Weekend Update – 02/23/08

The last weekend update before the exhibition season gets underway on Thursday. The Cubs lineup was the hot topic on Friday. Lou Piniella appeared on the Mike North show and confirmed reports from Thursday that he was considering hitting Kosuke Fukudome third in his lineup. Several reports brought up the number 125, as in the total number of lineups Piniella used in his first season on the North Side. Piniella will continue to tinker with his lineup all spring….history has proven this much.

A day after announcing Ryan Dempster will start the Cactus League opener, Lou Piniella announced on Friday that Carlos Zambrano will start the home opener on Friday and Jason Marquis will start the third game of the spring against the Angels.

Here is the rest from Day 9 of Camp Lou with more from the Mike North interview….and a couple of rumors.

Lou Piniella on 670 The Score with Mike North

The Cubs’ skipper joined Mike North for, at times, a surprising and revealing interview on Friday morning. North started out with Piniella’s weight loss over the winter. Lou said his wife helped him and added it is hard, especially eating out with all of the bread. The wife comment led North to ask Piniella if she helps with the lineup….so much for small talk.

Lou Piniella said all of the positions are set on the field except for centerfield. He then shifted to the rotation and said he would like to add a right hander in between the two lefties (Lilly and Hill) and the decision who is in the 3rd spot will have an effect on who is the Cubs’ 5th starter. Piniella said they are also looking for two arms in the bullpen. A righty to replace Ryan Dempster, not in the closer’s spot, and a lefty to help out Scott Eyre. He briefly mentioned adding versatility to the bench. North shifted the conversation very quickly and did not give Piniella a chance to expand on the statement concerning the bench.

Ryan Dempster is “on a mission” according to Piniella. He said Dempster is throwing the ball well and better than he did when he was with the Marlins. Piniella said, “I would love to see this young man take over the 3-spot in the rotation.” He added it would benefit the team and the player’s pocketbook to have a good season before becoming a free agent. Piniella mentioned Carlos Silva’s name as a pitcher that capitalized on the free agent market.

Mike North then switched the conversation to the closer’s job and Carlos Marmol. Piniella said he has no doubt Marmol could be the team’s closer. He added that Marmol is ahead of the other pitchers right now because of pitching in winter ball. If they need Marmol to be the closer, Piniella does not think it would be a problem….the only question is his inexperience.

The Cubs have changed Bobby Howry’s routine and have to find a way to get him off to a good start. Piniella added the past couple of years Howry has had slow starts. North switched the conversation to Kerry Wood and the concern from Piniella is about his health and if he can pitch more than 3 days in a row. They want to build up his arm strength. Piniella described Wood’s throwing session on Thursday as “electric.” Piniella finished the bullpen talk by saying they are looking at 3-4 guys to fill the right-handed spot they need in the pen. North then brought up the possible lineup topic….and here is where it got a little interesting.

Piniella said Alfonso Soriano will lead off “unless we make a move before the start of the season.” North sounded shocked at what Piniella just stated, stopped the conversation and repeated to Lou what he just said. Piniella confirmed his previous statement and added, “Jim Hendry is still talking to a couple of teams.” With that on the table, Piniella discussed a possible lineup.

  1. Soriano
  2. Theriot
  3. Fukudome
  4. Lee
  5. Ramirez
  6. DeRosa
  7. Soto
  8. Pie/Fuld

Piniella mentioned how important the 8th place hitter is in a National League lineup….must be able to take walks and pitches, basically flip the order.

North asked him about Kosuke Fukudome and Piniella gave the usual comparison, a cross between Ichiro and Matsui. But Piniella said he has a good throwing arm and in general sounded very pleased about what he has seen of Fukudome in the field. They talked about Kosuke hitting 3rd and Piniella was quick to say he likes Derrek Lee hitting 3rd and they will experiment during the spring.

Piniella said assuming Soriano’s leg is fine he will be leading off once again this season. North asked about Soriano’s leg injuries from last season and Piniella admitted he is surprised Soriano is still having problems. He thinks Alfonso Soriano should have healed better than this by now and did not figure his legs would still be an issue. Piniella added Mark O’Neal thought Soriano would still be having problems. He said if Soriano cannot run, they will adjust the lineup. Lou feels he will know more about the team on March 15th.

North brought up the dubious anniversary and how Piniella addressed it with the squad. He said the best thing to do is to put it behind you. This year’s team should stand on its own merit. Piniella likes this team and feels they are better than last year. Lou’s biggest concern is keeping the team healthy because he feels they are not too deep in certain areas. Piniella thinks they should win more than 90 games.

The Cubbie Swagger” catch phrase from last year was discussed. Piniella said swagger is confidence in yourself and confidence in the team winning games….and he feels this team has swagger.

Notes on the News

Daryle Ward was told he will receive more playing time this year according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times. The plan is to get Ward more time at first base, if he can stay healthy and give Derrek Lee those all-important days off.

Jeff Samardzija impressed Henry Blanco on Friday according to multiple reports.

Speaking of lineups, the Cubs should leadoff with Derrek Lee according to Mike Nadel.

Kosuke Fukudome could be the best Japanese import yet according to NBC Sports.

Jon Lieber is happy to be back with the Cubs and, if healthy, could be the 3rd starter in the Cubs rotation.

Chad Fox felt good on Friday after throwing 25 pitches on Thursday….the first time since April of 2005.

The Rumor Mill

Dan Connolly from the Baltimore Sun was asked what would the Cubs have to include in a trade for Brian Roberts for Andy MacPhail to pull the trigger? Connolly responded with:

“We’ve heard a lot about pitcher Sean Gallagher, outfielder Matt Murton and shortstop Ronny Cedeno as a package for Roberts. But I think the Orioles view Cedeno and Murton as at least somewhat similar to what they already have in Luis Hernandez and Luke Scott (although Murton’s a righty while Scott’s a lefty) and so I don’t think that package gets it done.”

Connolly said he “was under the impression” it would take either Felix Pie or Tyler Colvin to be included in a deal. Connolly said that might not be the case anymore and added:

“An educated guess says that Sean Gallagher and either pitching prospects Donald Veal or Jose Ceda along with a couple of lesser players would have to be involved for it to happen.”

The Padres were “unable to pryMatt Murton from the Cubs according to a report by Ken Rosenthal so they have focused on another player, for now. Rosenthal also mentioned the “Murton-for-Byrd deal is all but dead” according to one of Rosenthal’s sources. The Rangers asking price for Marlon Byrd was too much.

Finally…. Enjoy the last free Saturday for the immediate future!

Quote of the Day

"There are places I remember. All my life though some have changed. Some forever not for better. Some have gone and some remain. All these places have their moments ... " John Lennon/Paul McCartney