Posted on 16 April 2009 by Lou
The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Chicago Cubs 7-4 at Wrigley Field today. It was an ugly affair – 3 Cardinals errors and 1 Cubs error. Milton Bradley gettng ejected from the game by the home plate umpire. With the score tied at 4 in the bottom of the 6th inning, Bradley let a 3-0 count slip away with the bases loaded and only 1 out. He took a called 3rd strike on an off-speed pitch from Adam Wainright and was ejected for arguing the call and getting too close for comfort.
Next up is a Friday matinee at Wrigley Field. Carlos Zambrano will face off against P.J. Walters who has been called up to replace the injured Chris Carpenter.
Posted on 19 March 2009 by Lou
&Dempster left the game with a 5-0 lead, but the Cubs bullpen could not preserve the win for the Cubs. Chad Gaudin gave up 2 earned runs in an inning of work, Luis Vizcaino gave back another run on a solo home run in an inning of work, and Jose Ascansio lost the game for the Cubs by giving up 5 runs in the top of the 9th inning.
As for Dempster, he threw about 70 pitches and is pleased with his progress this spring. “The ball was coming out nice and I seemed to get ahead quite a bit today and even the hits they were getting were ahead-in-the-count type of hits. I had a good slider and good life in my ball.” Dempster will use the rest of the spring to strengthen the arm and build up stamina for the long MLB season.
Good news for Cubs fans. Zambrano and Dempster have looked very sharp this spring. Rich Harden has looked good so far and has not experienced any setbacks as far as his recovery is concerned. It looks like Sean Marshall has won the 5th spot in the starting rotation, and he has looked very impressive this spring. Ted Lilly has not pitched all that great in the World Baseball Classic for Team USA, but hopefully he can get his act together once he gets back to Cactus League action after the WBC. Having 3 righties and 2 lefties in the rotation is a nice balance too. We’ll keep you posted with any further developments.
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 17 March 2009 by Lou
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.
Posted on 15 March 2009 by Lou
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.
Posted on 14 March 2009 by Lou
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.
Posted on 09 March 2009 by Lou
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.
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.
Posted on 07 March 2009 by Lou
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.
Posted on 05 March 2009 by Lou
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.