Tag Archive | "Lou Pinella"

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Carlos Zambrano Likely Opening Day Starter in Atlanta

Posted on 25 February 2010 by Lou

Carlos Zambrano will likely be the Cubs opening day starter against the Braves in Atlanta on Monday April 5th.  Zambrano has made 5 straight opening day starts for the Cubs, but he picked up his 1st win only last year against the Astros in Houston.  Big Z gave up just 1 run and 5 hits in 6 solid innings in the start last season.  Manager Lou Pinella had this to say about the decision: “We haven’t even gone there yet… I’ve been here three years and Zambrano has been the Opening Day starter every year.  I don’t anticipate any difference there.”

It’s unclear who will start the Cubs home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field on Monday April 12th.  If the Cubs let Big Z and Ryan Dempster start on their regular 5 days’ rest after their 1st start, the starter would likely be the winner of the 4th starter’s role coming out of Spring Training.  If the Cubs use 5 starters right out of the gate, then Dempster would likely start the Cubs home opener at the Friendly Confines.

Let’s hope Big Z can get off to a good start this season.  He showed up in camp in great shape and will likely face one of the best young pitchers in the game today – Tommy Hanson – in the opener.  Should be a fun way to test their mettle and see how they shape up against one of the better teams in the National League in 2010.

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Cubs Headed to Arbitration Hearing with Ryan Theriot – More Hednry Shenanigans

Posted on 17 February 2010 by Lou

It looks like the Chicago Cubs and Ryan Theriot will go through with an arbitration hearing at some point this weekend.  GM Jim Hendry is headed to St. Petersburg, Florida where it is likely that the 2 sides will have to argue the arbitration case for Theriot’s 2010 salary.  It would be the 1st time that Hendry has had to go to arbitration with a player during his tenure as the Cubs GM.

This seems so ridiculous to me.  After all the millions of dollars that Hendry was willing to shell out to busts like Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome and Milton Bradley, why is he now fighting for a measly $800,000 (Theriot wants $3.4 million and the Cubs have offered $2.6 million)?  It doesn’t make any sense.  The guy plays every day, he hustles everyday and he is actually productive – one of the few position players that you can say that about.  This sends a really bad message from the Cubs and Hendry to other players.  I can’t believe someone hasn’t stepped in (Tom Ricketts are you there?) and told Hendry to pay Theriot (his shortstop and Manager Lou Pinella’s lead-off hitter) his money.

I really hope Theriot wins the arbitration case – he deserves it!  I can’t wait to hear Cubs fans cheer Theriot on Opening Day at Wrigley Field on April 12th against the Milwaukee Brewers…

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Spring Training is Right Around the Corner

Posted on 13 February 2010 by Lou

Spring Training is right around the corner as pitchers and catchers report to the Cubs Mesa, Arizona facility next week.  Despite a 3rd straight winning season for Manager Lou Pinella and his Cubs, the team did not qualify for post-season play in 2009.  That left a bitter taste in their mouths, especially since the team was swept out of the 1st round of the playoffs the previous 2 seasons.

But a new season brings new hopes.  And Cubs fans all across the country believe that this could be the year!  Ha ha ha!  Well I guess anything is possible, but it is going to take a lot for this team to rebound and play at a high level all season long to keep pace with the Central Division favorites – the hated St. Louis Cardinals.  The Cardinals have 2 elite pitchers – Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright – to go with 2 of the game’s best sluggers – Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday – so the Cards are not going to lose a lot of games.

That means the Cubs are going to need to stay healthy and play together as a team if they are going to regain that 2008 winning form, which saw the team win 95 games and finish with the best record in the National League.

We’ll be touching on a lot of these subjects over the next few weeks of Spring Training and will keep you posted with any injury updates, etc.  To wet your appetite a little bit, feast your eyes on the Cubs projected opening day lineup for MLB baseball at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.  Although they will start the season away from Wrigley, I can’t wait for opening day to get here – it can’t come soon enough…

SS Ryan Theriot; RF Kosuke Fukudome; 1B Derrek Lee; 3B Aramis Ramirez; CF Marlon Byrd; LF Alfonso Soriano; C Geovany Soto; and 2B Mike Fontenot/Jeff Baker.

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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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Cubs Avoid Arbitration with Closer Carlos Marmol

Posted on 04 February 2010 by Lou

The Chicago Cubs and Closer Carlos Marmol have agreed upon a 1-year, $2.125 million deal for the 2010 MLB schedule.  The signing keeps intact GM Jim Hendry’s record of never going to arbitration with a player during his tenure as the club’s general manager.  Marmol made $575,000 in 2009 and had asked for $2.5 million (the Cubs had countered with $1.75).

