There was one big surprise from Fitch Park on Day Three of Camp Lou. According to multiple reports, Piniella stated Rich Hill is currently slotted as the 4th starter in his rotation, not the third as has been assumed all winter. Piniella is undecided on which pitcher will occupy the 3rd and 5th spots in the Cubs starting rotation. Jason Marquis, Ryan Dempster and Jon Lieber are the leading candidates for the last two spots according to a report in the Tribune. Piniella added he is “not looking at Lieber as a potential long man in the pen.” So if Lieber remains healthy, that leaves only one spot up for grabs?
Kosuke Fukudome’s second day as a Cub was apparently a good one according to a report on Cubs.com. Fukudome made Gerald Perry smile after his second day in the cage and Mike Quade liked his footwork in the outfield….not a bad couple of days.
Here is the rest from Mesa, including Jim Hendry on Talkin’ Baseball, a few rumors and a projection for the National League Central….
The Cubs GM joined Bruce Levine and Jonathan Hood on Saturday morning from Mesa. Jim Hendry talked about Kosuke Fukudome’s first day in camp and said it was a good day despite the bad weather. Fukudome reporting to camp 3 to 4 days early was good for the team. Hendry’s goal when they began to pursue Fukudome was to add good players that fit a specific need, just not to add players to add players.
Hendry spoke about Fukudome’s versatility, the fact he hits lefties well and will provide good defense in right field. Hendry reiterated Kosuke was the Cubs number one target and the fact they did not have to trade any players for him made Fukudome a more attractive addition.
Bruce Levine asked Hendry about the pitching staff, specifically the amount of arms in camp. Hendry believes the Cubs have positive excess and a lot of good young arms in the system. Hendry really likes all of the young relievers and mentioned Ed Campusano and Jose Ceda by name….Hendry added Ceda has already excited Lou Piniella.
The excess of pitching will allow the Cubs to make a deal, if there is one to be made; Hendry feels there is a lot of “inventory” in the organization.
The discussion then turned to Ryan Dempster and his possible move to the rotation. Hendry indicated Dempster probably started preparing for the move a week or so after last season ended. Hendry added that Dempster is prepared, is a tremendous team guy and if he cannot crack the rotation he can always go back to the bullpen.
Hendry indicated he has been trying like “heck” for a couple of months to make the right additions to the roster. Hendry said he passed on a couple of guys because they would not fit the type of team the Cubs are attempting to build. Hendry added he is not going to make a deal just to make a deal and in turn add a player that might not fit….on a side note that was very refreshing to hear. Hendry mentioned he is confident he will make a deal either before the Spring Training schedule starts or at some point during camp.
Ronny Cedeno will be looked at during camp to see if he can add the right-handed bat the Cubs feel they need in the outfield. Hendry said Cedeno will get a chance to play all three outfield spots. Hendry did add they would like to have someone with a little more punch in that role.
Hendry finished the discussion on the roster by saying, “The higher profile trades may have to wait.”
The Cubs are very focused with starting the season off strong and emphasizing they cannot start the same way they did a year ago. He feels the team will be better defensively and have a lot more speed, which will help during April and May. The Cubs play 33 of their 81 home games during the first two months of the season. Hendry said they have to figure out a way to turn the lopsided schedule into an advantage and must find ways to win games early in the year.
The topic of Felix Pie and Sam Fuld became front and center at this point. Hendry said Pie has a higher ceiling but that Fuld is a grinder and compared him to Johnny Cangelosi. Pie has a chance to be one of the better centerfielders defensively in the league but he must improve offensively. An outfield of Alfonso Soriano, Felix Pie and Kosuke Fukudome should be solid defensively and one of the most athletic Cub outfields in years.
The interview switched back to pitching and specifically Jason Marquis. Hendry said Marquis’ future in the rotation depends on what happens in the next 7 weeks. (Note, by no means did Hendry indicate there was anything wrong with Marquis, the mood of the conversation was very positive) Hendry mentioned things always happen in Spring Training and the fact there are 8 guys competing for 5 spots is a good thing. Hendry later added Sean Marshall has gained 15-20 pounds and looks stronger and more durable than a year ago. Hendry said to give out roles right now would be very foolish.
Jim Hendry was extremely positive throughout the interview. He sounded very content with his roster and at the same time indicated he is not done making changes.
The Rumor Mill
Bruce Levine said during his Saturday morning show on ESPN 1000 that Marlon Byrd is still on the Cubs radar. The Rangers have expressed interest in Matt Murton and there could still be a deal on the horizon. Levine also indicated the Red Sox have expressed interest in Jason Marquis. The Cubs and Sox could make a deal for Marquis that included Coco Crisp. The Red Sox like the fact Marquis annually starts the season strong with Curt Schilling expected to be out until the All-Star break. According to Levine the Sox do not want to push either Jon Lester or Clay Buchholtz.
According to a report in the Baltimore Sun, “the trade talks between the Orioles and Chicago Cubs involving All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts have not progressed.” According to the report, Roberts will likely report to Orioles camp next week. Andy MacPhail told the Sun:
“I don’t see [a trade] as likely before the reporting date. Anything can happen….but I just don’t see it.”
The Dallas Morning News reported the Rangers are not going to trade Marlon Byrd to the Cubs unless the package includes a pitching prospect. Byrd told the Dallas Morning News he feels like he is in limbo. The report indicated the Cubs interest in Byrd would be if the Cubs include Felix Pie in a deal for Brian Roberts. The Rangers are overvaluing Marlon Byrd.
Matt Murton, Sean Gallagher and Mark DeRosa paid attention all winter to the trade rumors surrounding Brian Roberts….they were obviously not alone.
Baseball Prospectus released their projected standings for 2008. In the American League, the Yankees will take the East, the Indians in the Central and the Angels in the West with the Red Sox the Wild Card winner. In the National League, the Mets in the East, the Diamondbacks in the West and the Cubs in the Central with a record of 89-73 with the Dodgers winning the Wild Card.
The NL Central Projected Standings for 2008:
- Chicago Cubs – 89-73
- Milwaukee Brewers – 87-75
- Cincinnati Reds – 79-83
- Houston Astros – 74-88
- St. Louis Cardinals – 72-90
- Pittsburgh Pirates – 71-91
Bill Simmons on the Red Sox and Cubs
An old article from the Sports Guy himself might serve as good advice for the Faithful. Simmons talked about the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004 and the parallels that existed between the Cubs and Sox. Simmons is dead on with his advice and even refers to the Cubs fans as ‘the Wrigley Faithful’.
“Now I understand what happened: after 86 agonizing years, we ran out of bad luck. I know that someday that has to happen for Chicago, too. My best advice to Cubs fans? Start thinking of yourselves differently. Stay away from the negative TV shows and apocalyptic newspaper columns. You can follow the team just fine without being infected by that stuff.”
Finally….Ryan O’Malley recently signed with the Schaumburg Flyers of the Northern League, a 6-team Independent Professional Baseball League established in 1993.