Posted on 14 February 2009 by Lou
Chicago Cubs pitchers and catchers are officially supposed to show up for camp on Friday the 13th. But on Thursday, Cubs management got a pleasant surprise when they saw how many players were already ready to get a workout in at the Cubs spring training facility in Mesa, Arizona. Catchers Geovany Soto and Koyie Hill were in attendance. Pitchers Kevin Gregg, Ken Kadokura, Chad Gaudin, Neal Cotts, Jeff Samardzija and Kevin Hart were also present. Others present included Jake Fox, Randy Wells and Wellington Castillo. It’s unclear exactly which players out of this group will make the team, but it’s great to see the commitment and enthusiasm this early in the season.
Kadokura is a long shot to make the team. He is 35 years old, had played for 4 different Japanese teams and was Kosuke Fukodome’s teammate on the Chunichi Dragons.
Chad Gaudin is looking to make a run at the 5th spot in the starting rotation, as is Samardzija. Gaudin has made 50 major league starts, including 34 starts for the Oakland A’s in 2007. Even if he doesn’t secure the spot in the starting rotation, he would make a great addition in the Cubs bullpen. Ditto for Samardzija.
It’s refreshing to see that guys know that they have to compete for a spot and are willing to do whatever it takes to get into the best shape possible to be ready to impress once the spring schedule begins.
Now that camp has opened, we’re sure to have a lot of updates on how things are going for the Cubs in the southwest. Stay tuned to MyCubsToday – we’re locked and loaded for a great 2009 Cubs campaign.
Posted on 13 February 2009 by Lou
Geovany Soto’s rookie year was just about as good as you could make it. Soto hit 23 home runs, drove in 86 runs and had a very respectable .285 batting average. Soto ran away with the National League Rookie of the Year honors and helped his club win a 2nd straight NL Central Division title. Getting swept out of the divisional round of the playoffs for a 2nd straight year was disappointing, but it didn’t stop Soto from preparing in earnest for the 2009 MLB season.
Instead of relaxing during the off-season and sitting back admiring his trophy and stats, Soto took on a tough workout regimen to get back in shape to handle the full-time catching duties for the long 162-game major league season. He’s already been hitting for a month and has worked hard on fine-tuning the swing. Soto even showed up to camp Thursday – a day before he was supposed to report with the rest of the pitchers and catchers.
While Soto will miss Henry Blanco – Soto’s back-up and mentor for the last 2 seasons – he is ready to continue to perform at a high level each and every day for the Cubs. He is realistic and understands that if he pushes too hard, he might not get the results to which he is accustomed. Soto summed it up best: “I want to feel like I’m fighting for a job. That’s how I know how to play. It keeps me aggressive, it keeps me on edge. That’s the way I want to approach it. I’m going to try to do whatever I’m capable of and stay within my game. If I try to hit more home runs, it’s not going to work. I have to be myself and see what happens.”
Posted on 12 February 2009 by Lou
Let’s the hope we see more of the April 2008 Kosuke Fukodome during the 2009 MLB season than we do the September 2008 Kosuke Fukodome. In Fukodome’s 1st season in the big leagues, Fukodome had a dream month of April. He hit .327 over the course of the month, going 3 for 3 on opening day with a 3-run home run in the bottom of the 9th inning off closer Greg Gagne that tied the game at 3. But each month, teams seemed to figure Kosuke out, and as the season wore on, Kosuke had fewer and fewer quality, patient at-bats. The lack of patience showed in the batting average – he finished the season with a .257 batting average, with only 10 home runs and 58 RBI’s.
Cubs GM Jim Hendry told Kosuke that he would have to compete for a starting outfield spot during Spring Training in 2009. Kosuke was fine with that assessment from all accounts, and has fully committed to the Cubs recommended off-season workout. The workout regimen included exercises that focused on strengthening Fukodome’s core. Cubs video coordinator Nao Masamoto has visited Fukodome in Japan twice this off-season and has been impressed with his improvement in the month between the 2 visits (one in December and one in January). While Masamoto didn’t predict that Fukodome would be able to keep up that April 2008 pace for all 6 months of the 2009 MLB season, he believed that Fukodome would be able to better manage the lows than he did in his first year.
Masamoto also feels that with one year under his belt, Fukodome will be much more at ease in his new major league environment. If he needs more batting practice, he won’t hesitate to ask for the time. Being more familiar with Wrigley Field, the other National League parks and more day games in Chicago should also help.
We don’t need a .327 Fukodome all season long, but if he could really make pitchers work counts like he did at the beginning of the season, that would be a huge improvement. Even if he got back into the high .200′s, that would be a huge step in the right direction, and a good sign that Fukodome could be back in store for an outstanding 2009.
