Tag Archive | "Geovany Soto"

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Cubs Agree to 1-Year Deals with 5 Players; Theriot, Marmol & Marshall Still to Come

Posted on 19 January 2010 by Lou

The Chicago Cubs have agreed to 1-year deals with 5 players – infielders Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker; catcher Koyie Hill; and pitchers Angel Guzman and Tom Gorzelanny.  Each player was in his first year of being arbitration eligible.

Fontenot signed a $1 million deal for 2010.  After a great 2008 in which he hit over .300, Fontenot came back down to earth in 2009, hitting just .236 in 135 games played.

Baker signed a $975,000 deal for 2010.  The Cubs acquired Baker from the Colorado Rockies in July and he hit over .300 in 69 games for the north siders.  Baker and Fontenot will be competing for the starting 2nd baseman job in Spring Training in Mesa, Arizona.  If neither stands out, Manager Lou Pinella could implement a platoon.

Catcher Koyie Hill signed a $700,000 deal to be the Cubs backup catcher behind Geovany Soto in 2010.  While Soto was injured in 2009, Hill made 26 consecutive starts from July 7th through August 5th.  Hill only batted .237 but he handled the pitching staff very well.

The Cubs acquired Tom Gorzelanny from the Pittsburgh Pirates in a deal that also brought over John Grabow.  The Cubs and Gorzelanny agreed upon an $800,000 deal for 2010.  Gorzelanny appeared in 13 games for the Cubs, going 4-2 with a 5.63 ERA.  Gorzelanny actually fared better in relief, holding opponents to just a .192 batting average during those 6 appearances.

Angel Guzman signed an $825,000 deal after arguably his best season as a Cubs reliever.  Guzman appeared in 55 games posting a 2.95 ERA (2.03 ERA at home at Wrigley Field).  He held opponents scoreless in 40 of his 55 appearances, including 34 of his last 42 games.  Assuming Guzman can stay healthy, he will play a pivotal role in the Cubs bullpen during the 2010 MLB schedule.

The final 3 Cubs players who are arbitration eligible will make a huge impact on the success of the 2010 squad.

Carlos Marmol will be the Cubs opening day closer.  Marmol made $575,000 in 2009 and he will become a free agent in 2013.  Marmol took over the closer’s role from Kevin Gregg at the end of the season and provided a stable force at the back end of the ‘pen.  Marmol ended up saving 15 games, while holding 27 games in 79 appearances.  His 65 walks in 74 innings, however, is still a major concern.

Ryan Theriot will be the Cubs opening day shortstop and will likely lead off for the Cubs.  Theriot made $500,000 in 2009.  Theriot hit .284 with a .343 on-base percentage in 154 games for the Cubs.  His games played, at-bats (602), triples (5), home runs (7) and RBI’s (54) were all career highs.

Sean Marshall will either be in the starting rotation on opening day or serve a vital role in the Cubs bullpen as a lefty reliever.  Marshall made $450,000 in 2009 and will be a free agent in 2013.  Marshall can start and come out of the bullpen, so his versatility is invaluable.

GM Hendry still has his work cut out for him.  Let’s hope he can ink smart deals with Marmol, Theriot and Marshall soon.

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Who Will Bat Leadoff for the Cubs During 2010 MLB Schedule?

Posted on 18 January 2010 by Lou

Who will bat leadoff for the Chicago Cubs during the 2010 MLB schedule – that is one of the many questions on Manager Lou Pinella’s mind heading into the 2010 campaign.  The 2 front-runners are shortstop Ryan Theriot and right fielder Kosuke Fukudome.  The 2 put up fairly similar numbers in 2009 when batting leadoff.

Theriot hit .283 with 18 walks and 49 hits, good for a .354 on-base percentage.

Fukudome hit .269 with 30 walks and 35 hits, good for a .404 on-base percentage.

Theriot was the only Cubs player to record double digits in stolen bases with 21.

The days of Alfonso Soriano are likely over.  Soriano hit .241 with a paltry .303 on-base percentage as his numbers continue to decline as his age increases.  Dealing with various injuries all season long, he is no longer a threat to steal bases (9 stolen bases in 2009) and he strikes out way too much (118 K’s with only 40 walks in 477 at-bats). Ouch – that is just bad.

I like Theriot in the lead-off spot.  He seems to be a more consistent hitter than Fukudome and less likely to go into long hitting droughts.  If your leadoff hitter gets into funk, it can set the tone for the whole lineup.  With Theriot leading off and Fukudome hitting second, Fukudome can bunt when he is struggling and even if he goes into one of his slumps, you would still have Theriot on base with sluggers Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez coming to bat (assuming Fukudome doesn’t hit into a double play).

Pinella projects his 2010 starting batting order as follows – Theriot, Fukudome, Lee, Ramirez, Marlon Byrd, Soriano, Geovany Soto and your 2nd baseman (either Jeff Baker or Mike Fontenot).

Good luck Cubs fans – it could be another long season for Cubs fans at Wrigley Field if Soto and Soriano don’t find their swings quickly in 2010…

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2010 Questions – Which Geovany Soto Will Appear @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 05 January 2010 by Lou

chicago cubs geovany soto1001

The Chicago Cubs have major question marks going into the 2010 MLB schedule.  One of the biggest is which Geovany Soto will Cubs fans see day in and day out in 2010?

Look at the drastic differences in numbers between 2008 and 2009:

2008 – 141 games, 494 at-bats, .285 batting average, .364 on-base percentage, 23 HR’s, 86 RBI’s 66 runs scored.  Soto was the starting Catcher for the National League in the 2008 All-Star Game and he was named the National League Rookie of the Year.

2009 – 102 games, 331 at-bats, .218 batting average, .321 on-base percentage, 11 HR’s, 47 RBI’s 27 runs scored.

The positive drug testing at the World Baseball Classic in March 2009 and being out-of-shape in spring training supposedly led to injuries that he could not overcome during the season.  Soto did lower his strike out numbers from 121 in 2008 to only 77 in 2009, but he has to show that he will be durable in 2009 if the Cubs can consider him a long-term solution behind the plate.

Word out of Puerto Rico is that Soto’s workouts are going great.  Hopefully Soto realized what a complete failure he was in 2009 and he will dedicate this off-season to returning to the upper echelon of catchers in the National League in 2010.  It will be nice to see Soto show up in solid shape in February in Arizona and have him be better prepared to lead this Cubs pitching staff through the long MLB season.  We’ll keep you posted if we hear anymore updates on Soto over the next few weeks…

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Cubs Sign Center Fielder Marlon Byrd

Posted on 31 December 2009 by Lou

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The Chicago Cubs signed Marlon Byrd to a 3-year deal worth $15 million.  Byrd will play center field at Wrigley Field for the Cubs in 2010 and will likely bat lead-off.  Byrd will make $3 million in 2010, $5.5 million in 2011 and $6.5 million in 2012.  Byrd had a phenomenal year for the Texas Rangers in 2009 – his 20 HR’s, 89 RBI’s and .479 slugging percentage were all career highs.  Byrd is a career .279 hitter with a career .340 on-base percentage.  The Cubs hired the Rangers’ hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo this off-season, so he will continue to work with Byrd as a Cub for the next 3 years.

Byrd is excited about the prospects of playing everyday in Chicago: “When I knew I had the opportunity to become a Cub, I was really hoping this would be my landing ground.”

GM Jim Hendry had this to say about Byrd: “We knew he was a good guy.  He plays very hard and fans are going to like that.  He comes to play every day, doesn’t want days off and gives you 110%.  When Rudy told us about the other things he brought to the table, it enhances his reputation even further.”  Sense any little digs at Hendry’s big free agent signing last year – Milton Bradley?

I love this deal and I hate it at the same time.

It always seems like the Cubs sign these 32-34 year olds coming off their career years.  Then when they get to Chicago, they’ve lost a step or 2 and play mediocre ball for the last 3 years of their baseball careers.

Then again, Byrd played 146 games last year and is durable.  Having Byrd as your lead-off hitter would enable Ryan Theriot to hit 2nd in the lineup.  Or you could flip-flop the 2.  Then you follow that up with Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, Geovany Soto and Jeff Baker/Mike Fontenot, and you have a decent lineup.  Assuming a healthy Ramirez and a Soriano and Soto who were not as bad as they were in 2009, and things can only get better.

Guess we’ll have to wait and see.  Happy New Years!

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Randy Wells Looking to Build on Strong Rookie Campaign

Posted on 18 November 2009 by Lou

Cubs Giants Baseball

What a year for rookie starting pitcher Randy Wells.  Wells was the biggest surprise for the Cubs during a miserable, disappointing 2009 MLB schedule.  Wells tied Ted Lilly for the club lead in wins with 12 victories and he led the team with a sparkling 3.05 ERA – 10th best in the National League.  18 of his 27 starts were quality starts and his 1.28 WHIP was stellar in a season in which he logged 165 1/3 innings pitched.  He had 104 strikeouts with just 46 walks and seemed to pitch with the poise and confidence of a veteran who had been in the league for 5 or 6 years.  His efforts were rewarded as he finished in 6th place in the race for National League Rookie of the Year – an award his teammate Geovany Soto won in 2008.

So how will Wells fit into the Cubs picture for 2010?  Right now, Wells will start the season as the Cubs 4th starter behind Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly.  Wells has already indicated that he won’t go too crazy this off-season with a different workout regimen or anything.  Right now, Wells is focused on golfing a little bit, resting up and gearing up for the 2010 MLB season: “I’ll take some time off and do things a little differently this year.  I’ll start playing light catch through the offseason.  Nothing extravagant or anything.  I’ll do my weights and keep my range of motion.  I’ll start thinking about it pretty early.  I probably won’t get cranked up until mid January.  By January 1, I’ll start throwing.”

Wells has gotta be a little tired after pitching a full season for the Cubs in 2009.  He seemed to stay fairly strong and consistent down the stretch and his control was never really an issue – a great asset for a young pitcher.  Let’s just hope Wells stays healthy and focused during the off-season and comes ready to pitch on a full-time basis right off the bat in 2010.  Another good year from Wells could help the Cubs make a push to regain the NL Central Division crown from the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2010 MLB schedule…

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Randy Wells Finishes 6th in National League Rookie of the Year Voting

Posted on 16 November 2009 by Lou

Cubs Reds Baseball

Randy Wells finished 6th in the National League Rookie of the Year voting, denying the Cubs a winner for the 2nd season in a row (Geovany Soto was an easy winner in 2008).  Wells was a major surprise for the Cubs starting rotation in 2009 – one of the few brights spots during an otherwise disappointing 2009.  Wells made 27 starts, going 12-10 in 165 1/3 innings pitched.  He showed signs of tiredness towards the end of the season, but still finished with a stellar 3.05 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.  He had 104 strikeouts and 46 walks.

Wells finished with only 3 points, well behind the Marlins’ Chris Coghlan (105 points) and the Phillies’ J.A. Happ (94 points). Tommy Hanson of the Braves finished with 37 points, while former Cubs standout Casey McGahee finished in 5th place with 18 points.  Despite the low points total, Wells made the most starts of any rookie pitcher and he was second in wins and innings pitched.  Manager Lou Pinella had this to say about Wells: “He took hold and pitched exceedingly well, and he’s been very consistent the whole summer.  The good thing about it is he’s gotten the chance to pitch all the way through September.  Next year, you’ve got a starter who’s pitched that extra month.  We look forward to Randybeing in our rotation next year.”  Let’s just hope all the work this year hasn’t tired him out too much, setting him up for a “sophomore slump”.  Going into a 2009 off-season where the Cubs and GM Jim Hendry won’t have too much flexibility to make a big splash in free agency, the Cubs are going to need everybody to play at the top of their game in 2010…

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Infield Report Card – Jeff Baker – B+

Posted on 14 November 2009 by Lou

Cubs Giants Baseball

Let’s take a look at our infield – at least this was a little more tolerable than the atrocious Cubs outfield.  The trio of Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez is solid, but when Ramirez went down for 2 months with a dislocated shoulder, the Cubs offensive weaknesses were clearly exposed.  The 2nd base position was a position in flux – Mike Fontenot showed he probably isn’t an everyday player, while newcomer Jeff Baker showed that he could be a viable option for the future…

Jeff Baker – 2nd Base

2009 Report Card Grade – B+.  Baker was a pleasant surprise for the Cubs in 2009.  In a disappointing season, Baker didn’t let the negative outlook/clubhouse affect his play.  He split time with Mike Fontenot at 2nd base, but came into favor with Manager Lou Pinella as Fontenot struggled through the long MLB season.  Baker performed at a high level both at the plate and in the field, and he also showed his versatility by being able to play 3rd base as well, giving the team an extra weapon to give another infielder a little extra rest from time to time (like Aramis Ramirez).  Baker could be a fixture at the Cubs 2nd base position for years to come.

2009 stats – 69 games; 203 at-bats; .305 batting average; .362 on-base percentage; 4 HR’s, 21 RBI’s; 27 runs scored; 46 K’s; 17 walks.

2008 stats (with Colorado Rockies) – 104 games; 299 at-bats; .268 batting average; .322 on-base percentage; 12 HR’s, 48 RBI’s; 55 runs scored; 85 K’s; 26 walks.

Baker came over from the Rockies in early July 2009 and he put forth a solid effort in a Cubs uniform for the rest of the season.  The entire Cubs offense struggled in 2009 (except for Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot, Aramis Ramirez (when he played), but Baker didn’t seem to let that affect him.  You have to like his good on-base percentage number and the fact the he puts the ball in play.  He averaged just about 3 at-bats a game, however, so we would need to see more from Baker to make sure that he can handle the everyday 2nd base job.  I’m definitely a little gun shy with the Cubs 2nd baseman, especially after Mike Fontenot clearly showed that he couldn’t handle playing everyday after succeeding so well in 2008 in a limited role.

The good thing is that Baker also excelled in the field,  even when he played 3rd base to give the injured Aramis Ramirez an extra day off here and there.  In 49 games at 2nd base – his natural position – Baker recorded a solid .995 fielding percentage, committing just 1 error in 220 total chances.  In 17 games at 3rd base – Baker recorded a respectable .960 fielding percentage, committing 1 error in 25 total chances.

Baker is eligible for arbitration in 2010.  GM Jim Hendry does not like to go to arbitration with his players, so if the Cubs want Baker back, we would likely see some deal signed before the arbitration process kicks in.  Mike Fontenot – the Cubs other in-house option at 2nd base – is also arbitration-eligible.  The Cubs could try to sign both Baker and Fontenot to 1-year deals and then let them battle it out in Spring Training.  That way the Cubs wouldn’t have to commit anything long-term to either player, and if neither player excels in 2010 to warrant a longer-term deal, then the Cubs could look elsewhere for the 2011 MLB season.

Things can’t get too much worse than they were for the Cubs offense in 2009, so let’s hope we see a bit of a resurgence during the 2010 MLB schedule that helps take a little heat off the Cubs starting rotation and bullpen.  Baker seemed to endear himself to Cubs fans at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field during his 2009 stint, so if he is back in 2010, I hope he gets off to a great start in 2010 to keep him in good favor with the north side of Chicago…

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Infield Report Card – Mike Fontenot – C

Posted on 13 November 2009 by Lou

Brewers Cubs Baseball

Let’s take a look at our infield – at least this was a little more tolerable than the atrocious Cubs outfield.  The trio of Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez is solid, but when Ramirez went down for 2 months with a dislocated shoulder, the Cubs offensive weaknesses were clearly exposed.  The 2nd base position was a position in flux – Mike Fontenot showed he probably isn’t an everyday player, while newcomer Jeff Baker showed that he could be a viable option for the future…

Mike Fontenot – 2nd Base

2009 Report Card Grade – C.  This is kind of a tough one.  I really like Mike Fontenot and he tries harder than just about everyone on the team.  That being said, he failed to show that he could handle the everyday 2nd baseman job and it is unclear where Fontenot fits into the Cubs organization in the future.

