Tag Archive | "Carlos Pena"

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Wells, Clutch Hitting Help Cubs Top DBacks 4-1 – Wrigley Field 4/5/11

Posted on 05 April 2011 by Lou

Randy Wells picked up right where he left off from spring training as he pitched a gem to lead the Cubs to a 4-1 over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field on Monday afternoon.  Wells got the 1st win for any Cubs starter as he tossed 6 solid innings.  After giving up a lead-off home run, Wells allowed no runs, 5 hits and 4 walks over the next 18 outs to earn the victory.  He struck out 6 on the day. He was happy with the start despite the walks – “A little sloppy… You never want to be around the belt or mid-thighs.  Try to attack the bottom of the zone and good things happen.”

The bullpen did the rest as Sean Marshall, Marcos Mateo and John Grabow each recorded an out in the 7th inning to preserve a 2-1 Cubs lead.  After a Starlin Castro error allowed the tying run to reach base in the 8th inning, Kerry Wood worked out of a bases loaded, 1-out jam to keep the DBacks off the board.  Carlos Marmol bounced back from a blown save on Sunday to pick up the save.  It was Wood’s 2nd hold off the early season and Marmol’s 2nd save of the season as each pitcher pitched in 3 consecutive games.  Marshall, Grabow, Wood and Marmol are all going to have to have above average years if the Cubs expect to make some noise in the NL Central race this season.

Timely hitting also helped the Cubs.  Alfonso Soriano hit his 2nd home run in as many days to tie the game at 1 in the 3rd inning.  Carlos Pena’s sacrifice fly in the 4th inning put the Cubs ahead for good.  And Geovany Soto and Soriano gave the Cubs some insurance runs with run scoring hits in the bottom of the 8th inning.

The Cubs are back at .500 at 2-2…

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Dempster, Pena Deliver Big 4-3 Win for Cubs over White Sox – Wrigley Field West Mesa Arizona 3/11/11

Posted on 11 March 2011 by Lou

Ryan Dempster continues to show why Manager Mike Quade anointed the veteran righty his opening day starter before spring ball even began.  Dempster went a team high 5 innings in the 4-3 win over the White Sox.  He struck out 6 batters and scattered just 2 hits and 1 walk during his impressive outing.  He lowered his spring ERA to 1.50 by not allowing a single run.  It was a great follow up to Randy Wells’ 4-inning scoreless gem yesterday.  Carlos Zambrano, Wells and Dempster all already seem to be in mid-season form right now, so this is a good sign for Cubs fans.

Sean Marshall also tossed a scoreless inning of relief, but Jeff Samardzija struggled by allowing all 3 White Sox runs in the 9th inning – his only inning of work.  Samardzija saw his ERA rise to 8.44 and he could be in jeopardy of being released by the Cubs since he does not have any options left.

The Cubs applied offensive pressure right from the start as well.  The Cubs pushed across runs in each of the 1st 3 innings to stake Dempster to an early 3-0 lead.  Geovany had 2 hits on the day and got things started for the Cubs with an RBI single in the 1st.  Carlos Pena hit a solo home run in the 2nd inning and then racked up another RBI with a run scoring single in the 3rd inning.  Jeff Baker batted lead-off and had 2 hits and a run scored.  Brett Jackson also came through with a big insurance run in the top of the 9th on an RBI double.  That proved to be the winning run as the White Sox rallied for 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning.

It was another nice win for the Cubs today.  Let’s hope they can put a few more of these wins together over the next few weeks before the start of the MLB season to give the squad some much-needed confidence…

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Aramis Ramirez to Bat 4th; Rest of the Lineup Unclear — Wrigley Field 2/24/11

Posted on 24 February 2011 by Lou

Manager Mike Quade is sure that Aramis Ramirez will bat 4th in the Cubs lineup each and every day.  The rest of the lineup is not so clear.  “I see him as such a good RBI guy that it makes sense in the four-hole.  He’s a guy who, as much as mizing and matching that I do, he doesn’t figure to be one of the guys I’ll mix and match with.  Some guys don’t care [where they are in the lineup], and I know he does.  He seems like the four-hole to me because I want him driving in runs.  But I’m a grownup and I reserve the right to change my mind.”

