Posted on 20 October 2009 by Lou
It has been an up and down major league career for 29-year old Neal Cotts. After bursting out on the scene during the Chicago White Sox magical 2005 World Series title run (69 appearances, 1.94 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) as one of the White Sox most dependable players, Cotts has not been able to regain that form and has had to deal with numerous injuries. The latest is his biggest obstacle yet – elbow ligament replacement Tommy John surgery in early July – and it may bring an end to his baseball career.
Cotts appeared in 19 games for the Cubs in 2009, struggling with a 7.36 ERA and 2.09 WHIP. The Cubs moved Cotts down to Triple-A Iowa where he made 9 scoreless appearances until the June 24th game that ended his season. During the game, Cotts felt sharp pain in his left arm – something he had never felt before – and tests showed significant damage that would require surgery.
Since the surgery, Cotts has been rehabbing the arm and the rest of his body with an intensity never felt before. He is working out at the Cubs complex in Mesa, Arizona as well as at a Phoeniz area rehab facility. Cotts expects to pitch in 2010 – he saw Billy Wagner come back from the same surgery in just 10 months and pitch effectively for the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox in August and September of this year. And he doesn’t expect anything different for him. Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster have also had the surgery, and both are still pitching in the majors, so he has a lot to be hopeful for.
Whether it’s for the Cubs or not, he is still optimistic about 2010. Cotts is arbitration eligible, so it is unclear if GM Jim Hendry and the Cubs will offer him a contract before the December 12 deadline. Cotts has the right attitude: “It’s hard to put in perspective exactly if it happened on that one pitch or if it happened earlier and it was just building up – – I don’t know. I can’t go back on it now and say, ‘That was the problem.’ It was just being inconsistent, bad… It’s all ahead of me in terms of what I need to get done and getting back. You get in the best shape of your life now because you have nine months before you’re fully activated… I enjoy it over here and I’ve enjoyed the organization. They’ve treated me well. I know in terms of performance and in terms of staying up there, it hasn’t been as planned for either side. I’d like to be up there to help the team.”
Good luck to you, Neal…
Posted on 12 October 2009 by Lou
Jeff Samardzija still thinks he has what it takes to be a starter in the Cubs rotation in 2010 – now he just needs to go out and show it. After a rough 2009, he’ll have even a tougher time than he had in Spring Training this past year given the competition. Samardzija appeared in 20 games for the Cubs during the course of the 2009 MLB schedule (including 2 starts). He had a 1-3 record with a hefty 7.53 ERA (29 ER) and 1.76 WHIP in 34 2/3 innings pitched. Teams batted .329 against Samardzija with 7 home runs and his strikeout to walk ratio was not great – 25 to 21. Compare that to his 2008 numbers in his rookie year, and there is a stark contrast:
1-0 record; 2.28 ERA (7 ER) and 1.41 WHIP in 27 2/3 innings pitched; .226 opponents’ batting average with a 25-15 strikeout to walk ratio; 1 save with 3 blown saves.
So what went wrong in 2009? Was it simply a sophomore jinx, does he not really have what it takes to pitch at this level, or at the age of 24, does he still need more minor league time to work on developing more pitches like a changeup or cutter that will keep batters more off-guard? It’s unclear right now, but Samardzija will continue to work on throwing this offseason, playing winter ball in the Mexico league for Triple-A manager Bobby Dickerson.
Manager Lou Pinella had good things to say about the youngster: “The kid needs to pitch winter ball. He’s on the right path… He just needs to work on the things he’s working on and get more consistent with it, and winter ball will give him that opportunity… Starting-wise, I think he’ll be able to throw all of his pitches and I think he can get better quicker. When you pitch out of the bullpen, you’re only pitching an inning, two innings at a time, so you basically go after the hitter with one or two pitches. Starting-wise, you have to develop all of your pitches and repertoire.”
