Saturday, February 17, 2007

More good news out of Spring Training

There is alot more news coming out of the Cubs front today. Jones reiterated that he did not ask for a trade and says he will play center if Lou wants him to play center and said if he wants him to play right he will play right. He also says it was a mistake last season saying the things about the fans and Dusty. He also said the below average defense and bad throwing had to do with problems with his shoulder. He did rehab earlier this year with Prior and now says his shoulder feels fine and he is throwing over the top and it wont be an issue this year.
Prior isn't the only one that plans on being in the starting 5 this year. Miller, who showed great improvement through out last year says he feels the best he has felt in 2 years. That would also be a big improvement because a healthy Miller could be slotted anywhere from 3rd to 5th spot in the rotation. For once it looks as if there will be plenty of competition for at least 3 of the 5 spots in the rotation with Miller, Prior, Hill, and Marquis all battling. One man will be forced in the pen or possibly forced out completely. Having a surplus of good pitchers is always good because you always have a back up in case of an injury or if you want to make a trade. I have a feeling the rotation and pen will be the hot topic of the spring training games.
Another surprise today is the Wood( who wasn't suppose to pitch until Monday) threw 10 pitches off the mound today. He didn't over do it but still it shows he wants to be out there. Its nice to see Wood's dedication to working.
Dlee (who was sidelined the majority of last year with a wrist injury) has no problems with his wrist. He says it is healthy and strong. He also excited about his new teammate Soriano saying its an instant boost to the offense and its very intimidating having to face him as a leadoff man. You can really tell he is excited for this year, much like all the fan are!

Some more Spring info- Marshall hurt, Wood throws monday, Prior ready to go, etc

According to, Sean Marshall has a week before he can start throwing off the mound. Last year Marshall toward the end of the year had stiffness in his shoulder and its still bothering him. Marshall pitched the whole year with the cubs and that's a drastic change considering he was in AA two years ago. He is expected to catch up and be ready to throw in Spring Training games when they start.
As for Mr. Wood, Wood showed intensity Friday which was good news for the cubs. He looks ready to play and he will pitch off the mound on Monday.
I cant believe I'm gonna say this but Prior is ready to go. Prior has said he is ready for Spring Training with no set backs and he is doing the same routine as Lilly, Marquis and the rest of the pitching staff. He said he feels great and is ready for opening day! This would be a huge improvement for the cubs, especially since Marshall is having problems and such. Not to mention if he is as dominate as 2003 you can slot him in the number 3 spot!
Some other tidbits-
1.Lou plans on breaking came with 12 pitchers and have one of them be in the long relief roll, possibly Cotts. If he is breaking with 12 pitchers I would say it would be Z, Lilly, Prior, Marquis, Miller, Cotts, Eyre, Howry, Ohman, Wood, Dempster, Weurtz, and Hill would be the top 13 but that means one of they would be sent down, traded, or released. Its hard to leave one of those pitchers out especially if there all heatlhy! You would have to send Weurtz, Hill, Ohman, or Cotts to AAA or trade or release one of them. Be a real interesting battle to see who battles for that 12th spot!

2. Looks like the number 2,5,6,7,8 hole are up for grabs in the spring. Derosa is a favorite to land that #2 hole because of what he did last year and how he works the counts and that would give Sori a chance to steal.

3. Cliff reported to camp early ready to get started and meet his new teammates. Floyd say this is the best he has felt in a long time. He was upset at the comments pitcher John Thompson made about his defense and fired back with this response-

"For me, defense has been my No. 1 thing for a long time," Floyd said. "I read that [comment by Thomson] and I thought to myself, 'I could've called a couple people and blasted him back.' At this point in my career, the only person he hurt was my mom and dad's feelings. From what I've seen, he's not one of the greatest pitchers in the game, so it didn't affect me in terms of my pride. I wish him the best of luck. Hopefully his luck will change in Toronto. It didn't change in the National League."

