Archive | October, 2009

Neal Cotts Trying to Overcome Tommy John Surgery

Posted on 20 October 2009 by Lou

Cubs Rangers Baseball

It has been an up and down major league career for 29-year old Neal Cotts.  After bursting out on the scene during the Chicago White Sox magical 2005 World Series title run (69 appearances, 1.94 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) as one of the White Sox most dependable players, Cotts has not been able to regain that form and has had to deal with numerous injuries.  The latest is his biggest obstacle yet – elbow ligament replacement Tommy John surgery in early July – and it may bring an end to his baseball career.

Cotts appeared in 19 games for the Cubs in 2009, struggling with a 7.36 ERA and 2.09 WHIP.  The Cubs moved Cotts down to Triple-A Iowa where he made 9 scoreless appearances until the June 24th game that ended his season.  During the game, Cotts felt sharp pain in his left arm – something he had never felt before – and tests showed significant damage that would require surgery.

Since the surgery, Cotts has been rehabbing the arm and the rest of his body with an intensity never felt before.  He is working out at the Cubs complex in Mesa, Arizona as well as at a Phoeniz area rehab facility.  Cotts expects to pitch in 2010 – he saw Billy Wagner come back from the same surgery in just 10 months and pitch effectively for the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox in August and September of this year.  And he doesn’t expect anything different for him.  Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster have also had the surgery, and both are still pitching in the majors, so he has a lot to be hopeful for.

Whether it’s for the Cubs or not, he is still optimistic about 2010.  Cotts is arbitration eligible, so it is unclear if GM Jim Hendry and the Cubs will offer him a contract before the December 12 deadline.  Cotts has the right attitude:  “It’s hard to put in perspective exactly if it happened on that one pitch or if it happened earlier and it was just building up – - I don’t know.  I can’t go back on it now and say, ‘That was the problem.’ It was just being inconsistent, bad… It’s all ahead of me in terms of what I need to get done and getting back.  You get in the best shape of your life now because you have nine months before you’re fully activated… I enjoy it over here and I’ve enjoyed the organization.  They’ve treated me well.  I know in terms of performance and in terms of staying up there, it hasn’t been as planned for either side.  I’d like to be up there to help the team.”

Good luck to you, Neal…

Phillies Cubs Baseball

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Rudy Jaramillo – the Answer for the Cubs Hitting Woes

Posted on 19 October 2009 by Lou

Cubs Rockies Baseball

Here’s the answer we’ve all been waiting for – the big move for the Cubs this off-season.  Rudy Jaramillo will be the Cubs new hitting coach!  Yippee!

Ok, I’m being a little cynical here, but it sounds like this guy Jaramillo knows what he’s doing.  He has been the Texas Rangers hitting coach since 1995.  During his tenure, 17 Rangers hitters have won Silver Slugger Awards; 4 Rangers hitters have won MVP Awards; 3 Rangers hitters have won HR crowns and 3 Rangers hitters have won RBI crowns.  The Rangers also led the major league baseball in runs scored in 2008 with 901, but there was a big drop off in 2009 – only 784 runs scored – as the Rangers fell to 10th best in baseball.

The Cubs led the National League in runs scored in 2008 with 855 runs scored (2nd only to the Rangers in all of MLB).  But in 2008, several players underperformed under Gerald Perry and Von Joshua and the club scored only 707 runs total – 9th worst in all of baseball behind such poor teams as the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians.  A move had to be made from outside the system, as the Cubs released Perry and moved Joshua back to his hitting coach role at Triple-A Iowa.

The Cubs have received permission to negotiate with Jaramillo, who was only offered a 1-year contract by the Rangers organization for 2010.  Jaramillo had this to say about his situation – “This is my decision.  I want to go out there and see where I stand in the game.”

If the Cubs do get Jaramillo, let’s hope something improves in 2010.  Given how badly Geovany Soto, Alfonso Soriano and Mike Fontenot hit in 2009 (not to mention Milton Bradley who will likely not be back with the team), it really can’t get much worse.

Cubs Rockies Baseball

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Starlin Castro – Cubs Shortstop of the Future?

Posted on 18 October 2009 by Lou

chicago cubs starlin castro 1

In our latest look at the Cubs top minor league prospects, shortstop Starlin Castro will also be playing in the AFL this fall.  Castro is only 19 years old and will be the Cubs youngest player in the AFL this season.  Castro played for the World Team in the All-Star Futures Game earlier this season.

Castro played 96 games at Class-A Daytona where he hit a promising .302.  After being promoted to Class Double-A Tennessee at the end of the year, Castro racked up a .288 batting average in 31 games.  It’s a good sign that his average stayed pretty steady as the season progressed and as he moved up to a higher level of competition.  The Cubs hope that Castro continues his development this fall in the AFL.  Could we see Castro at the major league level at Wrigley Field anytime soon?  Guess we will have to wait and see…

chicago cubs starlin castro 2

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John Gaub – Showing Signs of a Good Mark DeRosa Trade

Posted on 17 October 2009 by Lou

chicago cubs logo1

In our latest look at the Cubs top minor league prospects, pitcher John Gaub will be continuing his development this fall in the Arizona Fall League.  Gaub was one of 3 pitchers that the Cubs acquired last November in exchange for clubhouse and fan favorite Mark DeRosa.  While there are still a lot of people upset with Jim Hendry for making the move – especially since it was done to free salary so that the Cubs could sign overrated trouble-maker Milton Bradley in the failed Milton Bradley experiment – at least the players brought over are showing that they are major league caliber players who may be playing on the north side for years to come.

