Archive | Sean Marshall

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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Rich Harden – Ready To Prove Skeptics Wrong

Posted on 17 February 2009 by Lou

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When it became official that Rich Harden would not pitch for Team Canada in the 2009 World Baseball Classic next month, many media critics, including yours truly here at MyCubsToday, thought this was another case of a Cubs pitcher being hurt and Cubs management not making full disclosure about the health status of said player. Were we right or were we wrong? The long and the short of it is, only time will tell.

According to the Cubs and Rich Harden, Harden is on schedule to be ready for the start of the 2009 MLB season. Instead of returning home to Canada during the off-season, Harden stayed in Arizona to work with Cubs strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss. His 25 combined starts with the Oakland A’s and Chicago Cubs in 2008 was the 2nd most starts made ever in his career, and the most since he started 31 games for the A’s back in 2004. Harden wanted to build off the momentum from the 2008 season, and also continue to make sure that he is in the best possible condition for the upcoming campaign.

Harden was electric for the Cubs following his acquisition from the A’s. He made 12 starts, pitched 71 innings, went 5-1 with a 1.77 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. He struck out 89 batters and walked only 30. The Cubs would love it if he could reach that 25-start mark again in 2009, but Harden is setting his sights higher – he wants to reach the lucky number 30. He also wants to put the rumors to rest about the tear in his shoulder and the decrease in his velocity as the 2008 MLB season wore on. Harden says that he originally injured the shoulder trying to field a come-backer that took an awkward hop over his pitching shoulder. Since then he has had to listen to his body when his body tells him that he can’t pitch as long or throw as hard. He seems to have the right take on the cards dealt to him: “It’s not just the Cubs, it’s on me. Every year I learn more about my body and how I feel. You want to be out there every single game for 100-plus pitches. That’s the way I am – I want to be out there every game no matter what. You have to take a step back sometimes and evaluate how I’m feeling and manage it properly so I’m strong at the end of the season. I have to be consistent with my mechanics and get my arm in a good spot to throw without putting strain on my shoulder or the rest of my body. That’s going to be big for me – – and that’s what I’m working with Larry with.”

Let’s hope it pays off for Harden. Until he takes the bump that first week of the 2009 MLB season, I will still be a little skeptical no matter what he or the Cubs say. If he is healthy, the Cubs will be in great shape – he can dominate a game and usually puts his team in a position to get that all-important W. If he isn’t healthy, the Cubs could miss a beat in the starting rotation, with a Sean Marshall moving up to the 4th spot in the rotation and a Aaron Heilman or Chad Gaudin having to fill the starts missed by Harden. Not the best of situations, but at least the Cubs continue to add depth in the pitching staff to take some pressure of the rest of the crew in case the injury bug flares up…

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And Your 5th Starter Is… Sean Marshall?

Posted on 16 February 2009 by Lou

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Sean Marshall has a lot going for him in the race for the 5th spot in the Chicago Cubs starting rotation. He has logged 50 major league starts in his 3 years in the big leagues and continues to improve on his numbers each and every season. In 2006, Marshall made 24 starts, and finished the season with a 6-9 record and a high ERA of 5.59. In 2007, Marshall made huge strides – in 19 starts, he finished with a 7-8 record and lowered his ERA all the way to 3.92. A big key of his success was walking less batters – 25 less batters than he did the year before. In 2008, Marshall was all over the place – bullpen, starting rotation (7 starts) and back at Triple-A Iowa. Despite all the change, Marshall pitched 65 innings, went 3-5, and lowered his ERA to 3.86 with a 1.27 WHIP. Most importantly, he never once complained. Cubs Manager Lou Pinella summed it up well: “He did what the organization wanted, and he’s improved. He’s gotten stronger. He’s got a good feel for pitching. I’d feel extremely comfortable with him in the fifth spot. I would think with him coming into this camp that our starting pitching is in pretty darn good shape, assuming everybody stays healthy.”

