Archive | February, 2011

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Big Z Dominant; Garza Not Worried About Poor 1st Outing – Wrigley Field West Mesa, Arizona 2/28/11

Posted on 28 February 2011 by Lou

It wasn’t the way Mike Quade envisioned his 1st spring training game going in his first full season as the official manager of the Chicago Cubs.  The Cubs lost to the Oakland A’s 15-7, committing 3 errors in the process.

But it is only the first game of spring and there is plenty of time to get things going in a different direction for the underdog Cubs in 2011.

Carlos Zambrano looked exceptional in his 2011 debut.  Zambrano pitched to the minimum number of batters in his 2 innings of work.  He walked one and struck out 2 and looked like the Carlos Zambrano who finished the 2010 campaign with 8 straight wins down the stretch.

Matt Garza, on the other hand, looked like he needed a lot of work.  Garza served up a grand slam to Coco Crisp in his 1st inning of work and ended up giving up 5 ER on 5 hits and 1 walk.  Garza was not deterred, however, by the fact that he gave up those 5 runs.  “Today, my job was to get outs, and I got six of them, but not the way I wanted to go about it.  It’s spring, I wasn’t throwing any breaking balls today, just fastballs and changeups.  My location was off… It’s spring.  At least the ball felt good coming out of my hand, it felt very explosive towards home plate.  Everything that needs to be there is there.  I’m not too worried about numbers right now.  I’m just trying to get after it and work up a little sweat, which is difficult in Arizona.”

Let’s hope Garza has a better 2nd outing.  Garza also got his first major league hit in his only at-bat of the day.

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2011 Cubs Baseball Tickets Go On Sale Today at 8AM @ Wrigley Field — Wrigley Field 2/25/11

Posted on 25 February 2011 by Lou

Cubs tickets to the 2011 MLB schedule go on sale to the general public at 8am on Friday February 25th at Wrigley Field.  The winning wristband number was 01937.  The first person in at 8am will get to buy tickets to all Chicago Cubs homes games at Wrigley Field for the upcoming season.  Tickets will then become available online at cubs.com and over the phone starting at 10am.  Tickets to games against the Yankees in June and to the White Sox over the 4th of July weekend will set out quickly.  The August weekend series against the St. Louis Cardinals will likely sell out quickly too.

Good luck Cubs fans!

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Aramis Ramirez to Bat 4th; Rest of the Lineup Unclear — Wrigley Field 2/24/11

Posted on 24 February 2011 by Lou

Manager Mike Quade is sure that Aramis Ramirez will bat 4th in the Cubs lineup each and every day.  The rest of the lineup is not so clear.  “I see him as such a good RBI guy that it makes sense in the four-hole.  He’s a guy who, as much as mizing and matching that I do, he doesn’t figure to be one of the guys I’ll mix and match with.  Some guys don’t care [where they are in the lineup], and I know he does.  He seems like the four-hole to me because I want him driving in runs.  But I’m a grownup and I reserve the right to change my mind.”

Quade has indicated that Starlin Castro will likely hit in the 2-spot.  Quade has hinted that Castro could some day be a lead-off hitter, but he doesn’t want to put too much pressure on the youngster, especially in his 2nd year which can often lead to a “sophomore slump.”  Quade likes Kosuke Fukudome in the lead-off spot for some reason.  He likes the fact that Fukudome makes pitchers throw a lot of pitches, but I think he is just way too inconsistent.  He may have a good few weeks or so, but then he has the capability of disappearing for weeks at a time.

It should be interesting as spring progresses.  Let’s hope someone emerges to claim that 3rd spot in the lineup.  Marlon Byrd seems like the best fit because Carlos Pena and Alfonso Soriano strike out way too much there.  But if a guy like Blake DeWitt emerges with a good spring, could we see Quade got with Fukudome, DeWitt and Castro in the top 3 spots?  We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything concrete out of Mesa…

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Zambrano “Really” OK with Dempster Opening Day Nod – Wrigley Field 2/23/11

Posted on 23 February 2011 by Lou

Maybe this is a good sign.  As we reported the other day, Carlos Zambrano really is OK with Manager Mike Quade naming Ryan Dempster his opening day starter, breaking a 6-year streak held by Big Z.  Quade brought Dempster, Zambrano and newly acquired Matt Garza into his office to share the news and to explain his rationale for setting up the rotation the way he did for his 3 “aces”.  It was a sign of respect from Quade that he considers all 3 starters to be top-of-the-line starters in his re-vamped rotation.  Zambrano was disappointed with the decision, but he appears to have taken it in stride: “Nothing lasts forever.  I wanted to be the Opening Days starter for all my years with the Cubs, but they chose Dempster for Opening Day.  And it’s OK with me… He’s been pitching better than I have the past two years.  He deserves it.”