Gaub made 52 appearances in the Cubs minor league system in 2009.  In 26 games at Double-A Tennessee, Gaub compiled a 2.83 ERA.  IN 26 games at Triple-A Iowa, Gaub was even better with a 1.72 ERA.  At the Triple-A level, teams batted just .172 against him.  The solid showing so far means that Gaub might even vie for a bullpen spot on the Cubs roster in 2010.

Jeff Stevens was another pitcher who came over from the Indians in the DeRosa trade.  Stevens started off well giving up just 2 hits and no runs in his 1st 4 2/3 innings pitched.  He hit a rough stretch where he gave up 9 ER over just 2 2/3 in 3 consecutive appearances, but bounced back by giving up just 1 ER over his final 4 1/3 innings pitched at the end of the season.

GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella have confidence that Stevens and Gaub will be able to help the Cubs at the major league level in short order…

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Bankruptcy Court Gives Tribune Co. to Proceed with Cubs Sale to Ricketts Family

Posted on 16 October 2009 by Lou

chicago cubs win scoreboard

All hands on deck.  The completion of the Cubs sale to the Ricketts Family is inching closer and closer to fruition. Earlier this week, a U.S. bankruptcy court judge ruled that the Tribune Co. can proceed with the sale of the Chicago Cubs to the Ricketts Family for the whopping sum of $845 million. The 1-day bankruptcy filing took place to protect the Ricketts Family from future lawsuits by Tribune Co. creditors who might try to seek a claim against the Chicago Cubs entity.  Now that the courts have ruled that the Tribune Co. and the Cubs can proceed with the sale, things should move along quickly.

Yippee!!!  As I have said before, the Cubs really need to get the Ricketts Family on board before the start of the free agency period (which begins 15 days after the end of the World Series) if the Cubs are to have any chance of making a tiny “dip” (definitely not a big splash) in the free agent market.  With the departure of Rich Harden and hopefully Milton Bradley (even if we have to eat some of his salary), that should free up a little money from which GM Jim Hendry can add a piece or two. The Cubs clearly won’t be able to land a Matt Holliday or Jason Bay, but the Cubs do have some holds that need to be filled.  Having the Ricketts family in place to give guidance to Hendry by the end of October will be a huge step in the right direction.

Go Cubs Go!

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Ryne Sandberg Likely to Remain Manager in Cubs Minor League System

Posted on 15 October 2009 by Lou

chicago cubs ryne sandberg 1

While we’ve heard the rumors that Cubs fans want Ryne Sandberg to be the Cubs next hitting coach, that is not going to happen.  Let me repeat that – it is not going to happen.  The Cubs organization wants Sandberg to be a major league manager, and to serve as a hitting coach for a year or 2 under current Manager Lou Pinella won’t really do much to help him in that regard.

Sandberg served well as the Double-A Tennessee Manager in 2008 and should continue to serve in that role until the Cubs managerial vacancy opens up.  The Tennessee team plays in the Southern League which plays bu National League rules.  This is very important – to continue to learn the nuances of NL Ball – no DH, when to pull a picther, when to use the double-switch, etc…

While we won’t know until early December what the Cubs plan to do with Sandberg, we fully expect him to be at the helm of the Double-A Tennessee for at least another season….

chicago cubs ryne sandberg 2

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Josh Vitters – Cubs Top Prospect – to Play in AFL

Posted on 14 October 2009 by Lou

chicago cubs josh vitters 1

The Chicago Cubs top prospect 3rd baseman Josh Vitters is slated to play for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League which starts this week.  Because of a hand injury, Vitters played on 70 games for Class A Peoria and Class Double A Daytona in 2009.  Vitters had a combined batting average of .316 during the season.  Vitters was the Cubs top draft pick in the 2007 MLB Draft and he remains the top prospect in the Cubs minor league system.  Vitters also remains on the radar screen of general managers all across baseball, so GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella are in the mood to make a blockbuster trade this off-season, rumors will certainly swirl about Vitters being included in the deal.

When you purchase Cubs tickets at Wrigley Field for future Chicago Cubs MLB games, you could end up seeing Vitters or one of the Cubs other top prospects at the Friendly Confines…

chicago cubs josh vitters 2

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Cubs Minor League System Looking Bright – Arizona Fall League Set to Open

Posted on 13 October 2009 by Lou

chicago cubs andrew cashner 1

The Chicago Cubs are eagerly anticipating the start of the Arizona Fall League.  Several young players are looking to make statements over the course of the league and GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella will certainly be keeping tabs on the progress of certain players.  The next few days we’ll highlight a few of the Cubs top prospects – how they’ve done and what we can expect of them in the near future.

