Archive | March, 2009

Chicago Cubs Set to Retire #31 to Honor Ferguson Jenkins and Greg Maddux

Posted on 20 March 2009 by Lou

Add #31 to the list – the Chicago Cubs will retire No. 31 in honor of Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins and future Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux.  The retirement ceremony will take place before the Cubs May 3rd game against the Florida Marlins at Wrigley Field.  Jenkins has probably had to wait to have the No. 31 retired until Maddux retired from MLB this past December.  The #31 will be the 5th number retired by the Cubs, joining the likes of Ron Santo (No. 10); Ryne Sandberg (No. 23); Billy Williams (No. 26) and Jackie Robinson (No. 42 – retired by Major League Baseball).

Ferguson Jenkins had this to say about the upcoming honor – “Both of us had pretty good careers wearing that uniform number.  Maddux won quite a few games, a few more than I did.  Most of the fans remember your number and that’s what this is for, the fans.  To have your flag flowing with four other great players – Santo, Ryno, Ernie and Billy – is fantastic.  Now with Greg Maddux, there will be six of us.  We all had outstanding careers as a Cub.”

Jenkins pitched for the Cubs from 1966-1973 and from 1982-1983.  Jenkins won a Cy Young Award for the Cubs in 1971.  Jenkins still holds the Cubs strikeout honor with 2,038 total strikeouts.  Jenkins had a career 284-226 record and a career 3.34 ERA.  Jenkins also had 3,192 career strikeouts and 997 career walks.

Maddux had this to say about wearing the No. 31 during his years as a Cub – “I thought that was pretty cool that they gave me Fergie’s number because I knew he was one of the best pitchers to ever play for the Cubs and in baseball period.  It was an honor to have his number.”

Maddux pitched for the Cubs from 1986-1992 and then again from 2004-2006.  Maddux won 4 Cy Young Awards during his career – his 1st came with the  Cubs in 1992 and he followed that up with 3 more consecutive Cy Young Awards in an Atlanta Braves uniform from 1993-1995.  Maddux finished his career with a 355-227 career record and a career 3.16 ERA.  Maddux had 3,371 career strikeouts and stands 5th on the Cubs strikeout list with 1,305 strikeouts.  Maddux also notched 2 significant milestones in a Cubs uniform – he won his 300th game on August 7, 2004 and he recorded his 3,000th career strikeout on July 26, 2005.

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Ryan Dempster Has Solid Outing For Cubs in 8-6 Loss to Giants

Posted on 19 March 2009 by Lou

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&Dempster left the game with a 5-0 lead, but the Cubs bullpen could not preserve the win for the Cubs.  Chad Gaudin gave up 2 earned runs in an inning of work, Luis Vizcaino gave back another run on a solo home run in an inning of work, and Jose Ascansio lost the game for the Cubs by giving up 5 runs in the top of the 9th inning.

As for Dempster, he threw about 70 pitches and is pleased with his progress this spring.  “The ball was coming out nice and I seemed to get ahead quite a bit today and even the hits they were getting were ahead-in-the-count type of hits.  I had a good slider and good life in my ball.”  Dempster will use the rest of the spring to strengthen the arm and build up stamina for the long MLB season.

Good news for Cubs fans.  Zambrano and Dempster have looked very sharp this spring.  Rich Harden has looked good so far and has not experienced any setbacks as far as his recovery is concerned.  It looks like Sean Marshall has won the 5th spot in the starting rotation, and he has looked very impressive this spring.  Ted Lilly has not pitched all that great in the World Baseball Classic for Team USA, but hopefully he can get his act together once he gets back to Cactus League action after the WBC.  Having 3 righties and 2 lefties in the rotation is a nice balance too.  We’ll keep you posted with any further developments.

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Cubs Get Revenge on Dodgers – Too Bad the Game Meant Nothing

Posted on 18 March 2009 by Lou

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The Chicago Cubs clobbered the Los Angeles Dodgers 12-3 at the Dodgers new facility in Phoenix on Tuesday.  Too bad the Cubs didn’t show this effort back in October 2008 against the Dodgers.

Carlos Zambrano took game MVP honors.  At the plate, Zambrano hit a 3-run home run in the 2nd inning and an RBI double in the 4th inning.  On the mound, Zambrano pitched 5 innings – his longest outing of the spring.  He gave up 3 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks and had 1 strikeout.

Other Cubs highlights – - Reed Johnson was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle with 3 hits and 2 RBI’s.  Koyie Hill had 4 hits and Aaron Miles and Andres Blanco each had 2 hits.

The Cubs bullpen put in a solid effort as well.  Regulars Sean Marshall, Neal Cotts and Kevin Gregg each threw scoreless innings in relief of Zambrano, allowing only 2 hits and no walks the rest of the way.

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Brewers Top Cubs 9-6, Samardzija Struggles Again

Posted on 17 March 2009 by Lou

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The Milwaukee Brewers beat the Chicago Cubs 9-6 on Monday as Jeff Samardzija continues to struggle this spring.  Samardzija pitched just 2 innings – 5 earned runs, 5 hits, 2 walks, 1 HBP and 1 strikeout. The Cubs next pitcher Jeff Stevens promptly let up 3 more runs in only 1 inning of work, to put the Cubs in a deeper hole.  On the bright side, Carlos Marmol, Luis Vizcaino and Mike Stanton each worked scoreless and hitless innings after the Cubs fell behind 8-1.

