Archive | March, 2011

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Darwin Barney Cubs Starter at 2nd Base in Home Opener – Wrigley Field 3/31/11

Posted on 31 March 2011 by Lou

Manager Mike Quade announced that Darwin Barney will be the Cubs starting 2nd baseman for the 2011 club on Friday.  Barney will be the first rookie to start on Opening Day since Kosuke Fukudome started in right for the Cubs as a 30-year old rookie back in 2008.  Barney compiled a solid .340 batting average in 21 spring training games.  Jeff Baker put up a good fight with Barney, hitting .360 in 19 Cactus League games, but Quade opted to go with the rookie right off the bat.  Barney is excited to make the start – “No butterflies yet, but I’m excited.  It’s a great opportunity, but there’s one thing on my mind, and that’s trying to win the ballgame.  And I think that’s what this whole team is looking to do.  We’re looking to get off to a good start.”

Blake DeWitt, who was considered the front runner heading into spring training this February for the starting 2nd base job, had a rough spring.  DeWitt hit only .186 in 21 spring games as he continues to work through the mechanics of a new swing with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo.  That being said, Quade also indicated that the left-handed hitting DeWitt will likely start at 2nd base against a right-handed pitcher early on this season – probably in the 1st week.

This is a surprising outcome, but if you go with performance, Barney clearly had the bet showing in spring training this year.  It is also great to see that Quade has control over the team and can make his own decisions without having to worry about GM Jim Hendry trying to influence things too much.  Naming Ryan Dempster the Cubs’ opening day starter instead of Carlos Zambrano is another example of Quade making his own decisions and doing whatever it takes to give his club the best chance to win each day.  I like his attitude and make–up so far.  Now we’ll have to see if it translates consistently into W’s this season…

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Matt Garza Rocked Again – Wrigley Field West Mesa Arizona 3/30/11

Posted on 30 March 2011 by Lou

Ouch – what is going on with Matt Garza.  Garza allowed 7 ER on 11 hits and 2 walks in just 3 innings of the Cubs 15-8 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Garza’s finished the spring with a woeful 1-4 record and a whopping 10.38 ERA.  While no one is openly saying that they are worried about Garza’s pitching this season, you can’t help but be concerned that he doesn’t have his head on straight this spring.  Did the trade from the Rays mess with his mind a little?  Is Garza hurt?  Has he just not gotten into a groove yet?  Who knows at this point, but I am really looking forward to his first start at Wrigley Field on Sunday to see if he has his act together against the Pirates.

More pitching woes surfaced in the loss as Jeff Samardzija struggled mightily with his control.  Samardzija only pitched 1 inning, but he gave up 2 ER on 2 hits and 3 walks.  Not good.

On a positive note, Sean Marshall and Kerry Wood each tossed scoreless innings in the loss.

It was the final spring game for the Cubs who finished with a 14-19 record…

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Cubs Make Right Move in Sending Wellington Castillo to Triple-A to Continue Maturing as Catcher — Wrigley Field West Mesa Arizona 3/29/11

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Lou

The Cubs made the right move by sending Catcher Wellington Castillo down to Triple-A Iowa to continue getting regular playing time to learn and grow as a catcher.  Sure Castillo hit much better than Koyie Hill who made the opening day roster as Geovany Soto’s back up.  Castillo had 12 hits in 19 at-bats while Hill had only 1 hit in 31 at-bats this spring.  But having Castillo play once a week with the Cubs at the major league level wouldn’t do him any good and it wouldn’t do the Cubs any good when it was time for Castillo to step up and play a more prominent catching role for the Cubs sometime in the near future.

Manager Mike Quade is thrilled with Castillo’s development thus far – “If he’ll keep his nose to the grindstone and do what he’s done the last year, he’s going to get better and better, and he’ll have some kind of future.  The sky’s the limit for this guy.”  Quade indicated that Castillo has work to do in managing pitchers and calling games, but that he is headed in the right direction.  He also confirmed that Hill has a great grasp of the Cubs pitchers strengths and weaknesses and will serve as a quality back up for Soto during the 2011 MLB schedule.