1st up is a pitcher – Andrew Cashner – the Cubs 1st round draft pick in 2008.  Cashner started the 2009 season at Class A Daytona where he made 12 starts and finished with a 1.50 ERA.  In early July, the club moved him up to the Double-A level at Tennessee.  He made another 12 starts there, going 3-4 with a 3.39 ERA and 41 strikeouts.

Cashner will pitch for the Mesa Solar Sox in the AFL and he is expected to make his 1st start on Friday, October 16th.

chicago cubs andrew cashner 2

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Does Jeff Samardzija Have What it Takes to a Starter at the Major League Level?

Posted on 12 October 2009 by Lou

jeff samardzija iowa

Jeff Samardzija still thinks he has what it takes to be a starter in the Cubs rotation in 2010 – now he just needs to go out and show it.  After a rough 2009, he’ll have even a tougher time than he had in Spring Training this past year given the competition.  Samardzija appeared in 20 games for the Cubs during the course of the 2009 MLB schedule (including 2 starts).  He had a 1-3 record with a hefty 7.53 ERA (29 ER) and 1.76 WHIP in 34 2/3 innings pitched.  Teams batted .329 against Samardzija with 7 home runs and his strikeout to walk ratio was not great – 25 to 21.  Compare that to his 2008 numbers in his rookie year, and there is a stark contrast:

1-0 record; 2.28 ERA (7 ER) and 1.41 WHIP in 27 2/3 innings pitched; .226 opponents’ batting average with a 25-15 strikeout to walk ratio; 1 save with 3 blown saves.

So what went wrong in 2009?  Was it simply a sophomore jinx, does he not really have what it takes to pitch at this level, or at the age of 24, does he still need more minor league time to work on developing more pitches like a changeup or cutter that will keep batters more off-guard?  It’s unclear right now, but Samardzija will continue to work on throwing this offseason, playing winter ball in the Mexico league for Triple-A manager Bobby Dickerson.

Manager Lou Pinella had good things to say about the youngster: “The kid needs to pitch winter ball.  He’s on the right path… He just needs to work on the things he’s working on and get more consistent with it, and winter ball will give him that opportunity… Starting-wise, I think he’ll be able to throw all of his pitches and I think he can get better quicker.  When you pitch out of the bullpen, you’re only pitching an inning, two innings at a time, so you basically go after the hitter with one or two pitches.  Starting-wise, you have to develop all of your pitches and repertoire.”

The Cubs are pretty much locked into 4 starters in 2010 – Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells.  The 5th starter role will likely come down to Tom Gorzellany, Samardzija, Sean Marshall and Angel Guzman.  Gorzellany made some nice starts in 2009 after coming over in a trade from the Pirates; Marshall won the 5th starter’s role in 2009, but Pinella moved him to the bullpen after Neal Cotts’ was hurt because the Cubs needed a lefty reliever out of the pen; and Guzman pitched well in the bullpen in 2009 and will likely serve a similar role in 2010.  So it will be interesting to see how it all pans out in Spring Training in 2010.  Samardzija can improve his chances with a good showing in winter ball in the Mexico League, so we’ll keep you posted how he is throwing later this month…

jeff samardzija roster

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Dodgers Take Out Cards – Finally Something to Cheer About

Posted on 11 October 2009 by Lou

NLDS Dodgers Cardinals Baseball

Call me petty – but I must admit, I was so glad that the Dodgers swept the Cardinals out of the playoffs in the 1st round like they did the Cubs in 2008.  It was even sweeter that the Dodgers eliminated the Cards on their home turf in front of their home crowd.  Since there wasn’t much to cheer about for the Cubs in 2009, might as well cheer for the Cards to lose in the playoffs.

I really don’t think the Cards were as good as everybody thought they were.  Sure Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright may be 2 of the best pitchers in all of baseball when healthy.  But after that, the pitching staff so over-performed in 2009, that you can’t expect the same to happen in 2010.  Joel Pineiro – 15 wins and 3.49 ERA and 1.14 WHIP – gimme a break.  Even with those numbers he now has a career ERA at 4.39 and a career WHIP at 1.34, and his true colors showed in Game 3 of the ALDS when he gave up 4 ER and 7 hits in just 4 innings of work.  Kyle Lohse and Todd Wellemeyer are average at-best, and their closer, Ryan Franklin had his best season as a pro.  Let’s look at the numbers: in 2007, Franklin saved only 1 game while blowing 5 saves.  In 2008, Franklin saved 17 games, but blew 8 games.  In 2009, Franklin turned it all around in remarkable fashion – 38 saves, with only 5 blown saves, with a 1.92 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.  But he only had 44 K’s in 61 inning pitched and his career ERA (4.07) and WHIP (1.32) are average at best.

The Cards took control off the NL Central only after the acquisition of Matt Holliday in July, and as a free agent, there is no assurance that Holliday with stay in St. Louis.  The Cardinals stayed away from the injury bug for the most part, and everyone played above their career numbers in 2009.  Call me jaded, but this is usually a recipe for disaster the following season.  This Cards team will come back down to earth in 2010, and look for the Cubs to take the NL Central easily in 2010…

NLDS Dodgers Cardinals Baseball

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