Friday, April 20, 2007
ATLANTA -- Cubs fans should not get their hopes up for a miracle appearance by center fielder Alfonso Soriano in the upcoming weekend series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Manager Lou Piniella put any possibility of that to rest.
"He ran today, and he was about 75 percent," said Piniella. "Mark O'Neal, our trainer, feels that by Monday or Tuesday, he'll be ready to play. He'll run again on Saturday in Chicago, in cooler weather, see how he feels, maybe even a little bit on Sunday and then be ready to play by Monday or Tuesday. That's the scenario we have for Soriano."
Soriano, who has sat out the last three games after straining his hamstring in Monday's game against San Diego, was upbeat prior to the series finale in Atlanta, speaking optimistically that he could conceivably play as early as Sunday.
Piniella, while admitting he was encouraged by the progress of 31-year-old center fielder, who he called "a quick healer," discouraged any speculation that he would rush him back into the lineup, even as a pinch-hitter.
"[If] you sit through cool weather, you get all stiff, and then send him up there to hit, you're risking [it]," he said. "Last night, we kept our bullpen quiet because of the risk factor. This would be a similar type situation with Soriano.
"I will probably say no, but let's leave at least a little doubt so the other team doesn't know for sure. So everybody's available," he added with a laugh. "But prudent-wise, it would be difficult. It's taking a risk that probably isn't worth taking."
Running amok: The inability to get Matt Murton home from third base with nobody out, and then not advance both Michael Barrett and Murton from second and third with one out in the eighth inning on Wednesday night was the final straw for Piniella as far as the team's baserunning.
The Cubs' skipper announced that he is bringing in the club's outfield/base running coordinator, Bob Dernier, to run a clinic.
Dernier stole 218 bases in his career, while only getting caught 63 times, a 77.6 percent success rate, and in 1984 set a then-franchise single-season record for steals by a center fielder with 45.
"We're going to work on some things with our leads and so forth, try to improve our baserunning," said Piniella. "I haven't been totally pleased with that aspect of our game. We're going to bring him in and really go over some things, including stealing bases."
One thing he'll probably go over with the Cubs players is when, and more important, when NOT to steal. Second baseman Ryan Theriot provided a perfect example of the latter in the first inning Thursday night.
After singling and stealing second, Theriot was thrown out attempting to steal third on a 2-0 pitch with Derrek Lee at the plate and Aramis Ramirez on deck.
Down on the Farm: Left-hander Les Walrond and righty John Webb combined for a shutout for Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday night. Walrond is now 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA, while the save was Webb's first since Aug. 21, 2003, when he played at Double-A West Tennessee.
Center fielder Chris Walker had two hits in his fifth straight contest -- he's hitting .476 (10-for-21) with a homer in that stretch -- to spark the first place Tennessee Smokies (Southern League, Double-A) to their fourth straight win. Walker also swiped two bases.
Jeff Samardzija pitched five strong innings (five hits, two runs, one earned), but got no decision in the Daytona Cubs' (Florida State League, Class A) 6-4 loss to Vero Beach.
The Peoria Chiefs (Midwest League, Class A) were rained out. They'll play a double-dip at Great Lakes on Thursday.
On deck: The Cubs head home to open a weekend series with the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. Ted Lilly (1-1, 2.37) takes the hill for the Cubs, while right-hander Braden Looper (2-1, 2.37) goes for the Cardinals. First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT.
Its to bad that he had to miss the best rivalry in baseball but you have to take it easy with him and plus there is no rush in my opinion because I want Pie to show why he deserves to be in the Majors.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Jones has been through criticism, trade talk before
April 19, 2007
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org ATLANTA -- Whether it's handwriting on the wall or random graffiti, Jacque Jones can see it.
One day after Cubs manager Lou Piniella switched Jones from right to left field, top prospect Felix Pie was in the majors to fill in for injured center fielder Alfonso Soriano -- and speculation started swirling about the often-criticized Jones.
''I'm just playing,'' Jones said. ''But you think about it because when [Soriano] comes back and Pie stays here, there's going to be three of us in right field.
''I just go out and play. That's all I can do.''
Jones was referring to Soriano saying Wednesday that he's willing to move back to left to accommodate Pie if the rookie plays well enough to stick with the Cubs when Soriano returns to the lineup, possibly this weekend.
