Archive | Jim Hendry

Cubs Send Jeff Samardzija Down To Minors; Call up Chad Fox

Posted on 07 May 2009 by Lou


Not sure if GM Jim Hendry and Manger Lou Pinella really know what they want to do with Jeff Samardzija.  As spring training broke, the Cubs decided to send Jeff Samardzija down to the minor leagues to develop a 3rd pitch and work on his starting pitching.  Instead of keeping Samardzija at the major league level, they elected to go with Angel Guzman (who was out of options) and David Patton (who the Cubs had to keep in the big leagues or release without compensation).

Within 2 weeks, however, the Cubs released Luis Vizcaino (who had not allowed a run in his 4 2009 appearances) and called up Samardzija who had pitched well in 3 starts at Triple-A Iowa.  And with no room in the starting rotation, the Cubs moved Samardzija into the bullpen.  Does this make any sense at all, given what Hendry and Pinella had said just 2 weeks earlier?  No.

Samardzija struggled in the Cubs bullpen – 5 appearances, only 3 1/3 innings, 3 earned runs, 7 hits, 2 walks, 5 K’s and a hefty 8.10 ERA.  Now I’m not making excuses for Samardzija – he did not pitch well – but you have to have a plan with a young player.  And it seemed like Hendry and the Cubs were comfortable with Samardzija going back to the minor leagues to get stretched out again to work on pitches as a starter.  To change that plan within 2 weeks just doesn’t make any sense at all and could ultimately hurt Samardzija in the long run.  One would think that Samardzija is a guy that the Cubs want to use as a starter in the future.  Let him grow and learn and get more innings in at the Triple A level.  Let him work on new pitches and get comfortable throwing those pitches.  Having Samardzija on a carousel back and forth to Iowa just doesn’t make sense – let’s hope it doesn’t hurt him in the long run.

Chad Fox appeared in 3 games for the Cubs in 2008.  He was 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA and  a 1.50 WHIP.  The Cubs plan to use Fox in the 6th and 7th innings of ball games.


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Cubs Place Carlos Zambrano on 15-day Disabled List

Posted on 06 May 2009 by Lou


The Chicago Cubs placed ace pitcher Carlos Zambrano on the 15-day disabled list on Monday, May 4th.  Zambrano has a Grade 2 left hamstring strain.  Zambrano injured his hamstring legging out a bunt single in Sunday afternoon’s win.  The single started the game-winning rally which resulted in Derrek Lee’s grand slam that gave the Cubs the 6-2 lead for good.

The Cubs called up infielder Bobby Scales to take Zambrano’s spot on the roster.  The Cubs will likely call up Randy Wells to start Friday night’s contest against the Brewers in Milwaukee.

Zambrano had this to say about the injury:  “It was a normal run and three steps before I got to the bag, I felt a pop in my hamstring.  I tried to hustle with a flat tire at that moment, I tried to get to the base.  When I crossed the base and was safe, I felt more and more pain.”

GM Jim hendry had this to say about placing Big Z on the DL:  “Obviously, he doesn’t want to go on the DL, which is a part of him that we like.  But at the same time, the doctors feel he needs 2, 2 1/2 weeks to be 100 percent.  There’s no reason to puch him and it would be foolish on our part to puch it because it could get worse.  The easiest situation is to take care of it now.”

Good news Cubs fans – guess it could have been a lot worse.  Now maybe this will convince Carlos not to break the bat over his leg when he strikes out in the future.


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10’s Wild In Arizona – Cubs Lose 10-0; Fall to 10-10

Posted on 30 April 2009 by Lou


Why do I even write this blog.

After 20 games, I really don’t like the feel of this 2009 Cubs team. After losing 10-0 in Arizona on Wednesday, the Cubs completed a miserable 2-4 road trip and fell to 10-10 overall, 4 games behind the 1st place St. Louis Cardinals.

I knew I didn’t like the off-season move to acquire Milton Bradley.  GM Jim Hendry had to try too hard to convince everyone that Bradley would be able to stay healthy to play more than 120 games in the outfield in 2009.  Granted, he had only been able to do that twice in his career (way back in 2003 and 2004 ) and although he did play in 126 games in 2008, more than 90% of those games came with Bradley serving as the Rangers DH (an option not available for the Cubs who play in the National League where there is no DH).  Duh?