4. Other early arrival to camp are Matt Murton, Tyler Colvin, Eric Patterson and Angel Pagan.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Soriano article at

This is a great article and I love how he responded to the questions. He is such a class act and proves that the guy who started the season in Washington is not the same guy that is starting for the Chicago Cubs. Well here is the article-

MESA, Ariz. -- Alfonso Soriano was an early arrival in Cubs camp, and not because he wanted to start collecting his $136 million paycheck. He has a lot of work to do.
Soriano could be the Cubs' Opening Day center fielder but that's only if he can make the switch from left. It's not as simple as it might seem.
"It's going to take a special guy to become an accomplished center fielder this quickly," said Cubs coach Mike Quade, who was working with Soriano on Thursday at Fitch Park. "To me, the good news is he, without question, has the physical attributes to do that."
Soriano didn't have to report until Monday. But on Thursday, when pitchers and catchers were working on covering first base and bunting, Soriano was taking fly balls along with highly touted Minor Leaguers Felix Pie and Chris Walker.
"This is my first time here in Chicago and I wanted to start early," Soriano said. "It's something I like to do. I'm making some friends here early, too."
He'll be pretty popular with this kind of attitude.
"He's a humble kid and loves to play baseball," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "He wants to be ready when the season starts. He came in here and got a head start. It sends a good message."
Last season was Soriano's first in the outfield after spending his first five seasons as a second baseman. He led the National League in assists, but center is a different story.
"You have to consider the importance of that position -- the mindset of going from a corner guy when the center fielder is the captain to being the captain," Quade said. "There's a difference in angles, the communication responsibility, the footwork in center field is way more demanding than it is on the corners. I've had a lot of corner guys who were fantastic in left and right and their gait was too long or for whatever reason couldn't make the switch."
The Cubs originally projected Soriano would take over one of the corner outfield spots when he signed his mega deal in November. They promised the free agent he would lead off, and that he would be given one position. At the Cubs Convention, Soriano was asked where he'd like to play, and he said center. If he can make the switch, it would help the rest of the outfield alignment.
"I don't know what position I'm going to play here," Soriano said. "Whatever Lou says to me, I have no problem.
"Last year, I made the adjustment to play left field," he said. "This year, I think I can do the same to play another position."
The Washington Nationals moved him but Soriano made the switch to the outfield somewhat reluctantly in 2006. Now, he says he's finished playing second. Don't even think about that.
"Not second base any more," Soriano said. "I think I had a very good season and enjoyed myself in the outfield. Last year, I didn't want to play outfield because I didn't believe what I could do in the game. Now I believe what I can do in the game. It's now an easier job to play the outfield."
What he did was become the first player in Major League history with 40 doubles, 40 homers and 40 stolen bases in a single season. The slender right-handed hitter was the quickest to 40-40 homers and stolen bases in the Major Leagues, doing so in 147 games. He batted .277 overall, and did strike out 160 times, which would make him not appear to be well suited to the leadoff spot. That's where he wants to hit, and that's where the Cubs want him.
"I can steal bases," Soriano said. "I've got plenty of chances to steal bases. That's why I like batting leadoff."
Piniella just wants the 31-year-old outfielder happy.
"We'll see how he responds in center field," Piniella said. "We'll try him initially in center. We want to make him as comfortable as we possibly can both from a defensive and offensive posture. After we see him play, we'll have some definite ideas.
"I certainly don't want him worrying about his outfield play and having that affecting his offensive skills," Piniella said. "We'll play this by ear initially and see how it works out. It won't be too long in Spring Training before we make a decision."
"If you think about it, this is a special person," Quade said, "and that's the only kind of person who you could ask to do this. You think about all the good center fielders, and they've probably been playing there since Little League or high school. They weren't a second baseman until they were 28. All you can ask for is a guy to commit to the work it's going to take to see if he's going to do it, and we've got that. I'm excited just to spend the time to see."
A five-time All-Star, Soriano is probably his toughest critic.
"I don't feel like I'm a very good outfielder but I have to make a lot of adjustments," he said. "I don't feel like a 100 percent outfielder. I know I have to do a lot of work."
He bonded immediately with Pie on Thursday, and the younger outfielder helped Soriano find his way around the Fitch Park facility. Soriano has changed teams before, having played for the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers and the Nationals.
"The first time is a little difficult," he said. "The second time, the third time, it's easier because you're used to it. Everybody knows I'm coming here for one reason, because I love the team and I love the city."
He showed that love in December when he flew to Chicago to visit a hospital and donate gifts. He called it "the best thing I did in the winter."
His new contract puts him in an elite class. Only Alex Rodriguez ($252 million), Derek Jeter ($189 million), Manny Ramirez ($160 million) and Todd Helton ($141.5 million) have contracts with more guaranteed money. Barry Zito is right behind after signing a $126 million, seven-year deal with the San Francisco Giants.
"I'm not trying to be God here," Soriano said. "I'm going to be friends with the guys. I think everybody knows me. I don't think [his contract] will be a problem here."
Doesn't the large deal create more pressure?
"There's always pressure," Soriano said. "You have to play hard and do your job because they pay you money to do your job. They pay me money for something I love to do. I love playing baseball. I have to do my job to try to make people happy.
"I played in New York, I played in Texas, I played in Washington, now here," he said. "I'm the same guy. The money doesn't make a difference. I love the game."