WOW – could we really be seeing the new Carlos Zambrano.  If he truly has his head on straight – and like I said before, I won’t believe it until he lasts a WHOLE season without incident – he could be primed and ready for a big 2011.  If he can regain the form that made him one of the best starters in the National League, the Cubs could end up surprising some teams with nice trio of Demspter, Big Z and Garza.  Let’s hope this trend continues…

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Rudy High on Soriano for Better 2011 – Wrigley Field 2/22/11

Posted on 22 February 2011 by Lou

Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo is confident that Alfonso Soriano has done what it will take to have a positive 2011 MLB season.  GM Jim Hendry made a huge splash before the 2007 MLB season by out-bidding (in terms of years and dollars) every other team for the best free agent on the market at the time – Alfonso Soriano.  Soriano signed an 8-year, $136 million deal and the Cubs have yet to see the fruits of their labor as Soriano has averaged just 26 HR’s, 70 RBI’s and 127 games played during the 1st 4 years of the contract.  In 2010, Soriano played the most games during his tenure with the Cubs — 147 — but the numbers were still a fraction of what the Cubs expected when they signed him.  Soriano batted just .258 – ouch! – with 24 HR’s and paltry 79 RBI’s.  WOW – what a bad deal for the Cubs AND they still have to deal with the guy for 4 more years.

That being said, Jaramillo is confident that Soriano still has some juice left in the tank.  The 2 worked together while Soriano played for the Texas Rangers and he had success under Rudy’s tutelage.  With 1 year under their belts together again, Jaramillo feels like Soriano will surprise some people in 2011.  “I can help him and Sori is definitely going back in the right direction.  I can see that his foundation is better so hopefully he just becomes more consistent.  We’ve just got to work on slowing his mind down and trust what he does in the cage.  That way he can execute that approach…We’re really trying to stress the mechanical part and the approach that goes with every situation.  Sori did well last year.  I expect him to do better.  I think he has a better understanding of what he and I tried to accomplish so I expect a good year from Sori.”

Great optimism, but I’ll believe it when I see it.  I’m not expecting .320 batting average with 40 HR’s, but if he can somehow manage to hit close to .300 with 30 dingers, I think there will be a lot of happy Cubs fans on the north side of Chicago this summer…

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WOW — Manager Mike Quade Names Ryan Dempster Opening Day Starter — Wrigley Field 2/21/11

Posted on 21 February 2011 by Lou

WOW — guess we’ll find out very quickly whether or not Carlos Zambrano has truly put his “anger issues” behind him.  Manager Mike Quade has named Ryan Dempster his opening day starter on Friday April 1st against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Zambrano – who had made 6 consecutive opening day starts for the Cubs – will be the No. 2 starter on Saturday and Matt Garza will be the 3rd starter on Sunday to close out the series against the Pirates.  Dempster was honored to be named the opening day starter, especially since it would take place at home at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field in front of the home crowd – “It’s going to be exciting.  It’s going to be more nerves of anxiousness than nerves of being nervous… He [Zambrano] said he was happy for me, and that I deserved it.  That’s somebody that I look up to, someone who goes out and competes as hard as anybody I’ve been around.  So it meant a lot to hear something like that from him.”

Quade said he was looking ahead when he decided to go with Zambrano #2.  The Cubs open the road part of the schedule on Friday April 8th in Milwaukee.  By pitching Zambrano on Saturday or Sunday in the opening home series, that lines up Zambrano to make a start against the Brewers at Miller Park.  Zambrano has had a TON of success pitching in Milwaukee, even throwing a no-hitter there against the Houston Astros back in 2009.

Interesting move by Quade.  This guy definitely is out to show that he is running the team and that he is going to make his own decisions.  It would have been easy to tab Big Z with the opening day start, especially the way that he closed out his 2010 season by going 8-0 in his final 11 starts.  But Zambrano has to show he is out to perform at a high level again in 2011.  It’s very similar to when Quade sent stud shortstop Starlin Castro a message late last season when Quade felt like Castro wasn’t giving his all and keeping his head in the game at all times.  Quade benched Castro for 2 games and made it clear that everyone is responsible and accountable on the field, even superstars.  Quade seems to have the respect and confidence of his players and staff, so it will be interesting to see how the team responds right from the get-go during the 2011 MLB schedule…

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First Full Squad Spring Training Workout Today in Mesa, Arizona — Wrigley Field 2/19/11

Posted on 19 February 2011 by Lou

It’s finally here — the first full squad workout for the 2011 Chicago Cubs major league baseball team.  Sure, some of the guys won’t be on the opening day roster come April 1st, but there is still a lot of excitement and buzz this spring as some old and new faces re-unite in Mesa for Spring Training.

Manager Mike Quade is excited to get his full first season as skipper started off on a positive note.  Quade has indicated that he will “lay down a little bit of the direction I’d like to see us going, some things I’d like to do, both philosophically and technically.”