Right now, Bradley has played in only 13 games.  In 31 at-bats, he had 3 hits, including 1 home run good for a .097 batting average.  He has 1 RBI and 4 runs scored.   Not sure what Hendry was thinking on this one, especially since there were other left-handed hitting options out there – see Raul Ibanez (20 games, 78 at-bats, .359 batting average, 7 home runs, 17 RBI’s and 20 runs scored for the Phillies); Bobby Abreu (17 games, 71 at-bats, .352 batting average, 0 home runs, 12 RBI’s and 6 runs scored for the Angels); Adam Dunn (20 games, 68 at-bats, .324 batting average, 6 home runs, 15 RBI’s and 11 runs scored for the lowly Nationals).  All of these guys signed for similar or less deals than Bradley and have been far more productive than Bradley.  Given Bradley’s inability to play the outfield consistently over the last 5 years, this should have been obvious to Hendry.

What I liked even less was the move to unload Mark DeRosa for 3 minor leaguers.  DeRosa has gotten off to a slow start in 2009 (.236 batting average, 5 home runs, 18 RBI’s and 16 runs scored), but look deeper than that.  He has played in 21 games, and already accumulated 89 at-bats.  His 5 home runs best every player on the Cubs except Alfonso who has 7 home runs, and DeRosa would lead the Cubs in RBI’s (Kosuke Fukodome currently leads the Cubs with only 15 RBI’s).  The numbers don’t even bring into play the intangibles that come along with DeRosa for free.  His versatility is invaluable. Take the injuries to right fielder Milton Bradley and 3rd baseman Aramis Ramirez, for example.  If the Cubs still had DeRosa, the Cubs would not be relying on an infield that contained Mike Fontenot and Aaron Miles day in and day out.  Or if you went with those guys, DeRosa could play right field, so that Reed Johnson didn’t have to play the outfield everyday.  By not having these options, Soriano, Theriot and Fukodome have had to play in just about every Cubs game so far this year.  DeRosa also a great club house presence and is a great sounding board for younger, up and coming Cubs stars (Soto, Hoffpauir, Theriot).

While I love Mike Fontenot, he is not an everyday player.  In 20 games, he has 66 at-bats and a mediocre .227 batting average.  While he has shown some pop with his 3 home runs, he is better suited as a role player who makes 2-3 starts each week.  Hendry relying on him as an everyday player was a big mistake.  Hendrys’ other move to sign Aaron Miles as a utility infielder has also looked like a big mistake.  Forced into an everyday role, his weaknesses have also been glaring.  Miles has only 8 hits in 41 at-bats and he breaks more bats with his weak-ass swings than Carlos Zambrano does over his leg after a bad at-bat (and that is saying a lot).

Unfortunately Cubs fans, we are in for a long, bumpy ride this season.  Unless Hendry can pull off a Jake Peavy or Matt Holiday trade, the Cubs will likely hover around the top of the NL Central division and need a lot of luck down the stretch to pull of the unprecedented 3rd consecutive NL Central title.


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Injuries Taking Toll on Cubs Weak Lineup

Posted on 28 April 2009 by Lou

Cubs Diamondbacks Baseball

Reed Johnson as your leadoff hitter?  No offense to Reed Johnson, but Manager Lou Pinella and GM Jim Hendry need to do something.  And they need to do something fast!

Here was the Cubs lineup from Monday night’s loss to Dan Haren and the Arizona Diamondbacks – Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Theriot, Kosuke Fukodome, Reed Johnson, Micah Hoffpauir, Geovany Soto, Mike Fontenot, Aaron Miles, Ted Lilly.  The Cubs managed 3 hits off of Haren all night long – solo home runs by Alfonso Soriano and Mike Fontenot and a single by PITCHER Ted Lilly.  Gimme a break!  The Cubs clearly have the shortest infield in MLB with Theriot (5′ 11″), Miles (5′ 8″) and Fontenot (5”8″) roaming around out there.

The Cubs are lucky to be 9-9 right now and still only 4 games out of 1st place, but if they don’t get Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Milton Bradley back soon, they could end up too far behind to catch up very very quickly.

