join a rotation already laden with talent – Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly and Rich Harden. Pitchers Jeff Samardzija, Chad Gaudin and Aaron Heilman are also expected to compete for the 5th spot in the rotation, so it won’t be easy for Marshall. He put extra time in this off-season in the Phoenix area, and learned a lot from situations that Pinella put him in during the 2008 MLB season to test his mettle. Marshall felt like he passed those difficult tests and so did Pinella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Marshall also has the right attitude: “I’d rather start. But anything I can do to help the team win some games and give the team some good innings and put some zeros on the board, whether it’s in the bullpen or starting or coming in and getting a couple lefties out or getting a base hit, I’m ready to go.”
Gotta love the optimism and the “team first” attitude. We don’t get to see or hear that a lot these days, so we need to publicize it more to let people know that there are players out there who aren’t in it just for the money or glory. Good luck to you Sean. Whether you end up as a starter or in the bullpen, we’re glad you’re a Cub!
Posted on 15 February 2009 by Lou
Carlos Zambrano will not pitch for Venezuela in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Zambrano is still having trouble with the vision in his right eye. Zambrano met with a doctor in Chicago in January and was set to have Lasik eye surgery to correct the vision issues. However, the right eye has since been infected and he has been taking different kinds of eye drops for the last 3 weeks to try to combat the infection. But the eye drops do not seem to working. Once the infection clears, Zambrano will undergo the LASIK surgery and that should keep him sideline for about 2 weeks. Then he should be set to go.
All signs are good that the right shoulder problems that plagued him during the 2008 MLB season are a thing of the past. Cubs trainers visited with Zambrano in Venezuela during the off-season and they confirmed that the shoulder is looking fine. A prescribed exercise regimen for Zambrano also seems to have worked some magic for the big right-handed pitcher.
Assuming Spring Training workouts go well for Big Z, we should expect to see Zambrano take the bump for his 5th straight opening day start in April. Nothing is written in stone, but I would put my money on Carlos taking the rock.
Posted on 14 February 2009 by Lou
Chicago Cubs pitchers and catchers are officially supposed to show up for camp on Friday the 13th. But on Thursday, Cubs management got a pleasant surprise when they saw how many players were already ready to get a workout in at the Cubs spring training facility in Mesa, Arizona. Catchers Geovany Soto and Koyie Hill were in attendance. Pitchers Kevin Gregg, Ken Kadokura, Chad Gaudin, Neal Cotts, Jeff Samardzija and Kevin Hart were also present. Others present included Jake Fox, Randy Wells and Wellington Castillo. It’s unclear exactly which players out of this group will make the team, but it’s great to see the commitment and enthusiasm this early in the season.
Kadokura is a long shot to make the team. He is 35 years old, had played for 4 different Japanese teams and was Kosuke Fukodome’s teammate on the Chunichi Dragons.
Chad Gaudin is looking to make a run at the 5th spot in the starting rotation, as is Samardzija. Gaudin has made 50 major league starts, including 34 starts for the Oakland A’s in 2007. Even if he doesn’t secure the spot in the starting rotation, he would make a great addition in the Cubs bullpen. Ditto for Samardzija.
It’s refreshing to see that guys know that they have to compete for a spot and are willing to do whatever it takes to get into the best shape possible to be ready to impress once the spring schedule begins.
Now that camp has opened, we’re sure to have a lot of updates on how things are going for the Cubs in the southwest. Stay tuned to MyCubsToday – we’re locked and loaded for a great 2009 Cubs campaign.
Posted on 13 February 2009 by Lou
Geovany Soto’s rookie year was just about as good as you could make it. Soto hit 23 home runs, drove in 86 runs and had a very respectable .285 batting average. Soto ran away with the National League Rookie of the Year honors and helped his club win a 2nd straight NL Central Division title. Getting swept out of the divisional round of the playoffs for a 2nd straight year was disappointing, but it didn’t stop Soto from preparing in earnest for the 2009 MLB season.
