Posted on 29 March 2009 by Lou
In the Cubs 9-4 win over the White Sox on Friday, Kosuke Fukodome made his 1st spring start for the Cubs. Fukodome played center field and batted 2nd in the lineup behind Alfonso Soriano. Fukodome had 1 hit in 4 at-batsand scored a run in the Cubs 7-run 1st inning.
A nice start for Fukodome, but the Cubs are going to need to see more if Fukodome expects to get consistent playing time in 2009. Cubs Manager Lou Pinella had this to say about Fukodome: “We have to get him some at-bats. He has to catch up here.”
As for Fukodome, he says he feels more “normal” being back in the states with his Cubs teammates. “It’s a lot easier than what I felt last year, so it will be better this year for sure. As long as it’s not icy and snowy, it’ll be fine.”
Sounds good to us Kosuke. As we have said before, Fukodome is a kind of “X Factor” for the Cubs in 2009. Fukodome will split time with right-handed hitting Reed Johnson in center field. If Fukodome can hit consistently at the major league level this season, that will give the Cubs an added weapon for the post-season. Having 2 quality left-handed bats for the post-season (Fukodome and newly-acquired Milton Bradley) will give other playoff teams a new obstacle to deal with in October. Let’s hope we can see a more patient, more consistent Fukodome for the whole 2009 season and not just for stretches. Good luck, Kosuke!!!
Posted on 27 March 2009 by Lou
Kosuke Fukodome is back with the Chicago Cubs in Mesa, Arizona. He is expected to play in his 1st spring training game on Friday against the Chicago White Sox.
Fukodome had been playing with Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic prior to joining the Cubs this week. He had only 4 hits in 20 at-bats during the WBC, but did draw 7 walks for a .407 on-base percentage.
After having a great start to his rookie MLB season in 2008 (.300+ batting average during the first 40 games of the season), Fukodome struggled in the 2nd half – hitting only .217 after the All-Star Break.
For the 2009 MLB season, Manager Lou Pinella has indicated that Fukodome will likely split time in center field with Reed Johnson and bat 2nd in the lineup against right-handed pitching.
Fukodome is the big “X Factor” for the Cubs this year. If he can show that he consistently hit major league pitching during the course of the year, the Cubs lineup with be vastly improved. If he continues to struggle, we might start seeing Fukodome play in late-inning situations only where his defensive abilities could help preserve some Cubs wins.
Posted on 18 March 2009 by Lou
The Chicago Cubs clobbered the Los Angeles Dodgers 12-3 at the Dodgers new facility in Phoenix on Tuesday. Too bad the Cubs didn’t show this effort back in October 2008 against the Dodgers.
Carlos Zambrano took game MVP honors. At the plate, Zambrano hit a 3-run home run in the 2nd inning and an RBI double in the 4th inning. On the mound, Zambrano pitched 5 innings – his longest outing of the spring. He gave up 3 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks and had 1 strikeout.
Other Cubs highlights – - Reed Johnson was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle with 3 hits and 2 RBI’s. Koyie Hill had 4 hits and Aaron Miles and Andres Blanco each had 2 hits.
The Cubs bullpen put in a solid effort as well. Regulars Sean Marshall, Neal Cotts and Kevin Gregg each threw scoreless innings in relief of Zambrano, allowing only 2 hits and no walks the rest of the way.
Posted on 12 March 2009 by Lou
Team Japan is in the United States to participate in the 2nd round of the World Baseball Classic. Kosuke Fukodome is with the team and met with Cubs Manager Lou Pinella in Phoenix on Tuesday. Pinella had this to say of his Japanese center fielder: “He looks wonderful. He’s in really good shape. I told him we’re holding a spot for him, and we’ll put him out in center field and we’ll try him in the No. 2 hole in the lineup.”
Yes, you heard it right. Kosuke Fukodome batting 2nd for the Chicago Cubs in 2009. This coming from the Manager who got so frustrated with Fukodome at the end of the last season, that he told the media he didn’t want anymore questions about whether or not Fukodome would be in the lineup. Pinella simply said that Reed Johnson or Mike Fontenot would be in the lineup and that was it.