This is definitely the right move.  Hopefully Castillo has a healthy and productive year at the Triple-A level and then he will be ready to step up and claim the back-up catcher’s role in 2012.  By playing every day at Triple-A, Castillo should also be ready to go in case Hill or Soto get hurt at some point during the regular season.

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Cashner Cubs 5th Starter; Mateo Reliever on Opening Day Roster; Silva to Be Released – Wrigley Field West Mesa Arizona 3/28/11

Posted on 28 March 2011 by Lou

Congrats to Andrew Cashner – he is going to be the Cubs 5th starter during the 2011 MLB schedule.  This came as a bit of a surprise to me, but I love it.  As I’ve written before, I think this is a great move to give Cashner some valuable starting experience in a season in which the Cubs have very low expectations for a good season.

Congrats also to Marcos Mateo who earned a spot in the bullpen on the Cubs opening day roster.  Mateo had a solid spring in which he compiled a 1.29 ERA in 7 spring appearances.

And good riddance to Carlos Silva.  It sucks that the Cubs will end up eating the $11.5 million owed to Silva for this season, but it is the best move for the team.  Silva hasn’t pitched well in over a year, he came into camp out of shape, simply assuming that he would be handed a spot in the starting rotation.  And he became a cancer in the clubhouse when he started with Aramis Ramirez in the dugout after a bad first inning for the entire team in his 2nd spring start.

I like the Cubs confidence in some of their young pitchers.  It won’t always be pretty, but in a year like this where the Cubs have little chance of putting together a quality season, you might as well give some of these guys a shot to see what you really have.

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Wells Officially Earns Spot in Rotation with Another Solid Effort – Wrigley Field West Mesa Arizona 3/26/11

Posted on 26 March 2011 by Lou

Randy Wells officially earned a spot in the starting rotation with another solid start in the Cubs 6-3 win over the Mariners.  Wells pitched 5 2/3 innings allowing just 3 ER on 5 hits and 3 walks.  He also struck out 8.  His spring ERA now sits at 2.10 and even though he didn’t earn the win, he continues to put the Cubs in great positions to win in each and every one of his starts.  That’s really all you can expect for the #4 man in your rotation.  If Wells continues these types of performances during the 2011 regular season, the Cubs could end up surprising a lot of teams this season.

Jeff Samardzija got wells out of trouble in the 6th inning and will be a fixture in the Cubs bullpen this season.

Sean Marshall also worked a scoreless inning to preserve the Cubs win.

And John Grabow got back into action with a scoreless inning.  Grabow should be ready by the time camp breaks on Thursday.

The Cubs rallied from a 3-2 deficit with a 4-run 7th inning with some great at-bats.  Tyler Colvin led off the inning with a walk.  Josh Vitters doubled him over to 3rd and Blake DeWitt had an infield single to load the bases with 1 out.  Starlin Castro came through with a clutch bases-clearing double that gave the Cubs a 5-3 lead.  Timely hitting like that will go a long for the Cubs in 2011.

The Cubs have now won 3 in a row and seem to be getting back on track just in the nick of time for real action to start this coming week.

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Cubs Survive Ugly 8-7 Win Over Crosstown Rival White Sox – Wrigley Field West 3/24/11

Posted on 25 March 2011 by Lou

WOW – what an ugly win for the Cubs over the White Sox on Thursday.  There were some positives, but also a LOT of negatives.

It was great that the Cubs hung on to win, but the White Sox actually out-hit the Cubs 16-8.  Ouch.  Good pitching was clearly not on display yesterday in Mesa.

I’m still waiting for Matt Garza to have that breakout start that shows it was a smart decision for the Cubs to unload 4 top prospects for the big righty from the Tampa Bay Rays.  Garza started off well with 3 straight scoreless innings to start the game.  But he ended up giving up 3 ER on 8 hits and 2 walks which actually lowered his ERA to 8.68 for the spring.  But a 2.0 WHIP during a game is never good, even if you end up winning.  Not sure if Garza is still fine-tuning things and working on pitches no matter what the situation in the game, but I really hope that he starts pitching for real before the season starts.  He has 1 more start next week before he makes his Cubs debut next Sunday at Wrigley Field, so it would be nice to see a stellar outing out of Garza early next week.