Posted on 11 February 2009 by Lou
A new advertising campaign will greet all Chicago Cubs fans during the 2009 MLB season. The new ads will appear on the famous red marquee at the corner of Clark and Addison. Manager Lou Pinella and players like Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Dempster and Alfonso Soriano have already signed on to participate in the new ads. The new billboard-style ads will change periodically. Some slogans include:
“Wrigley Field: Home of the Reason You Put Up With The Winters”
“Wrigley Field: Home of the 2 Hour and 47 Minute Vacation”
The agency behind the new campaign is a local branding firm – Jones – that is now in its second year of working with the Chicago Cubs. Jones’ president and executive creative director Scott Maney summed it up best – “There’s no other p;ace like Wrigley. It’s a tourist attraction for tourists that live in Chicago. And let’s face it – - we’ve all ducked out of work once or twice with a ‘dentist appointment’ that just so happened to start at 1:20p.m. We’re just tapping into the truth.”
Get ready Cubs fans. Players reports for Spring Training in Arizona in the upcoming days. Opening day at Wrigley Field is scheduled for Monday, April 13th – just over 2 months away. Get ready for a 3rd straight NL Central Division title, and this year, hopefully at least one post-season victory instead of an early playoff exit.
Posted on 09 February 2009 by Lou
I’ve been asking myself this question and it appears like it’s on other people’s minds too. Why didn’t the Cubs try to re-sign Henry Blanco to a 1-year deal? Blanco is one of the best defensive catchers in the game still, and he has been an invaluable mentor to Geovany Soto over the course of the last 2 years. The intangible with Blanco as a reserve catcher are almost irreplaceable.
It appears that the answer is a similar answer to the one we’ve received on other moves made by Cubs GM Jim Hendry this off-season. Bako is a left-handed hitter and Blanco is not. Money could not have been the reason – the San Diego Padres signed Blanco for $750,000 for the 2009 MLB season, while the Cubs are paying Bako $725,000 for the year.
I think Bako is a huge step down from Blanco. Let’s just hope it doesn’t stunt Soto’s continued growth or the growth of some of the young, talented pitchers that the Cubs have at their disposal.
For more details on the Bako/Blanco story and other potential moves, check the following link for the latest Cubs news.
Posted on 08 February 2009 by Lou
South Korean pitcher Dae-Eun Rhee excelled for Cubs Single-A affiliate in Peoria during the 2008 season. Rhee started 10 games during the season, going 4-1 with a sparkling 1.80 ERA. He won’t be the only South Korean in Cubs Spring Training Camp for the 2009 season – pitcher Su-Min Jung, outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha and infielder Hak-Ju Lee will also join Rhee for some fun Spring Training competition in less than 2 weeks.
While the Cubs continue to scout talent in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Japan, the Cubs have also made South Korea a key target, due in large part to the country’s recent success on the international playing field. Just this past summer in the Beijing Olympics, South Korea won the Gold Medal by beating powerhouse Japan in the semifinals and Cuba in the finals. The team went 9-0 during the Olympics. South Korea advanced to the semifinals of the 2006 World Baseball Classic, but lost to eventual Champion Japan. The South Koreans also won the Bronze Medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Even the younger 18 and under players from South Korea are showing serious talent that could translate into success at the big league level. Paul Weaver is the Cubs international director of scouting and Steve Wilson is based in Taiwan as the Pacific Rim supervisor of scouting. Both insist that these South Korean players can hold their own with the best players from anywhere else in the world, including the United States. Guess we’ll have to wait a few years to see how it all shakes out in the minor leagues and the big leagues. Keep your fingers crossed- maybe we’ll see one of these players grace the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field sometime soon.
Posted on 07 February 2009 by Lou
Comcast SportsNet will host its 21st annual Sports Award dinner on Monday night here in Chicago. One honoree is our very own Chicago Cubs center fielder Reed Johnson. Congrats Reed!
Cubs GM Jim Hendry made one of his best moves of the 2008 MLB season when he signed Reed Johnson to a 1-year deal after he was released by the Toronto Blue Jays in March. With the Cubs still uncertain about how Felix Pie would respond to being the Cubs everyday center fielder, Johnson was a relatively cheap alternative with extensive major league experience. And when Pie did in fact struggle early on, Johnson stepped right in played in 109 games for the Cubs throughout the season. Johnson batted .303 and hit 6 home runs while driving in 50 RBI’s. Most importantly, Johnson played spectacular defense and was a great presence in the Cubs clubhouse.