Hendry and the Cubs really need to make a decision on Bradley soon.  Throw him on the DL and let him fully heal his bum hamstring.  It doesn’t make sense to bring him back in every 3rd or 4th day only to have him aggravate it again.  If they had taken the conservative approach with Bradley when he first injured the hamstring, his 15-day DL stint would be close to being over, and he would likely be back in the lineup soon.  Now we’re forced to wait and hope that the injury magically heals itself.

Ramirez and Lee are expected to be back soon, so hopefully that happens for 1 of the last 2 games in Arizona.  Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


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Rich Harden Shelled in New Yankee Stadium in 10-1 Loss

Posted on 07 April 2009 by Lou


Ouch – not the way you want to end the spring – Rich Harden served up 3 home runs (2 to mark Teixeira) in only 3 2/3 innings of work in his final “tune-up” of the spring.  Harden labored through 76 pitches, throwing only 41 pitches for strikes.  Harden gave up 7 earned runs (8 runs total) on 7 hits, plus 4 walks.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, news out of  New York was that his best fastball didn’t top 85 MPH. This is not good news for the Cubs – if Harden is topping out anywhere below 90 MPH on his fastball, we could be in for a painful season with Harden.  Now I know that Harden, GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella will say that he was working on his delivery, trying to spot pitches and trying to mix up the speeds on his pitches, but this doesn’t explain the very low velocity.  This makes Harden’s first start in Milwaukee over the weekend even more intriguing.  If he has a poor outing, look for Cubs fans to panic big time.

One positive note from the 10-1 drubbing – Alfonso Soriano hit a solo home run and looks in great shape to have a huge year in the leadoff spot for the Cubs.


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Cubs Finalize Bullpen with David Patton and Angel Guzman

Posted on 06 April 2009 by Lou


The Chicago Cubs finalized their bullpen and 25-man roster on Sunday when they let David Patton and Angel Guzman know that they had made the Cubs opening day roster.

The big story is David Patton.  Patton had pitched in the Colorado Rockies minor league system for the last 5 years, but the Cubs picked him up in the Rule 5 Draft.  At 24, Patton had never pitched above the Class A level and General Manager Jim Hendry didn’t give him much of a chance of making the opening day roster, which meant the Cubs either had to keep him on the opening day roster or return him to the Rockies at the end of spring training.  Hendry had this to say about Patton and Guzman.  “It was a long shot when [Patton] got there, and the kid deserves all the credit in the world for pitching himself into it.  I think we owe it to ourselves to find out after all the time we’ve invested in Guzman – – he certainly has the stuff and ability to help us be a contending team and, hopefully, he’ll live up to that potential now.”

Patton pitched extremely well in spring training.  Patton had a 1.26 ERA during the spring, giving up only 14 hits and 5 walks in 14 1/3 innings of work.  “This is what you devote all your time to and what I’ve wanted since I was a little kid.  This is just the beginning.  I want to do something special and want to be a part of this organization.”

Guzman had a so-so spring, but because he was out of options and could not be sent down to the minor leagues within the Cubs system, Hendry and the Cubs decided to give him one more shot to show what he can do for the Cubs at the big league level.  Guzman has battled elbow and shoulder injuries, and at 27, still has the potential to pitch well in the bigs.  Guzman had this to say about making the team:  “After everything I’ve been through, I still have a long way to go.  I’m still young, and I have an opportunity to make a statement in the big leagues.  That’s what it’s all about.”

Three other pitchers lost out on the 2 bullpen spots.  Chad Gaudin had an atrocious spring – 10.26 ERA giving up 20 runs on 26 hits and 10 walks in just over 16 innings of work.  Not good to say the least.  The Cubs released Gaudin.  Jeff Samardzija, who was a productive member of the Cubs 2008 bullpen, never found the right stuff this spring as he competed for the 5th starter position.  Samardzija improved as the spring went on and as he resumed his role in the bullpen, but because he still has options left, the Cubs chose to send him down to Triple-A Iowa.  He will likely be groomed as a starter again in the event the Cubs need to bring up a starter in case of injury.  Chad Fox is still recovering from an off-season injury and he was also optioned to Iowa.