Marshall would join a rotation already laden with talent – Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly and Rich Harden. Pitchers Jeff Samardzija, Chad Gaudin and Aaron Heilman are also expected to compete for the 5th spot in the rotation, so it won’t be easy for Marshall. He put extra time in this off-season in the Phoenix area, and learned a lot from situations that Pinella put him in during the 2008 MLB season to test his mettle. Marshall felt like he passed those difficult tests and so did Pinella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Marshall also has the right attitude: “I’d rather start. But anything I can do to help the team win some games and give the team some good innings and put some zeros on the board, whether it’s in the bullpen or starting or coming in and getting a couple lefties out or getting a base hit, I’m ready to go.”

Gotta love the optimism and the “team first” attitude. We don’t get to see or hear that a lot these days, so we need to publicize it more to let people know that there are players out there who aren’t in it just for the money or glory. Good luck to you Sean. Whether you end up as a starter or in the bullpen, we’re glad you’re a Cub!

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Will Peavy Trade Talks Resume Following Sale of Cubs?

Posted on 31 January 2009 by Lou

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Now that Sam Zell and the Cubs organization have selected Tom Ricketts as the winning bidder for the purchase of the Cubs, how will that affect the product on the field? Of course The Ricketts Family still needs to get MLB approval, but assuming that happens, will the Ricketts family do “whatever it takes” to bring a World Series Championship to the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field?

The biggest player question now focuses on San Diego Padres ace Jake Peavy. Padres GM Kevin Towers and Cubs GM Jim Hendry conducted extensive negotiations during the 2008-9 Winter Meetings in December but couldn’t seal the deal. Towers has indicated that Peavy is off the trading block, but given the impending sale of the Padres, they still need to clear salary off the books in order to make any sale more palatable to potential suitors. Moving Peavy at some point this spring or during the 1st half of the 2009 MLB season would accomplish that.

When the Cubs acquired pitcher Garrett Olson from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Felix Pie, many saw that as a sign that the Cubs-Padres talks for Peavy would resume – Towers has mentioned Olson as starting pitcher the Padres would like to have in their rotation. But when the Cubs moved Olson along with Ronny Cedeno to acquire starter/reliever Aaron Heilman, that seemed to quash the Peavy trade rumors once again.

It also raised more questions about Rich Harden’s health. Did the Cubs acquire Heilman, a proven major league pitcher, to off-set the impact of any trip to the disabled list by Harden at the start of the season or at some point during the season? I guess these things will have to play out. Hendry will tell you that it’s always good for a major league team have a deep pitching staff with many different options to turn to as circumstances dictate. But given the Cubs past pitching injury woes with Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, most Cubs fans are always leery of the status of a player’s health when arm troubles appear. Harden has a history of injury, he was held out of starts at the end of the 2008 MLB season to “rest” the arm, and he is not playing in the World Baseball Classic in March because they don’t think he will be fully ready to participate on a regular basis. Do you hear those alarm bells ringing?

It’s great that the Cubs acquired Heilman in order to anticipate an adverse injury situation with Harden, but if that costs the Cubs the ability to land a #1 like Peavy, I seriously question Hendry’s judgment. I’d rather have a starting rotation of Zambrano, Peavy, Dempster, Lilly and than Zambrano, Dempster, Lilly, Marshall and Heilman (assuming Harden can’t go on a regular basis).

In any event, it should be an interesting few months on the north side of Chicago. We’ll keep you abreast of any action as soon as we hear it.

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Cubs Could Keep Making Pitching Moves Before Season Starts

Posted on 30 January 2009 by Lou

The Chicago Cubs have made several moves this off-season to bolster their pitching staff. The Cubs acquired Kevin Gregg who is expected to be the set-up man for closer Carlos Marmol. The Cubs also acquired Garrett Olson from the Orioles, and many believed he was the missing piece to the puzzle that could bring San Diego Padres ace Jake Peavy to the Cubs for the 2009 MLB season. That all changed this week when Cubs GM Jim Hendry traded Olson, along with utility infielder Ronny Cedeno, to the Seattle Mariners for starter/reliever Aaron Heilman. That may have brought the end to the Jake Peavy rumors once again, but it is also rumored that the Padres have always liked Sean Marshall and Kevin Hart – 2 talented, young pitchers who could turn into super stars in their own rights. With those 2 players, plus a few other pieces be enough to bring Peavy to the Cubs. Probably not, but it will be interesting to see how the Cubs new ownership views the Peavy situation.

