Archive | Aaron Heilman

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

Posted on 01 April 2009 by Lou

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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 Welcome Geovany Soto Back From WBC

Posted on 22 March 2009 by Lou

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Geovany Soto is back from his stint with Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.  Soto was happy to be back with his Cubs team in Mesa, and so was Manager Lou Pinella who inserted him back in the Cubs lineup for their game against the San Diego Padres on Friday.  In fact, Pinella plans on playing him every other day for the last 2 weeks of the spring – “It’s nice to have him back because, first of all, he wasn’t catching all that much with the Puerto Rico team.  He needs at-bats.  We’ll have four or five different pitchers on our staff, and he needs to get familiar with them.”

Soto had this to say about his first taste of the World Baseball Classic:  “It was a great experience to go home and play in front of the home crowd.  It was pretty special to be on the same field with all those guys.”  Soto’s Team Venezuela included Carlos Beltran, Bernie Williams, Carlos Delgado, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez and Yadier Molina.

It’s great to have the Cubs Rookie of the Year Catcher back for the rest of spring training.  It’s a catch-22 that Soto did not play that much in the WBC.  At least it reduced the risk of him getting injured, but it put him a step behind getting used to some of the new pitchers on the Cubs staff like Kevin Gregg, Aaron Heilman, Luis Vizcaino and Mike Stanton.  Soto should be able to make up for the lost time quickly and we’ll monitor his progress over the next week or so.

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Brewers Top Cubs 9-6, Samardzija Struggles Again

Posted on 17 March 2009 by Lou

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The Milwaukee Brewers beat the Chicago Cubs 9-6 on Monday as Jeff Samardzija continues to struggle this spring.  Samardzija pitched just 2 innings – 5 earned runs, 5 hits, 2 walks, 1 HBP and 1 strikeout. The Cubs next pitcher Jeff Stevens promptly let up 3 more runs in only 1 inning of work, to put the Cubs in a deeper hole.  On the bright side, Carlos Marmol, Luis Vizcaino and Mike Stanton each worked scoreless and hitless innings after the Cubs fell behind 8-1.

At the plate, Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez each had 2 hits.  Ramirez hit a solo home run for the Cubs.

Jeff Samardzija is not helping his cause to make it as the Cubs 5th starter in 2009 (he is competing with Sean Marshall and Aaron Heilman for the spot).  With his poor pitching this spring, he could even find himself in a battle to make the opening day roster.  Other veterans have pitched well and as a young player, Cubs executives might choose to let Samardzija start in the minor leagues for the first half of the season in order to continue to work on pitches and develop as a professional baseball player.  It should be interesting to see how this all plays out the last few weeks of spring ball.

The Cubs are now 9-10 in Cactus League play.  Next up for the Cubs is a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on St. Patrick’s Day.

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Sean Marshall Lucky #5!

Posted on 15 March 2009 by Lou

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Sean Marshall is taking direct aim at the Cubs 5th spot in the Cubs starting rotation.  Marshall had another effective outing on Friday in the Cubs 8-1 win over the Seattle Mariners.  Marshall pitched 4 1/3 innings, giving up only an unearned run on 3 hits and 1 walk.  He also had 3 strikeouts.  That marks 12 1/3 straight spring innings in which Marshall has not allowed an earned run.

Aaron Heilman has also pitched the ball well for the Cubs as a starter this spring.  Either Marshall or Heilman would look good in the 5th starting spot, and Marshall has done just about everything he could do to lock down the job.  The only thing going against him is that the Cubs only have 1 other left-handed pitcher in the bullpen – Neal Cotts.  By keeping Marshall in the bullpen, that would give Manager Lou Pinella 2 left-handed options to work with late in the game.  But is that really a reason to keep Marshall out of the starting rotation?  We’ll just have to wait and see.  The positives – Marshall and Heilman both have experience as starters and coming out of the bullpen.  While the “loser” of the competition will surely be disappointed, he will have what it takes to be effective out of the Cubs ‘pen in 2009.

Kevin Hart and Mike Stanton pitched scoreless innings in relief for the Cubs.  The Cubs are now 8-9 during spring ball.

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Pinella Names Carlos Zambrano Cubs Opening Day Starter

Posted on 14 March 2009 by Lou

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Carlos Zambrano was pouring out the champagne on Thursday – for the 5th consecutive year, Carlos Zambrano will be the Cubs opening day starter.  He will open up the Cubs 2009 season against the Houston Astros on April 6th in Houston.

In the middle of dousing teammates with Crystal after the announcement, Zambrano had this to say about the nod:  “It’s an honor.  I will do my best to win the game.  I’m winless on Opening Day, and I will try to do my best.  There’s no ace on this team…  You have four quality starters, four aces.  We have to take care of business and do what we can during the season to win as many games as possible.”

Zambrano competed with Ryan Dempster for the Opening Day nod.  Dempster wanted to be the Cubs opening day starter, but took the #2 slot in stride.  While wiping away tears from his eyes, Dempster had this to say:  “I pitch once every five days.  It doesn’t matter when I pitch.  My ego doesn’t ever get hurt with stuff like that.  I never expected to start Opening Day.  I really don’t care.  Get there, get healthy.  I can go to Wrestlemania now on Sunday night in Houston.  There’s a positive side to everything.”

Zambrano and Dempster will be followed by Ted Lilly and Rich Harden.  The Cubs will skip the 5th starter in the rotation the first 2 weeks of the season because of off-days.  Pinella still has not named a 5th starter, but it should come down to either Sean Marshall or Aaron Heilman.

