Monday, February 12, 2007

Spring Training Tidbits and Q&A

Thanks to for this info-

If Mesa, Ariz., could build a bigger ballpark for the Chicago Cubs, it would.The Cubs were again most popular team in the Cactus League in 2006, drawing more than 150,000 fans to HoHoKam Park. This will be the team's 29th consecutive spring in Mesa.As Cub fans prepare for their journey to the desert to Lou Piniella's squad up close, here are some tips:

When do the Cubs arrive at camp?

Cubs pitchers and catchers report to Fitch Park in Mesa on Feb. 14, but they will not begin workouts until the next day. Position players will report on Feb. 19, and the first full-squad workout will be on Feb. 20. The team will train at Fitch Park before moving down the road to HoHoKam Park shortly before the Cactus League games begin.

When do games start?

The Cubs will open Cactus League play at HoHoKam Park on March 1 against visiting San Francisco. Highlights on the schedule include a visit from the White Sox on March 4 and a visit to Tucson to take on the South Siders March 16.The Cubs will wrap up their spring schedule with two games against the Mariners in Las Vegas on March 30 and 31.


2006 record66-96, sixth NL CentralProjected batting order
1. CF Alfonso Soriano:.277 BA, 46 HR, 95 RBI in 2006
2. 2B Mark DeRosa:.296 BA, 13 HR, 74 RBI in 2006
3. 1B Derrek Lee:.286 BA, 8 HR, 30 RBI in 2006
4. 3B Aramis Ramirez:.291 BA, 38 HR, 119 RBI in 2006
5. RF Jacque Jones:.285 BA, 27 HR, 81 RBI in 2006
6. C Michael Barrett:.307 BA, 16 HR, 53 RBI in 2006
7. LF Matt Murton:.297 BA, 13 HR, 62 RBI in 2006
8. SS Cesar Izturis:.245 BA, 1 HR, 18 RBI in 2006

Projected rotation
1. Carlos Zambrano, 16-7, 3.41 ERA in 2006
2. Ted Lilly, 15-13, 4.31 in 2006
3. Jason Marquis, 14-16, 6.02 in 2006
4. Rich Hill, 6-7, 4.17 in 2006
5. Mark Prior, 1-6, 7.21 in 2006

Projected bullpen
Closer: Ryan Dempster, 24 saves, 4.80 ERA in 2006
RH setup man: Bob Howry, 3.17 ERA in 2006
LH setup man: Scott Eyre, 3.38 ERA in 2006

The new guys OF
Alfonso Soriano:
Soriano could take care of two perennial trouble spots for the Cubs: he will lead off and most likely play center field. Baseball's first 40-40-40 man (46 homers, 41 doubles, 41 steals), Soriano wasn't cheap. His eight-year, $136 million contract is the largest in Cubs history, and fifth largest in baseball. It would make sense to put someone with his kind of power lower in the order, but he likes leading off. He does strike out a lot, but he'll make up for that with his on-base percentage and runs scored.

LHP Ted Lilly:
Lilly signed a four-year, $40 million contract to return to the National League for the first time since he made his Major League debut with Montreal in 1999. The lefty ranked seventh in the American League with 7.93 strikeouts per nine innings, the third time he's been in the top 10 in that category. He is a fly-ball pitcher, so look out when the wind is blowing out at Wrigley Field.

RHP Jason Marquis:
Marquis has been tutored by Leo Mazzone and Dave Duncan, two of the best, but it just hasn't clicked. He got off on the right foot with Larry Rothschild after a brief session this offseason before he signed with the Cubs. Rothschild gave Marquis some specific exercises to do to fine-tune his mechanics. He signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Cubs, and probably can't wait until April 20. That's the first meeting between the Cubs and his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals.

2B Mark DeRosa:
DeRosa played six different positions in 2006, but will be stationed at second base for the Cubs. That was the main reason he signed a three-year, $13 million deal with the team -- the Cubs promised he'd be a regular at one position, not half a dozen. He is coming off his best offensive season (.296) and credits Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. Hopefully, he's on DeRosa's speed dial in case he needs some help.

LHP Neal Cotts:
Cotts was acquired from the White Sox for RHP David Aardsma, and could be used as either a reliever or spot starter. The Cubs hope he can regain his 2005 form, when he was 4-0 with a 1.94 ERA in 69 games. Last season was a struggle.

1B/OF Cliff Floyd:
Another left-handed bat, Floyd battled an Achilles tendon injury last season which limited him to 97 games with the New York Mets. If healthy, Floyd can provide some punch. His contract has plenty of incentives for him to get healthy. He hit .266 against right-handers, .179 against lefties.

1B/OF Daryle Ward:
Ward has accepted a part-time role, and batted .355 as a pinch-hitter. He'll also be helpful against right-handed pitchers (.345 average). He can sub at first base if Lee needs a break, or in the outfield.

Prospects to watch OF Felix Pie: You've heard all the hype. But once you see Pie play, you'll understand. He has speed, power and energy. But, it may be best for him to open at Triple-A Iowa, especially after struggling offensively in winter ball (.216 in 38 games). He's only 21.

RHP Jeff Samardzija: OK, the Notre Dame wide receiver isn't expected in the big leagues in 2007. But keep an eye on him. Samardzija signed a five-year, $10 million contract on Jan. 19, and fully expects to be in the big leagues before that deal expires. He most likely will be. He'll open at Class A Daytona, which is about as far away as one can be from big-time college football or the NFL.