Players for other Chicago Sports teams will be honored at the dinner: Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks; John Danks of the White Sox; Greg Olsen of the Bears; Drew Gooden of the Bulls; and Brian McBride of the Fire.
Posted on 06 February 2009 by Lou
The documentary “We Believe – - Chicago and its Cubs” is set to be released in the Spring of 2009. Want to be a part of the movie – you can for just $100.00. With the “contribution” your name will appear in the theatrical credits in the last few minutes of the documentary in alphabetical order. Each donor will also receive a certificate of authenticity and a t-shirt that touts the “We Believe” film.
Now the good news – 50% of all proceeds will go to 2 charity groups close to the hearts of the Cubs organization and its fans. Cubs 1st baseman Derrek Lee has formed Project 3000, a charity that helps people who are struggling with the blinding eye disease Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). Lee’s daughter Jada was originally misdiagnosed with LCA, and his family was informed there was no cure for the inherited disease. Lee knows exactly what it is like for families to have to struggle with the LCA disease, and he has been strongly committed to finding a cure for the disease.
The other charity that will benefit is the non-profit Little Cubs Field – a kid-sized park in Freeport, Illinois carved in the likeness of a scaled-down version of Wrigley Field. Little Cubs Field had its grand opening on June 14, 2008, and the crew for the “We Believe” movie was on hand to partake in the ceremony.
There are limited spots open for the credits opportunity. Please go to www.webelievethemovie.com if interested in contributing to these worthy organizations.
Posted on 05 February 2009 by Lou
The wait is over. With the 2007 AND 2008 playoffs sweeps behind us, now it’s time to get ready for your 2009 Chicago Cubs. There are some old faces and some new faces, and one tough, yet lovable Manager in Lou Pinella. The Cubs will surely be considered a heavy favorite to win an unprecedented 3rd straight NL Central Division title. But we all know that predictions and favorites mean nothing when you are dealing with the Chicago Cubs franchise.
Will Milton Bradley endear himself to the right field bleachers fans in 2009? Will The Ricketts family finally bring that elusive World Series Title to the North Side of Chicago? Will Ronnie Woo-Woo still make it to every game inside the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field? Unfortunately, we probably only know the answer to one of those questions, so we’ll just have to wait and see for ourselves during the glorious 2009 MLB season.
Tickets go on sale to the public on Friday, February 20th at 8:00AM at the Wrigley Field Box Office. A random wristband lottery system will be used to determine the order in which Cubs fans will be able to purchase tickets to the upcoming season.
At 10:00AM on Friday, February 20th, tickets will go on sale through the Cubs website at www.cubs.com and over the phone – 800-843-2827 for Illinois callers and 866-652-2827 for out-of-state callers.
Chicagoland Tickets.com outlets will also be authorized to start selling Cubs tickets at 10:00AM on Friday, February 20th.
There will be a 42-ticket limit for Cubs tickets sales during the opening weekend of sales. Customers can purchase up to 6 tickets per game, with a maximum of 7 games purchased.
*** And don’t forget - MyCubsToday will be offering free Cubs tickets for 1 game of every weekend series (Friday-Sunday) during the course of the 2009 MLB season. So be sure to check the Your Free Cubs Tickets Offer page often in order to sign up for your chance to win. ***
Posted on 04 February 2009 by Lou
It was about time. The Cubs finally dealt frustrating southpaw Rich Hill to the Baltimore Orioles for a player to be named later. Hendry largely made the move to the Orioles so that Hill could be reunited with Rick Kranitz and Alan Dunn who worked with Hill in the Mets minor league system. Kranitz and Dunn are both on the Orioles’ coaching staff and could try to re-gain Hill’s form that made him so effective during the 2007 MLB season. That year, Hill finished the season with an 11-8 record and a 3.92 ERA. His sweeping curve ball fooled countless hitters throughout the season, and he even led Cubs pitchers in strikeouts. Hill was penciled in as the Cubs 4th starter for the 2008 MLB season, but he struggled with his control during the entire month of April and was sent down to Triple-A Iowa on May 3, 2008. In 19 2/3 innings at the big league level in 2008, Hill walked 18 batters and struggled with a 4.12 ERA in 5 starts. After dealing with some back issues, Hill continued to struggle with his control in the minor leagues and in the Venezuelan Winter League this past off-season, and the Cubs knew it was time for Hill to get a change of scenery.
Hendry and the Cubs wish Hill the best of luck. Hill was a big part of the Cubs 2007 NL Central Division title, and they hope he can make a fairy tale ending after a frustrating 2008.