He is such a class act and i am glad to have him in cubbie blue!

Big Z wants 5 years not 7, cubs set parameters of deal

According to multiple reports and news articles the cubs have set up parameters of a 5 year deal "close" to what Zito is making. That has to be in the range of 80-90 million. When asked about what Z said earlier this week, he said he meant if they didnt sign him he would have to go through the free agnecy proccess. Well believe that or not, I think Z just wanted to take some steps forward becuase as of Tues no offer was made to resign him and that I think ticked him off. Z then said that he is looking for a five year deal close to what Zito was making. Not the 7 year deal that was reported earlier this year. Z said he wants 5 year deal and thats what the cubs want to give him. So Carlos and Jim are on the right track. Though it is reported that these are just parameters and not an offer, you gotta believe Jim is working to get this deal done. I also wouldnt be suprised if a 5 year deal worth 90 million is announce before Tuesdays arbitration hearing. I honestly believe they will skip the 1year deal and work on getting the multi year deal done by the 20th.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Cubs working on deal with Big Z! Soriano and Pie show up early.

Here is some great news for all cubs fans. According to the Sun-Times-

MESA, Ariz. — Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano said today his comments earlier in the week were misconstrued and that he never gave the Cubs an ultimatum that they must sign him by the season opener or lose him to free agency after the season.
Speaking publicly for the first time since his televised comments Monday were reported as being an ultimatum, Zambrano also said the club since has made its first formal multiyear offer — a five-year proposal ‘‘very close’’ to what the San Francisco Giants gave free agent pitcher Barry Zito this winter. That would mean an offer worth close to $90 million.
Zito signed a seven-year, $126-million deal, a record contract value for a pitcher.
Clarifying his earlier comments, Zambrano said, ‘‘I didn’t say that if they didn’t sign me before the end of spring training I will not sign with the Cubs. I said they have till the beginning of the season to sign me or I won’t negotiate during the season.’’
As for his remark that he ‘‘must go’’ if a deal isn’t struck by the opener, he said he meant that he must go to free agency, and added that the Cubs would have the first shot at signing him at that point.
‘‘I must go, because if they don’t sign me I must go to free agency, right?’’ he said. ‘‘They have the first look after the season if I don’t sign before the season starts.
‘‘This is the team that gave me the opportunity to play baseball since I was 16 years old. I want to stay here. ... I want to sign with the Cubs. But I just don’t want to talk about contracts during the season.’’
Zambrano, a 16-game winner last year who is scheduled to start the Cubs’ opener for the third straight year, is in his final offseason of arbitration eligibility. He has a hearing scheduled for Tuesday if he and the club don’t agree to terms on at least a one-year deal before then

This is great news! If the cubs in fact can get Carlos for 5 years about 15-18 million a year would be a steal. Its always hard to commit lots of year to pitchers because of risk with arm problems, but Zambrano being so young this would mean he would be a free agent around 31. If the cubs can get this done before Opening Day or even his arbitration hearing it would be a huge PLUS. They wouldnt have to worry about the story lines all year of "where is Z gonna end up" and " should he stay with the cubs." Zambrano is the ace of this staff and I would love to see him be that ace for a very long time to come!