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Cubs Lose Again, But Marshall Continues To Shine

Posted on 09 March 2009 by Lou

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The Chicago Cubs lost to the Texas Rangers 7-2 on Sunday, losing their 6th game in a row.  After starting the spring with a 5-2 record, the Cubs now sit at 5-8.

Sean Marshall shined again in his 3rd start of the spring.  Marshall pitched 4 scoreless innings, giving up 2 hits and striking out 3.  Marshall has given up only 1 earned run in 9 spring innings thus far, and seems to be getting stronger and stronger each start.  If Aaron Heilman wasn’t pitching so well, we’d likely be talking about how Marshall already has the 5th spot in the starting rotation locked up.

Milton Bradley singled and scored a run and played right field – a good sign that he is able to log innings in the field.  Aramis Ramirez and Koyie Hill each had 2 hits for the Cubs in the loss.

On the mound, Neal Cotts struck out 3 and gave up 1 hit in a scoreless inning.  But Luis Vizcaino (2/3 of an inning – 2 earned runs on 1 hit and 3 walks) and Kevin Hart (1 inning – 4 earned runs on 2 hits and 2 walks) both struggled.  Neither outing helps their chances of making the opening day roster.

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Injury Update – Rich Harden To Make 1st Start on Tuesday

Posted on 08 March 2009 by Lou

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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.

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Aaron Heilman Making Case For 5th Starting Rotation Spot

Posted on 07 March 2009 by Lou

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The Cubs expected Aaron Heilman to make a strong case for the 5th spot in the Cubs starting rotation.  And so far this spring, Heilman has not disappointed.  Heilman started the 2nd Cubs-Sox game in Las Vegas on Thursday afternoon and he pitched just about as well as you can do.  Heilman pitched 3 scoreless innings, striking out 3 batters along the way.  He gave up only 1 hit, but also walked 2 batters.  That was Heilman’s 2nd scoreless outing against the White Sox this spring, and he is pushing Sean Marshall who many believe is the front runner to land the coveted 5th spot in the rotation.

Wherever Heilman ends up, he seems to be a great fit for the Cubs.  Plus he has the right attitude:  “My mind-set coming in was that I was going to get an opportunity to start and show them what I could do.  How I fit into this team is ultimately the decision of Lou and Larry [Manager Lou Pinella and Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild].  I don’t know how that’s going to play out in Spring Training.  My focus right now is getting back to throwing the way I’m capable.”

In addition, knowing that Rich Harden is still dealing with some right shoulder soreness, it’s comforting to know that Heilman and Marshall are both pitching well this spring.  In the event that Harden needs some extra time at the start of the season, the Cubs can start Harden on the disabled list and work with both Heilman and Marshall in the starting rotation.  As we always say, it’s great to have reliable pitching depth.

Other good news – Kevin Gregg and Neal Cotts both pitched scoreless innings in the game.  Neither pitcher gave up a hit, and Gregg had 2 strikeouts and 1 walk.

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Sean Marshall Taking Aim At 5th Spot In Rotation

Posted on 05 March 2009 by Lou

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Sean Marshall is stepping up his effort in trying to land the Cubs’ 5th spot in the rotation.  He made a bold statement in the Cubs 6-4 win over the Oakland A’s on Tuesday.  Marshall pitched 3 innings – the longest outing by any Cubs pitcher this spring – facing the minimum 9 batters.  He had 1 strikeout.  Manager Lou Pinella had this to say about Marshall:  “He’s gotten stronger.  He throws the ball with a little more velocity.  He’s got as good a curve ball as I’ve seen so far in Spring Training.”

Marshall took the advice of Cubs starter Ryan Dempster and worked out in the Phoenix area this off-season.  Marshall also credited former Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux with being a big influence on his major league development.  “I still remember a lot of the things he was telling me – - the importance of first-pitch strikes, getting my fastball down and away early and often. “  So far all the hard work has seemed to pay off for Marshall this spring.  We’ll keep you posted as the competition for the 5th starting pitching spot continues among Marshall, Aaron Heilman, Chad Gaudin and Jeff Samardzija.

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Jeff Samardzija To Start Cubs First Spring Game in Mesa Against Dodgers

Posted on 25 February 2009 by Lou

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Are you ready for some baseball???

That’s right, pitchers and catcher have only been in camp for about 2 weeks now, but we’re going to get our first taste of “2009 Cubs Baseball” today when the Cubs take on the Los Angeles Dodgers at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.  Jeff Samardzija is set to start the game for the Cubs.

Samardzija had an impressive rookie campaign for the Cubs during the 2008 MLB season.  Samardzija started 15 games for Double-A Tennessee and another 6 games for Triple-A Iowa before being called up to the major league level in mid July.  Used to playing in front of big crowds as a wide receiver at the University of Notre Dame, the stress of playing in front of thousands of fans at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field never seemed to faze Samardzija.  Samardzija pitched in 26 games for the Cubs, going 1-0 with a 2.28 ERA and 1.41 WHIP.  In 27 2/3 innings, he gave up 7 earned runs, walked 15 batters and struck out 25.

Now Samardzija needs to show that he deserves to be part of the Cubs 25-man roster right from the start in 2009.  He will compete with Sean Marshall, Chad Gaudin and Aaron Heilman for the 5th spot in the starting rotation.  If he doesn’t win that battle, we would find it hard to believe if the Cubs do not see a prominent role for Samardzija in the Cubs bullpen.  Samardzija’s fast ball is a game changer, and if he can show good control during spring training and keep the walks to a minimum, we’ll be seeing Samardzija inside Wrigley Field for many years to come.

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