Posted on 21 November 2009 by Lou
We’ve talked about him a few times already this October, but it looks like Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is primed to be a stud major league ballplayer very soon. Castro finished up his Arizona Fall League season this week and impressed just about everybody he faced. In 26 games in the AFL, Castro batted .376. He was the youngest player on any team in the AFL and has moved his way through Single A and Double A ball very quickly. Overall, he played in 153 games during the 2009 baseball season. He racked up a whopping 570 at-bats, batting .312 with 4 HR’s, 7 triples and 28 doubles. He also stole 37 bases.
Darwin Barney is set to start at shortstop for the Cubs club at Triple A Iowa. Castro will likely start the season at the Double-A level, but could move from there depending on how well he plays to start the season. Oneri Fleita – the Cubs player devlopment director – would like to see the Cubs welcome Castro to Spring Training so that Manager Lou Pinella and the coaching staff can see him play with the rest of the club: “He’s very talented and really on some kind of fast track. Quite frankly, we haven’t had a player go through the organization like this in a long time. I think the last one was Mark Prior, and pitchers are a little different… Me, personally, I’d like to let the kid be a kid and let him go to Spring Training. When he’s ready to go, he’ll tell us. We’ll know what we’ve got.”
Great news Cubs fans. It feels like we haven’t had an all-star caliber player move through the minor league ranks and perform at the major league level for a long-time in a while. Carlos Zambrano is probably the most recent player to do that and be a productive member of the Cubs major league team for a long time. It would be great to Castro shine at the major league level at Wrigley Field very soon (we’ll have to figure out a plan for Ryan Theriot). Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Posted on 05 October 2009 by Lou
It was a tale of 2 final starts for Randy Wells and Ryan Dempster in the final 2 games for the Cubs over the weekend at Wrigley Field.
Wells picked up his 12th win of the season as he dominated the Arizona Diamondbacks over 7 innings of work. Wells threw 107 pitches and struck out a career-high 10 batters. He gave up just 3 hits and 1 walk during his outing. Top top off the excellent showing from Wells, Esmailin Cardidad and Carlos Marmol continued their hot pitching with 2 perfect innings of work to preserve the 5-0 win for Wells. We could be seeing a lot of Cardidad and Marmol in 2010 for the Cubs, as well as a lot of Wells. Wells has been the Cubs most pleasant surprise of 2009. He made 27 starts for the Cubs, an amazing number given the fact that he did not get his 1st start until May 8th. He finished with a 3.05 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP, and he gave up just 56 ER in 165 1/3 innings pitched. The 12 wins and 3.05 ERA were team highs.
Ryan Dempster did not fare so well in his final start of 2009. Dempster was also going for his 12th win of the season, but he gave up 5 ER on 6 hits and 1 walk in just 5 innings of work (he did have 10 K’s). He was on a roll of late – going 2-0 while pitching at least 7 innings in each of his last 4 starts – but he didn’t have it on Sunday. Overall, Dempster finished the season with a 3.65 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. Dempster struck out 172 batters while walking only 65 in 200 innings pitched, but he was just too inconsistent all season long. The strikeout and innings pitched numbers were team highs.
If Wells can repeat his 2009 performance in 2010, the Cubs will have a formidable starting rotation once again with Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly and Wells. The Cubs finished with the 5th best team ERA in all of baseball in 2009. GM Jim Hendry, Manager Lou Pinella, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild should feel good knowing that they will have 4 quality starters coming back in 2010 he pitched very well in 2009 despite being on an under-achieving team.
Posted on 02 September 2009 by Lou
Randy Wells notched his 10th win on Tuesday at Wrigley Field, defeating the Astros 4-1. Wells pitched into the 7th inning giving up just 1 unearned run. Wells gave up 7 hits and 2 walks, but struck out 5. John Grabow got Wells out of the 8th inning after a 2-out walk to Jason Michaels with 1 run already in in the inning. Wells is clearly a man on a mission in 2009. Wells has made every start (21 total) that has been asked of him since a May 8th start against the Brewers at Miller Park in Milwaukee. He has pitched 133 1/3 innings, striking out 82 while walking just 35. He has pitched at least 5 innings in all but 1 of his starts. If not for 4 no decisions when he left the game with the lead, we could be looking at a 15-game winner here in a shortened season. The Cubs have got to be thrilled to have the devlopment of Wells during an otherwise frustrating 2009 MLB schedule. Wells just turned 27 years old and he has a lot of good years ahead of him. It would be wise for Manager Lou Pinella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild to keep a close eye on his pitch counts during his last 5-6 starts of the season. That’s probably why they took him out of last night’s game after just 94 pitches. Good move in the long run.