At the plate, Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez each had 2 hits.  Ramirez hit a solo home run for the Cubs.

Jeff Samardzija is not helping his cause to make it as the Cubs 5th starter in 2009 (he is competing with Sean Marshall and Aaron Heilman for the spot).  With his poor pitching this spring, he could even find himself in a battle to make the opening day roster.  Other veterans have pitched well and as a young player, Cubs executives might choose to let Samardzija start in the minor leagues for the first half of the season in order to continue to work on pitches and develop as a professional baseball player.  It should be interesting to see how this all plays out the last few weeks of spring ball.

The Cubs are now 9-10 in Cactus League play.  Next up for the Cubs is a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on St. Patrick’s Day.

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Is 2nd Base Mike Fontenot’s Job To Lose?

Posted on 16 March 2009 by Lou

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Mike Fontenot is inching closer and closer to the starting 2nd base job.  In 11 spring games, Fontenot has batted .371 with 2 home runs and 8 RBI’s.  With the newly acquired Aaron Miles still dealing with throwing issues with his right shoulder, Fontenot has really made a strong case for winning the job outright.

Manager Lou Pinella originally envisioned Miles and Fontenot getting about 350-400 at-bats each, with starting shortstop Ryan Theriot getting around 500 at-bats.  Theriot amassed a career-high 580 at-bats in 2008, and Pinella felt like Theriot struggled a little bit down the stretch despite the fact that he still hit .307 on the year.  Pinella envisions Miles filling in for Theriot more often to limit his total at-bats, while giving Fontenot more playing time at 2nd base and even 3rd base every once in a while to spell Aramis Ramirez.

Pinella also likes Fontenot’s pop in the middle of the lineup.  “For a little guy, he drives the ball well.”  Fontenot hit 9 home runs in 119 games last year and has been driving the ball this spring training as well.  Pinella sees Fontenot batting in the 6-hole a lot, with Kosuke Fukodome batting 2nd and Milton Bradley batting clean-up against right-handed pitchers.  Will this revamped lineup work – we’ll have to wait and see.

Fontenot is a solid player with a great work ethic.  He always seems to come up big when the game is on the line, so let’s hope he can continue to be productive on a more regular basis in 2009.

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Sean Marshall Lucky #5!

Posted on 15 March 2009 by Lou

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Sean Marshall is taking direct aim at the Cubs 5th spot in the Cubs starting rotation.  Marshall had another effective outing on Friday in the Cubs 8-1 win over the Seattle Mariners.  Marshall pitched 4 1/3 innings, giving up only an unearned run on 3 hits and 1 walk.  He also had 3 strikeouts.  That marks 12 1/3 straight spring innings in which Marshall has not allowed an earned run.

Aaron Heilman has also pitched the ball well for the Cubs as a starter this spring.  Either Marshall or Heilman would look good in the 5th starting spot, and Marshall has done just about everything he could do to lock down the job.  The only thing going against him is that the Cubs only have 1 other left-handed pitcher in the bullpen – Neal Cotts.  By keeping Marshall in the bullpen, that would give Manager Lou Pinella 2 left-handed options to work with late in the game.  But is that really a reason to keep Marshall out of the starting rotation?  We’ll just have to wait and see.  The positives – Marshall and Heilman both have experience as starters and coming out of the bullpen.  While the “loser” of the competition will surely be disappointed, he will have what it takes to be effective out of the Cubs ‘pen in 2009.

Kevin Hart and Mike Stanton pitched scoreless innings in relief for the Cubs.  The Cubs are now 8-9 during spring ball.

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Pinella Names Carlos Zambrano Cubs Opening Day Starter

Posted on 14 March 2009 by Lou

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Carlos Zambrano was pouring out the champagne on Thursday – for the 5th consecutive year, Carlos Zambrano will be the Cubs opening day starter.  He will open up the Cubs 2009 season against the Houston Astros on April 6th in Houston.

In the middle of dousing teammates with Crystal after the announcement, Zambrano had this to say about the nod:  “It’s an honor.  I will do my best to win the game.  I’m winless on Opening Day, and I will try to do my best.  There’s no ace on this team…  You have four quality starters, four aces.  We have to take care of business and do what we can during the season to win as many games as possible.”

Zambrano competed with Ryan Dempster for the Opening Day nod.  Dempster wanted to be the Cubs opening day starter, but took the #2 slot in stride.  While wiping away tears from his eyes, Dempster had this to say:  “I pitch once every five days.  It doesn’t matter when I pitch.  My ego doesn’t ever get hurt with stuff like that.  I never expected to start Opening Day.  I really don’t care.  Get there, get healthy.  I can go to Wrestlemania now on Sunday night in Houston.  There’s a positive side to everything.”

Zambrano and Dempster will be followed by Ted Lilly and Rich Harden.  The Cubs will skip the 5th starter in the rotation the first 2 weeks of the season because of off-days.  Pinella still has not named a 5th starter, but it should come down to either Sean Marshall or Aaron Heilman.

