Archive | February, 2010

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Ted Lilly is Back in Camp

Posted on 27 February 2010 by Lou

After a rough start to the spring (sore knee, nasty flu), Ted Lilly is finally back at camp.  The only bad news — this latest flu bout probably cost him any shot he had at being ready by opening day 2010.  He missed 5 straight days because of a nasty virus and flu-like symptoms, including a 103-degree temperature.  “It makes you really appreciate your health when it’s taken away… It didn’t hurt, it just felt weak.  I felt some strength was taken away for sure.  It’s awesome just being able to stand out there with the sun on my face and on my feet.”

The Cubs and Manager Lou Pinella have already indicated that they are going to take it slow with Lilly this spring.  Sean Marshall, Carlos Silva, Jeff Samardzija and Tom Gorzelanny will all compete for the final 2 spots in the Cubs starting rotation to start the season.  And once Lilly returns towards the middle to end of April, 1 will get bumped down to the bullpen or minor leagues.

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Alfonso Soriano Update – Knee Feeling Good

Posted on 26 February 2010 by Lou

Not sure if this is good or bad – but Alfonso Soriano is “surprised” at how good his knee feels.  Even though he hasn’t run full speed just yet, it looks like all signs are a go for the Soriano Express.  Soriano had this to say about his condition thus far: “I’m surprised.  I feel much better than [Monday].  That’s a good thing.  It’s only the second day and I see the difference… I can move around — that’s the only thing I’m doing 100 percent, is the fielding, and I don’t feel any pain at all.  No problem… I need to trust it more.  That’s the biggest thing.  I think my knee is good, but now I have to trust that it’s 100 percent.”

I guess it is good news that Soriano is feeling this good this early in camp.  Then again, until he shows up on the field in April and can produce during the regular season on a regular basis, I won’t get my hopes up too much.  Soriano seems to be an injury waiting to happen – even on routine plays – so anything can happen during the next 2+ months of spring training.

Hopefully taking the pressure off Soriano by moving him down to the 6th spot with help matters.  If he can increase his HR and RBI numbers by just a little bit from 2009 (he clubbed 20 HR’s and drove in 55 runs in 2009), that should go a long in helping the Cubs offense get back on track in 2010.  A season which sees Soriano hit close to 30 HR’s and rack up over 70 RBI’s will mean good things for this Cubs team.  Let’s hope he – as well as the rest of the team – stays healthy in 2010…

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Carlos Zambrano Likely Opening Day Starter in Atlanta

Posted on 25 February 2010 by Lou

Carlos Zambrano will likely be the Cubs opening day starter against the Braves in Atlanta on Monday April 5th.  Zambrano has made 5 straight opening day starts for the Cubs, but he picked up his 1st win only last year against the Astros in Houston.  Big Z gave up just 1 run and 5 hits in 6 solid innings in the start last season.  Manager Lou Pinella had this to say about the decision: “We haven’t even gone there yet… I’ve been here three years and Zambrano has been the Opening Day starter every year.  I don’t anticipate any difference there.”

It’s unclear who will start the Cubs home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field on Monday April 12th.  If the Cubs let Big Z and Ryan Dempster start on their regular 5 days’ rest after their 1st start, the starter would likely be the winner of the 4th starter’s role coming out of Spring Training.  If the Cubs use 5 starters right out of the gate, then Dempster would likely start the Cubs home opener at the Friendly Confines.

Let’s hope Big Z can get off to a good start this season.  He showed up in camp in great shape and will likely face one of the best young pitchers in the game today – Tommy Hanson – in the opener.  Should be a fun way to test their mettle and see how they shape up against one of the better teams in the National League in 2010.

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Marlon Byrd Excited to Show off his Outfield Skills @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 24 February 2010 by Lou

Marlon Byrd is excited to show off his outfield skills in center field at Wrigley Field for the Chicago Cubs in 2010.  For a big man, most analysts are surprised to see Byrd in action – how well he covers ground in center field in spite of his muscular 245 pound body.  Current Cubs player Sam Fuld is impressed with what he has seen so far: “It goes to show you what an athlete Byrd is.  He certainly doesn’t fit the prototypical center fielder’s body.  He looks more like a linebacker or NFL running back.  He’s obviously proven he can play the position.”

Byrd acknowledges his critics, but knows that he is at home in center field: “I know a lot of writers and scouts who haven’t seen me play in the outfield don’t think I can play out there because of my size.  When people see me play, they know I can play.”

