After months upon months of analyzing every free agent signing, every coaching hire and discussing every rumor known to man, all of the speculation can be put to rest starting on Monday. Baseball fever….catch it!!!
Lou Piniella’s opening day roster is set and the lineup for the first game has been announced but with two games left in the exhibition season the only goal must be to leave Las Vegas healthy. So on the last Friday before the marathon begins….here are some final thoughts on spring training….ramblings style.
Derrek Lee…. If there were any doubts about the strength of his wrist, those have been silenced. If he is anywhere near his 2005 numbers he is easily the National League Comeback Player of the Year and could end up competing for the MVP if the Cubs can put together a good season.
Matt Murton…. The Cubs success this season could hinge on what type of year Murton has. Piniella will need players, such as Murton, to get on base to avoid the countless numbers of solo homers that could prove to be meaningless. “The Big Murt” could turn into “The Big Hurt” for the other teams in the central if his OBP continues to rise.
Carlos Zambrano…. Will he or won’t he get paid before the season starts? Rumors say he will. Zambrano is going to pitch every 5 days, which could benefit the Cubs this season. His fire should spark the Cubs all season, as long as Sweet Lou can keep his “little fires” from becoming an inferno.
Ryan Theriot…. A fan favorite and he could end up being the Cubs starting 2nd baseman, but for now the Cubs keep using his name in the same sentence as Ryan Freel. If he can be the same thorn in the side of the other NL Central teams that Freel has been, Theriot could prove to be invaluable to Lou Piniella.
Rich Hill…. Monster curve, monster potential and most importantly he figured out how to throw strikes. With the health problems of Sean Marshall and Juan Mateo, the Cubs need him to be solid all season and not rack up frequent flier miles between Des Moines and Chicago.
Ryan Dempster…. Just throw strikes, early and often.
Bobby Howry…. The Cubs need him to pick up where he left off last season and be ready to fill Dempster’s shoes if he struggles when the season starts.
Rocky Cherry…. Great name and great spring but most importantly he throws strikes….keep a bag packed. Cherry gives the Cubs depth in an already deep pen, especially if Dempster struggles.
Aramis Ramirez…. Arguably the most complete 3rd sacker in the National League, if not in the majors. He had another hot spring and hopefully the cold will not cool him off….too much. Someone get him some long johns, a personal heater and a few palm trees to go around his locker so he “thinks” he is still in Mesa.
Cesar Izturis…. The Cubs need him to make more outs in the field than at the plate. Continue to take walks and flip the lineup….remember that’s “all”.
Mark DeRosa…. He has looked much better in the field than at the plate this spring. DeRosa has played a solid 2nd base and 3rd base and he might prove his worth by starting at several different positions as the season wears on.
Alfonso Soriano…. He is going to strikeout a lot but he is going to hit a lot as well. With Soriano in the leadoff spot, the most coveted spot in the all the major leagues could be hitting behind Soriano and in front of Derrek Lee. The Adventures in Center will cost the Cubs runs this season and the pitching staff points on the ERA and WHIP. But as long as he scores and drives in more than he costs the Cubs….Hey!!! There will not be a problem. His intangibles are he can provide the Cubs with a 1-0 lead on the first pitch of the game and his presence will allow pinch hitters to see a lot more fastballs than in previous seasons.
Michael Barrett…. Reportedly he has been working on his defensive skills all off-season and spring. Barrett is one of the best offensive catchers in the league but they need him to become a much better receiver and pitch caller than in years past.
Ronny Cedeno…. He went from fan favorite to goat….pardon the pun, and from the starting lineup to barely making the opening day roster. Under Piniella’s tutuledge he has really turned his game around in the past few weeks….both defensively and offensively. Last season Cedeno drew 17 walks; this spring he has 11 with two games left. No whether his newfound patience at the plate continues is anyone’s guess but with Izturis’ history of injuries the Cubs could be relying on Cedeno again before the All-Star break.
Jacque Jones…. Three words…. Platoon, platoon and platoon. Four more words….hit the cutoff man. Jones did his job last year at the plate and has shown a lot more patience this spring than his free-swinging history indicates. Jones’ bad throws and base-running blunders are well documented and hopefully a second season in Wrigley will not see any repeat performances.
Daryle Ward…. Forget the leather, just remember the lumber.
Henry Blanco…. Hank White….enough said.
Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis…. These two are the wild cards. Both have had a good spring but their real test will come at Wrigley. If the Faithful bring up, time after time, this season how much Jim Hendry spent on the pair of hurlers during the season, they are struggling and so are the Cubs. As long as Lilly and Marquis stay out of the headlines, their freshman year with the Cubs will be a good one….no news is good news.
Will Ohman, Scott Eyre and Neal Cotts…. The three-headed lefty. The trio of southpaws gives Piniella a lot to choose from late in the game and he should be able to get the match ups he wants. All three have problems with getting behind in counts and throwing in too many hitter’s counts, if they do not correct this problem, they will hear it from Sweet Lou.
Angel Guzman and Wade Miller…. The veteran versus unproven talent. If Miller has any health problems the Cubs will turn to Guzman who will benefit from being the long-man in Piniella’s pen. Miller had a good spring and if he could stay healthy….well let’s just say, how many thought Miller would be competing for the 5th spot in a rotation 4 years ago? Miller has a lot to prove and this may be his last shot to do so.
Gerald Perry and Alan Trammell…. Mr. OBP and Mr. Gold Glove….just keep on teaching.
Larry Rothschild…. Keep the towels in the linen closet and cut down on the free passes….enough said.
Lou Piniella…. The Cubs hired Sweet Lou for one thing….to win ballgames. He has already changed the landscape in Chicago. No more favorites and making the players accountable for their actions. Piniella said the Cubs need a “swagger” and to “play like there’s no tomorrow.” Well here’s one for Sweet Lou….Just Bring It Home.
Talkin’ Cubs Live returns on a daily basis on Monday and the CCO will be in Cincinnati for Opening Day….stay tuned, this is only the beginning.