The Ricketts family are lifelong Cubs fans, and they may be willing to pull out “all the stops” in order to bring a World Series Championship to the North Side of Chicago. The $60 million owed to Peavy over the next 4 years under his current is a drop in the bucket to the Ricketts family, especially if his presence helps bring that elusive championship to Wrigley Field.

While nothing is definitive, it’s clear the Cubs and Hendry are still willing to tweak the roster that they intend to bring to Spring Training in a few weeks. Stay tuned – while there are sure to be bumps along the way, it should be a fun ride to see how the team gels over the course of spring ball in Arizona in February and March…

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Pitching Depth a Nice Plus for Cubs in 2009

Posted on 27 January 2009 by Lou

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It’s not so dreary in the bullpen at Wrigley Field these days. After suffering so many years with injury after injury to Cubs pitchers (see Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Jon Lieber), I never thought we’d be writing so much about one of the key assets for the current Chicago Cubs roster – the depth of the pitching – both starters and relievers.

Cubs Manager Lou Pinella has indicated that he would like to keep 12 pitchers on his roster during the 2009 MLB season. With 5 starters needed, and Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg locked in at the back end of the games, that leaves numerous candidates fighting for only 5 spots. Sean Marshall has been a key contributor – both as a starter and a reliever – on the big league level in each of the Cubs last 3 seasons. Youngster Jeff Samardzija emerged on the scene during the middle of the 2008 MLB season and showed that he clearly has the stuff to compete at the highest level. While both will be battling for the 5th spot in the starting rotation, one would have to think that each will make the 2009 roster once Spring Training breaks at the beginning of April.

Neal Cotts, Chad Gaudin and Michael Wuertz all played vital roles for the Cubs in 2008, while Angel Guzman, Kevin Hart and Jose Ascansio will all give it their best to show Cubs management that they deserve a shot over one of those guys for the 2009 MLB season. Are any of them a lock – by all means no. Plus when you throw in recent acquisitions – Luis Vizcaino, Garrett Olson, Jeff Stevens and Dave Patton – you truly are going to see a battle during Spring Training in Arizona.

Who will make it to Wrigley Field in 2009?

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Will Cubs Starters Be Able To Get It Done in 2009

Posted on 26 January 2009 by Lou

Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly, Rich Harden, #5 starter… Sounds like a pretty impressive starting 4-5, but with Rich Harden’s re-emerged shoulder issues and continued worries about any lingering issues that Carlos Zambrano may have with his right arm, will the team live up to the hype during the 2009 MLB season. Coming off back-to-back NL Central division titles, AND back-to-back 3-game sweeps in the divisional round of the playoffs where Cubs fans were left asking “Why?”, the Chicago Cubs, and in particular, the starting rotation, has a lot of pressure to excel again in 2009.

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A Glimpse at the 2009 Chicago Cubs Pitching Staff

Posted on 16 January 2009 by Lou

Now that we’re just about a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training, let’s take a look at the Chicago Cubs pitching staff. With the departure of Jason Marquis to the Colorado Rockies, the Cubs have the 5th slot in the rotation open for competition.

The front-runners are believed to be either lefty Sean Marshall or right Chad Gaudin. The Cubs would love to keep Marshall in the bullpen as the 2nd left-handed reliever to go with Neal Cotts, but he is still going to get a good look as a starter. Marshall made 24 starts during the 2006 MLB season and 19 starts during the 2007 MLB season. He made 34 appearances during the 2008 MLB season, including 7 starts. Marshall has reduced his ERA and WHIP in each of his last 2 MLB seasons.