Gotta love the confidence.  I also love the stability that Byrd brings to the center field position for the Cubs.  Byrd had a breakout year with the Texas Rangers in 2009 – .283 batting average with a .329 on-base percentage.  His 547 at-bats, 20 HR’s and 89 RBI’s were all career highs and he also scored 66 runs.  He’ll also have the same hitting coach, as Rudy Jaramillo left the Rangers for the Cubs organization as well.  I don’t like the fact that he is turning 33 in August – GM Jim Hendry’s signings of “older players coming off of great seasons” have not fared too well of late – but hopefully he has at least 2 more good years left in the tank.

Having Byrd patrol center field also allows Kosuke Fukudome to move back to right field where he is more “comfortable”.  If Fukudome feeling more comfortable in right field helps to improve his hitting, that will be a good the Cubs offensive production, especially at the top of the order.  We’ll keep you posted as spring progresses – let’s just hope we don’t get caught in the injury bug with any projected starter.  We need everyone healthy during the 2010 MLB schedule!

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Jeff Stevens Aiming for Spot in Crowded Bullpen

Posted on 23 February 2010 by Lou

Jeff Stevens is eager to show his stuff this spring and hopefully land a spot in the Cubs crowded bullpen.  Stevens is competing with the likes of Esmailin Caridad, Justin Berg, Angel Guzman, Mike Parisi and Jeff Gray.  Four pitchers vying for 2 spots in the starting rotation could also land in the bullpen at the start of the 2010 season depending on how that competition turns out – Tom Gorzelanny, Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija and Carlos Silva.

Stevens came over from the Indians in the Mark DeRosa trade, and spent most of the season at Triple-A Iowa.  Stevens did make 11 appearances for the Cubs at the major league level, and although he posted a high 7.11 ERA, he held the other team scoreless in 7 of his outings.  Now that he is a little more comfortable in the Cubs organization, Stevens is excited for Spring Training 2010 in Mesa where he can showcase his stuff.  “Last year I was trying to make a good impression.  I was new coming, coming over in the trade.  It’s a little different now because I know everybody, people have seen how I pitch.  You definitely want to come in and make a good impression.”

Let’s hope one or two of these guys really steps it up in 2010 to help out Carlos Marmol and John Grabow in the bullpen.  A few of these guys have talent, so if they can provide consistent and reliable bullpen work during the course of the long MLB season, that could mean good things for the Cubs in 2010.

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Shocker – Alfonso Soriano Still Dealing with Sore Knee; Hendry Must Go…

Posted on 22 February 2010 by Lou

Not sure why I’m even surprised by this, but it looks like Alfonso Soriano is still dealing with a sore knee that bothered him in 2009.  That nagging knee injury caused him to put forth one of the worst offensive years of his career – .241 batting average, .303 on-base percentage, 20 HR’s, 55 RBI’s and 64 runs.  What great production from the Cubs $18 million-dollar man.

Soriano still hasn’t run 100% on his surgically repaired knee and the left fielder has said that he is only running about 75-80% on the knee.  The Cubs opted to have Soriano hold back a little in the off-season so that he could fully test it with Cubs medical staff present during Spring Training in Mesa.  That means Soriano will need an uneventful spring in order to ensure that he is ready by opening day.  WOW!

Soriano had this to say about the situation – “I’m not running 100 percent.  That’s why I said I don’t feel 100 percent, because I’m not running 100 percent… We’ll see in one week when I test my knee running in the field.  My knee will tell me how I feel.”

Soriano also says that he is looking forward to working with Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo who mentored Soriano when he was with the Texas Rangers back in 2004.  Let’s hope the new role of being the Cubs 6th or 7th hitter will also help him relax a little more and allow him to drive in runs on a consistent basis.  “It’s a new year.  Whatever happened last year is past.  It’s 2010 now, and we have to concentrate on 2010 and see what 2010 will bring.”  It better be something better than a .303 on-base percentage and 55 RBI’s.  If Soriano doesn’t turn it around in a big way, that could lead to GM Jim Hendry’s ouster as he mortgaged the Cubs future with his Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome and Milton Bradley signings each of the last 3 seasons.  None of the 3 have produced the way Hendry and the Cubs thought they would, and Bradley isn’t even with the team anymore.  But because of the moves, the Ricketts Family has their hands tied because of the long-term nature of the deals.  The Cubs 2010 payroll is expected to top $140 million – the highest in franchise history.  If the Cubs aren’t winning in October, it’s clear that the team that Hendry has assembled isn’t up to par, and when that happens, someone needs to be held accountable.  It’s time for a change – just like the Cubs have new owners – now we need a new GM to run the team and bring a championship to the north side of Chicago!

