Tag Archive | "Chicago Cubs"

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Cubs Trade Michael Wuertz To A’s

Posted on 03 February 2009 by Lou

The Cubs continued to make some minor moves this week. The Cubs traded reliever Michael Wuertz to the Oakland A’s for 2 minor league players. Wuertz made 265 appearances over his 5 seasons with the Chicago Cubs. He compiled a respectable 3.57 ERA and went 13-7 with 1 save at the major league level. Cubs GM Jim Hendry stated that it was a good move for the Cubs, the A’s and for Wuertz too. Hendry felt that with the new pitching acquisitions this off-season, Wuertz might not be able to compete for a spot on the opening day roster. By moving him to the A’s now, Hendry felt like Wuertz would have a better shot at staying at the major league level for the A’s instead of having to spend some of his baseball season at the minor league level.

The Cubs acquired minor league infielder Justin Sellers. Sellers is only 23 years old and he batted .255, with 6 home runs, 46 RBI’s and 10 stolen bases in 123 games at the Double-A level.

The Cubs also acquired minor league outfielder Richie Robnett. Robnett is only 25 years old and he played in 82 games at the Triple-A level before having to undergo season-ending surgery to remove a stomach tumor. He is a career .256 hitter at the minor league level.

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Super Bowl XLIII – Steelers Top Cardinals 27-23

Posted on 02 February 2009 by Lou

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Figured we all might be getting a little sick of reading about the Cubs moves to trade proven major league talent for minor league talent this off-season. So here’s a little something about Super Bowl XLIII.

The Steelers beat the Cardinals 23-20. After leading for most of the game, the Steelers choked away a 20-7 lead with 8 minutes left to go in the 4th quarter. The Cardinals took a 23-20 lead with 2:37 left in the game, following 2 touchdown passes from Kurt Warner to Larry Fitzgerald and a safety. But, in just under 2 minutes, Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led his team on an 8-play, 78 yard drive which culminated in a 6-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes. The game ended when Kurt Warner fumbled the football at midfield with 5 seconds left in regulation. The game ended 27-23.

Santonio Holmes was named the Most Valuable Player of the Super Bowl. Holmes caught 9 passes for 131 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Ben Roethlisberger also had a solid game and won his 2nd Super Bowl. He completed 21 of 30 passes for 256 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. He had a 93.2 passer rating. Another key Steelers play involved NFL Defensive Player of the Year – James Harrison. As time expired at the end of the 1st half, Harrison intercepted a Kurt Warner pass at the goal line and returned the ball 100 yards for a touchdown which gave the Steelers a 17-7 halftime edge.

Two Cardinals players excelled in defeat. Kurt Warner put forth another solid Super Bowl effort – 31 of 43 completions, 377 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception and 1 fumble – good for a 112.3 passer rating. Warner now holds the 3 best passing games in Super Bowl history – and he also holds the record for most total passing yards of any quarterback in Super Bowl history. Larry Fitzgerald also continued his hot post-season. Although the Steelers defense did keep Arizona off-balance for most of the game, Warner and Fitzgerald connected on 2 key 4th quarter touchdowns to put the Cardinals in position to win. Fitzgerald finished the game with 7 catches, 127 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns.

The win marked the 6th Super Bowl Championship for the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise – the most in NFL history.

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Cubs Continue To Make Moves – Sign Bako To 1-Year Deal

Posted on 01 February 2009 by Lou

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The Chicago Cubs finally found their back-up to starting catcher Geovany Soto. Paul Bako, who played for the Cubs during the 2003 and 2004 MLB season, will return to the north side of Chicago and make his presence known in the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field for a 2nd go-round. Bako signed a one-year deal that will pay him approximately $500,000. At the age of 36, Bako is more a defensive-minded catcher with a career fielding percentage of .990. The left-handed hitter hit only .217 for the Reds in 99 games during the 2008 MLB season.