Quade has indicated that Starlin Castro will likely hit in the 2-spot.  Quade has hinted that Castro could some day be a lead-off hitter, but he doesn’t want to put too much pressure on the youngster, especially in his 2nd year which can often lead to a “sophomore slump.”  Quade likes Kosuke Fukudome in the lead-off spot for some reason.  He likes the fact that Fukudome makes pitchers throw a lot of pitches, but I think he is just way too inconsistent.  He may have a good few weeks or so, but then he has the capability of disappearing for weeks at a time.

It should be interesting as spring progresses.  Let’s hope someone emerges to claim that 3rd spot in the lineup.  Marlon Byrd seems like the best fit because Carlos Pena and Alfonso Soriano strike out way too much there.  But if a guy like Blake DeWitt emerges with a good spring, could we see Quade got with Fukudome, DeWitt and Castro in the top 3 spots?  We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything concrete out of Mesa…

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Geovany Soto / Blake DeWitt – Lineup Questions – Wrigley Field 2/8/11

Posted on 08 February 2011 by Lou

Where Geovany Soto and Blake DeWitt fit into the Cubs lineup for 2011 makes for some interesting chats.

Soto rebounded from a down 2009 MLB season with a solid 2010 campaign.  Soto had a career-best .393 on-base percentage during the season and hit with HR’s and RBI’s.  Will we see Soto higher up in the lineup?  Probably not.  Soto is better suited to be in the 5, 6 or 7 spot where he can drive in runs.  He is a patient hitter, so if runners are on base in front of him, he puts pitchers in a tough position.  They can walk him and put more runners on base, or they can pitch to him and risk letting him be the hero by driving in runs.  Look for Aramis Ramirez to move up to the 3-spot in 2011, with Carlos Pena batting clean-up, Marlon Byrd in the 5-hole and Soto in the 6-hole.

Blake DeWitt is gearing up for a productive 2010.  DeWitt spent the off-season eliminating a tap mechanism from his batting stance.  The Cubs hope that the new hitting stance will give DeWitt an extra advantage against pitchers and allow him to be more patient at the plate.  Hitting Coach Rudy Jaramillo has already spent time with DeWitt in Arizona, so he should be ahead of the game once camp breaks later this month.

These are all good signs Cubs fans.  With expectations so low for this unpredictable ball club, the Cubs could end up surprising some people in 2011…

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Cubs, Geovany Soto Agree Upon 1-Year Deal — Wrigley Field 1/17/11

Posted on 17 January 2011 by Lou

The Cubs and Geovany Soto avoided salary arbitration as the big catcher signed a 1-year, $3 million deal.  Soto turns 28 later this month and had a nice “bounce-back” year in 2010 with a .280 batting average and .393 on-base percentage (62 walks and only 82 K’s), 17 home runs and 53 RBI’s in 105 games.  His season was cut short when he had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in September.  Soto is expected to be fully healthy for 2011 Spring Training in February.

Soto was the National League Rookie of the Year back in 2008 when the Cubs had the most prolific offense in the NL.  That year, Soto hit .285 with 23 dingers and 86 RBI’s.  But injuries hampered Soto in 2009 as he struggled with a .218 batting average.  He played in just 103 games in 2009 and had a career-low .321 on-base percentage. Let’s hope the positive trend continues for Soto in 2011.  The Cubs need the catcher to be a consistent offensive threat in the middle of the lineup to provide a little extra protection for Aramis Ramirez, Marlon Byrd, Carlos Pena and Tyler Colvin.

The Cubs now have just 3 other players who are arbitration-eligible — Sean Marshall, Carlos Marmol and Matt Garza.  It looks like the Cubs have traded Tom Gorzelanny to the Washington Nationals, so they will not have to come to terms with the lefty before the deadline.  More on the Gorzelanny trade as details are confirmed.

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Cubs Convention Kicks off Tonight at 5PM — Wrigley Field 1/14/11

Posted on 14 January 2011 by Lou

The Cubs Convention kicks off tonight at 5PM at the Hilton Chicago on Michigan Avenue.  There are plenty of great activities and events planned, and you’ll get to see some great current and former Cubs players in attendance.  It has been confirmed that both new acquisitions from the Tampa Bay Rays – 1st Baseman Carlos Pena and Pitcher Matt Garza — will be in attendance.  Yippee!