Now we know Pinella has indicated that Fukodome should be more acclimated to the major leagues this season and that he worked really hard in the off-season with the Japanese national team. But to anoint him the #2 hitter – without even seeing him play in person yet – - it seems a little bit crazy?! We think it would be a better move to go with a platoon between Fukodome and Reed Johnson in center field early on, and then go with the hot hand as the season progresses. But it seems like Pinella is committed to Fukodome being in the lineup whenever a righty is on the bump. Guess we’ll have to see how this all plays out. It would be great if Fukodome could become a more consistent player on the major league level. But until he shows he can do it over a full season, we’re of the more cautious approach, allowing Reed Johnson to log more innings in the early going.
As for non-baseball items – the Cubs have an off-day on Wednesday, and Pinella’s wife planned for the skipper to take a hot-air balloon ride in the area. We’ll keep you posted how it went.
Posted on 06 March 2009 by Lou
Reed Johnson is ready to prove that he still has what it takes to be the Chicago Cubs’ everyday starting center fielder. Johnson exceeded expectations with the Cubs during the 2008 MLB season. He played in 109 games after being picked up right before the season started when the Toronto Blue Jays released him at the end of spring training. In 333 at-bats, Johnson hit .303 with a .358 on-base percentage. He scored 52 runs and drove in 50 more runs, and played great defense wherever Cubs Manager Lou Pinella decided to put him in the outfield.
For the 2009 MLB season, Johnson is looking to take hold of that starting job in center field instead of platooning with left-handed hitting Kosuke Fukodome. Johnson recently stated: “I want to prove not only to this organization but let people know I’m not finished as an everyday guy yet. That’s kind of been my mentality throughout the whole offseason to gear me toward being in shape for this.” Johnson dropped some weight in the offseason to get in better shape and hopes to avoid any back issues that have sometimes developed during the course of a long MLB season. Johnson has also spent extra time with hitting coach Gerald Perry to work on hitting better against right-handed batters. Johnson was an everyday starter for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2003, 2004 and 2006, so he knows he has what it takes to get the job done day in and day out.
And while he knows that Pinella likes to give his players extra days off during the season, he has already let Pinella know that he wants, and is ready for, more at-bats in 2009. We’ll see how this spring develops. If Fukodome cannot demonstrate early on that he is ready to handle major league pitching on a regular basis, Johnson could get his wish for more playing time.
Posted on 03 March 2009 by Lou
We know it’s early, but we’re getting a little concerned about the health of Milton Bradley. Bradley has only played in 1 of the Cubs spring games thus far, but he was removed from the game earlier than expected because of tightness in his left thigh. Bradley took batting practice with the team on Monday and is expected to play DH for the Cubs in today’s game against the Oakland A’s. If all goes well, Bradley should be back in right field for Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cubs are saying all the right things – it’s way too early during the spring to push Bradley too hard and the Cubs want to take their time and make sure he is healthy for the start of the regular season. Cubs Manager Lou Pinella summed it up like this: “Let’s judge this thing April 6. Let’s not judge it in Spring Training. Let’s give this young man every opportunity to get 100 percent and get him strong and that’s what we’ll use Spring Training for. We don’t want him healthy right now – - we’d like to have him healthy now – - but our goal is to have him healthy April 6 and ready to go.”
Great – the Cubs one big splash in an otherwise peculiar off-season is already battling a leg injury. Bradley has only played 100 games in 3 of his 9 MLB seasons. In 2003 and 2004, Bradley played most of his games in the outfield, but last year (a year in which he played in 126 games), Bradley largely served as the DH for the Texas Rangers, playing only 20 games in the field. This does not bode well for the Cubs. Let’s hope Bradley and the Cubs are preparing Bradley properly this spring. The off-season goal was for the Cubs to get “more left-handed” on offense, so if Bradley isn’t in the lineup, and the Cubs have to rely more heavily on Reed Johnson and Kosuke Fukodome on a daily basis, it could put a lot of pressure on the Cubs offense early in the season.