This story is also backed up by Bruce Levine. He said the cubs are working out a deal with Z for 5 years 70-90 million.


Pie and Soriano showed up early to Spring Training today. Position players didn't have to report until Monday but the guys wanted to get a head start. Here is the article-

Prior and Miller throw off the mound, Wood hurt.

The cubs got some good and bad news today. Wade Miller and Mark Prior both threw 30 pitches off the mound today and did very well. Lou said that if you have them healthy its like signing two more free agents. The cubs better hope they are healthy because they already have a set back on Wood. Wood( expected to be in the pen this year) bruised his ribs Monday night getting out of the hot tube at his home. He was scheduled to pitch Friday but now must take it easy and not pitch for 5 days. This has always been an issue with Kerry, but luckily the cubs do have a surplus of starters and pen guys so Kerry can take his time. This is just a minor set back for Wood compared to his other injuries. Lou doesn't seemed bothered by this saying these things happen and that's why they give them 6 weeks. I hope Kid K recovers well because we will can use him this year!

Other info on Spring Training

Here is a list of non roster invitees-

Jason Anderson
Sean Gallagher
Adam Harben
Ben Howard
Ryan O'Malley
Carmen Pignatiello
Les Walrond
John Webb
Randy Wells

Jake Fox
Koyie Hil

Infielders -
Mike Kinkade
Casey McGhee
Eric Patterson
Tomas Perez

Outfielders -
Tyler Colvin
Chris Walker


Here is your 40 man roster-

57 Rocky Cherry R/R

48 Neal Cotts L/L

46 Ryan Dempster R/R

47 Scott Eyre L/L 37

Angel Guzman R/R

53 Rich Hill L/L 6

2 Bob Howry L/R

30 Ted Lilly L/L

49 Carlos Marmol R/R

21 Jason Marquis L/R

45 Sean Marshall L/L

51 Juan Mateo R/R

52 Wade Miller R/R

44 Roberto Novoa R/R

13 Will Ohman L/L

22 Mark Prior R/R

55 Clay Rapada R/L

-- Jeff Samardzija R/R

34 Kerry Wood R/R

43 Michael Wuertz R/R

38 Carlos Zambrano S/R


8 Michael Barrett R/R

24 Henry Blanco R/R

58 Geovany Soto R/R


5 Ronny Cedeno R/R

7 Mark DeRosa R/R

56 Brian Dopirak R/R

3 Cesar Izturis S/R

25 Derrek Lee R/R

15 Scott Moore L/R

16 Aramis Ramirez R/R

2 Ryan Theriot R/R


27 Buck Coats L/R

-- Cliff Floyd L/R

11 Jacque Jones L/L

19 Matt Murton R/R

29 Angel Pagan S/R

17 Felix Pie L/L

12 Alfonso Soriano R/R

32 Daryle Ward L/L

A new addition to Wrigley Field

Thanks to

The green doors tucked into the ivy in the left- and right-field bleachers of Wrigley Field will be decorated with 7-by-12 foot advertisements, touting Under Armour's signature logo.
It's the first time the Cubs have allowed any ad or sign on the outfield doors. Jay Blunk, director of marketing and sales for the team, said the Cubs have been approached by other companies wanting to use the space. He said Under Armour was the "right fit."
"For us, marketing-wise, to have our logo and Wrigley associated with it is tremendous," Blunk said. "The brand represents performance and athletic achievement at the highest level."
New Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano is a spokesman for the company, and wears the Under Armour batting gloves and wristbands. Under Armour released its first line of baseball cleats this year.
Now, Soriano will have the company logo behind him -- if he's in right or left field.
"The Cubs have an impeccable track record of tastefully adding signage," Blunk said. "No question, there's been a change in the culture here. It's an aggressive culture. That aggressive culture means always maintaining the integrity of Wrigley Field, but how do we still win? This helps us in that regard."
The advertisements will definitely help offset the $300 million spent this offseason on new manager Lou Piniella and free agents, including Soriano, who signed an eight-year, $136 million deal in November.
All other National League Central teams have new ballparks except the Cubs. Wrigley Field is the second-oldest baseball stadium in the country behind Boston's Fenway Park, and the Cubs management has done its best to preserve the ballpark's charm while still being competitive.
The addition of lights, sky boxes, last year's bleacher expansion and the rotating advertising sign behind home plate have provided millions of dollars, Blunk said.