The Cubs are pretty much locked into 4 starters in 2010 – Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells. The 5th starter role will likely come down to Tom Gorzellany, Samardzija, Sean Marshall and Angel Guzman. Gorzellany made some nice starts in 2009 after coming over in a trade from the Pirates; Marshall won the 5th starter’s role in 2009, but Pinella moved him to the bullpen after Neal Cotts’ was hurt because the Cubs needed a lefty reliever out of the pen; and Guzman pitched well in the bullpen in 2009 and will likely serve a similar role in 2010. So it will be interesting to see how it all pans out in Spring Training in 2010. Samardzija can improve his chances with a good showing in winter ball in the Mexico League, so we’ll keep you posted how he is throwing later this month…
Posted on 11 May 2009 by Lou
The Cubs defeated the Brewers 4-2 at Miller Park Sunday afternoon to prevent the Brewers bid for a 3-game weekend series sweep. Sean Marshall pitched 5 innings, overcoming a rough start in which he gave up single runs in each of the 1st 2 innings. Marshall settled down, however, and kept the Cubs in the game despite giving up 5 hits and 3 walks over 97 pitches. The bullpen – which had handed defeat to the Brewers in the 2 previous games – Aaron Heilman with his 2-run home run to Ryan Braun in the 8th inning on Friday night and Neal Cotts, David Patton and Chad Fox collectively imploding in the 7th inning in Saturday night’s 12-6 loss – finally got it done at Sunday afternoon. Angel Guzman pitched 2 scoreless and hitless innings with 2 strikeouts. Carlos Marmol had another interesting 8th inning allowing Ryan Braun to get to 3rd base on a double and a balk with no one out. After striking out Prince Fielder, Marmol walked Mike Cameron and after J.J. Hardy popped out to shallow right field, Marmol walked Bill Hall to load the bases. But Marmol induced a Jason Kendall groundout to keep the Cubs lead 4-2. Kevin Gregg picked up his 6th save of the season although he did allow the tying run to come to the plate when he walked Rickie Weeks with 1 out. Gregg rebounded to strike out Corey Hart and Ryan Braun to end the game.
The Cubs tallied their 4 runs in a big 3rd inning off of Jeff Suppan. Alfonso Soraino tied the game with a 2-run home run. Aaron Miles doubled and Kosuke Fukkodome singled to keep the rally going, and Milton Bradley drove in Miles with an RBI single to center field. Fukodome moved up to 3rd base and scored the 4th run of the inning on a wild pitch and throwing error by catcher Jason Kendall.
The Cubs seem to be getting it done with smoke and mirrors – more about this tomorrow. But at least the Cubs came away with a victory on Sunday. At 17-14, the Cubs are just 2.5 games behind the Cardinals. The next 6 games are against the Padres and Astros, so if the Cubs can win each of those series, they should have a chance to cut into that lead as the Cardinals take on the Pirates and Brewers during that stretch. Then the Cubs play the Cardinals next week in St. Louis – already the 3rd meeting between the teams this season – for another chance to cut into the lead. As long as the Cubs can ride out these early season injuries to Milton Bradley, Derrek Lee, Carlos Zambrano and Aramis Ramirez to keep it close, they should be able to make a push for the division lead during the long, hot summer.
Posted on 02 May 2009 by Lou
It wasn’t pretty, but the Cubs defeated the Marlins 8-6 on Friday afternoon at a rainy Wrigley Field. The Cubs trailed for much of the day, even by as much as 5-1 in the 4th inning. But the Cubs rallied to take the lead in the 6th inning on an Aaron Miles walk and a Mike Fontenot single. With 2 outs, the Marlins decided to pitch carefully to Alfonso Soriano who ended up walking to load the bases for Ryan Theriot. Theriot hit his 1st career grand slam to the bleachers in left field to put the Cubs ahead for good with a 6-5 lead. The Cubs added some insurance runs in the 7th inning on a Geovany Soto single and a Mike Fontenot sacrifice fly.
The pitching was a tale of 2 stories for the Cubs. Rich Harden was atrocious – 3 2/3 innings – 86 pitches, 5 earned runs, 6 hits, 4 walks and 1 hit batter. He only had 2 strikeouts – the 1st time he did not strike out at least 8 batters in a game.
The bullpen did a great job of keeping the Cubs in the game after Harden’s departure. Jeff Samardzija got the Cubs out of Harden’s 4th inning jam, David Patton worked 2 innings of hotless and scoreless relief and Neal Cotts works a scoreless / hitless inning as well. Carlos Marmol had an interesting inning – after walking the first 2 batters he faced like he did on Thursday night, Marmol struck out the side to end the threat and received a standing ovation for his tremendous, frustrating effort. And Kevin Gregg picked up his 2nd save of the year, despite giving up a run on 2 hits in another frustrating inning for the Cubs closer.
The weather summed up the day at Wrigley – rainy early with a lot of clouds, but sunny by the time everyone left the friendly confines for the evening. The Cubs trailed for much of the day, but after Theriot’s first ever grand slam, there was nothing but smiles to go around the park.
Let’s hope the Cubs can keep up the momentum with an afternoon win today at Wrigley. Ted Lilly will face off against Anabel Sanchez.
