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…
Posted on 22 February 2011 by Lou
Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo is confident that Alfonso Soriano has done what it will take to have a positive 2011 MLB season. GM Jim Hendry made a huge splash before the 2007 MLB season by out-bidding (in terms of years and dollars) every other team for the best free agent on the market at the time – Alfonso Soriano. Soriano signed an 8-year, $136 million deal and the Cubs have yet to see the fruits of their labor as Soriano has averaged just 26 HR’s, 70 RBI’s and 127 games played during the 1st 4 years of the contract. In 2010, Soriano played the most games during his tenure with the Cubs — 147 — but the numbers were still a fraction of what the Cubs expected when they signed him. Soriano batted just .258 – ouch! – with 24 HR’s and paltry 79 RBI’s. WOW – what a bad deal for the Cubs AND they still have to deal with the guy for 4 more years.
That being said, Jaramillo is confident that Soriano still has some juice left in the tank. The 2 worked together while Soriano played for the Texas Rangers and he had success under Rudy’s tutelage. With 1 year under their belts together again, Jaramillo feels like Soriano will surprise some people in 2011. “I can help him and Sori is definitely going back in the right direction. I can see that his foundation is better so hopefully he just becomes more consistent. We’ve just got to work on slowing his mind down and trust what he does in the cage. That way he can execute that approach…We’re really trying to stress the mechanical part and the approach that goes with every situation. Sori did well last year. I expect him to do better. I think he has a better understanding of what he and I tried to accomplish so I expect a good year from Sori.”
Great optimism, but I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m not expecting .320 batting average with 40 HR’s, but if he can somehow manage to hit close to .300 with 30 dingers, I think there will be a lot of happy Cubs fans on the north side of Chicago this summer…
Posted on 08 February 2011 by Lou
Where Geovany Soto and Blake DeWitt fit into the Cubs lineup for 2011 makes for some interesting chats.
Soto rebounded from a down 2009 MLB season with a solid 2010 campaign. Soto had a career-best .393 on-base percentage during the season and hit with HR’s and RBI’s. Will we see Soto higher up in the lineup? Probably not. Soto is better suited to be in the 5, 6 or 7 spot where he can drive in runs. He is a patient hitter, so if runners are on base in front of him, he puts pitchers in a tough position. They can walk him and put more runners on base, or they can pitch to him and risk letting him be the hero by driving in runs. Look for Aramis Ramirez to move up to the 3-spot in 2011, with Carlos Pena batting clean-up, Marlon Byrd in the 5-hole and Soto in the 6-hole.
Blake DeWitt is gearing up for a productive 2010. DeWitt spent the off-season eliminating a tap mechanism from his batting stance. The Cubs hope that the new hitting stance will give DeWitt an extra advantage against pitchers and allow him to be more patient at the plate. Hitting Coach Rudy Jaramillo has already spent time with DeWitt in Arizona, so he should be ahead of the game once camp breaks later this month.
These are all good signs Cubs fans. With expectations so low for this unpredictable ball club, the Cubs could end up surprising some people in 2011…
Posted on 08 December 2010 by Lou
The Cubs have agreed to a 1-year, $10 million deal with left-handed hitting 1st baseman Carlos Pena. Pena is a great person in the clubhouse, but at 33 years of age, he could be on the downside of his career. During the 2010 MLB season, he did hit 28 HR’s with 84 RBI’s, but he also had a career-low .196 batting average and he struck out 158 times in 484 at-bats. These numbers are down from his earlier 3 seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays — in 2009, Pena hit .227 with 39 HR’s and 100 RBI’s and a .356 on-base percentage; in 2008, Pena hit .247 with 31 HR’s and 102 RBI’s and a .377 on-base percentage; and in 2007, Pena hit .282 with 46 HR’s and 121 RBI’s and a .411 on-base percentage.
Out of all the options (or lack of options) for GM Jim Hendry and the Cubs, this was my lead candidate. Being a great clubhouse guy is important, plus it will be nice for the Cubs to have a power-hitting left-handed hitter in the lineup. If you can accept the fact that he is going to strike out a lot in big situations, but still put up solid numbers at the end of the season, you will be thrilled with the Pena signing. Pena will also be reunited with Rudy Jaramillo – his hitting coach when he started in the Texas Rangers organization.
The Cubs clearly couldn’t afford Adam Dunn or lure Paul Konerko away from the South Side White Sox, so Pena was the next best option. Let’s hope he stays healthy and has a bounce-back year in terms of a better batting average and on-base percentage.
Posted on 27 October 2010 by Lou
Mike Quade is officially looking for a bench coach to work with him during the next 2 seasons on the North Side of Chicago at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.