2009 stats – 135 games; 377 at-bats; .236 batting average; .301 on-base percentage; 9 HR’s, 43 RBI’s; 38 runs scored; 83 K’s; 35 walks.

2008 stats – 119 games; 243 at-bats; .305 batting average; .395 on-base percentage; 9 HR’s, 40 RBI’s; 42 runs scored; 51 K’s; 34 walks.

The entire Cubs offense struggled in 2009 (except for Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez (when he played), so it’s not surprising that Fontenot struggled as well.  The huge rise in strikeouts and the steady walks rate despite more at-bats, led to the corresponding decrease in Fontenot’s on-base percentage (just .301).  That cannot be the case for a contact hitter like Fontenot.  Sure, he may have been facing more adverse hitting situations without runners on base (unlike in 2008), but you have to rise to the occasion, and Fontenot didn’t respond in 2009.  His hitting weaknesses were exposed as an everyday player and that led to some pretty poor numbers for Fontenot.

On the other hand, Fontenot did not let his offensive woes affect his play on the field, even when he played 3rd base to fill in for the injured Aramis Ramirez.  In 70 games at 2nd base – his natural position – Fontenot recorded a solid .989 fielding percentage, committing just 3 errors in 264 total chances..  In 50 games at 3rd base – Fontenot recorded a respectable .963 fielding percentage, committing just 4 errors in 107 total chances.  Given the fact that the team was in shambles for most of the season, you have to give Fontenot credit for staying focused and playing well in the field.

Fontenot is eligible for arbitration in 2010.  Given his poor showing in 2009, one would think that the Cubs and Fontenot could work out a 1-year deal that is acceptable to both sides.  GM Jim Hendry does not like to go to arbitration with his players, so if the Cubs want Fontenot back, we would likely see some deal signed before the arbitration process kicks in.  Jeff Baker – the Cubs other in-house option at 2nd base – is also arbitration-eligible.  The Cubs could try to sign both Fontenot and Baker to 1-year deals and then let them battle it out in Spring Training.  That way the Cubs wouldn’t have to commit anything long-term to either player, and if neither player excels in 2010 to warrant a longer-term deal, then the Cubs could look elsewhere for the 2011 MLB season.

With a healthy Aramis Ramirez back in the middle of the lineup, I hope there will be a trickle down affect that will help guys like Fontenot, Geovany Soto and Alfonso Soriano play better in 2010.  Things can’t get too much worse than they were for the Cubs offense in 2009, so let’s hope we see a bit of a resurgence during the 2010 MLB schedule that helps take a little heat off the Cubs starting rotation and bullpen.  Fontenot is a fan favorite at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field, so if he is back in 2010, I hope he gets off to a great start in 2010 to keep him in good favor with the north side of Chicago…

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Infield Report Card – Aramis Ramirez – B+

Posted on 12 November 2009 by Lou

Cubs Nationals Baseball

Let’s take a look at our infield – at least this was a little more tolerable than the atrocious Cubs outfield.  The trio of Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez is solid, but when Ramirez went down for 2 months with a dislocated shoulder and when no 2nd baseman stood out from among the pack, the Cubs offensive weaknesses were clearly exposed…

Aramis Ramirez – 3rd Base

2009 Report Card Grade – B+.  This is kind of a tough one.  His numbers were solid as usual, but with only 3+ months to grade, it is tough to really analyze Ramirez based upon a full season.  Ramirez did not get the surgery he needed during the season, so he probably was not 100% healthy at any point after he dislocated his shoulder back on May 8th.  On the other hand, when he did play, he produced, so he has to be commended for his dedication and commitment, even when it was pretty obvious that the season was a lost cause by the middle of August.