RHP Angel Guzman: The young right-hander was a prospect to watch last year, too, but the 2006 season also was his first injury-free campaign. Guzman had a good winter in Venezuela, and will likely open at Triple-A Iowa. One of eight rookie starting pitchers who got a chance last year, he could be the first one called up in '07.

Returning from injuryRHP Mark Prior: The right-hander spent the winter strengthening his right shoulder, and all signs indicate he could be ready by Opening Day. Prior's goal is to stay off the disabled list -- he's been on the DL every year he's been in the big leagues. If he can return to 2003 form, when he won 18 games, it's a bonus.

RHP Kerry Wood: Don't expect any more 20-strikeout efforts from Kid K. Wood is headed to the 'pen, and could provide a powerful setup arm. He spent the winter rehabbing from a partial tear in his right rotator cuff. In 2005, he pitched in relief and posted a 2.25 ERA in 11 games, striking out 17 over 12 innings. This could be a great career move.

1B Derrek Lee: The Cubs didn't anticipate losing Lee for all but 50 games. A freak collision in mid-April resulted in a fractured right wrist. Lee ended the season healthy, but frustrated he didn't have a chance to defend the NL batting title he won in 2005. Having him back will definitely give the lineup a boost.

SS Cesar Izturis: Izturis didn't get much of a chance to make an impression on Cubs fans because of a sore hamstring. After he was acquired July 31 from the Dodgers for Greg Maddux, Izturis appeared in 22 games. He is a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop, and the pitchers will be happy to see him.

C Michael Barrett: The last month of the season was painful for Barrett, who was sidelined because of a foul tip. He may be sporting a high-tech, bullet-proof protective cup this season. Barrett still matched his season high with 16 homers despite playing in 107 games. He spent the winter training hard so that the grueling season seems easy.

On the rebound Ryan Dempster: Expect Dempster to get more work this spring in hopes of avoiding some of the problems he had last year with his location. If he can't handle the closer role, Howry is waiting in the wings. Wood is another option, but first he has to prove he's healthy.

Mark Prior: Prior is as frustrated as everyone else at his injury-riddled career. He is one of three Cubs who could be candidates for Comeback Pitcher of the Year, joining Wood and Wade Miller.

Triple play: Three questions that need answers
1. Who are the final five starters?

Zambrano will be the Opening Day starter, but after him, there are a lot of questions. Lilly and Marquis can give innings, but Lilly is a fly-ball pitcher and Marquis is coming off a tough season. Hill had a solid September -- can he maintain that over a full season? Prior probably leads the NL in simulated-game starts. Is his right shoulder ready? Miller may be the sleeper. If he could return to form, he might be the best bargain in baseball. Sean Marshall and Guzman also are in the mix.

2. Can Dempster rebound from 2006?

Dempster led the NL in save percentage in 2005, his first year as a closer, but ranked last in the Major Leagues in 1-2-3 innings last year. He is physically ready for the new season after dropping 20 pounds because of an intensive offseason conditioning program. Dempster still has the right mental makeup to handle the role. Now, can he find his location?

3. Can the Cubs actually score some runs?

The Cubs ranked 15th in the NL in runs scored, and had the fewest walks (395) and worst on-base percentage (.319), but the team average of .268 was fifth best. That means guys simply aren't driving in runners. New hitting coach Gerald Perry has a lot of work to do. Having Lee back in the lineup will definitely help.The bottom line The starting lineup is pretty much set, although who bats second is to be determined this spring. The Cubs have to see who's healthy to sort out the rotation. The bullpen may be one of the best in the big leagues, especially if Wood can contribute. They have to figure out a way to win at home, too. As manager Lou Piniella says, all good teams have a swagger, and that's been missing at Wrigley Field.

Just some info for all you die hards!


Anonymous said...

where will Miller end up?

cubsfan82 said...

If Prior is heathy he will be pushed to the pen becuase they feel Marquis will be a #3 starter. Now that might not make the most sense but Marquis didnt get paid 27 mill for 3 years to come out of the pen. He has 5 goode pitches and once he stablizes his control you will se a great pitcher. These things will work themselves out in Spring and thru out the year. You can never have enough pitching. One thing that is a big IF is that Prior is healthy or not. If he is not then Miller will take the 5th spot.

Anonymous said...

Let's say everyone is healthy. Where would Miller go? He can't be sent to the minors. My guess is that he'd probably be released.

cubsfan82 said...

You do have a good point. If everyone is heathy you could put Miller in the pen and move one of the other pen to Iowa or even trade them. I dont think they would release Wade just because they already have 5 starters. You can never go wrong with a surplus of pitching. If the cubs do feel they have a strong 5 they would trade miller or someone other pitcher on the team. Like i said they have a way of working themselves out. One thing you have to remeber a heathy Prior or Miller can be sloted as high as a #2 pitcher. It will definitly be a intresting Spring and be fun to watch how things like this develope

tonykoz said...

Definitely should be an interesting spring. Guys like Theriot, Pagan, and Cedeno are on the bubble.

cubsfan82 said...

I personally think Cedeno will start in AAA. Theriot I think will be a very valiable part of the team next year. A guy who can come off the bench, play multiple postions, give players a rest and put up a high OBP and adverage. He in my mind is a shoe in. Pagan is an intresting situation, he has no options left so he cant be sent down to AAA. At least I think thats accurate, We would already have Theriot, Ward, Murton, Sori, Jones,Floyd and derosa for guys that can play outfield so I dont know how he fits in unless there gonna have that many outfielders on there roster