Rainy Day In Mesa

Day 5 of Camp Lou was marred by rain and cool weather. With conditions being less than favorable, Lou Piniella gave his position players time off on Monday and cut the workouts short….Monday was the scheduled reporting day for all of the position players. The first full squad practice is scheduled for Tuesday and the forecast looks favorable. Pitchers and catchers were able to get their work in and most of the news of the day surrounded Kerry Wood and the impending arbitration hearing of one Carlos Zambrano….which is scheduled for 3:00pm on Tuesday.

Jacque Jones in the 2-hole, questions about center, Steve Finley rumors, Minor League report dates and Scott Eyre on XM Radio were among the other news from Mesa….

The 2-hole and Centerfield?

As reported here on Sunday, Lou Piniella is considering hitting Jacque Jones in the 2-hole in the lineup depending on the rotation of the outfield. A report in the Sun-Times brought up a few of the scenarios of how the outfield could workout. Jacque Jones could play center leaving the position open for Felix Pie when he is ready. With Jones in center, Alfonso Soriano could learn just one position this season instead of possibly moving to right once Pie is called-up. Gordon Wittenmyer stated Jones in center would probably be a better fit for Jones considering he would be able to make shorter throws to 2nd and 3rd. Soriano, who started his professional career at shortstop, has the best arm of an outfield rotation consisting of Soriano, Jones, Matt Murton and Cliff Floyd.

Bruce Miles also reported the possibility of Jones hitting in the 2-hole against righties with Cliff Floyd hitting 5th in the lineup with Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, respectively, hitting between the pair of lefties. When asked about Matt Murton hitting behind Soriano, according to Miles’ report, the question was not answered. Soriano had a .351 OBP in 2006 with 160 strikeouts while Jones had a .334 with 116 strikeouts….Matt Murton’s OBP was .365.

According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, nothing is set in stone and mentioned Murton and Floyd could be in the outfield at the same time, one in each corner. The outfield rotation will work itself out as spring training moves along according to Piniella.

Avoid the Third Party

Carlos Zambrano’s agents Barry Praver, Scott Shapiro and Tommy Miranda arrived in Mesa on Sunday night and the contract talks did not result in an agreement to avoid arbitration or a new long-term deal for the Cubs’ ace. Several reports stated on Monday night that Zambrano gave the chances at avoiding arbitration at 85-90 percent. Zambrano was on XM Radio on Monday as well and when asked (by Joe Castellano) if he had any anxiety about his new contract, Carlos responded with “no”. Zambrano went on to explain he cannot let his contract be a distraction to him or his teammates. He did refer to himself in the third person again, though. Zambrano also brought up it would mean a lot for him to stay with the Cubs because they brought him up.

Joe Castellano asked him about all of the money the Cubs spent this off-season and Zambrano said now it is time for him to get a good deal to stay with the Cubs. He did say that his teammates are in camp and working hard, paying a lot of attention and that it is good everyone is worried about their job.

Zambrano is one of three players left on the last day of arbitration hearings; the other two are Todd Walker (Padres) and Chad Cordero (Nationals).

Zambrano said he does not feel he and the Cubs will go to arbitration on Tuesday. By all accounts, neither side wants to argue their case in front of an independent arbitrator. A late report from Paul Sullivan in the Tribune mentioned Zambrano feels the deal will “hopefully” be done by Tuesday morning, avoiding the arbitration hearing.

Kerry Wood

According to several reports, Wood threw 25 pitches off the mound on Monday and will likely have two or three more sessions before facing live hitters. According to a report on Cubs.com, Wood is scheduled to throw again on Wednesday and will increase his pitches. Wood was on XM Radio on Monday and told Joe Castellano he will not throw the curve ball as much and will throw just three pitches out of the pen….a fastball, slider and changeup. The report on Cubs.com reported the same.

Steve Finley Rumors?

According to a report from Yahoo Sports, Steve Finley is deciding “whether to wait for a potential opening with the Cubs or accept a job as a reserve with another club.” Yahoo credited a report on FoxSports.com as their source and said the Cubs would have to trade Jacque Jones before they could sign Finley, who turns 42 in March. The report mentioned a possible trade of Jacque Jones could not take place until the end of camp in March.

Chicks Dig the Long Ball

According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, the Cubs have decided to return to the days of trying to out score their opponents via the long ball. Small ball, or combination ball as the previous manager referred to it, is apparently no longer a part of the Cubs game plan. The Cubs were out homered last season at Wrigley and they have no plans of repeating that sub-par performance.

Derrek Lee said the following (from the Tribune):

“You play to your team’s (strengths). Whatever your team is good at, that’s how you play. Looking at this team, this is not a small-ball team, so we should throw the small ball out the window.”

Pitchers and Position Players

According to a report on Cubs.com….Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Jeff Samardzija, Jason Marquis, Mark Prior and Wade Miller “all threw 25 pitches each, rested, then threw another 20.” The same report stated Ronny Cedeno, Daryle Ward and Mike Kinkade reported to camp on Monday.

Scott Eyre on XM Radio

Scott Eyre was on with Joe Castellano on Monday night. Castellano asked Eyre about his optimism for the upcoming season and he mentioned everyone is excited but followed that statement with….everyone was last year too. Eyre said everyone is waiting to see if the team leaves Mesa healthy and gels while in camp. He compared last season with “crapping in the bed.” He said he was quietly optimistic and feels like he is ready to face hitters. Eyre said his two favorite restaurants are Taco Bell and McDonald’s and said by avoiding those establishments in the off-season he was able to lose the weight he has lost. He also said he started training earlier this season than he has in the past.

Eyre was asked how he felt about the off-season moves and he said the signings of Aramis Ramirez and Kerry Wood were the keys. He (enthusiastically) said everyone on the team loves Woody and he has worked hard to try to prove himself this year. Eyre said the key is for the Cubs to stay healthy and play together.

The questions turned to his relationship with Dusty Baker. Baker was the reason he signed with the Cubs last season but a manager is a manager and now he has a new guy he will call “skip”. Eyre said he wishes the best for Dusty and his family.

Eyre stated his job is to get the ball to Ryan Dempster in the 9th inning. Dempster is the closer of the Cubs until something changes. He feels the Cubs have three guys that can close games for the team and he is 4th on the depth chart (behind Dempster, Bobby Howry and Wood). He did mention he does not feel like he will have to close out any games this year, but will if Piniella asks him to.

He finished by saying if Mark Prior is healthy, he “makes it pretty darn good” in reference to the rotation.

Minor League Report Dates and Schedule

The Cubs minor league pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Fitch Park on March 3rd with the position players scheduled to report on March 5th….the first full squad workout will be on March 6th. The minor league spring training games start on March 17th and the squads are divided into four groups:

  • Triple-A squad
  • Double-A squad
  • Class High-A squad
  • Class Low-A squad

The minor league spring training games end on April 1st and there are two intrasquad games scheduled for March 23rd and March 31st. Scout.com released a full schedule for the Cubs minor league spring training games.

More Questions from the Experts

John Donovan from SI.com is the latest to chime in with his questions concerning the Cubs. Donovan’s questions surrounds the outfield, especially center, and mentions if Alfonso Soriano cannot play in the outfield, Felix Pie impresses and Mark DeRosa struggles then Soriano could end up at 2nd base. What? Gotta love experts!!

Michael Barrett has a new website – www.barrettbaseball.com

Photos of Day 5 from Camp Lou – Yahoo Sports

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

Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax