The Cubs Spring Training Report – 02/20/06

Position Players Report, More NL Central Predictions, Ramirez Could Skip the WBC, Michael Barrett on XM Radio and a Interesting Report from L.A. about the Dodgers

Today is the day; the position players report to Mesa and the Cubs will have their first full workout on Tuesday. Derrek Lee, Juan Pierre, Jerry Hariston, Jr., Ronny Cedeno, Matt Murton and Jacque Jones have already reported.

While the baseball world is gearing up for the WBC, many of the bigger names keep falling off the rosters. The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Sunday that Aramis Ramirez might not play for the Dominican Republic in the upcoming tournament. A report out of Santo Domingo on Saturday said Adrian Beltre, the Seattle Mariners’ third baseman, will start for the Dominican Republic. The Sun-Times is reporting Ramirez might have removed his name due to recovering from last season’s injuries. The Cubs still have Derrek Lee, Michael Barrett, Henry Blanco and Carlos Zambrano scheduled to participate in the games.

Holden Kushner on XM Radio is the latest to pick the Cardinals to repeat as division champs although he does think the Cubs could be a playoff team. The Brewers will have question marks on the right side of the infield with rookie Prince Fielder taking over at first base. Fielder, the son of Cecil Fielder, can hit the cover off of the ball, but he has problems catching it. The same for Rickie Weeks, the Brewers second baseman will enter his sophomore season as the starter for the Brewers. Both are above average offensively, but are below average defensively and they are the main reason the Brewers brought Hall of Famer Robin Yount back as a coach. Kushner thinks the Brewers will take a step back in 2006, but will be ready to take the division in 2007. The Cubs will be better according to Kushner than they were in 2005 largely due to the improved bullpen and the additions of Pierre and Jones. He thinks that Jacque Jones is a definite upgrade over Jeromy Burnitz. The Cubs dug themselves a huge hole early in the season with all of the blown saves and lost leads in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings by LaTroy Hawkins and company, the additions of Eyre and Howry should cut down on those lost leads. Kushner feels the Astros still need pitching in the back of the rotation and has question marks surrounding their bullpen and Brad Lidge. Kushner wonders if Lidge will be able to bounce back from last post-season. He likes the addition of Preston Wilson.

Michael Barrett was recently on XM Radio with Mark Patrick and Buck Martinez. Michael talked a lot about his family and the importance of his family in his life. He receives and depends on the support he gets from his family. It was very refreshing to hear him speak with so much sincerity concerning his family. Barrett feels the Cubs bullpen was not as bad as people think in 2005. The majority of the problem with the bullpen last season was the injuries in the starting rotation. He feels the bullpen will be better in 2006 with the experience that was added in the off-season. He thinks Eyre and Howry will give the team two good setup men for Ryan Dempster. Barrett was good friends with Corey Patterson and hated to see him leave. He feels that Patterson’s horrible season at the plate affected his defense. The additions of Pierre and Jones will help the Cubs defense in the outfield and Barrett is looking forward to them playing side by side to see how many balls in the alley they can cut off and in turn help the Cubs win ballgames. Buck Martinez feels Carlos Zambrano is primed for a big season and they spoke about the weight loss Carlos had during the off-season. Zambrano dropped 20-30 pounds and that is a real credit to his desire to win and his off-season workout program. Barrett thinks it is easy for a pitcher to become over weight.

Michael Barrett has come under fire from the Cubs Faithful about his defense and the pitchers ERA while he is behind the plate. This interview helped me understand what type of person he is and how much charity work and family means to him. Barrett seems to be working hard at getting better. He realizes his game needs improvement and that is a definite change from the norm of the modern day athlete.

Speaking of the modern day athlete, according to a report in USA Today, Rafael Furcal is limping around Dodgers training camp and Cesar Izturis showed up in better form than Furcal….just thought I would pass this info along.

A couple of ‘freebies’…. I have a few extra tickets for the March 2nd and March 5th games at HoHoKam, if you’re going out to Mesa for the opening weekend and are interested in some General Admission Tickets, they’re yours for the asking. Just send me an email at neil@chicagocubsonline.com. Obviously, once they’re gone – they’re gone. Also, I also had some 2006 pocket schedules printed out, so if you’d like a copy of the .pdf file to print out on your own, send me an email to the same address.

Well that’s the news….and I’m sticking to it!!

Quote of the Day

"The only way of finding the limits of the possibility is by going beyond them into the impossible." - Arthur C. Clarke
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