Posted on 24 April 2009 by Lou
Maybe another road trip will be good for the Cubs. After the Reds took 2 of 3 games from the Cubs this week at Wrigley Field, the Cubs home record fell to 4-4. On the road, the Cubs are a mighty 4-2. At 8-6, the Cubs trail the Cards by 2 games in the NL Central race, as the 2 teams play 3 games in St. Louis in another big weekend series. Ryan Dempster, Sean Marshall and Rich Harden will pitch for the Cubs, while the Cards will counter with Adam Wainright, Mitchell Boggs and Todd Wellemeyer.
The Reds Johnny Cueto bested Ted Lilly in Wednesday night’s 3-0 loss. Although Lilly allowed only 1 unearned in his 7 innings of work, he was on the short end of the stick as Cueto had the Cubs hitters off-balance all night long. Cueto gave up only 4 hits and no walks as the Cubs never really mounted any serious threat against the youngster. Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips each had 2 hits for the Reds, and Bruce’s solo shot in the top of the 9th inning off of Kevin Gregg gave the Reds a little cushion for closer Francisco Cordero. Milton Bradley was in the Cubs lineup, but went 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts. He still has only 1 hit on the season and his batting average is down to .043.
On Thursday afternoon, the Reds Aaron Harang out-dueled Carlos Zambrano as the Reds beat the Cubs 7-1. Joey Votto was a one man wrecking crew – going 4 for 5 with a home run and 2 doubles. Votto drove in 2 runs and scored 1 run. Harang pitched 7 strong innings giving up only 1 unearned run on 7 hits and 1 walk. Zambrano, meanwhile, gave up 3 earned runs on 7 hits and 2 walks. He did have 7 strikeouts. He is now 1-1 on the year with a hefty 4.85 ERA. Neal Cotts gave up a run in his 1 inning of work, while newly-called-up reliever Jeff Samardzija gave up 2 earned runs on 4 hits in the 9th inning. Not good all-around.
Let’s hope the Cubs can get back on track on the road. Although it’s early, the team has played uninspired ball so far this season. If they think they have the NL Central wrapped up just because they have won it the last 2 seasons, they have another thing coming. Time for Pinella to light a fire under these guys and see if a change in lineup can spark the lackluster club.
Posted on 12 April 2009 by Lou
There is a bad omen brewing on the north side of Chicago after Kevin Gregg’s horrible first week with the Cubs.
Here are the numbers:
April 6th at Houston – Gregg did pick up his 1st save as a Cub on opening day, but he gave up 1 run on 2 hits in the 9th inning.
April 7th at Houston – Gregg recorded 1 out in the 10th inning, but he gave up a walk and the game-winning single in the Cubs 3-2 loss in extra innings. Although Gregg didn’t take the loss (that went to Neal Cotts who allowed the 1st 2 Astros to reach base in the 10th inning, he didn’t look good).
April 10th at Houston – Gregg’s 1st blown save of the 2009 season. Will there be many more? Manager Lou Pinella did call on Gregg in the bottom of the 8th inning with 2 outs and the bases loaded and the Cubs holding on to a 1 run lead. Gregg answered the call by striking out Bill Hall on 3 pitches. The 9th inning should have been a breeze for Gregg facing the 8, 9 and 1 batters, but Gregg lost control in the 9th and the Cubs lost 4-3. After retiring Jason Kendall on a groundout, Gregg walked pinch-hitter Chris Duffy. Rickie Weeks tied the game with a double to deep left that scored Duffy. After issuing his second walk of the inning to Corey Hart, Ryan Braun stroked a groundball between short and third that was good enough to plate Weeks with the winning run.
Given the fact that there was a closer competition between Gregg and Carlos Marmol this spring, Gregg really needed to get off to a good start with his new mates. It has not turned out that way. Marmol has looked great so far – 2 2/3 innings pitched – 1 hit, 1 walk and 2 holds. Marmol has not allowed a run. It will be interesting to see how Pinella handles the situation. He obviously has to give Gregg ample time to prove his worth, but if the blown saves start racking up, look for Marmol to assume the closer’s role sooner rather than later.
Posted on 08 April 2009 by Lou
The Houston Astros defeated the Chicago Cubs 3-2 in 10 innings in the 2nd game of the season for both teams. The Cubs wasted a solid start from Ryan Dempster – 6 innings pitched, 2 earned runs on 6 hits and 3 walks. Dempster also had 5 strikeouts in the no decision.
Once again, the Cubs took an early 1-0 lead on a Derrek Lee RBI-single in the 3rd inning. After the Astros took a 2-1 lead, Alfonso Soriano homered for a second straight game to knot the game at 2 in the 8th inning.