Rich Hill, the frustrating 29-year old left-handed starter, may also be dealt soon. After a successful 2007 MLB season which saw him rack up 11 wins and a respectable 3.92 ERA in 32 starts, the wheels came off in 2008. Hill only started 5 games in 2008, walking 18 batters in 19 2/3 innings and was demoted to the minor leagues with a poor 4.12 ERA. After battling some back issues, Hill made 13 starts for the Cubs rookie-league team in Arizona, but was largely ineffective – 44 walks in 47 2/3 innings with a 5.85 ERA. Hill is now out of options and is not likely to make the Cubs roster coming out of spring training, so they will need to find something to do with him. The Orioles have expressed some interest in Hill, so there could be a deal on the horizon that will send Hill to the Orioles in the upcoming weeks.

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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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First Look at Cubs Revamped Infield

Posted on 29 January 2009 by Lou

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1st Base – Check – Derrek Lee.

3rd Base – Check – Aramis Ramirez.

Shortstop – Check – Ryan Theriot plus some new options to spell Theriot throughout the long MLB season.

2nd Base – ??? – Pencil in newly-acquired Aaron Miles and Mike Fontenot.

The Cubs are all set with Lee and Ramirez at the corners. With the departure of Mark DeRosa (traded to the Cleveland Indians) and Ronny Cedeno (traded) to the Seattle Mariners, the Cubs will have a whole new look in the middle of the infield. And while Theriot will clearly start and play the majority of the Cubs games at shortstop, instead of Cedeno spelling him from time to time, look for Manager Lou Pinella to throw a Miles/Fontenot middle infield at you every once in a while when a right-hander is on the bump. Pinella has already even hinted at throwing in Micah Hoffpauir at 1st base when a righty is on the hill – giving him 3 left-handed hitters in the lineup in the infield alone.

Pinella is thrilled to have more versatility from the left side of the plate in 2009. With Miles in the infield and Milton Bradley in the outfield, that will give Pinella the flexibility to mix things up more often than he was able to do in 2008.

Lee had a solid statistical year – .291 batting average, 20 home runs and 90 RBI’s – but he hit into too many inopportune double plays and he still hasn’t recovered the same “pop” in his bat that he displayed before his serious wrist injury during the 2006 MLB season (in 2005, Lee hit .335 with 46 home runs and 107 RBI’s). Pinella is hoping that with Hoffpauir on the everyday roster, the Cubs will be able to convince Lee to make more days off to keep him fresher during the long 2009 MLB season.

Ramirez is coming off of an impressive 2008 MLB season in which he hit .289, stroked 27 home runs and drove in 111 runs. He also hit a career-high 44 doubles and will look to anchor the middle of the lineup once again in 2009. There could be a little drop off with no Mark DeRosa behind him in the lineup, but the Cubs hope that Milton Bradley will slide nicely in that slot to keep teams honest and take some heat off Ramirez.

Theriot was Top 10 in batting average in the National League with a .307 average. Theriot had 58 multi-hit games (which ranked him 4th in the NL) and he led the NL with 154 singles. The one negative over the last 2 seasons has been his significant drop in average by the end of the year – he has a career .259 average over the last 30 days of the season. Pinella’s solution – more time off for Theriot during the course of the season – and having Miles in the mix will give Pinella the option to do that on a more regular basis.

Stay tuned for more “first looks” at the 2009 Cubs in upcoming weeks. As Spring Training approaches, it should be fun to talk lineups and the pitching roster as the games start to get played in February and March. Can’t believe we’re just 9 weeks away from opening day 2009 and 10 weeks away from the home opener at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field!

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Cubs GM Jim Hendry Not Done Making Moves – Trades for Aaron Heilman

Posted on 28 January 2009 by Lou

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One thing is certain – Cubs GM Jim Hendry is clearly willing to tweak his Spring Training roster to find the right players that “may” be able to take the Cubs to the next level in the 2009 post-season.

Two things are definitely uncertain – Will it work? Does Hendry have a consistent plan or is he flying off th cuff right now?