Enjoy yourself this weekend — it is going to be a blast.  What a weekend of Chicago Sports events — the Cubs Convention; the Bulls hosting Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat at the United Center on Saturday night; the Bears hosting the Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Playoff Round on Sunday afternoon; and the the Blackhawks hosting the division-rival Nashville Predators at the United Center on Sunday night.  WOW!

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Cubs to Acquire Matt Garza from Rays via Trade?!?! — Wrigley Field 12/9/10

Posted on 09 December 2010 by Lou

The Cubs and Rays are in talks to trade pitcher Matt Garza for prospects in the next couple of days.  The 2 sides have met twice to discuss the terms of the deal, so this could happen any hour now.  The Rays are in “dump” mode, as they have parted ways with Carl Crawford who signed with the Red Sox and Carlos Pena who signed with the Cubs.  They are also looking to trade a few pieces to acquire prospects who are right at the edge of being able to perform at the major league level (for a fraction of the cost).  The Cubs have some nice prospects that they are willing to part with in order to acquire a starting pitcher like Garza who would slide into the rotation next to Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster.  That would also allow the Cubs to move another starter (say Tom Gorzelanny, Randy Wells or Carlos Silva) to acquire a veteran reliever to go along side lefty set-up man Sean Marshall and closer Carlos Marmol.

Garza is only 27 years old – he went 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 32 starts in 2010 pitching in the tough AL East.  He has playoff experience is a fierce competitor.  Garza is also durable – he has made at least 30 starts for the Rays in each of the last 3 seasons.

Pena had this to say about his former Rays teammate — “Matt Garza is one of those pitchers that wherever he goes is going to be an incredible asset.  It’s no secret that he is extremely talented and the sky is the limit for a guy like him.  I think he’s got Cy Young potential, to be honest with you.  His stuff is electrifying.  I think anybody would like to have a guy like that.”

WOW – I’m actually excited about something that GM Jim Hendry might do this winter.  The Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers are also mix on this, so the Cubs are going to have to give up 2-3 good prospects to land Garza, but it would be worth it for an established pitcher like him…

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Cubs Agree to Terms with Left-Handed Hitting 1st Baseman Carlos Pena – Wrigley Field 12/8/10

Posted on 08 December 2010 by Lou

The Cubs have agreed to a 1-year, $10 million deal with left-handed hitting 1st baseman Carlos Pena.  Pena is a great person in the clubhouse, but at 33 years of age, he could be on the downside of his career.  During the 2010 MLB season, he did hit 28 HR’s with 84 RBI’s, but he also had a career-low .196 batting average and he struck out 158 times in 484 at-bats. These numbers are down from his earlier 3 seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays — in 2009, Pena hit .227 with 39 HR’s and 100 RBI’s and a .356 on-base percentage; in 2008, Pena hit .247 with 31 HR’s and 102 RBI’s and a .377 on-base percentage; and in 2007, Pena hit .282 with 46 HR’s and 121 RBI’s and a .411 on-base percentage.

Out of all the options (or lack of options) for GM Jim Hendry and the Cubs, this was my lead candidate.  Being a great clubhouse guy is important, plus it will be nice for the Cubs to have a power-hitting left-handed hitter in the lineup.  If you can accept the fact that he is going to strike out a lot in big situations, but still put up solid numbers at the end of the season, you will be thrilled with the Pena signing.  Pena will also be reunited with Rudy Jaramillo – his hitting coach when he started in the Texas Rangers organization.

The Cubs clearly couldn’t afford Adam Dunn or lure Paul Konerko away from the South Side White Sox, so Pena was the next best option.  Let’s hope he stays healthy and has a bounce-back year in terms of a better batting average and on-base percentage.

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Winter Meetings Start This Week – Cubs Need to Find An Answer at 1st Base — Wrigley Field 12/4/10

Posted on 04 December 2010 by Lou

While the Cubs continue to mourn the loss of Ron Santo, they’re also turning their attention to their 2011 needs as the Winter Meetings start next week.  Tops on the list is a 1st baseman.  The Cubs traded Derrek Lee at the end of last season and also decided not to re-sign Xavier Nady who played well at the end of 2010.  The Cubs had hoped to lure Adrian Gonzalez away from the San Diego Padres via trade, but the Red Sox beat them to the punch by pulling off a trade for the 29-year old stud today.  No shock there that GM Jim Hendry is a few steps too slow once again.