That would mean another round of trade rumors involving Jones, who is in the middle year of a three-year, $16 million deal.
''It gets tiring,'' he said. ''But I don't let it bother me. I'm used to it.''
Jones, who will turn 32 next Wednesday, never has been traded in his career despite being the subject of continual rumors with the Minnesota Twins and Cubs the last four seasons. He has survived the emergence of hot-shot outfield prospects before and will receive another reprieve -- from the speculation at least -- if Pie can't handle this opportunity. But that hasn't crossed his mind, he said.
''No, I want him to play well,'' Jones said. ''He needs to play here. He deserves to play here. I'm pulling for him to play well because, shoot, he doesn't have anything left to prove at Triple-A. I'm pulling for him.''
After hitting .285 with 27 home runs and 81 RBI last season, Jones entered the game Wednesday at .235 without a homer. He went 2-for-4 to raise his average to .255.
''I never worry about myself,'' he said. ''I thought I had a pretty good year last year. And I know at the end of the year, I'll be somewhere around that again.''
If anything, his ability to move freely from left to right and even play center, as well as being a left-handed .280 career hitter with decent power, should make Jones a valuable, movable piece of the roster. Instead, he seems to be treated as a player who doesn't do enough in a given facet in a given day or week.
Whether the Cubs' rough start exacerbates the individual criticism and speculation on his future, ''you never know,'' Jones said. ''It's just something that I deal with, learn to deal with.
''But I always have to go out and play and put up numbers. It's no different than having to do it before.''
Let me first start by saying that this is a class act by Jones and Soriano. Both pulling for the guy and Soriano( 136 million dollar man) saying he would move to left field for Pie. You really dont hear that everyday. I love seeing Pie in center, he has phemonenal defensive skills and he is good with the bat. When Soriano gets back lets hope the cubs do the right thing and keep Pie in center and put Soriano in LF. I think it would be best for both of them. I also think Soriano is concentrating to much out in CF and that explains some of his struggles at the plate, by moving him back to LF( where he has a year of experience) you get him more comfortable and possibly could get his bat going.
Now if Pie stays up then one of three things could happen.
1. The cubs trade Jones. I personally like JJ, but if I had to pick between him staying and Pie going to Iowa, I would have to say goodbye to Jones.
2. Murton is sent to AAA or traded. Don't act so surprised, Lou has came out and said that Floyd would get the majority of the playing time in the outfield and he hasn't show much favoritism toward Murton. Off course you cant show what you can do in limited playing time. By sending him down or trading him you have 3 leftys and 1 righty that could start in the outfield. Combinations out there would be interesting but I don't see this happening but it still could.
3. You could see Soriano come back and Murton, Floyd, Jones, and Pie all stay too. It doesn't make much sense unless you look at it as a trial basis, and wait and see if anyone gets traded. Have players shuffle in and out in the outfield until one of them gets dealt. Meanwhile to make room for all 5 outfielders you would have to option someone to AAA, like Ohman or Cedeno for example.
It will be interesting to see how this develops. We could know an answer as soon as this weekend!
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Cubs Deals Proposed At BP
I know MLBTR can be a little Cub-centric at times, but hey, whatcha gonna do.
Nate Silver at Baseball Prospectus has an interesting Unfiltered post up today, outlining all sorts reasonable of trade scenarios the Cubs could pursue to clear up their outfield logjam.
Possible bounties for Jacque Jones, in Silver's opinion: Mike MacDougal, Jon Lieber, or Erick Aybar. I think any of those trades would improve the Cubs this year. In particular, Lieber makes a fine fit. He once won 20 games for the Cubs, but would only need a 4.50ish ERA to be one of the game's best fifth starters. I like the idea of giving Angel Guzman a shot at the job, but you can never have too much starting pitching depth.
Jones is owed $9MM for 2007-08, and could play center field in a pinch. I wonder if the Marlins would add him to their top-ranked offense? They could send Jorge Julio to balance salaries and a good prospect to make it worth the Cubs' while. For some reason, Julio in a Cubs uniform seems all too fitting.
I like the idea of Jon Lieber and they make a good point on how he would fit good in the 5th spot. Miller is there currently but Liber might be a little better. Erick Aybar is also a good pick up but why do we need another MI? He isn't much of an up grade to Cedeno. Mike Macdougal is decent but I wouldn't trade Jones for him.