The move makes sense – why prolong it any longer?  Marmol has been the closer-in-waiting after competing for the job in each of the 2008 and 2009 MLB seasons.  He finally got promoted at the end of the 2009 campaign when it became clear that Kevin Gregg could not get the job done on a regular basis.  After Marmol took over in August, he was 11-for11 in save opportunities the rest of the season and he led the team with 27 holds.  Not bad.

The major concern with Marmol is his increasing walk statistics.  In 59 appearances in 2007, Marmol had a 1.43 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP, with 96 strikeouts and just 35 walks in 69 1/3 innings. In 82 appearances in 2008, Marmol had a 2.68 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP, with 114 strikeouts and just 41 walks in 87 1/3 innings.  Those were phenomenal numbers for a young player like Marmol.  But everything changed in 2009 as Marmol struggled with his control right from the start.  In 79 appearances in 2009, Marmol had a 3.41 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP, with 93 strikeouts and a whopping 65 walks in just 74 innings.  The fact that Marmol has the talent to work his way out of 2 even 3-walk jams, helped keep his numbers respectable, but it has to be a little concerning for Manager Lou Pinella and the Cubs.  When you have a 1-run lead heading into the 9th inning, the last thing you want to do is walk a batter.

Let’s hope the staff can work with Marmol this Spring to get him back on track and ready for being the Cubs closer during the 2010 MLB schedule.

On a side note, Ryan Theriot is the final Cubs aribitration-eligible player that Hendry has to deal with before Spring Training.  Look for a deal to get hammered out very soon.  Can’t wait to see Marmol and Theriot lighting it up at Wrigley Field in a couple of months.

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Lou Pinella Honored with Legend Award at Munson Gala

Posted on 03 February 2010 by Lou

Cubs Manager Lou Pinella was honored with the “Legend Award” at Tuesday night’s annual Munson Awards dinner.  It has been 30 years since New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson died in a plane crash and the annual gala has been going strong now for 30 consecutive years.  Munson’s widow Diana Munson was in attendance as usual – “For 30 years, I’ve been syaing that I’m sure the dinner is going to phase out.  The fact that it keeps going on and gets stronger is a true testament to the people of New York and the memory of Thurman.  To know that New York never forgets is overwhelming for my family.”

Pinella was a teammate of Munson’s on 2 World Series Championship teams in 1977 and 1978.  He had the highest of praise for Munson – referring to Munson as “a wonderful, wonderful young man, husband and family guy.  A great player, leader and true friend.”  Pinella had previously won a Munson Award that he still keeps in his office and he was honored with the Legend Award for his meritorious service to baseball for the long span of his career.

Others receiving awards were Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain for his philanthropic work in the Omaha, Nebraska area; former New York Mets and Yankees great Darryl Strawberry for his Darryl Strawberry Foundation endeavor; and New York Knicks guard Chris Duhon for his work with helping the people of Lousiana in their continuing recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

The Munson gala has raised over $10 million over the years to benefit children and adults who suffer with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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Xavier Nady Right @ Home @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 02 February 2010 by Lou

New Cubs outfielder Xavier Nady has had great success at Wrigley Field during his career.  He has played 28 games at Wrigley Field and he has a career .304 batting average at the Friendly Confines – including 3 separate 4-hit games.  Nady has hit 2 HR’s and 8 doubles with 15 RBI’s in his career against the Cubs at Wrigley.  That bodes well for his return to Wrigley Field in 2010 – this time in Cubbie blue.

Nady has also performed well against left-handed pitchers during his career  – he has a career .308 batting average against lefties.  That means when Manager Lou Pinella picks his spots for Nady to spell either Alfonso Soriano or Kosuke Fukudome, you could see Nady facing lefties early and often in 2010.

Nady is a great veteran presence in the clubhouse as well.  Assuming his surgically repaired arm is healthy – a big if at this point – Nady could provide some production both at the plate and in the field for the Cubs during the 2010 MLB season…

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Cubs Avoid Arbitration with Lefty Sean Marshall

Posted on 29 January 2010 by Lou

The Chicago Cubs and left-handed pitcher Sean Marshall have agreed on a 1-year, $950,000 deal for the 2010 MLB schedule.  Marshall will be given an opportunity to compete for a spot in the Cubs starting rotation on Opening Day 2010.  And if he doesn’t make it there, he will likely be one of Manager Lou Pinella’s go-to guys out of the bullpen during the 2010 MLB schedule.  Marshall submitted 1 $1.175 salary demand, while the Cubs had countered with $800,000 Marshall made $450,000 in 2009, so it is still a pretty hefty raise for the lefty.

Marshall is a bargain at $950,000.  Marshall can be a full-time starter, he can make spot starts or he can be an effective pitcher out of the bullpen.  What more can you ask out of a pitcher. He has gained some valuable experience over the last few years, so he is becoming more and more of a veteran presence on the team.  He is a solid clubhouse guy too, so Marshall is a key pitcher on the Cubs staff.

