35 Days and Counting….

Baseball kicks into high gear this week when the exhibition season gets underway in Arizona and Florida. There is not one major league team without a hand full of questions and all feel health is the key to success for their team in 2007, and of course the Cubs are right there in the middle. Over the next 35 days the team the Faithful will dedicate the next 6 months to will take shape. No one can predict what will take place or how the Cubs will finish the marathon….but one thing is for certain, with Lou Piniella at the helm the season should be anything but boring.

Piniella announced his rotation for the first 5 games of the Cactus League schedule on Sunday. Jason Marquis will face the Giants on Thursday; Carlos Zambrano will take the hill on Friday against the Angels; Wade Miller on Saturday against the A’s; Rich Hill on Sunday against the White Sox and Ted Lilly against the Mariners on Monday. Here is the rest from Day 11 of Camp Lou….

Wade Miller

A report in the Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday brought up a “little” piece of news yet to be heard out of Mesa. The Cubs are not counting on Wade Miller for the season. According to Gordon Wittenmyer, the comment made by Piniella about Miller’s velocity was the source of this revelation. Miller threw in the mid-90’s while he was a member of the Astros and last season with the Cubs he did well to throw in the mid-80’s….his velocity has not increased to this point in camp.

Kerry Wood and Mark Prior

The repetitive storyline….every year around this time Cubs’ fans everywhere hold their collective breath in hopes of Wood and Prior being healthy for an entire season. While both have reportedly been throwing just fine in the first few days of camp, the Cubs announced on Sunday that neither Prior nor Wood would be pitching in the first week of the exhibition season. A report on Cubs.com mentioned the Cubs are shooting for March 7th or March 8th for both pitchers to see game action. Prior threw 35 pitches on Sunday and after taking a day off on Monday will throw a side session and then batting practice before the Cubs decide his next step. Reports on Cubs.com stated Prior is progressing well and while his velocity is not where it was a couple of years ago….he is making progress. The Cubs are saying he has not had a set back to this point in training camp. A report in the Chicago Sun-Times by Gordon Wittenmyer stated Prior “did not throw to hitters with his usual group (on Saturday), instead doing a lighter, flat-ground throw session, at the pitcher’s request, Rothschild said.” The report from the Sun-Times ran on Sunday morning before Prior threw his batting practice session.

Samardzija and Marquis

Jeff Samardzija is on the list to pitch in Saturday’s game against the A’s in Phoenix, according to a report on Cubs.com. Samardzija has done well to this point of camp and several reports have actually used the word “impressive.”

The Cubs signing of Jason Marquis to the 3-year, $21 million dollar deal this past off-season was brought up again on Sunday night by Paul Sullivan in the Tribune. Marquis will get the first start of the spring on Thursday and wants to put last year behind him.

Fundamental Baseball

What has been seen on the North Side of Chicago over the past few seasons has been less than pleasing to the eye. The Cubs defense has been woeful to say the least, especially up the middle. Last season the Cubs tried to solve a few of their problems by trading Greg Maddux for Cesar Izturis. Well, Izturis could not stay on the field and the Faithful endured more of Ronny Cedeno at shortstop. While Cedeno might turn out to be the player the Cubs thought he was at the beginning of last season, a new coaching philosophy might be exactly what Cedeno (and other players like him) needs. The well-documented lack of defensive practice has driven the Faithful crazy….not being able to turn a routine double play, not to mention the fiasco displayed by Freddie Bynum last season. A sound defensive team is a pitcher’s best friend and Alan Trammell could be the coach to take the Cubs defense to the next level. Trammell was an accomplished player and although the Tigers went to the World Series a year after he was dismissed, many of the players and Jim Leyland gave a lot of credit to Trammell. Phil Rogers discussed Trammell’s credibility in an article in the Tribune on Sunday night.

Who’s In Left?

One of the many storylines to watch as the games get underway this week is the battle between Cliff Floyd and Matt Murton for playing time in left field. With Alfonso Soriano working on his defense in center and Jacque Jones being penciled in as the everyday right fielder (and possible 2-hole hitter) there seems to be one to many outfielders in the mix. Matt Murton’s career is just beginning and has shown the ability to one day become a very successful major leaguer, while Cliff Floyd has been very successful in the league and is in the twilight of his career. Floyd gives the Cubs a lot of power from the left side, when healthy. But Murton gives the Cubs a player that will hit to all fields and get on base by any means possible. If both players remain healthy, the left field “platoon” could be very beneficial to the Cubs but could cost them in the development of a possible mainstay.

Rumors?

According to Ken Rosenthal, Jacque Jones is still available for a possible trade.

Notes from around the League

Steve Finley had been rumored to be heading to Chicago all off-season….those talks were quieted on Saturday. Finley signed a minor league deal with the Colorado Rockies on Saturday afternoon.

Sammy Sosa arrived on Friday to Rangers camp….what a Surprise.

Fantasy Baseball….Rotohog.com

The CCO is pleased to announce a new fantasy baseball site on the web….Rotohog.com. For those interested in fantasy baseball, go check them out. If you do, use referral code “Cubsfan” so the guys at Rotohog know you found out about them from Chicago Cubs Online. The season starts soon, so don’t forget to signup. Rotohog will be featuring the CCO from time to time, so you will be able to get the latest on the Cubs while you are checking on your fantasy team.

Day 11 Photos of Camp Lou from Yahoo Sports….team Photo day is Monday.

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

Quote of the Day

"There are only two seasons ... winter and baseball." - Bill Veeck

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