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Cubs Win Arbitration Hearing with Ryan Theriot

Posted on 21 February 2010 by Lou

The Chicago Cubs “won” their arbitration case with Ryan Theriot, who will now make $2.6 million for the 2010 MLB schedule.  Sure $2.6 million is a lot of cash, but this is a travesty in my humble opinion.  As we argued before, GM Jim Hendry finds it so easy to shell out tons of money to over-rated, under-producing players like Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome and Milton Bradley, and then has the nerve to fight over $800,000 with hard-working, reliable, productive players like Ryan Theriot.  The Cubs are going to rely on Theriot to play the all-important shortstop position and to bat lead-off in 2010.  This wasn’t a negotiation for a long-term deal either – it was 1 baseball season.  For the Cubs to push Theriot so hard on his contract demands for 2010 (he sought $3.4 million is his 1st year of being arbitration-eligible) should leave a bad taste in his mouth.

Hendry defended his position: “We’ve always paid players what’s fair.  I think those of you who know us know we would’ve never been in Tampa unless I thought we’d reached the highest level of fairness… I’m not mad at Ryan for wanting to go to arbitration.  He has every right to put himself on the other side of the philosophical midpoint… He’s being compensated what I thought was a fair number to begin with.  He’ll be fine.”

Baseball teams won 5 out of 8 cases heard this year, so it looks like Theriot got stuck with the wrong year to have to plead his case.  Hendry has settled 36 arbitration cases in a row during his tenure as Cubs GM.

I sure hope this doesn’t affect Theriot’s play during the upcoming season.  The Cubs need Theriot to play at the highest level right from the get-go, so hopefully he can clear his mind in Mesa during Spring Training and be ready to tackle the big leagues at Wrigley Field come April…

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Angel Guzman & Jeff Gray Injured – Spring Training Delayed

Posted on 20 February 2010 by Lou

The Cubs did not get good news on Angel Guzman and Jeff Gray at the start of Spring Training as pitchers and catchers reported this week.  Neither player will participate in drills right away.

Guzman injured his right knee during the off-season in Venezuela.  He underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee 2 weeks ago, but the Cubs believe he will be ready for baseball action by Opening Day.

Gray has a mild groin strain and will miss at least the first 2 weeks of spring training drills.  The Cubs will take it slow with the right-handed pitcher who they acquired from the Oakland A’s in the Jake Fox/Aaron Miles trade.

We should see Guzman in the bigs at Wrigley Field during the 2010 MLB schedule, but the odds of Gray making the club out of the gates is unlikely.  We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything else on Cubs players as the Spring progresses.

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Cubs Tickets Go On-Sale Today @ 8am

Posted on 19 February 2010 by Lou

Chicago Cubs tickets to all games go onsale today at 8am at Wrigley Field.  At 10am, Cubs tickets will then be made available for purchase online or over the phone.  Get your tickets soon before they are all gone.

In order to purchase your tickets at Wrigley Field, you needed to obtain a wristband at Wrigley Field on Wednesday or Thursday of this week.  The Cubs announced the winning wristband number this morning at 6am.

You can purchase up to a maximum of 42 tickets at Wrigley Field. There is a 6-ticket limit per game.

Online and over the phone, there is also a maximum ticket limit of 42 tickets for the 1st weekend (2/19-21).  Internet and phone orders are limited to 1 game per order of up to 6 tickets.

Good luck – a lot of the big series (6/11-13 White Sox; 6/18-20 Angels; 7/15-18 Phillies; and 7/23-25 Cardinals) are sure to sell out quickly!

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Ted Lilly Still Aiming for Opening Day

Posted on 18 February 2010 by Lou

Despite what we wrote the other day, it looks like Ted Lilly still thinks he might be ready by opening day.  I hope he’s right.  Lilly underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in early November.  Although it was considered a “minor” procedure, anytime you have surgery on your throwing arm, there’s gotta be some concern.  Lilly has been playing catch and even throws from 120 feet now.  He has yet to start throwing off a mound, but with pitchers and catchers reporting today, we should hear something about a game plan for Lilly in the coming weeks.

Lilly had this to say about his status and his rehab progress: “It feels pretty strong.  I expect to be ahead of schedule, whatever schedule comes out… I don’t know what the date it.  I’d like to be ready when all the other healthy guys are.  That would be good for me.  If I can’t, I’ll be disappointed.  I have to undrestand that sometimes you take one step back to gain a couple forward.  The whole idea is to not only come back as soon as possible and be out there contributing but be productive too…  I think the real test is first, when you get on the mound and start throwing downhill off the slope and after that when you get into a game situation and you try to really dial it up with runners in scoring position or whatever it is…”

Should be interesting to see how the Cubs play it with Lilly.  If he misses too much time early in the season, the Cubs could start digging themselves into a big hole if the 4th and 5th starters don’t step up too much.  On the other hand, you don’t want to rush it too much with Lilly and risk a setback where he ends up missing more time.  We’ll keep you posted once things really start going in Mesa this week and next week…

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