GM Jim Hendry and the Cubs still have to work out deals with 2 other abritration-eligible players – probably the most important 2! Shortstop Ryan Theriot and Closer Carlos Marmol.  Theriot made $500,000 in 2009 and has submitted a $3.4 salary demand with a $2.6 million counter-offer from the Cubs.  Marmol made $575,000 in 2009 and has submitted a $2.5 salary demand with a $1.75 million counter-offer from the Cubs.  The Cubs will definitely get deals done with these 2 valuable players in the upcoming days…

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Jeff Samardzija – 2010 – Starter, Reliever or Minor Leaguer?

Posted on 25 January 2010 by Lou

Ah – many questions surround the current status of Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija.  The Cubs would love for Samardzija to step up as an everyday starter in 2010.  But it’s unclear if he has what it takes right now to make that jump.

After a solid 2008 as a rookie – 26 games, 1-0 record, 1 save, 3 blown saves, 2.28 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and 25 K’s in 27 2/3 innings – the Cubs thought that they would be able to count on him for a lot more in 2009.  But the opposite was true.  Samardzija struggled with his command and with his ability to keep runners off base.  While hitters batted just .226 against him 2008, that number jumped to .329 in 2009.  Not good.  Samradzija bounced back and forth between the Cubs and Triple-A Iowa during the 2009 MLB schedule.  He pitched 34 2/3 innings in just 20 appearances, but gave up 46 hits and 26 ER during that span.  His 7.53 ERA and 1.76 WHIP were major disappointments for Manager Lou Pinella, GM Jim Hendry and Cubs fans alike.

The Cubs suggested that he pitch in the Mexican League this winter to get in some extra work.  It looked like the added throwing paid off to some extent.  He started 5 games with Mexicali and pitched 24 innings.  He had command of his pitches (8 walks to 22 strikeouts) and he gave up just 6 earned runs.  Sure the competition isn’t as good, but at least he was able to focus better and work on his offspeed pitches that could help him at the major league level in 2010.

The Cubs will give Samardzija a chance to compete for a starting position in 2010.  If he doesn’t make the top 5 at the start of the season, the Cubs will have to decide whether it’s better to send him down to Triple-A Iowa where he can continue his work as a starter, or whether he would be more valuable to the Cubs coming out of the bullpen.  Samardzija clearly has the talent, or the Cubs wouldn’t have wooed him away from football and the NFL when they signed him after he graduated from Notre Dame in 2007.  Now he just needs someone to help him “make things click” in order for him to perform consistently at the major league level at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.

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Catcher Geovany Soto Drops 40 Pounds – Seriously!

Posted on 22 January 2010 by Lou

Geovany Soto has dropped 40 pounds so far this off-season and has become a new man.  Manager Lou Pinella and the Cubs instructed Soto to lose “some weight” this off-season, but when they saw him at this past weekend’s Cubs Convention, they were shocked out how quickly and how much weight Soto really dropped.  Soto took it to heart.  He adjusted his diet (mainly chicken, fish and vegetables) and worked out with a personal trainer in Puerto Rico.  The results are astounding and Soto is feeling like he is ready to go even though it’s only January.

Soto had this to say about the “new” Soto: “It’s weird, I feel like a 12-year-old.  I have a lot of energy, I’m wired all say… I’m active all day.  I used to be sluggish, I’d want to take a nap.  Now, I feel great.  I want to push myself in the best position to help the club.  The better I feel, if I’m agile back there, it will give me the best opportunity to not get hurt.  I want to be there for my teammates… I’m not thinking about me, I’m thinking about us as a team.”

2009 was clearly a disappointing season for Soto.  In 2008, Soto was named the National League Rookie of the Year and he was the NL’s starting catcher in the All-Star Game.  Soto hit .285 with a .364 on-base percentage and he had 86 RBI’s, 23 HR’s and 35 doubles.  In 2009, Soto battled injuries and a World Baseball Classic positive drug testing, and his poor numbers showed that he was not in the best shape.  Soto played in just 102 games (down from 141 the year before), hitting a paltry .218 with a .321 on-base percentage.  Soto hit only 11 home runs and drove in 47 runs.  Not good.

It’s great to see that Soto took some responsibility for his lack of discipline in 2009.  Some players would have continued to lay blame elsewhere, but it’s clear that Soto realized that he let his teammates down and that he wanted to make amends.  Koyie Hill will still serve as the Cubs backup behind the plate, but it looks like Soto should be able to return to his 2008 form.  The Cubs need him big time.  If he can take a little pressure off of Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and newcomer Marlon Byrd with improved offensive output, the lineup could be formidable from top to bottom again.  The Wrigley Field faithful and Cubs fans across the country will also be thrilled with the improved play and dedication from their starting catcher.  Go Cubs!

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