It is an interesting time for Cubs fans.  There are a lot of question marks on the team.  Who will round out the starting rotation after Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza?  Who will win the 2nd base job or will it be more of a platoon?  Who will bat lead-off?  How will Quade work Tyler Colvin and Kosuke Fukudome into the lineup consistently?  And who will wind up in the bullpen after Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and John Grabow?  Hopefully a lot of these questions will be answered over the next 6 weeks of spring play for the Cubs.  We’ll keep you posted as soon as anything big breaks on the wire…

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Blake DeWitt – Potential Lead-Off Man? – Wrigley Field 2/18/11

Posted on 18 February 2011 by Lou

Blake DeWitt is the clear favorite to win the 2nd base job coming out of spring training 2011.  The bigger question is whether DeWitt will show enough to warrant consideration for the lead-off spot as well. In 53 games for the Cubs after a mid-season trade in 2010, DeWitt hit .250 with a .314 on-base percentage.  His career numbers are a little bit better – .259 and .335.  DeWitt re-worked his swing this winter, working with Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo on his heralded hitting system.  The system involves a 5-point program that focuses on 5 elements of body positioning and thinking about how you apprach each at-bat.  DeWitt is getting the hang of it and is excited for live game action – “His system is something I enjoy.  I’ve been able to implement that, and it’s really not that complicated if you stick with it.”  DeWitt is only 25 years old so he still has a lot of upside potential.

While DeWitt could hit lead-off, he will likely hit down in the order – 7 or 8.  He may also spend time on the bench against left-handed pitchers according to Manager Mike Quade.  Quade likes to play the match-ups and Jeff Baker is a solid platoon option.  Baker hit .350 against lefties in 2010 and had good overall numbers in 79 games – .272 batting average and .326 on-base percentage.  While we might see Baker or DeWitt at the top of the order from time to time, Quade has hinted that he will likely go with right fielder Kosuke Fukudome to lead-off against righties.  With a lefty on the bump, Quade hasn’t tipped his hand yet, but we could see Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano or Baker there depending on the pitcher.

Players reported to Cubs camp today, so we’ll keep you posted as things progress…

DeWitt will likely spend

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1st Baseman of the Future — Albert Pujols? Wrigley Field 2/17/11

Posted on 17 February 2011 by Lou

Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals failed to agree on a long-term deal before the start of spring training this week.  Pujols gave the Cardinals brass a hard Wednesday deadline, and that came and went without a new agreement for perhaps the best 1st baseman of all time.  Pujols said that he does not want any distractions for his team going-forward, so he and his camp will not entertain further discussions with the Cardinals during the course of the season.  Those in the know speculate that Pujols wants a deal similar to the deal that Alex Rodriguez signed with the New York Yankees a few years ago – 10-years, $275 million.  The Cardinals have all-but-said that they can’t meet that contract, so does it mean that Pujols will become a free agent at the end of the season?

I find it really hard to believe that Pujols will end up leaving St. Louis, but I guess anything is possible.  At 31 years old, this is his final hoorah and his 1st time testing the free agent market, so it would not surprise me to see Pujols entertain offers in November.  But if the Cardinals get somewhat close to the highest offer that Pujols receives, you would think that the guy decides to play it “safe” and finish his career with the Cardinals.

That being said, the Cubs better make an attempt to lure Pujols to Chicago despite the fact that they continue to try to shed payroll.  With the Carlos Silva, Kosuke Fukudome and Aramis Ramirez contracts coming off the books after the season, the Ricketts family will have money to “play with” – about $38 million. They could easily allocate a good chunk of that to Pujols and still have some more money to sign another free agent or two.  That all assumes that young stars like Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin and Blake DeWitt continue to develop and mature during the course of the 2011 MLB season.

We’ll be following the whole Pujols story very closely this year and we’ll keep you posted as soon as anything breaks…

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Carlos Silva Confident He Will Make Cubs Starting Rotation – Wrigley Field 2/15/11

Posted on 15 February 2011 by Lou

Carlos Silva is confident that he will make it as the 4th or 5th starter for the Cubs in 2011.  “Competition is always good.  If they have me compete again, that’s all I can do is compete.  I don’t have to prove or show them.  I showed them what I can do.”

Silva surprised everyone during the 2010 MLB season when he started the season 8-0 in his 1st 11 starts.  The problem was, Silva had as bad of a 2nd half as he did a good of a 1st half.  Silva won only 2 of his final 10 starts and he didn’t pitch after September 7th because of right elbow tendinitis.

Silva is healthy and is ready to show everyone that he can pitch the way he did in the 1st half of last season for a full season in 2011.  Silva is competing with Randy Wells and James Russell for the final 2 spots in the rotation.  If the Cubs go with both Silva and Wells, all 5 starters would be right-handed pitchers.  That could work against both pitchers and give the lefty Russell the upper-hand.  We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything.  If the Cubs can get Silva to pitch well in the 1st half of the season, that could elevate his trade value before the July trading deadline.  Let’s hope that is what happens so that the Cubs can shed some of his hefty salary from the 2011 payroll before the end of the season…

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