The bullpen didn’t fare much better.  Braden Looper gave up a run on 3 hits and a walk in his 2 innings of work and is out of the running for being the Cubs 5th starter.  James Russell gave up 2ER on 2 solo home runs in the 8th inning, but will likely still make the opening day roster as a lefty reliever.  And Carlos Marmol gave up a run in the 9th inning but managed to shut the door on the White Sox to preserve the 1-run win for the Cubs.  All in all, it was a horrible showing by the pitching staff.

The bats finally came to life in the win.  Alfonso Soriano had a solo home run and had 2 RBI’s on the day.  Darwin Barney continued to show Manager Mike Quade that he deserves a shot at starting at 2B this season.  He had 2 more hits including a triple and he drove in 2 runs and scored 1 run.  Marlon Byrd continued his torrid hitting and had 2 RBI’s.  Satrlin Castro had a double and a walk and scored 2 runs.

When these guys are being patient and swinging the bats well, the Cubs are capable of putting up some runs each game.  But is a matter of consistency and hoping that guys like Carlos Pena, Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto all don’t go into prolonged slumps at the same time.

It’s a week away from opening day – can’t wait for another fun MLB schedule to begin…

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Cubs Trim Maine, Berg from Spring Training Camp Roster — Wrigley Field West Mesa Arizona 3/24/11

Posted on 24 March 2011 by Lou

The Cubs cut 4 pitchers from there spring training camp roster this week.  Lefty Scott Maine and righty Justin Berg were 2 of the casualties and they will start the season at Triple-A Iowa.  There was an outside chance that Maine was going to make the opening day roster, but with a healthy Sean Marshall, John Grabow and James Russell, the Cubs decided not to keep 4 lefties in the bullpen.  Manager Mike Quade had this to say about Maine’s progress – “He pitched great for me last year and he’s had an OK spring but it’s command with him and experience.  He was a starter for a long time and is continuing to learn abuot pitching out of the pen and how to make 18 pitches work for you instead of having 70 or 80 to figure it out.”  Maine appeared in 13 MLB games for the Cubs in 2010.  He had a nifty 2.08 ERA with 11 K’s in 13 innings pitched and looks to have a bright future with the Cubs at only 26 years of age.

Berg, on the other hand, had a rough spring.  He only pitched 4 innings and gave up 10 ER (7 runs in one outing) on 8 hits in the process.  Berg had trouble with his control and keeping pitches down, so he will head to the minors to continue to get ready for the upcoming season.

Todd Wellemeyer and Angel Guzman were the other 2 players cut.  Guzman is recovering from right shoulder surgery and is scheduled to make his first appearance in a game next week.  Wellemeyer was a non-roster invitee and has been bothered by a sore hip all spring.  It is unclear what Wellemeyer plans to do for the rest of the season.

We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything else on who ends up winning the 5th starting spot in the rotation and the 2nd base job that is still up for grabs as well.

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Silva’s Best Outing of Spring Could Be Enough to Secure 5th Starting Spot — Wrigley Field West Mesa Arizona 3/23/11

Posted on 23 March 2011 by Lou

So far so good for Carlos Silva today in Mesa – the righty has thrown 6 innings of 1-run ball and the Cubs lead 2-1.  This could go a long way in helping Manager Mike Quade and the Cubs decide to go with Silva over Andrew Cashner for the 5th and final starting spot in the Cubs 2011 rotation.  After giving up an earned run on 2 hits in the 1st inning, Silva really got into a groove through the next 5 innings.  Silva surrendered just 1 hit during that stretch and he has yet to walk a batter while striking out 3.  It is also impressive that Silva has made it unscathed through 6 innings.  Cashner hasn’t pitched more than 4 innings in any spring appearance, so the length of the start could be a factor in Quade’s decision.

As I stated yesterday, I really think the safe move is to go with Silva in the 5th spot and Cashner out of the bullpen.  The Cubs view Cashner as a long-term work-in-progress front-line starter, so there is no need to rush him in a 2011 campaign that will probably leave a lot left to be desired.  Cashner hasn’t built up his arm strength to be a starter yet and with less than 10 days to go before the start of the big league season, I have a feeling that the Cubs will opt to go with Cashner out of the bullpen where he had some nice success in 2010.  Silva has only this year left on his contract and if he performs well early this spring, the Cubs would more than likely try to move him before the trading deadline, even if they’re still in the hunt for a playoff spot.  They would love to move some of Silva’s $12 million salary and if they did move Silva in a trade, they could then stretch out Cashner to be the 5th starter or bring up someone from the minor leagues to take over that 5th spot.  Cashner was effective during long stretches in 2010, and although he did endure some bumps along the way, he is a dependable arm in the bullpen for the Cubs.