Ted Lilly and Wells have been the Cubs most consistent pitchers in 2009. While Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster have had off years (just 15 wins combined after the 2 combined for 31 totals win in 2008), Zambrano and Dempster are proven veterans capable of returning to the form that warranted signing each of them to long-term deals in 2008. If Zambrano and Dempster show up in 2010, the Cubs will have a nice starting 4 locked in for the 2010 rotation. The Cubs will likely not sign Rich Harden, as we have discussed before, so they will be in the market for a 5th starter to round out the starting rotation.
Keeping on the pitching front, Carlos Marmol appears to have settled right into the closer’s role. Since taking over for Kevin Gregg at the end of August, Marmol has converted each of the 3 save opportunities given too him. In each of those saves, he has not allowed more than 1 runner to reach base in the 9th inning. He has 9 strikeouts in his last 4 innings pitched, and the confidence just seems to keep building and building. His only bad outing since taking over the closer’s role was when Pinella threw him into a non-save situation against the Nationals when the Cubs blew open a 3-2 lead with 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning as Marmol was warming up to enter to save the game. Instead of opting to use someone else (Marmol hadn’t pitched in 3 days leading up to that game), Pinella stayed with him to give him some work. Marmol ended up giving up 2 ER on 3 walks and a hit, but finished the inning. It would be great to see Marmol to finish on a positive note during the rest of the 2009 MLB schedule. That will take out some of the uncertainty with the closer position heading into spring training.
And who knows, this could be a huge move for Kevin Gregg as well – not having to pitch in the pressure position as the closer. Since his demotion, Gregg has not allowed a single run, pitching 6 innings in 6 appearances, giving up just 2 hits and 1 walk along the way. He has 5 K’s during that stretch. If Gregg can get comfortable in the 7th or 8th inning set-up role, the Cubs could start to put together a strong “re-vamped” bullpen with John Grabow and Angel Guzman as well.
Hate to start to think positive thoughts for 2010, but as bad as it’s been this year, you would have to think that things can only get better…
Posted on 23 August 2009 by Lou
The Cubs are anxiously waiting the return of their ace Carlos Zambrano. Big Z – after admitting he is lazy and doesn’t like to do his ab work – is scheduled to face Garrett Mock and the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. Hip Hip Hooray! Big Z needs to focus more on throwing strikes and getting guys out than giving piggyback rides in the dugout and eating bon bons.
Big Z has been dealing with back pain and back spasms since the beginning of August. Zambrano tossed 5 scoreless innings at Triple-A Peoria on Thursday night and is ready to go against the Nats this week. Big Z has a 7-4 record with a 1.35 WHIP and a 3.35 ERA – definitely the numbers you’d expect from the ace of your staff. Mock has a 2-5 record with a 1.83 WHIP and a 5.10 ERA. Think there was a reason the Cubs held him back to start Tuesday against the Nats and then Sunday against the Mets instead of this past weekend against the Dodgers in L.A.?
As for the Cubs game action on Saturday and Sunday…
About the only thing Cubs fans have to look forward to in 2010 is good starting pitching…
Posted on 19 August 2009 by Lou
Manager Lou Pinella finally made the switch – Carlos Marmol will be the Cubs closer the rest of the year. Kevin Gregg will serve as a late inning reliever. Pinella probably would have made the switch sooner if he had a more viable option from within. While Marmol has electric stuff, he has struggled with his control all season long – in 56 1/3 innings, Marmol has issued 52 walks! With a .163 batting average against, Marmol really just needs to throw strikes. Marmol has a 3.51 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP. He has a 2-2 record with 4 saves, 27 holds and 4 blown saves. He also has 67 K’s.
Gregg finally forced Pinella’s hand after a disastrous August. In 8 August appearances, Gregg has a horrendous 11.25 ERA. Gregg blew 3 of his 5 save chances in the month and took the loss in 3 games by issuing game-winning home runs to the opposite team. Not good.
Pinella had these comments about the move: “We needed to try a different approach. We’ve been very patient, if you want to use that word. We’ve lost some tough, tough ballgames. M<armol deserves an opportunity, so we’re going to give him that chance…This wasn’t something that just cropped up overnight. That’s a tough job for anybody and he’s had some success, obviously, but lately he’s been struggling. We decided to make a change and hopefully it worls out best for our ballclub.”
Gregg took the demotion like a true diplomat: “I don’t blame them. We have to go with the hot hand right now. That’s the life of my job.”
It’s probably too little too late right now. The Cubs are 6 games behind the Cards in the NL Central race and 5 games behind the Rockies in the NL Wild Card race. The Cubs offense is average at best, but more often inconsistent and “non-clutch”. It has been a brutal, frustrating year for the Cubs and Cubs fans, and I’m sure Marmol will have some rocky moments along the way during the final 40 games of the 2009 MLB schedule.