It will be interesting to see how Patton performs at the major league level.  He obviously has talent, but will he be ble to perform at the high level when the bright lights are shining, especially in Chicago.  Let’s hope he does…


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Cubs To Decide on Final 2 Bullpen Spots This Weekend in NY

Posted on 01 April 2009 by Lou


There are 2 spots left in the Cubs 2009 bullpen, and 4 pitchers competing for those spots.  It has come down to Jeff Samardzija, Chad Gaudin, Angel Guzman and Rule 5 Draft pick David Patton.  Guzman is out of minor league options, and Cubs GM Jim Hendry has already said that none of the players will be placed on waivers.  What does it all mean?  That Patton and Guzman will either make the Cubs Opening Day Roster or be traded to another team before the start of the season.

As it stands now, Kevin Gregg will be the Cubs closer, with Carlos Marmol serving as the primary set-up man.  Aaron Heilman, Neal Cotts and Luis Vizcaino have also locked up spots.  Patton is the big X Factor – in 12+ spring innings, Patton has a .073 ERA giving up only 1 run on 10 hits.  He has struck out 15 batters while walking only 2, but he has never pitched at a level higher than Class A.  Cubs manager Lou Pinella had this to say about Patton:  “He hasn’t been rattled all spring – it’s been very refreshing.  It doesn’t look like the situation is getting to him.  He’s out there competing and throwing the ball.  We’ll see if everything works his way. ”  He’ll get a big chance when he pitches against the New York Yankees in front of 40,000 people in the new Yankee Stadium.  If he can show some resolve in that situation, we may see Patton on the Cubs Opening Day roster.

As for the other 3 players, none have had a good spring.  Gaudin’s control has been bad – 20 hits and 9 walks in 13 2/3 innings with an ERA over 10.00.  Guzman has an 8.71 ERA in 10 1/3 innings of Cactus league work.  Samardzija has the best ERA of the 3, which isn’t saying much at 8.16.  Samardzija does have options left and could be assigned to Triple-A Iowa to make room for one of the other 3 pitchers.

Pinella has indicated that nothing is permanent.  “Regardless of how we go, if it’s not right, we’ll fix it.  Let’s not forget that.  We’re going to do the best we can.  We’ve let everybody compete, like we said, so that’s not a problem.  We’ll see how this thing stands by Saturday or Sunday and then we’ll make a decision and if it’s not the right decision, we’ll rectify it.”

Good attitude Lou.  Maybe give the kid Patton a shot instead of losing him via trade and see if it works.  And if not, you can always bring Samardzija back up from Triple-A Iowa.  It should certainly be interesting to see how this all plays out.  Opening Day on the road in Houston is only 4 days away!!!


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Cubs Could Add Backup Infielder During Spring Training

Posted on 21 February 2009 by Lou

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The Chicago Cubs could face a lack of depth in the infield during Spring Training. You starters are Derrek Lee at 1st base; Aaron Miles/Mike Fontenot at 2nd base; Ryan Theriot at shortstop; and Aramis Ramirez at 3rd base. The problem lies in the fact that Miles is expected to back up Theriot at shortstop, while Fontenot is expected to back up Ramirez at 3rd base. If anything happens to the 5 “infield starters”, the Cubs could be in trouble.

Ideally, Cubs Manager would like to see Miles and Fontenot get at least 400 at-bats apiece, which should allow Theriot some ample days off during the course of the long season at shortstop. Adding another infielder who could help back up Ramirez at 3rd base would be huge for the Cubs. One name thrown around is former Cubs player – Nomar Garciaparra. Nomar can play both 1st base and 3rd base and playing more of a reserve role could help him stay healthy during the course of the long MLB season.

Cubs GM Jim Hendry and Pinella have not said that any pick up is imminent, but Cubs scouts will keep their eyes and ears open once spring training games start in both Arizona and Florida in the next few weeks. Hendry made a nice pick up in Reed Johnson last spring before the season started, so maybe he will be able to work some magic again right before the start of the season. We’ll keep you posted with the lasted from Mesa here at MyCubsToday!

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Dempster Addresses 2008 World Series Prediction, Kerry Wood & Jake Peavy

Posted on 19 February 2009 by Lou

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Ryan Dempster was the Cubs most consistent pitcher during the 2008 MLB season – 33 starts, 17-6 record, 206+ innings pitched, 2.96 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 187 strikeouts against 76 walks. Dempster helped the Cubs win 97 games – the most of any National League team – as well as the team’s 2nd straight NL Central Division title, and his bold Spring Training training prediction that the Cubs would win the 2008 World Series looked more and more like a reality. Then came Dempster’s atrocious Game 1 start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and another 3-game sweep out of the playoffs without winning a single post-season contest, and the Cubs were right back where they started – 100 years and counting.