"We're not putting up giant billboards," Blunk said. "We're taking things that are already there and changing them and gradually adjusting so we can compete. Our fans deserve a winner. They've waited long enough."
The additional revenue from the advertising also will help keep Wrigley Field alive and functioning.
"I love Wrigley Field, but this really does help maintain and extend the life of Wrigley Field," Blunk said. "It updates Wrigley, it allows us to compete, it allows us to tap into revenue streams that allow us to win. We don't want Wrigley to become financially obsolete. Our job is to tastefully and gradually add these revenue streams so it doesn't detract from the backdrop, but allows us to do things like get Alfonso Soriano and re-sign Aramis [Ramirez]."
The partnership also gives Under Armour advertising rights to the signage behind home plate at Wrigley Field. The company is well known for it's moisture-wicking performance apparel.
The Under Armour logo is featured in Fenway Park, sharing space on the Green Monster with sporting goods retailer, The Sports Authority.
"We greatly appreciate the Chicago Cubs' history and wanted to be part of their new direction and exciting future," said Steve Battista, vice president of brand for Under Armour. "We're thrilled to partner with a storied ballclub as a symbol of their strong desire to improve on-field performance while blazing new trials with the franchise."

Alot of f ans have emailed me about this story so I thought I would put it on my blog. I really don't think this is that big of a deal. If anything fans should be happy that they have such a good product as Under Armour. At least you don't have Tums, Krispy Creme, or any product like that. Yeah those are all right products but what would you rather have a giant Donut on the green doors or the Under Armour logo. I would prefer the Under Armour logo! The cubs did spend alot of money this off season and did need something to offset it and this was it. There not putting up billboards, there not painting the brick with advertising, there not removing the ivy or the scoreboard. They are simply adding a 7x12ft logo on the door in RF and LF. I personally like the logo and what it stands for: " The brand represents performance and athletic achievement at the highest level" . I do think fans have other things to be concerned with other than 2 7x12 ft signs, but that's just y opinion.

Zambrano expected to make statement today

Thanks to

Carlos Zambrano isn't expected at camp until Thursday, when Cubs general manager Jim Hendry expects him to clarify his statement on leaving after the season if he doesn't get a new contract by Opening Day.

I'm sure Carlos didn't mean what he was saying or if he did he just realized what he said was wrong. Him or his agent is expected to make it clear that Big Z's primary focus is to get a deal done and stay with the cubs. Z has already said he wanted to stay with the cubs-

''This is the team that gave me the opportunity to play since I was 18 years old,'' Z said. ''They brought me to the big leagues. They gave me the chance to be somebody. Now I have to sit with them and discuss whatever they have on the table.'' - Chicago Sun-Times

To me I think things just got taken out of context, yes, Carlos did say that he is gone if a deal isn't worked out. But I just think it was a big misunderstanding and I still feel a multi-year deal can be reached by opening day if they work hard enough.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ryu traded to the Drays

According to

Devil Rays acquired RHP Jae-Kuk Ryu from the Cubs for RHP Greg Reinhard and outfielder Andy Lopez.

Here is info Lopez-

Lopez batted .256 in 56 games with the Rookie-level Princeton Rays in 2006, leading the team with three triples. The 20-year-old was originally selected by the Rays in the eighth round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.

Heres info on Reinhard-

Reinhard made 26 starts for the Class A Southwest Michigan Devil Rays, working to a 6-10 record with a 4.50 ERA. His 134 strikeouts were fifth-most among Rays Minor Leaguers. The 23-year-old was selected by the Rays in the sixth round of the 2005 draft.