But the Cubs bullpen was the story in this one. After pitching a scoreless 8th inning, Aaron Heilman struggled to start the 9th inning – allowing the 1st 2 batters to reach base on a single and a walk. Neal Cotts entered the game and put out the fire by retiring the next 3 batters and not allowing a run. But then Cotts struggled to open the 10th. Opening singles to Ivan Rodriguez and Lance Berkman forced manager Lou Pinella to bring in closer Kevin Gregg. Gregg got a flyout for the 1st out of the inning, but Rodriguez was able to tag up to the 3rd base. After intentionally walking Miguel Tejada, Gregg allowed a broken-bat single to Jeff Keppinger which plated the winning run for the Astros.
Not a great finish for the Cubs, and only 6 total hits leaves a lot to be desired on the offensive end. Brian Moehler tends to pitch well against the Cubs, so it’s looking like the Cubs may start the season 1-2 heading into a big weekend in Milwaukee against the hated Brewers at Miller Park.
Posted on 07 April 2009 by Lou
The Chicago Cubs defeated the Houston Astros 4-2 on Opening “Night” in Houston. Carlos Zambrano pitched 6 strong innings, giving up only 1 earned run on 5 hits. Zambrano had 3 walks to go along with 6 strikeouts in the win. Alfonso Soriano got the Cubs off to a good start with a lead-off home run off of Astros’ starter Roy Oswalt. Aramis Ramirez added a solo shot in the 2nd inning to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead, and Ryan Theriot’s sacrifice fly in the 4th inning increased the Cubs lead to 3-0. The Cubs added an insurance run on Micah Hoffpauir’s pinch-hit RBI single in the 9th inning which gave the Cubs a little cushion heading into the bottom of the 9th.
The Cubs bullpen looked mostly sharp. Aaron Heilman and Neal Cotts helped Zambrano get out of a 7th inning jam minimizing the damage to only one run after Big Z allowed the first 2 hitters to reach base. Carlos Marmol worked a scoreless 8th inning, issuing only a walk to Lance Berkman. Kevin Gregg recorded his 1st save as a Cub – it wasn’t pretty as he allowed a run on back-to-back singles and a sacrifice fly to open the inning. But Gregg re-grouped and recorded the final 2 outs to give Zambrano his first career opening day victory.
All-in-all – a good opening day Cubs fans. Here’s to many many more…
Posted on 05 April 2009 by Lou
The New York Yankees defeated the Chicago Cubs 7-3 in the first baseball game ever played at the new Yankee Stadium on Friday, April 3rd. Although the Cubs took an early 3-0 lead, Ted Lilly couldn’t hold the lead for the victory. Lilly gave up 7 earned runs on 8 hits, including 3 home runs, while striking out 2 batters. Aaron Miles led the Cubs by going 2 for 3 with 2 RBI’s and 1 run scored. Joey Gathright also had 2 hits for the Cubs in defeat. The pitching bright spot – Aaron Heilman worked 2 scoreless innings, while Neal Cotts worked 2/3 of a scoreless inning and Kevin Gregg worked a scoreless 8th inning.
Hideki Matsui, Robinson Cano and Cody Ransom each homered for the Yankees. Cano, Derek Jeter and Xavier Nady each had 2 hits for the Yankees. After Chien-Ming Wang gave up 4 earned runs on 6 hits in the first 5 innings, the Yankees relievers – led by Mariano Rivera – shut down the Cubs offense – not allowing a hit in the final 4 frames of the game.
The two teams play again today before starting the regular season in earnest on Monday. Rich Harden will face off against Andy Pettite in Saturday’s matinee.
Posted on 02 April 2009 by Lou
The Chicago Cubs tied the Oakland A’s 8-8 on Wednesday as Carlos Zambrano made his final start of the 2009 spring training schedule. Zambrano pitched 3 1/3 innings giving up 1 earned run on 2 hits and 2 walks. He also had 1 strikeout. Zambrano will start for the Cubs in the team’s 2009 opening game against the Astros in Houston on Monday night.
Several Cubs players had good games at the plate. Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Geovany Soto and Ryan Theriot each had 2 hits for the Cubs. Soto hit his first 2 home runs of the spring, including a grand slam in the 3rd inning when the Cubs scored 6 runs to take an early 6-0 lead.
The Cubs relievers did not fare so well however. Luis Vizcaino gave up 2 runs on 2 hits in only 2/3 of an inning of work. Neal Cotts was lit up for 3 earned runs and 5 hits in the 8th inning, while Angel Guzman and Jeff Samardzija gave up an unearned run in each of their 1 inning of work. Not so good given the fact that the regular season starts in 4 days.
Let’s hope the Cubs can work out these kinks in their final games of the spring – against the Indians in Mesa today and against the Yankees in the new Yankee Stadium in New York this weekend.