The Waiting Game

The Faithful are used to waiting….how does the ole cliche go? So Friday should not be a stretch for a fan base that has displayed more patience than any other in professional sports. Cubs single game tickets go on sale at 8:00am C.T. or 10:00am C.T. on Friday morning depending on your preferred ticket outlet. With all of the anticipation for the upcoming season the lines should be long, literally and virtually.

Day 8 of Camp Lou featured Mark Prior throwing batting practice, a speculation on the starting rotation, questions about the Cubs’ outfield defense, strict pitch counts and the first roster changes of the spring were among the highlights from Mesa….

The Priority of the Cubs

The Cubs have said they are not depending on Mark Prior this season but (as mentioned here at the CCO several times) a rotation that includes Mark Prior will go a long in the Cubs obtaining their goal for this season. Prior took a positive, first step on Thursday by throwing live batting practice. According to a report on Cubs.com, Prior was one of 14 pitchers to throw batting practice and faced a group of hitters that included Derrek Lee and Jacque Jones. Prior threw 25 pitches and said everything felt good on the mound. Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Rich Hill and Wade Miller also threw on Thursday….what a rotation that would be.

Neal Cotts could make a couple of starts once the Cactus League schedule begins next week. Cotts threw well on Thursday and received praise from Lou Piniella who asked Larry Rothschild to try to get the four starters on the staff at least 26 innings this spring. Rich Hill should leave Mesa with a spot in the starting rotation as long as the very talented lefty does not take a step back in his development. Hill was among the best in the game at the conclusion of last season and the Cubs need him to pick up where he left off. The Cubs will likely go with a righty-lefty-righty-lefty-righty rotation with what Hill brings to the rotation. Zambrano will open the season in Cincinnati and the 2nd spot in the rotation will likely fall to Ted Lilly. Jason Marquis will likely pitch in the 3rd spot depending on the health of Mark Prior, according to the report on Cubs.com, followed by Rich Hill.

Roster Changes

Micah Hoffpauir replaced Mike Kinkade on the Cubs spring training roster. Kinkade, a non-roster invitee, is still recovering from knee surgery and according to a report on Cubs.com, the club wanted another 1st baseman in camp. Hoffpauir hit a combined 22 homes run last year in 117 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

Get ‘em Over and Get ‘em Out

According to Bruce Miles, Lou Piniella wants the pitching staff to throw strikes this season. Piniella has little patience for pitchers that do not throw strikes and feels that a team cannot win with giving up too many walks and throwing from behind in the count…. It’s about time!!!

Thirteen Plus Twelve

According to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cubs will likely go with a 25-man roster that consists of 12 pitchers and 13 position players. The battle for the last spots on the pitching staff will be between Roberto Novoa and Michael Wuertz and depending on the health of Mark Prior and Wade Miller, Will Ohman could be added to the list. The battle of the position players will likely be between Ryan Theriot, Ronny Cedeno and Angel Pagan. Pagan gives the Cubs a lot of versatility with being able to play all three outfield positions. Theriot showed a lot of promise at the end of last season while Cedeno seemed to take a few steps back. Felix Pie looks to be destined to start the season at Iowa and that scenario would benefit his development, instead of sitting on the bench at the major league level.

More Questions about the Outfield

The Cubs outfield could be very good offensively, especially if Matt Murton earns a chance to show what he can do and is able to take his game to the next level. Murton displayed a lot of potential in his first full season at the major league level but has yet to display the power most teams expect out of a corner outfielder….and the Cubs are no exception. Murton showed he is capable of hitting to all fields and patience at the plate. Murton had an average first half (.278/.344/.379/4/27) but had a very good second half (.319/.390/.522/9/35)….and improved defensively at the same time. Murton will battle with Cliff Floyd for playing time in left. Floyd has recently stated he does expect to play everyday. With Alfonso Soriano penciled in center, Jacque Jones in right and the possibility of Floyd in left the Cubs outfield defense could be less than pitcher friendly. Jones’ struggles last season throwing the ball are well documented, Floyd’s defense is not what it used to be and Soriano will be learning on the job in center.

Murton is the wild card with Angel Pagan the early favorite to serve as the primary backup in the field and Daryle Ward being an option as well. Even with Soriano in center, the Cubs outfield should be better than last season. While Juan Pierre could track balls down in the gaps, how many times did runners go from 1st to 3rd on a single to center? According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, former Cub centerfielder Brian McRae thinks Soriano will eventually end up in right with Jones moving to center in effect clearing a path for Felix Pie later in the season. Lou Piniella said in the Tribune report he will give Soriano until mid to late March to decide if he he can play center or not.

The outfield will garner a tremendous amount of attention when the Cactus League schedule gets underway next week. Soriano should start in center, after that….check the odds in Vegas.

Don’t Lose Count

According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, Lou Piniella said he will not “overextend his starting pitchers” by allowing them to throw more than 120 pitches in a game.

“We’ll take care of these pitchers. We’re not going to abuse any of them. We want them healthy for the stretch run.”

Carlos Zambrano has finished in the top three, among pitchers in the National League, the last three seasons in pitches per start (2nd in ’06 – 109.97, 2nd in ’05 – 107.94, 3rd in ’04 – 111.87). Piniella even mentioned Zambrano could receive an extra day off if he throws more than 119 pitches….he had 8 starts in 2006 with 120 more pitches.

Spring Training Tickets

Anyone interested in free spring training tickets, feel free to email me at neil@chicagocubsonline.com. I have two extra tickets for games on March 1st and 2nd and 4 extra tickets for the Sunday game against the White Sox. They are in the lawn….the best place to watch a game at HoHoKam in my humble opinion. So if you are in the area, or plan on being there….let me know.

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

Quote of the Day

"We cannot discover new oceans until we have the courage to lose sight of the shore." - Muriel Chen
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