The Chicago Cubs traded utility infielder Ronny Cedeno and recently acquired pitcher Garrett Olson to the Seattle Mariners today for reliever Aaron Heilman. The Cubs had just acquired Olson from the Baltimore Orioles a few weeks ago in exchange for Felix Pie, and many thought the move was done in order to re-open discussions with the San Diego Padres for starter Jake Peavy (Padres GM Kevin Towers had indicated that Olson was a player highly touted by his organization). Similarly, the Mariners had just acquired Heilman in a deal that sent J.J. Putz to the New York Mets. Heilman was looking forward to competing for a starting rotation spot with the Mariners this Spring Training, but now his future is up in the air again with the deep Chicago Cubs pitching staff.

Heilman is an Indiana native who grew up a Cubs fan and who now lives in Chicago permanently during the off-season. After being informed of the trade, Heilman was quoted as saying “It’s a dream come true. I always rooted for the Cubs growing up, and now to be a part of that organization, it’s going to be pretty special for me.” The New York Mets drafted Heilman as a first round draft pick in 2001 and pitched for the Mets as a starter from 2003 through 2204. The Mets moved Heilman to the bullpen in 2005 and he has pitched there ever since. His best year as a reliever was 2007 when he made 81 appearances – the 5th most in the NL that year – and amassed a spectacular 3.03 ERA as a set-up man. He issued only 20 walks and gave up only 8 home runs in 86 innings that season. The 2008 MLB campaign, however, was a major disappointment. Heilman still pitched out of the bullpen, but his ERA rose to 5.21 and he issued 46 walks and gave up 10 home runs in 76 innings. Heilman expressed some frustration that the Mets did not want to use him as a starter, and the Mets made the move to trade Heilman as part of the deal that brought Putz to the Big Apple.

Heilman is a power pitcher, and if he can re-master his changeup that was so effective in 2007, the Cubs could use him as their 5th starter in 2009. He will have some competition with Sean Marshall and Jeff Samardzija, but he may have the edge over both players. Marshall is a lefty, and if he stayed in the bullpen, he would be a 2nd lefty for Manager Lou Pinella to call on along with Neal Cotts. Samardzija has only 3 months of major league experience under his belt. The Cubs have indicated that they will likely keep him in the bullpen until he can add another pitch or 2 to his repertoire in order to keep batters off-guard as a starter. Plus, the Cubs have experienced recent success with moving a reliever back into his original starting role – see Ryan Dempster during the 2008 MLB season who was the Cubs most consistent starting pitcher with a 17-6 record, over 200 innings pitched, 2.96 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 187 strikeouts.

Where will this all lead? Right now, it is all just a big mess – in a good way. The Cubs have a ton of pitching talent, and competition during Spring Training should be fierce. If Harden isn’t ready to go right away with his right shoulder issue, or if Harden spends time on the disabled list during the season, the depth will factor in the Cubs favor by being able to move a Marshall or a Heilman out of the bullpen into the starting rotation. Will the Cubs still attempt another shot at landing Peavy from the Padres. They would be foolish not to, but with today’s trade of Olson and Cedeno, it’s unclear who the Cubs will deal in order to make the trade happen this time around.

Stay tuned. If the last month is any indication, we are sure to see a few more moves up Hendry’s sleeve before the 2009 Cubs opening day roster is announced…

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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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Zambrano Eye Issues Require Corrective Surgery

Posted on 25 January 2009 by Lou

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There’s always something with Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano. This time around – a blurry right eye issue that bothered Big Z throughout the 2008 MLB season. Even with the eye issue, Carlos Zambrano won 14 games, struck out 130 batters and pitched a no hitter. He even hit .337 during the course of the Cubs 2008 MLB season and was on the Cubs best hitting pitchers all season long.

Zambrano has been bothered with eye issues for a while now. He does not like to wear glasses or put contact lenses into his eyes, so he struggled to work through the right eye issue without either. The issue started to get worse during the course of the season, and Zambrano recently met with an eye doctor who will perform LASIK surgery on Big Z at some point before the start of Spring Training.

Given his ability to throw the last few seasons, if corrective eye surgery can make Big Z even more effective, that will be a huge bonus for the Cubs and the starting rotation. Let’s hope the surgery goes smoothly and that Rich Harden’s shoulder woes reported here recently are dealt with in an appropriate manner. Go Cubs!

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