Posted on 11 August 2009 by Lou
The Cubs wrapped up a dismal 4-6 road trip by losing 3 of 4 to the wild card leading Rockies in Denver. The Rockies outscored the Cubs 33-18 in the series, as the Cubs fell 3 games behind the Cardinals for 1st place in the NL Central and 3 games behind the Rockies for the NL wild card lead. Can you say “Game Over”!
Manager Lou Pinella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild are out of ideas and probably already thinking about their golf games in October. To make matters worse, with the still-pending sale of the Cubs, there’s really not much that the Cubs will be able to do in the off-season to turn things around for the 2010 MLB schedule. The outfield is set – Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukodome and Milton Bradley all have years left on their deals. The pitching staff is set – Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster all have years left on their deals, as does Randy Wells who is not even arbitration-eligible yet. The Cubs will have to decide on Rich Harden, but the 5th starter slot could be filled from within – Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija, Tom Gorzelanny etc. The infield is also set – Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee at the corners, Ryan Theriot at shortstop and Geovany Soto behind the plate. Koyie Hill has established himself as a dependable catcher as well. So the only real question mark in the infield is the 2nd base position, where Mike Fontenot has clearly shown that he is not capable of being a consistent, productive every day player.
Unless the Cubs could pull off a trade to move an outfielder – probably having to assume some of the money that GM Jim Hendry overpaid to each of Soriano, Fukodome and Bradley – the Cubs will be stuck. And that doesn’t mean good things for 2010.
Sorry Cubs fans – hate to be brutally honest, but we could be in for a rough stretch for a few years to come.
Oh yeah – what about the 11-5 Cubs loss to the Rockies on Monday night? Aw, who cares anyway. It was more of the same. No clutch hitting, poor fielding, and bad pitching. Sound familiar?!
Posted on 26 March 2009 by Lou
I’m still not sure why Rich Harden is pitching against another team’s minor league affiliate, but I guess it is what it is. That being said, at least he had a good outing. Harden, in his first action since recovering from food poisoning, threw 63 pitches in 4 innings of work. He struck out 4 batters.
Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild had this to say: “I thought he threw the ball well. It came out of his hand the way he wanted. ”
Harden has taken a new approach to pitching given his past injury issues. “In the last couple years, I’ve learned to pace myself a little more. Velocity isn’t the most important thing. It’s location and change of speeds. It’s nice to be able to put up the big number every once in a while and keep it in the back of hitters’ minds. It’ll be there. I’m really happy with how I felt… I’m well ahead of where I normally am at this point in spring as far as how I feel, how strong I am, how I’m throwing the ball, where I’m throwing it with my command.”
Harden has been working on mixing up his pitched and changes speeds. He’s trying to pitch smarter and not try to overwhelm hitters at the plate. And although he was facing minor league players the other day, many batters were fooled by the movement on his pitches. Good news Cubs fans, but we’ll see how he fares in his last 2 starts before the season starts on April 6th. He is set to start the Saturday, April 4th game against the Yankees in the New Yankee Stadium, so that should be fun to watch. We’ll keep you posted with any update…
Posted on 08 March 2009 by Lou
So far so good for Rich Harden. The Cubs have been taking it slow with Harden so far this spring. Harden threw 43 pitches in a simulated game on Friday and came away unscathed. Harden will follow up with a side session on Sunday, and if all continues to go well, Harden will make his 1st spring start against the Seattle Mariners in Mesa on Tuesday, March 10th. Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild had this to say about Harden: “Each time out, he’s made strides and there’s been no setbacks so far – - knock on wood. He’s progressing really well.”
The Cubs would like to get Harden 6 starts before the start of the 2009 MLB season – he is slated to be the Cubs 4th starter this year. The Cubs could also skip Harden’s start every once in a while like they did in 2008 to keep Harden fresh. In 12 starts with the Cubs during the 2nd half of the 2008 MLB season, Harden went 5-1 with a nasty 1.77 ERA.
If the Cubs could get 25 starts from Harden and double digit wins, that would be a big accomplishment. While we love the optimism, let’s see how Harden does after he’s made a few appearances in a row this spring. The test has always been to see how well Harden can sustain the normal wear and tear on his shoulder during the course of the season, so consistent outings with no soreness will make us feel a lot better about his health status. It’s also nice to know that Sean Marshall and Aaron Heilman (the 2 pitchers battling for the 5th starting pitching spot) have both looked great this spring, so even if Harden has a hiccup before or during the season, it’s nice to know that one of those guys should be able to step right in and be a reliable and productive addition to the starting rotation.