Alan Trammell – Lou Pinella’s bench coach for the last 4 seasons – has joined Kirk Gibson’s staff as the bench coach for the Arizaona Diamondbacks. Two former Cubs – Don Baylor (hitting coach) and Eric Young (1st base coach) are also on that staff.
The Cubs and Quade do not expect Triple-A Manager Ryne Sandberg to want to take the Cubs bench coaching job for the 2011 season given his managerial aspirations. Although Sandberg is still the Triple-A Iowa manager, everyone expects Sandberg to leave the organization to take a major league coaching position elsewhere.
Larry Rothschild will be back as the Cubs pitching coach. Rudy Jaramillo will be back as the Cubs hitting coach. Bullpen coach Lester Strode, 1st base coach Ivan DeJesus and 3rd base coach Bob Dernier are all expected back as well.
We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear who might be the front runner for Quade’s bench coach job in 2011 and beyond…
Posted on 03 May 2010 by Lou
This is a big surprise for me, but we’re going with Alfonso Soriano as our Cubs Fun Fact of the Day. Soriano has been on fire of late and he helped lead the Cubs to 2 big wins over the DBacks on Saturday and Sunday at Wrigley Field.
Soriano has hit a home run in each of his last 3 games, including 2 2-run bombs in Sunday’s 10-5 win. Soriano is hitting .325 with a stellar .382 on-base percentage. He already has 6 home runs and 17 RBI’s on the season, and we’re just 26 games in. Considering Soriano hit only 20 home runs and drove in 55 runs in 117 games in 2009, he is well ahead of pace (he also had an atrocious .241 batting average and .303 on-base percentage?!). Now I know, he hasn’t gotten hurt yet, but who knows, maybe getting a few extra days off here and there with Tyler Colvin playing more will be a blessing in disguise. Maybe getting reunited with Rudy Jaramillo – his old hitting coach in Texas – has helped. Maybe the unusually warm weather has helped too.
Whatever it is, something is clearly clicking with Soriano in 2010 – let’s hope he can keep it up…
Posted on 04 March 2010 by Lou
Alfonso Soriano continues to improve his conditioning this Spring and it looks like he will be ready to start against the cross-town-rival White Sox on Saturday in Mesa. Soriano’s rehabbed knee is responding well so far and he has been working with new Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo (his old hitting coach with the Texas Rangers) on shortening his stride during his swing. Hopefully all the extra work will pay off for Soriano in 2010.
Manager Lou Pinella is optimistic about getting much better production from the $18-million man this season: “He’s healthy, and we expect him to be a better all-around player. We’re not going to expect 30 stolen bases from him or anything like that. Hitting in the 6th hole, he can save his legs a little more… What we need from Alfonso is some power and RBI production… Let’s hope he has an injury-free season and gets back to where he was a couple of years ago and [is] a little more disciplined and [has] a healthy season, and a productive one.”
Amen to that — Soriano can’t be as bad as his .241 batting average and .303 on-base percentage during the 2009 MLB schedule. Despite playing in only 109 games in 2008 due to injuries, he still clubbed 29 HR’s and drove in 75 runs in 453 at-bats. If he can get close to that in 2010, that would be a huge improvement for the Cubs. It would also mean that Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez would have a little more protection in the middle of the lineup. That can only mean good things for the Cubs offensive production in 2010…
Posted on 04 January 2010 by Lou
While most Cubs fans are thrilled to have a solid center fielder for the 2010 MLB schedule, new hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo may be the most excited. Having coached Marlon Byrd in each of the last 3 seasons in Texas (his average numbers during that span are .295 batting average, .352 on-base percentage and .468 slugging percentage), Jaramillo knows exactly what Byrd brings to the table each and every day.
Here’s what Jaramillo had to say about GM Jim Hendry’s latest signing: “He made a lot of adjustments. Every year, he got better. I’m real excited about him coming over there. He brings a lot of energy and leadership. He wants to win. Those are things that are going to help me out. I talked to him the other day and I told him we’ve got our work cut out for us… Our park was a big park with big gaps and he was outstanding covering those gaps. He threw the ball well and accurately. It’s what he brings to the club – his energy, he’s always working hard and playing hard. It’s going to be good.”
Byrd set career highs in several categories during the 2009 MLB schedule – 155 hits, 20 HR’s, 89 RBI’s, 43 doubles and 146 games played. Hendry rewarded that output with a 3-year deal worth $15 million. Let’s hope Byrd performs well on the field in 2010 for the Cubs. If Byrd turns out to be another one of those players who Hendry signs at the downward turn of their careers – Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, Milton Bradley, etc. – it could mean the end of the Hendry era as we know it following the 2010 campaign. And that might not be a bad thing…