Cubs pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training last week, but this time, there were no predictions from Dempster – except for what the club would serve the players for breakfast the next day. Dempster is occupying Kerry Wood’s old locker this spring and he admitted that it is hard not having this generation’s “Mr. Cub” in the clubhouse anymore. Dempster likes the Cubs chances in 2009 and although he wouldn’t mind seeing Jake Peavy in a Cubs uniform instead of a San Diego Padres uniform, he believes the Cubs have just as good a chance to get back to the post-season in October 2009:

“Let this team stand on its own merit as the 2009 Chicago Cubs, and hopefully we’ll do a really good job this year and take it one game at a time and keep playing hard. With the talent we have, we can do some really good things again. I don’t want to replace anybody on our team, because they’re all great. Any time you talk about having a guy of his caliber, it’s something that’s exciting to everybody. If that’s something that happens, great, but at the same time, I think we’ll do just fine with what we have.”

Let’s hope he is right. The Cubs and GM Jim Hendry made some minor tweaks this off-season, while no one in the NL Central – Brewers, Cardinals, Reds or Pirates – made any significant moves which should make the Cubs worry about their chances of winning a 3rd straight NL Central division title. Let’s hope the Cubs stay healthy, play good hard baseball, and actually show up in October for 11 big wins to capture that elusive World Series crown.

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Rich Harden – Ready To Prove Skeptics Wrong

Posted on 17 February 2009 by Lou

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When it became official that Rich Harden would not pitch for Team Canada in the 2009 World Baseball Classic next month, many media critics, including yours truly here at MyCubsToday, thought this was another case of a Cubs pitcher being hurt and Cubs management not making full disclosure about the health status of said player. Were we right or were we wrong? The long and the short of it is, only time will tell.

According to the Cubs and Rich Harden, Harden is on schedule to be ready for the start of the 2009 MLB season. Instead of returning home to Canada during the off-season, Harden stayed in Arizona to work with Cubs strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss. His 25 combined starts with the Oakland A’s and Chicago Cubs in 2008 was the 2nd most starts made ever in his career, and the most since he started 31 games for the A’s back in 2004. Harden wanted to build off the momentum from the 2008 season, and also continue to make sure that he is in the best possible condition for the upcoming campaign.

Harden was electric for the Cubs following his acquisition from the A’s. He made 12 starts, pitched 71 innings, went 5-1 with a 1.77 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. He struck out 89 batters and walked only 30. The Cubs would love it if he could reach that 25-start mark again in 2009, but Harden is setting his sights higher – he wants to reach the lucky number 30. He also wants to put the rumors to rest about the tear in his shoulder and the decrease in his velocity as the 2008 MLB season wore on. Harden says that he originally injured the shoulder trying to field a come-backer that took an awkward hop over his pitching shoulder. Since then he has had to listen to his body when his body tells him that he can’t pitch as long or throw as hard. He seems to have the right take on the cards dealt to him: “It’s not just the Cubs, it’s on me. Every year I learn more about my body and how I feel. You want to be out there every single game for 100-plus pitches. That’s the way I am – I want to be out there every game no matter what. You have to take a step back sometimes and evaluate how I’m feeling and manage it properly so I’m strong at the end of the season. I have to be consistent with my mechanics and get my arm in a good spot to throw without putting strain on my shoulder or the rest of my body. That’s going to be big for me – – and that’s what I’m working with Larry with.”

Let’s hope it pays off for Harden. Until he takes the bump that first week of the 2009 MLB season, I will still be a little skeptical no matter what he or the Cubs say. If he is healthy, the Cubs will be in great shape – he can dominate a game and usually puts his team in a position to get that all-important W. If he isn’t healthy, the Cubs could miss a beat in the starting rotation, with a Sean Marshall moving up to the 4th spot in the rotation and a Aaron Heilman or Chad Gaudin having to fill the starts missed by Harden. Not the best of situations, but at least the Cubs continue to add depth in the pitching staff to take some pressure of the rest of the crew in case the injury bug flares up…

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