Here is the link to the stats of Lieber, Aybar, and MacDougal.
As far as Julio, that makes good sense but I don't think the Marlins would take on his contract.
As far as my opinion, why not look at upgrading SS. Izzy is doing OK but I would want more offense out of that position. We all know the Reneteria rumors that went around earlier this year and he would be a perfect fit but the Braves wont deal him. But how about the faltering Nationals?? They have a shortage of outfield help with Logan and Escobar on the DL. Not to mention they have Christian Guzman on the DL and there short in the MI area which the cubs have a surplus of. Why don't the Cubs make a trade with them? Pie to me looks ready, I know how it has only been one game but he made a statement and I think the rest of this week Pie will give the cubs a tough decision on what to do with him.
So here is what I suggest-
Cubs get Felipe Lopez
Nats get Ohman, Izturis, and Jones
Cubs would get a good defensive and offensive SS. He can steal very well, he had 44 SB last year, very high OBP not below .352 in past 3 seasons, high average near .280 last couple of seasons, good power and former allstar. He has also hit well at Wrigley from what I can remember. They would bring Guzman back up along with Cherry to take the place in the pen or add another MI from Iowa.
The Nats would finally get much need offense and outfield help with Jones. They get a gold glove SS that would move to 2b when Guzman gets back. And they get a decent lefty since King is also on the DL. I think its a great deal for both clubs.
It just makes to much sense to me but maybe I'm the only one.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
CHICAGO -- An MRI exam on Alfonso Soriano's left leg revealed a minor hamstring strain, and he did not expect to need more than a week to heal. The Cubs medical staff apparently agreed, because Soriano was not placed on the disabled list Tuesday.
The Cubs instead called up outfielder Felix Pie from Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday as backup, and optioned reliever Angel Guzman to the Minor League team.
The news that Soriano's injury is a strain and not a tear is encouraging. A tear would've sidelined the Cubs' $136 million outfielder for an extended period.
"They told me it's not bad," Soriano said before Tuesday's game. "I think maybe a week.
"Thank God it's not a big deal," he said. "It's a little problem. Maybe one week, 10 days."
Soriano wasn't enthused about going on the disabled list.
"I like to play every day," he said. "If they give me the rest, they know what they're doing. If they put me on the DL, they know what they're doing."
Pie made his Major League debut Tuesday, starting in center field against the San Diego Padres. The highly touted outfielder was batting .444 (16-for-36) in 11 games at Triple-A Iowa with one home run, two doubles, nine walks and five strikeouts. The fact that he has more walks than strikeouts is encouraging.
"That's one of the messages we were talking about when we sent him down," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "Let's cut down on the strikeouts, let's increase the walks, and let's get better at-bats. That's exactly what he's done. He's followed the instructions almost to a 'T.' He's a good-looking young player with a lot of ability. This gives us a chance to play him and let him gain some Major League experience and we can see."
Pie, who will wear No. 17, got the news around 10:30 p.m. CT on Monday night from Iowa manager Buddy Bailey.
"I said, 'What did you say?'" Pie said of the phone conversation. "After that, I called my family, my people. Everybody is happy. I didn't sleep last night."
He spent all last season at Iowa while most of his Minor League teammates were called up to the big leagues because of injuries. It feels as if the 22-year-old has been waiting a long time.
"It's my dream," he said. "The first time I played baseball, it's my dream to play here in the big leagues. I can't explain -- I don't know how I'm feeling right now."
In Spring Training, Piniella talked to Pie about adjusting his stance and getting him to go wider with his feet and flatten his bat.
"I'm doing things a little different, I'm more spread out and I'm working on my swing," Pie said. "These are things he told me in Spring Training."
Pie will not have to worry about housing in Chicago. Soriano has an extra room.
"That's my best friend on the team, the first guy I met when I came to the Chicago Cubs," Soriano said. "I'm very happy for him that he's in the big leagues."
Piniella didn't plan on easing Pie into the big leagues. He was asked if he had to do something to calm the outfielder down, assuming Pie needed calming.
"Just welcome him to the club and wish him well," Piniella said. "I don't have any tranquilizers to give people."