Instead of relaxing during the off-season and sitting back admiring his trophy and stats, Soto took on a tough workout regimen to get back in shape to handle the full-time catching duties for the long 162-game major league season. He’s already been hitting for a month and has worked hard on fine-tuning the swing. Soto even showed up to camp Thursday – a day before he was supposed to report with the rest of the pitchers and catchers.
While Soto will miss Henry Blanco – Soto’s back-up and mentor for the last 2 seasons – he is ready to continue to perform at a high level each and every day for the Cubs. He is realistic and understands that if he pushes too hard, he might not get the results to which he is accustomed. Soto summed it up best: “I want to feel like I’m fighting for a job. That’s how I know how to play. It keeps me aggressive, it keeps me on edge. That’s the way I want to approach it. I’m going to try to do whatever I’m capable of and stay within my game. If I try to hit more home runs, it’s not going to work. I have to be myself and see what happens.”
Posted on 12 February 2009 by Lou
Let’s the hope we see more of the April 2008 Kosuke Fukodome during the 2009 MLB season than we do the September 2008 Kosuke Fukodome. In Fukodome’s 1st season in the big leagues, Fukodome had a dream month of April. He hit .327 over the course of the month, going 3 for 3 on opening day with a 3-run home run in the bottom of the 9th inning off closer Greg Gagne that tied the game at 3. But each month, teams seemed to figure Kosuke out, and as the season wore on, Kosuke had fewer and fewer quality, patient at-bats. The lack of patience showed in the batting average – he finished the season with a .257 batting average, with only 10 home runs and 58 RBI’s.
Cubs GM Jim Hendry told Kosuke that he would have to compete for a starting outfield spot during Spring Training in 2009. Kosuke was fine with that assessment from all accounts, and has fully committed to the Cubs recommended off-season workout. The workout regimen included exercises that focused on strengthening Fukodome’s core. Cubs video coordinator Nao Masamoto has visited Fukodome in Japan twice this off-season and has been impressed with his improvement in the month between the 2 visits (one in December and one in January). While Masamoto didn’t predict that Fukodome would be able to keep up that April 2008 pace for all 6 months of the 2009 MLB season, he believed that Fukodome would be able to better manage the lows than he did in his first year.
Masamoto also feels that with one year under his belt, Fukodome will be much more at ease in his new major league environment. If he needs more batting practice, he won’t hesitate to ask for the time. Being more familiar with Wrigley Field, the other National League parks and more day games in Chicago should also help.
We don’t need a .327 Fukodome all season long, but if he could really make pitchers work counts like he did at the beginning of the season, that would be a huge improvement. Even if he got back into the high .200′s, that would be a huge step in the right direction, and a good sign that Fukodome could be back in store for an outstanding 2009.
Posted on 11 February 2009 by Lou
A new advertising campaign will greet all Chicago Cubs fans during the 2009 MLB season. The new ads will appear on the famous red marquee at the corner of Clark and Addison. Manager Lou Pinella and players like Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Dempster and Alfonso Soriano have already signed on to participate in the new ads. The new billboard-style ads will change periodically. Some slogans include:
“Wrigley Field: Home of the Reason You Put Up With The Winters”
“Wrigley Field: Home of the 2 Hour and 47 Minute Vacation”
The agency behind the new campaign is a local branding firm – Jones – that is now in its second year of working with the Chicago Cubs. Jones’ president and executive creative director Scott Maney summed it up best – “There’s no other p;ace like Wrigley. It’s a tourist attraction for tourists that live in Chicago. And let’s face it – - we’ve all ducked out of work once or twice with a ‘dentist appointment’ that just so happened to start at 1:20p.m. We’re just tapping into the truth.”
Get ready Cubs fans. Players reports for Spring Training in Arizona in the upcoming days. Opening day at Wrigley Field is scheduled for Monday, April 13th – just over 2 months away. Get ready for a 3rd straight NL Central Division title, and this year, hopefully at least one post-season victory instead of an early playoff exit.