2009 stats – 82 games; 306 at-bats; .317 batting average; .389 on-base percentage; 15 HR’s, 65 RBI’s; 46 runs scored; 43 K’s; 28 walks.

2008 stats – 149 games; 554 at-bats; .289 batting average; .380 on-base percentage; 27 HR’s, 111 RBI’s; 97 runs scored; 94 K’s; 74 walks.

If you process his “half-season” numbers out over a full year, you’d be loving life.  30 HR’s, 120+ RBI’s, 90 runs scored, high batting averages and on-base percentages, plus a strikeout number under 100 which is surprising for a power hitter.  In fact, in Ramirez’s 7 season with the Cubs, he has never struck out more than 94 times.  Pretty damn good.  At the age of 31, Ramirez still has a lot of good years left in him.  When healthy, Ramirez is the Cubs’ best hitter, even better than Derrek Lee.  Ramirez makes opposing pitchers respect everyone else in the lineup – he produces for the club even when he draws a walk or makes pitchers throw a lot of pitches to get his pitch counts up.  The Cubs clearly suffered from Ramirez’s 2-month absence in 2009.  The Cubs led the league in runs scored in 2008 and those numbers severely dwindled in 2009.  Sure, several other key players were either bad (Milton Bradley, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, Mike Fontenot) or had been traded (Mark DeRosa), but I really feel like Ramirez is the pulse of the Cubs offensive unit. So Aramis goes, so the Cubs go.

Ramirez should be healthy and ready to go for the 2010 MLB schedule.  With a healthy Aramis back in the mix, I have a good feeling that the Cubs offense will start to click again.  Theriot is solid at the top of the lineup, Kosuke Fukudome showed a greater comfort level in 2009 than he did in 2008, and if the Cubs can find a good replacement for Milton Bradley (someone that actually tries every day), the lineup should be able to produce at an acceptable level – maybe not as good as 2008, but definitely better than 2009.  Soto and Soriano can’t be any worse than they were in 2009, so there should be a lot to cheer for in 2010 with the Cubs.

Ramirez is a fan favorite at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.  Ramirez has 2 more years left on the 5-year, $75 million deal that he signed back in 2007.  The Cubs and Ramirez also have a mutual option for the 2012 MLB season, so hopefully the 2 sides can figure out a way to keep him in a Cubs uniform for at least another 4 years with some sort of 2-year or 3-year extension.  Health and consistency will be 2 keys for Ramirez in 2010, so let’s hope his off-season regimen gets him strong and ready for 2010.  That will make him a very popular man on the north side of Chicago…

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Koyie Hill – 2009 Report Card – B+

Posted on 24 October 2009 by Lou

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With a look at our 2nd catcher, here is our report on Koyie Hill.

2009 Stats – .237 batting average; .312 on-base percentage; 2 HR’s; 24 RBI’s; 26 runs scored; 27 walks; 78 K’s in 253 at-bats.

2008 Stats – N/A only 21 at-bats.

Grade: B+.  Overall, a solid effort from Hill even though a quick glance at his numbers might not indicate that. Hill filled in admirably for Geovany Soto who endured 2 stints on the DL in 2009.  Hill even set a club record by catching in 25 straight games for the Cubs – from July 7th through August 5th – until Soto could return to the Cubs lineup.  Hill was not a major force at the plate, but he did work well with each of the Cubs’ starting pitchers.  Hill calls a good game, he is good defensively and he is a workhouse, so he has a lot to offer a club as a back-up catcher.  Hill caught the Cubs through their best stretch of ball after the All-Star Break – when the Cubs won 14 of 19 games from July 16th through August 4th to stay right with the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.  After that – we all know what happened, but at least Hill was a bright spot for an otherwise disappointing 2009 club.  Hill will serve the Cubs well as a back-up catcher in 2010, but if they have to really on him the way they did in 2009, that will likely mean bad things for the Cubs.

GM Jim Hendry, Manager Lou Pinella and Cubs fans are looking forward to continued success for Koyie Hill in a Cubs uniform at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field in April 2010 – we do too…

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