Right way: Guzman was sharp in his two innings on Monday night, striking out four of the seven batters he faced. The right-hander seems to have found a groove after moving to the right side of the pitching rubber this spring.
"I don't want to make a big deal about it," Guzman said of the switch. "I moved to the side of the rubber and I throw the ball. I'm getting good results."
Guzman has given up two earned runs on eight hits and one walk over 7 1/3 innings, while striking out eight in four games.
"I'm just trying to keep a routine, because as a reliever you don't know [when you'll pitch]," he said. "You have to be able to pitch every day."
His fastball regularly touches 97 mph, while he has a nasty curve that worked well Monday. After battling arm problems the last three years, it's just nice being healthy.
"It makes me feel confident about myself," Guzman said. "That's good."
He will likely start at Iowa, and get more regular work.
Extra bases: Aramis Ramirez returned to the Cubs lineup after missing four games because of tendinitis in his right wrist. The third baseman was batting .406 when he was sidelined. ... Will Ohman served up a three-run homer in one inning of relief on Monday. "We've just got to pitch him a little more," Piniella said. "He needs more work." ... There was a moment of silence before Tuesday's game for the students and others killed at Virginia Tech on Monday. ... Mark Prior was expected to see orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews next week. Prior is trying to get answers regarding his right shoulder. ... Scott Eyre spent two nights in a hospital because of gastroenteritis, and lost eight pounds. "The doctor recommended staying an extra night, and I said 'Sure,'" Eyre said. He's ready to pitch now. ... Cliff Floyd and Daryle Ward met with students from Dunbar High School before Tuesday's game.
Minor matters: Randy Wells gave up six runs on eight hits over four innings in Iowa's 11-5 loss to Round Rock. Micah Hoffpauir had two home runs and three RBIs. Pie was 2-for-4. ... Kevin Hart gave up two runs on four hits over five innings in Tennessee's 7-2 win over Chattanooga. Chris Walker had two hits, including a three-run homer. ... Joel Santo gave up two runs on five hits over 6 2/3 innings in Daytona's 4-2 win over the Devil Rays. ... Al Alburquerque gave up one run on four hits over five innings in Peoria's 3-1 win over Quad Cities. It was new manager Ryne Sandberg's first home win of the season. Wellington Castro had three hits.
On deck: Carlos Zambrano will try to get back on track when he opens the Cubs' brief two-game road trip to Atlanta on Wednesday night. Zambrano is coming off a weird start in which he gave up one hit over four scoreless innings, then couldn't retire a batter in the fifth. He ended up blowing a 5-0 lead and losing the game, 6-5.
He left last nights game with what is now being called a "strained left hamstring". It occurred while he was racing in from centerfield to catch a flyball. The play looked ackward, it was like he was caught wanting to stay on his feet, and slide both at the same time. The fly ball was caught but was ruled a trapped ball.
Here is what Soriano has to say-
"I feel better than when it happened," Soriano said after Monday's game, a 12-4 win over the San Diego Padres. "They gave me a lot of treatment, and I feel better on my leg."
Even tho he limped out of the clubhouse.
"If it's not bad, I think I'll take five, six days or maybe a week," Soriano said. "I believe it's not that bad, it's not a big deal."
Soriano is scheduled to have a MRI today but expects to find no damage. I fully expect him to be out on the field within 5 days or so. You will pry see him take the field on Saturday when the Cubs play the Cards at Wrigley. Unless he is really injured I don't expect him to miss that series.
If he is out over a week the cubs must, and I repeat MUST call up Pie!
Monday, April 16, 2007
1. Hill is proven to be a huge bright spot in the rotation. He is 2-0 with a 0.64 era. He has had really nasty stuff and has had a awesome presence on the mound.
2. Dlee is back! .372 BA, .449 OBP, 5 doubles, and with 16 hits in 11 games!
3. Lilly pitching very well. His record is 1-1 but he has had two great outings with his era only being 2.37.
4. Look on the bright side, the cubs are only 2.5 games out of first and there doing it without Soriano's bat, a shut down bullpen( up until recently), there ace being off on his game, and also with Barrett, Jones, and Murton starting slow and Aram missing some games. You take that all in consideration 4-7 isn't that bad.
For once cubs fans keep you head up and look at the glass half full.