On a hitting side, although the Cubs have managed just 2 runs on 4 hits in today’s game so far, you had to like the 1st inning when both Geovany Soto and Alfonso Soriano came through with clutch 2-out run-scoring singles to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead.  The Cubs are going to need a lot of clutch hitting this season if they expect to be competitive during the long MLB season.  Without a lot of fire power outside of Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena, the rest of the team is going to need to be patient and get on base. And once on base, the Cubs are going to need to come through with timely hitting, especially with runners in scoring position or with 2 outs.  Consistent quality hitting and patience at the plate are going to be 1 HUGE keys for how well this team does in 2011…

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Has Andrew Cashner Done Enough to Win Starting Rotation Spot? – Wrigley Field West Mesa Arizona 3/22/11

Posted on 22 March 2011 by Lou

Has Andrew Cashner done enough this spring to claim the 5th and final spot in the Cubs starting rotation?  That is a very good question.

Cashner started Monday’s rain out and made it through 3 rough innings in cold and wet weather conditions.  He allowed 4 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks and said that it was tough to control anything out there.  He still thinks he has a shot to be a starter in 2011 – “I think I’ve thrown the ball well this whole spring and whatever decision they come up with, that’s what I’m going to do.  I thought I’ve given it my best shot.  I could’ve pitched better, but I thought I pitched well enough so we’ll see what happens.”

Cashner’s main competition is coming from Carlos Silva.  But Silva has had an awful spring with an ERA over 15.00.

The decision might come down to something that has nothing to do with pitching performance.  Silva has always been a starter and is likely more effective as a starter (assuming he has the right stuff going).  Cashner, on the other hand, pitched the entire 2010 MLB season out of the bullpen and at a young age, the Cubs might opt to take it slow with Cashner.  The Cubs might want to limit the number of pitches that Cashner throws this season, and pitching out of the bullpen would be the perfect way to do that.  Cashner could work on his pitches in relief and he is a dependable arm in the bullpen as well.

We’ll have to see what Manager Mike Quade and the Cubs decide to do.  I have a feeling they are going to play it safe and go with Silva as the #5 starter and Cashner as a reliever.  If Silva falters after a few starts, then the Cubs could decide to try to move him in a trade and bring in Cashner as the 5th starter.  If Silva excels, the Cubs could still try to move Silva when his trade value is high and use Cashner as the 5th starter or bring someone else up from the minor leagues to take that 5th spot.  Given the uncertainty of this 2011 MLB club, I have a feeling that the safe option with Silva as #5 will prevail, even though I would prefer that the Cubs allow Cashner to learn on the job during a season where there should be little pressure on the Cubs to do well.

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Randy Wells Makes STRONG Case for Rotation Spot — Wrigley Field West Mesa Arizona 3/21/11

Posted on 21 March 2011 by Lou

Randy Wells pitched 6 strong innings of 1-run ball as the Cubs defeated the San Francisco Giants 3-2 in 10 innings.  With less than 2 weeks left before the start of the 2011 MLB schedule, it looks like Randy Wells has made the strongest case out of any of the potential starters for that coveted 4th spot in the starting rotation.  Wells allowed the 1st two batters to reach base, including an RBI single by former Cub Mike Fontenot to plate the 1st run of the game.  Then he proceeded to retire the next 18 batters that he faced.  Wells did not issue a walk, he struck out 7 and he continued to work at a fast pace keeping his pitches down.  When Wells has his sinker going and when he gets into a groove, he can be a very difficult pitcher to face.  And while Manager Mike Quade did not officially name Wells a starter, he made it clear that he has been very pleased with Wells’ effort this spring.

Marlon Byrd had 2 hits in the Cubs win, as did Bobby Scales.  Wellington Castillo won the game for the Cubs with a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th inning.

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