Posted on 20 February 2009 by Lou
Wow – can it really be true? Can we really believe Cubs Manager Lou Pinella at his word? We know it’s still early in spring training, but Pinella actually said that he wouldn’t throw out the possibility that Alfonso Soriano could hit somewhere else in the lineup other than the leadoff spot. Stop the presses, stop the presses!!!
Pinella was asked about the 3, 4 and 5 spots in his lineup, and although he was talking about Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and newly acquired outfielder Milton Bradley, Pinella also indicated that Alfonso Soriano could find himself in the mix for one of those spots. Pinella has also emphasized the fact that he wants to give Lee and Ramirez more days off during the course of the season, so who’s to say that Soriano couldn’t fill one of their spots on those off days or even more often.
Although Soriano doesn’t have the on-base percentage (.344 in 2008) or stolen base (19 in each of 2007 and 2008) numbers that you want out of your leadoff hitter, it’s hard to argue with his success for the Cubs in that spot in the lineup. During the 2008 MLB season, Soriano hit .287 in 105 games as the leadoff hitter and the Cubs won 69 of those games – a .657 winning percentage. In his other 4 games in 2008, Soriano hit 2nd in the lineup twice and 3rd and 7th in the lineup one time each. For the 2009 MLB season, other options for Pinella include Ryan Theriot, Aaron Miles, Reed Johnson, Mike Fontenot and Kosuke Fukodome (only if he shows can be more patient than he was at the end of the 2008 MLB season).
My prediction is that Soriano will remain in the leadoff spot once we make it all the way through spring training. One intriguing option, at least for me, is to put Ryan Theriot in the leadoff spot. Theriot held his own during the 2008 MLB season and continues to build into an all-around dependable player. In 148 games in 2007, Theriot hit .266 with a .326 on-base percentage. In 149 games in 2008, Theriot made a dramatic improvement on both numbers with a .307 batting average and a .387 on-base percentage. With Theriot in the top spot, I would move Derrek Lee up to the 2-hole (since his power numbers have continued to decline – 22 home runs and 82 RBI’s in 2007; 20 home runs and 90 RBI’s in 2008), insert Alfonso Soriano into the 3 spot and follow them up with Ramirez, Bradley and Soto. In the 7th and 8th spots you can work with Fukodome and Johnson in center field, and Fontenot and Miles at 2nd base, depending on the match-ups. Will Sweet Lou take my free advice? I doubt it, but it would sure be nice to see Soriano in another spot in the lineup – at least for a few games in spring training…
Posted on 18 February 2009 by Lou
Spring Training is here, so we’re getting lots of updates about all of your favorite Cubs players. Obviously we’re all concerned about the health of our pitchers and the progress they made during the off-season, but here’s a story about one of our outfielders – Reed Johnson. Johnson watched what he ate more during the off-season and he dropped right around 14 pounds because of the new diet. Johnson says he feels a lot better both physically and mentally. It should also help him avoid certain back issues that he has had to deal with on and off during his major league career.
Johnson was a kinesiology major at Cal State Fullerton and he says he has retrained his body to eat better and eat less, and not feel hungry after the meal. He has also worked hard at being ready to play all 3 outfield positions. Johnson understands that Manger Lou Pinella will continue to give players more and more time off this season in the hopes of keeping everyone fresh throughout the long MLB season. Giving Pinella the option of putting Johnson in 3 positions as opposed to 1 or 2, will make life easier on Pinella and Johnson. He’ll get his days off for sure, but he’ll also be helping the team by allowing some of the other guys – Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley Kosuke Fukodome – an extra day off that they might not have otherwise received.
During the 2008 MLB season, the 32-year old Johnson played in 109 games and recorded 333 at-bats. He hit .303 with a .358 on-base percentage, while scoring 52 runs and driving in 50 runs. Great numbers for a guy they picked up at the end of Spring Training after he was released by the Toronto Blue Jays. The Cubs expect similar production from Johnson in 2009 and look forward to his relaxed laid-back style ensuring another good clubhouse during the upcoming campaign.