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Carlos Marmol Trying to Forget About WBC Loss

Posted on 13 March 2009 by Lou

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Let’s hope Carlos Marmol can put the past behind him.  Marmol took the loss in the Dominican Republic’s WBC elimination game against the Netherlands this past weekend.  After the DR took a 1-0 lead in the top of the 11th inning, Marmol allowed the Netherlands to tie the game at 1 in the bottom of the inning.  While trying to pick off a runner at 1st base, Marmol threw the ball away which allowed the winning run to move to 3rd base – that runner scored on an error by 1st baseman Willy Aybar.  Marmol was disappointed that he didn’t make the pitches he needed to make to get his DR team to the next round, but was able to pick up valuable advice from major league veterans David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez.

Now Marmol is trying to re-focus on winning the Cubs closer job.  He is in a battle with Kevin Gregg for the spot.  Manager Lou Pinella had this to say about Marmol’s chances:  “First of all, the closer’s job, it’s a job that requires good stuff, it requires that you’re available.  The biggest prerequisite of the job is that you’re able to bounce back from failure because you’re going to have it.  Nobody’s immune.  You have to be able to clear your mind and come back the next day and do a job.  This might be a wonderful experience for Marmol.  You don’t like to see him give up a run like that but it happens to any great pitcher.  It’s what you learn from it and how you respond to it.”

This whole development is really interesting because Marmol decided to play for Team DR at the last minute after saying he was going to skip the WBC.  Who knows – if he doesn’t go, maybe Team DR wins and Marmol doesn’t have this issue to deal with.  We should watch this closely. It would be great if Marmol has a good outing his next time out this spring.  We don’t need Marmol thinking too much about his pitches.  He had some mental blocks early in the season last year, so we need him fresh and clear all season long in 2009 if we’re expecting the Cubs to repeat their 2008 success.  We’ll keep you posted.

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Kosuke Fukodome Update – #2 Hitter?!

Posted on 12 March 2009 by Lou

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Team Japan is in the United States to participate in the 2nd round of the World Baseball Classic.  Kosuke Fukodome is with the team and met with Cubs Manager Lou Pinella in Phoenix on Tuesday.  Pinella had this to say of his Japanese center fielder:  “He looks wonderful.  He’s in really good shape.  I told him we’re holding a spot for him, and we’ll put him out in center field and we’ll try him in the No. 2 hole in the lineup.”

Yes, you heard it right.  Kosuke Fukodome batting 2nd for the Chicago Cubs in 2009.  This coming from the Manager who got so frustrated with Fukodome at the end of the last season, that he told the media he didn’t want anymore questions about whether or not Fukodome would be in the lineup.  Pinella simply said that Reed Johnson or Mike Fontenot would be in the lineup and that was it.

Now we know Pinella has indicated that Fukodome should be more acclimated to the major leagues this season and that he worked really hard in the off-season with the Japanese national team.  But to anoint him the #2 hitter – without even seeing him play in person yet – - it seems a little bit crazy?!  We think it would be a better move to go with a platoon between Fukodome and Reed Johnson in center field early on, and then go with the hot hand as the season progresses.  But it seems like Pinella is committed to Fukodome being in the lineup whenever a righty is on the bump.  Guess we’ll have to see how this all plays out.  It would be great if Fukodome could become a more consistent player on the major league level.  But until he shows he can do it over a full season, we’re of the more cautious approach, allowing Reed Johnson to log more innings in the early going.

As for non-baseball items – the Cubs have an off-day on Wednesday, and Pinella’s wife planned for the skipper to take a hot-air balloon ride in the area.  We’ll keep you posted how it went.

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Who Will be the Chicago Cubs Opening Day Starter?

Posted on 11 March 2009 by Lou

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While most of the pitching focus this spring has been on the health of Rich Harden and the battle for the 5th starting spot, a decision regarding the opening day starter could come soon.

The 2 candidates are Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster.

Zambrano is scheduled to pitch in an exhibition game against Team Japan on Thursday.  Zambrano has started the last 4 opening day games for the Cubs.  In 2008, Zambrano was 14-6 with a 3.91 ERA and he threw his 1st career no-hitter against the Houston Astros.

Dempster pitched 3 scoreless innings and earned the victory in the Cubs 9-1 win over the Mariners on Tuesday.  In 2008, Dempster won a career-high 17 games, finishing the season with a 17-6 record and a 2.96 ERA.  Manager Lou Pinella also started Dempster in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Dempster had this to say about Pinella’s decision:  “I don’t care.  He can pitch me 5th.  Anytime you pitch Opening Day it’s a tremendous honor, but I just want to pitch games, and my feelings aren’t hurt one way or another.  I just want to go out and pitch every 5th day and get us in a position to try to go back to where we were last year.  It doesn’t matter to me at all.”  Dempster also joked that he and Zambrano don’t even talk about it to each other because they both want it so bad, and that he really likes pitching in the middle relief role.

Ah fun spring training antics.  Pinella indicated that he could make his announcement as early as the end of this week.  We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything.

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