That leaves a few very mediocre 1st baseman free agents on the market for several teams to compete for.  That is a not a good sign for the Cubs who are being cost-conscious this winter.  Let’s hope they don’t have to overpay for one of these guys – Carlos Pena, Adam LaRoche and Lance Berkman.  I like Pena the best out of the mix.  He strikes out a ton, but he hits a ton of HR’s and is a good clubhouse presence.

The other option is to move Tyler Colvin to 1st base.  Especially if the Cubs cannot move Alfonso Soriano or Kosuke Fukudome this off-season, moving Colvin to 1st base would be a great way to make sure he gets enough playing time in 2011.  We’ll keep you posted as soon as anything breaks next week at the Winter Meetings.

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1st Baseman Top Priority for GM Jim Hendry, Cubs – Wrigley Field 11/17/10

Posted on 17 November 2010 by Lou

Landing a  new 1st baseman from the free agent pool is GM Jim Hendry’s top assignment this winter.  With the late season trade of Derrek Lee, the Cubs found themselves in the hunt for a 1st baseman option for the 1st time in a very long time (Lee has been the Cubs starting 1st baseman since the start of the 2004 MLB schedule).

The top free agent 1st baseman is Adam Dunn.  But he is expected to get a contract in the neighborhood of 3-years, $40 million which is well out of the Cubs projected budget.  The Cubs have about $105 million already committed to current players.  Taking into account arbitration-eligible players whom the Cubs will likely pay additional money to, the payroll with jump to around $125 million.  Tom Ricketts has indicated that they want the budget down in the $135 million range (down from a National League-high $144 million in 2010), so that leaves somewhere around $10 million for Hendry to play with for new players.  Given Hendry’s propensity to love to shell out tons of money without a care in the world, he is going to feel like he has his hands tied this winter.

Other 1st base options include several left-handed hitters – Lance Berkman, Lyle Overbay, Carlos Pena and Adam LaRoche.  Hendry had this to say about the search – “We’re obviously going to be adding someone there.  We did a lot of work at our organizational meetings.  There’s a lot of different ways it coudl go.  We’ll just have to see how it flows… We’ve never had a problem sorting out who to prioritize. I think the more out there, the better.  Obviously, somebody that plays 1st base at this level has to be able to swing the bat.  Some of the guys are good hitters and better defenders.  Some of the guys are real good hitters and not as good defensively.  There’s probably enough guys out there available to fill the needs of the teams that need somebody at that position.  It’s supply and demand.  A lot of teams already have good 1st baseman.  And there are 3 or 4 others like us, looking for one.”

I kind of like Berkman as a “safe” option and Pena as the “risky-upside” option.  Berkman hit .248 with 14 HR’s and 58 RBI’s in 2010.  Despite the down numbers, he still walked 77 times with only 85 K’s in 404 at-bats.  He is a patient hitter who will make pitchers throw strikes and could be a valuable asset to young players like Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin in the locker room.

Pena  has a career .241 batting average and .351 on-base percentage. But in 2010, those numbers were way down – .196 and .325.  That being said, he still managed to hit 28 HR’s and rack up 84 RBI’s with 87 walks and 158 K’s.  Pena would probably drive fans nuts with his K’s and all-or-nothing swings, but you have to like the power numbers and you have to think the average numbers can’t get any worse than they were in 2010.

LaRoche has a career .271 batting average and .339 on-base percentage.  He had a decent 2010 – .261 batting average with 25 HR’s and 100 RBI’s and he is the youngest of the bunch at only 31 years old.

Overbay has a career .274 batting average and .358 on-base percentage.  He had a down year in 2010 and he is 33 years old.

One person we know it won’t be is Micah Hoffpauir who had been on the Cubs roster each of the last 4 seasons.  Hoffpauir is headed to Japan to play for the Nippon Ham Fighters during the 2011 baseball season.

It should be interesting what Hendry decides to do.  I have been questioning Hendry’s decision-making for years now, so I have a feeling we’re not going to like who he goes with at 1st base in 2011.  Maybe that will be the final straw for the Ricketts Family to finally realize that they need to cut ties with this out-dated GM…

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