Tag Archive | "Jeff Baker"

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Darwin Barney Cubs Starter at 2nd Base in Home Opener – Wrigley Field 3/31/11

Posted on 31 March 2011 by Lou

Manager Mike Quade announced that Darwin Barney will be the Cubs starting 2nd baseman for the 2011 club on Friday.  Barney will be the first rookie to start on Opening Day since Kosuke Fukudome started in right for the Cubs as a 30-year old rookie back in 2008.  Barney compiled a solid .340 batting average in 21 spring training games.  Jeff Baker put up a good fight with Barney, hitting .360 in 19 Cactus League games, but Quade opted to go with the rookie right off the bat.  Barney is excited to make the start – “No butterflies yet, but I’m excited.  It’s a great opportunity, but there’s one thing on my mind, and that’s trying to win the ballgame.  And I think that’s what this whole team is looking to do.  We’re looking to get off to a good start.”

Blake DeWitt, who was considered the front runner heading into spring training this February for the starting 2nd base job, had a rough spring.  DeWitt hit only .186 in 21 spring games as he continues to work through the mechanics of a new swing with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo.  That being said, Quade also indicated that the left-handed hitting DeWitt will likely start at 2nd base against a right-handed pitcher early on this season – probably in the 1st week.

This is a surprising outcome, but if you go with performance, Barney clearly had the bet showing in spring training this year.  It is also great to see that Quade has control over the team and can make his own decisions without having to worry about GM Jim Hendry trying to influence things too much.  Naming Ryan Dempster the Cubs’ opening day starter instead of Carlos Zambrano is another example of Quade making his own decisions and doing whatever it takes to give his club the best chance to win each day.  I like his attitude and make–up so far.  Now we’ll have to see if it translates consistently into W’s this season…

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Big Z Solid Again in Cubs 4-3 Win Over Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday — Wrigley Field West Mesa Arizona 3/13/11

Posted on 14 March 2011 by Lou

Carlos Zambrano continued his spring dominance with a nifty 5 inning effort in a Cubs 4-3 win over the Dodgers on Sunday.  Big Z scattered 6 hits and let up just 1 ER.  He walked one, struck out 3 and lowered his ERA to 1.38 in the process.  Manager Mike Quade and the Cubs have to be thrilled with Zambrano’s consistency and composure this spring.

On the offensive side of the ball, Starlin Castro keeps raking – he had 3 more hits and is now hitting .485 for the spring.  Jeff Baker also had 3 hits and is looking like a great option for Quade in a platoon with Blake DeWitt at 2nd base this season.

With the win, the Cubs inched a little bit closer to the .500 mark at 8-10 on the spring.

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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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Blake DeWitt – Potential Lead-Off Man? – Wrigley Field 2/18/11

Posted on 18 February 2011 by Lou

Blake DeWitt is the clear favorite to win the 2nd base job coming out of spring training 2011.  The bigger question is whether DeWitt will show enough to warrant consideration for the lead-off spot as well. In 53 games for the Cubs after a mid-season trade in 2010, DeWitt hit .250 with a .314 on-base percentage.  His career numbers are a little bit better – .259 and .335.  DeWitt re-worked his swing this winter, working with Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo on his heralded hitting system.  The system involves a 5-point program that focuses on 5 elements of body positioning and thinking about how you apprach each at-bat.  DeWitt is getting the hang of it and is excited for live game action – “His system is something I enjoy.  I’ve been able to implement that, and it’s really not that complicated if you stick with it.”  DeWitt is only 25 years old so he still has a lot of upside potential.

While DeWitt could hit lead-off, he will likely hit down in the order – 7 or 8.  He may also spend time on the bench against left-handed pitchers according to Manager Mike Quade.  Quade likes to play the match-ups and Jeff Baker is a solid platoon option.  Baker hit .350 against lefties in 2010 and had good overall numbers in 79 games – .272 batting average and .326 on-base percentage.  While we might see Baker or DeWitt at the top of the order from time to time, Quade has hinted that he will likely go with right fielder Kosuke Fukudome to lead-off against righties.  With a lefty on the bump, Quade hasn’t tipped his hand yet, but we could see Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano or Baker there depending on the pitcher.

Players reported to Cubs camp today, so we’ll keep you posted as things progress…

DeWitt will likely spend

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Cubs, Jeff Baker Agree on 1-Year Deal — Wrigley Field 12/2/10

Posted on 02 December 2010 by Lou

The Chicago Cubs and infielder Jeff Baker have agreed upon a 1-year, $1.175 million deal that will keep Baker on the north side during the 2011 MLB schedule.  Baker played in 79 games for the Cubs in 2010, hitting .272 with a .326 on-base percentage.  He played 1st base, 2nd base and 3rd base in the infield and also right field during the course of the season.  Baker is a solid reserve infielder for the Cubs and is a good presence on the bench and in the locker room.

The Cubs also tendered contracts to the following players – Closer Carlos Marmol, left-handed pitchers Sean Marshall and Tom Gorzelanny and catchers Geovany Soto and Koyie Hill.

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Zambrano Sharp Again; Cubs Offense Explodes – Cubs 14, Pirates 2 – 8/30/10 Wrigley Field

Posted on 31 August 2010 by Lou

Carlos Zambrano is making it tough off the Cubs management with another “good” start in the Cubs 14-2 win over the Pirates on Monday night at Wrigley Field.  The Cubs handed interim manager Mike Quade his 1st managerial win at the Friendly Confines in an easy win.

Zambrano gave up just 1 unearned run in 5 1/3 innings as he evened his record at 6-6.  He scattered 4 hits and 4 walks while striking out 7 Pirates hitters.  While he hasn’t had the best control since returning to the rotation in early August, Zambrano has has not allowed more than 2 ER in any of his 5 starts.  In his last 3 starts, he has allowed just a total of 2 ER.  Zambrano is still owed $39 million over the next 2 years, so the Cubs have a major decision with what to do with the big righty.  If the Cubs can find a taker for Big Z without having to eat a major chunk of the remaining money owed to him, I would think that the Cubs would move him without thinking twice about it.  But if a team willing to take Zambrano would want the Cubs to pay a large chunk of that $39 million, the Cubs should pass on it.  Assuming Zambrano keeps his act together for the rest of this season and assuming he shows that he is willing to work hard in the off-season, it would be better for the Cubs to take their chances with the big righty.  He can still be effective as a starter as he has shown the last 5 starts and would fit in nicely in the middle of the rotation assuming the Cubs can bring in a bigger name free agent pitcher this off-season.

The Cubs offense exploded in the win:

Aramis Ramirez led the way with 2 hits and 4 RBI’s.

Starlin Castro had 3 hits and 3 runs scored and his .313 batting average now puts him 5th in the National League for the batting crown.

Jeff Baker in the lead-off spot again against the lefty Paul Maholm notched 2 hits, driving in 2 runs and scoring twice.

Marlon Byrd did the same – 2 hits, 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.

Xavier Nady and Koyie Hill each had 2 hits, while Carlos Zambrano hit a 2-run home run in the 5th inning.

18 hits, 14 runs scored – one of the bets nights all season long for the Cubs.

Cubs fielding, however, continued to be an issue.  Errors by Darwin Barney and Alfonso Soriano led to unearned runs scoring in the 6th and 8th innings.  In a closer game, those errors could have come back to haunt the Cubs.

In a pre-game ceremony, the Cubs honored Andre Dawson for his 2010 induction into the Hall of Fame.  Dawson spent 6 seasons on the north side of Chicago and he won the NL MVP Award with the Cubs back in 1987.  Dawson was excited to share the special night with his favorite Cubs fans — “You are the greatest fans ever.  Without you I wouldn’t be standing here tonight.”

Ryan Dempster looks to make it 2 in a row for the Cubs over Jeff Karstens and the Pirates.  Dempster has had a great August — 4-0 with a 1.31 ERA in 5 starts — and he has 12 wins with a 3.42 ERA overall.

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Too Little, too Late as Cubs Drop Frustrating Opener 7-6 to Angels at Wrigley Field

Posted on 18 June 2010 by Lou

It was another frustrating loss for the Cubs at Wrigley today – 7-6 to the Angels.  After winning 2 straight games over the A’s, the Cubs hoped to keep the momentum going against another AL West team.  But it wasn’t meant to be as Scott Kazmir shut the Cubs down through 6 innings, allowing just 2 ER on 5 hits and 3 walks.  The Cubs had their chances as they do in just about every game, but they could never come through with the big hit to break open an inning.  The Cubs defense also failed their relief pitchers in the 7th and 8th innings.  Jeff Baker’s 2 errors set up all 3 unearned runs off of Bob Howry in the 7th inning.  That turned a 3-2 Angels lead into a 6-2 Angels lead.  Then Derrek Lee’s throwing error in the 8th inning allowed Torri Hunter to score all the way from 2nd base to give the Angels a 7-2 lead.  Not good at all.

The Cubs made it interesting in the 9th inning.  Despite the 5-run deficit, Ryan Theriot and Chad Tracy coaxed walks to set up Tyler Colvin’s 3-run bomb out onto Sheffield.  Francisco Rodney retired the next 2 batters, but Derrek Lee stroked his 2nd home run of the game to deep left field to cut the Angels lead to 7-6.  But Rodney was able to get Geovany Soto out on a ground ball to 3rd base and the Cubs had lost at the Friendly Confines again.

Carlos Silva pitched so-so but came out of the game because of an undisclosed injury.  Silva allowed 3 ER on 6 hits over 6 innings of work.  He did not walk a batter and struck out 4 Angels’ hitters.  Silva has now dropped 2 in a row after winning his 1st 8 decisions as a Cub.

Ted Lilly looks to get the Cubs back in the win column Saturday afternoon against Jered Weaver.  Lilly has pitched very well all season long – 2.90 ERA and 1.00 WHIP – but he has been a tough-luck started getting very little run support.  He finally got his 2nd win of the season last Sunday against the White Sox, ending a 5-game losing streak.  He tossed 8 no-hit innings before getting removed in the top of the 9th inning after giving up a lead-off single to Juan Pierre.  Lilly hopes to throw a few more no-hit innings on Saturday against the Angels…

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2nd Base – Baker or Fontenot or a Castro/Theriot SS/2B Combo?

Posted on 09 February 2010 by Lou

The 2nd base job is the only real position up for debate for Manager Lou Pinella and his staff to decide in Spring Training in Mesa, Arizona during the next 2 months.  How will it turn out?

Right now, Pinella and the staff are probably leaning towards some sort of combination of Jeff Baker and Mike Fontenot at 2nd base.  Fontenot showed that he really couldn’t handle the load of being the full-time 2nd baseman in 2009 (.236 batting average in 377 at-bats).  Baker played the 2nd half of the season and performed at a high level for the Cubs (.305 batting average in 203 at-bats).  But Pinella and the Cubs could be a little gun-shy of anointing Baker the everyday player considering how bad Fontenot was exposed as an every day player.  Baker is right-handed and Fontenot is left-handed, so assuming that neither player outshines the other significantly in spring training, the easy solution is to platoon the 2 players.  I have a feeling that’s how things will start in 2010, with Pinella favoring one of the other after a month or 2 of the season.

One alternative could be an entirely different 2nd base/shortstop combination.  If minor league sensation Starlin Castro really shines during Spring Training, and if Pinella and the staff believe that the 20-year old is ready to play in the big leagues, you could see a Ryan Theriot / Castro combination.  Theriot can play 2nd base and Castro is a solid shortstop, so it would be an interesting move for the Cubs to make coming out of Spring Training.  My bet is that the Cubs continue to let Castro develop in the minor leagues for one more season.  As the season progresses, if Castro continues to excel at Double-A and Triple-A, you could see the Cubs bring him up mid-season or in September once major league rosters expand. Castro is clearly the shortstop of the future, so fans at Wrigley Field are chomping at the bit to get a glimpse of the youngster in the very near future.

Stay tuned – this should be a really fun position to watch, especially if Castro really shines in Spring Training.  That could make things really tough on GM Jim Henry and Pinella…

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Jeff Baker Looking Forward to 2nd Base Battle with Mike Fontenot

Posted on 24 January 2010 by Lou

Jeff Baker is looking forward to having a legitimate shot at winning the starting 2nd base job for the Chicago Cubs during the 2010 MLB schedule.  The Cubs acquired Baker from the Colorado Rockies in early July 2009 and he performed well for the Cubs in the 2nd half of the season.  In August, Baker excelled with a .359 batting average in 64 at-bats.  He followed that up with a .295 batting average in September.  Overall, Baker played in 69 games for the Cubs, hitting .305 in 203 at-bats.  Baker had a .362 on-base percentage with 4 HR’s, 15 doubles and 21 RBI’s.

Contrast that with Mike Fontenot who had a horrible year in 2009 – .236 batting average, .301 on-base percentage, 9 HR’s, 43 RBI’s in 377 at-bats in 135 games – and you could see a hard-fought battle in Spring Training next month.  Fontenot had hit .305 with a .395 on-base percentage in 2008 and he had earned the starting 2nd base job to start off the season.

For Baker, this is a step in the right direction.  Baker also sat 2nd fiddle to Rockies 3rd baseman Garrett Atkins in Colorado.  Although he tried to break through by learning to play 2nd base and the outfield, he never saw enough action in Denver.  Baker is excited about the opportunity that has presented itself with the Cubs and he has a positive attitude about the competition with Fontenot: “The bottom line is it’s about the team winning. Guys who you’re competing with for the same spot, you’re still good friends and the competition doesn’t change anything.  As long as Mike and I have the same mindset that it’s about what’s best for the team and about what’s best for the team that day, I don’t think anything will change.  We’re both professional players and we both want to win.”

Baker also cherishes the idea of earning a starting spot at the major league level: “Coming over here was a fresh start and an opportunity for me.  The one thing I’ve noticed about the Cubs is if you play well, you’ll get the opportunity to play.  I’m going to try to take advantage of it and I’m going to go out there and go 100 percent.  It’s not going to be from a lack of effort or lack of preparation… I always prepare like I’m going to be a starter.  I believe I can play every day in the big leagues and I can be productive and help a team win… The opportunity to start doesn’t come along too often.  I’ve been fighting for one my whole career…it’s something I’m going to try to gran hold of tight and not let go.”

Gotta love his preparation and his attitude.  I’d love to see Baker win the starting job.  I never thought Fontenot was built to be an everyday player and his numbers last year proved that.  Now I don’t know Baker well enough to project whether he will be able to handle the everyday load either, but I hope he beats out Fontenot this spring and at least gets a chance to show his stuff.  Fontenot is solid off the bench and if he can get back in that role where he gets between 250-300 at-bats during the course of a season, I think his production will also improve.  Let’s just hope they both stay healthy and can compete on even ground in Spring Training 2010…

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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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