Not a bad deal. We had to many pitchers as it was in AAA so it was wise to trade the and it is always good to get some decent young talent.


This is starting to get serious. It is very likely that Z and the cubs will come to terms on a one year deal about 13.3 million before the arbitration hearing. But what is not guaranteed is that he will be a cub next year. Here is the quote thanks to

"I'm ready to sign, and I would do my job anyway with the Cubs this year," Zambrano said. "Whatever happens, I don't want to know [anything] about a contract during the season. I want to sign with the Cubs before the season starts. If they don't sign me, sorry, but I must go. That's what Carlos Zambrano thinks."

This could get really ugly for the Cubs and Z.. If a deal is not reached by opening day they risk losing him almost like they lost Aram. Z is very tempted by the cash he could get in the off season but he has said he wants to stay a Cub throughout his career and its up to the Cubs and Jim to get the deal done.

The last thing the cubs want to do is to go into the season with there Ace as a distraction and that would definitely happen if a deal isn't reached by opening day! Come on Jim, get it done!

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!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

More ideas and thoughts are forming closer to ST

As we get near Spring more and more you hear about potential trade candidates. As for the Cubs only one has came up and you have heard his name all through winter and that's Jones. Jones reportedly asked to be traded after Dusty's contract was not renewed. Then we found out later that he did no such thing and he wanted to stay in Chicago if Lou wanted him there. So a while it sounded like Jones would play RF for the cubbies in 07 with Soriano in CF and Murton in LF. Then came the signing of Floyd, the speculation of him being traded again came up but was quickly diminished when said that Floyd would be a valuable bench player and to be a great 4th outfielder. Now that were days away from pitchers and catchers reporting the Jones being traded is another hot topic. It is said that Jones wouldn't be given away and he shouldn't. In fact I don't think he should be traded at all. Besides getting a proven OF for him or seeing Pie is ready to start for the Chicago Cubs, he shouldn't get traded. Jones put up career numbers last year and besides some shaky defense he played very well in 06. The media and some fans( me included) think or thought Jones would be traded away and such players as Figgins, Rowand, Church, Pie, or Duffy would take his place in the outfield. But now I have changed my opinion about Jones. He seems the logical choice in RF, you cant get someone who puts up power numbers like Jones without trading more than just him or a proven player. Pie needs another year in AAA, which is stated by a number of Cubs coaches, so I don't see him producing with the parent club at the beginning of the year. For now it does look like Jones wants to stay in Chicago and Lou and the cubs want him to hit 5th in the batting order. You really cant count on Floyd to play right everyday with his injuries, unless he proves otherwise. You also don't know how Murton will fare this year with just a year in the MLB, so giving Jones up would be a huge blow to the Cubs you would have to think. Anything short of getting a player that can hit .280+ 20+hr and 70+ rbi, you just cant trade JJ.

More and more times throughout winter and you recently have heard the "Arod in cubbie blue" rumors. Alot of that has to do with Lou being the manager of the Cubs now and the speculation of Arod wanting out of NY or opting out of the end of the year. Expect the rumors not to stop until he lands somewhere else. Recently in the San Fran newspaper stated- in a perfect world Arod would start ST with the Angels, Giants, Dodgers, or Cubs. Well all those are places you could see Arod landing. The Angels have alot of prospects ( Santana) to give the Yanks as well as the Dodgers have alot to. The Giants and Cubs however do not have the resources that the LA teams do. In order to get a player of the ability you would have to trade a star or get another team involved. Another thing all the teams could provide to maybe pry away Arod is to pay the majority of his remaining contract( which alot of teams might not agree to) . That way you could give them lower quality players and still get the All Star. Another thing that could be in the back of that Yanks mind is that the Twins have an impending free agent named Santana who they would love to get in pinstripes. That would cost some green but with Arod and his contract gone it would be easy to throw that money at Santana. Theres alot of variables that could take place and it will be very interesting to see how these topics pan out throughout the 07 season.