Chad Gaudin pitched mainly out of the bullpen for the Cubs and A’s in 2008, although he did make 6 starts for the A’s at the beginning of the season. Back problems limited his effectiveness with the Cubs down the stretch, as his ERA ballooned to 6.26 and his WHIP sky-rocketed to 1.43 after a string of several good appearances in August right after he was acquired by the Cubs. During the 2007 MLB season, Gaudin was exclusively a starter – making 34 starts for the A’s. Gaudin went 11-13 with a 4.42 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP. He struck out 154 batters and walked 100 batters in 199 1/3 innings pitched. Assuming he can rehab properly from his back issues, it is clear that Gaudin has what it takes to be an effective starter in the big leagues.

Two other options are Jeff Samardzija and Angel Guzman. Samardzija erupted on the scene during the middle of the 2008 MLB season and became one of the Cubs most dependable relievers during July and August. His numbers dipped in September, but he still ended up with decent numbers – 26 games, 27 1/3 innings pitched, 2.28 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and 25 strikeouts. He was 1-0 with 1 save. Guzman made 6 appearances for the Cubs during the course of the 2008 MLB season, but was largely ineffective. It is believed that Samardzija will remain in the bullpen as a set-up man to new closer Carlos Marmol, while Guzman will return to the minor leagues for additional work.

One wild card is the Cubs pursuit of a 5th starter via trade or free agency. The Padres Jake Peavy is also an enticing commodity, but it is unclear if Jim Hendry and Kevin Towers have what it takes to re-open discussions for the Padres ace. Hendry has also been rumored to like Randy Wolf, a free agent who made 33 starts with the Houston Astros during the 2008 MLB season. Wolf pitched 190 1/3 innings, going 12-12 with a 4.30 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. Wolf would make a nice end of the rotation starter, and give the Cubs the flexibility to keep Marshall in the bullpen for one more year. It will be interesting to see if Hendry can work some magic to acquire either Peavy or Wolf this off-season. If he did, that would relegate Gaudin and Marshall back into the pen.

In any event, the Cubs have the luxury of being patient this off-season. They have depth with several pitchers that can pitch on the big level. They also have 4 solid top of the rotation starters in Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly and Rich Harden. It should be another exciting 2009 MLB season at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

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Cubs Deny Deal Is Imminent For Japanese Lefty Takahashi

Posted on 14 January 2009 by Lou

Sports-Hochi, a Japanese-based media outlet, reported that the Chicago Cubs were close to signing left-handed pitcher Ken Takahashi from Japan. Acquiring the lefty would allow the Cubs to move Sean Marshall into the starting rotation with the departure of Jason Marquis, and would also help continue Kosuke Fukodome’s adjustment to baseball in the United States.

But now those rumors appear to be over-blown. Cubs officials overseas have denied the reports and no further rumors seems to be floating around regarding the 40-year old veteran pitcher.

The Cubs have not announced any further deals of late and appear to be done heading into the 2009 MLB campaign. Stay tuned for upcoming posts regarding upcoming lineup and starting pitcher analysis and how the Cubs off-season signees will fit into the role during the 2009 MLB season…

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Cubs Close to Signing Japanese Lefty Takahashi

Posted on 12 January 2009 by Lou

The Chicago Cubs are close to signing a left handed reliever – Ken Takahashi from Japan. The deal would be for 1-year. Takahashi is a 40-year old left-handed reliever. Takahashi amassed a 3.50 ERA with an 8-5 record for Hiroshima in Japan.

The Cubs are likely making the move for 2 reasons. Takahashi would add a veteran left-handed arm in the Cubs bullpen. Currently, the Cubs only have 2 lefties on the roster – Sean Marshall and Neal Cotts. If the Cubs do sign Takahashi, that would allow Marshall to move into the rotation as the 5th starter with the departure of Jason Marquis.

The signing of Takahashi could also be related to Kosuke Fukodome’s 2nd half collapse during the 2008 MLB season. After starting the season hitting well over .300 with a high on-base percentage, Fukodome struggled in the 2nd half – hitting only .217 during the final 3 months of the season. The addition of another Japanese player like Takahashi could help Kosuke continue his adjustment to baseball in the United States. Stay tuned – we’ll keep you posted here at www.mycubstoday.com.

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