The Good and The Ugly

Spring Training Game Seventeen – Cubs 5 Angels 6
WP – Ervin Santana (1-0) LP – Ryan Dempster (2-1) Save – Rich Thompson (1)

Ryan Dempster’s fourth outing of the spring started much like the other three. He worked fast, was efficient and retired the Angels in order in the 1st inning. The Cubs’ offense handed him a 3-run lead before he took the mound to start the 2nd inning but his own error led to an unbelievable 2/3 of an inning. Dempster allowed a total of 6 runs, 5 earned, on 5 hits with 2 walks as the Angels sent 11 to the plate. Dempster entered his start on Friday as the leader for the 3rd spot in Lou Piniella’s rotation, but after his dismal performance, the competition may just be heating up.

Michael Wuertz and Kerry Wood had very good outings in relief of Dempster. Wuertz struck out 4 and gave up a hit in an inning and a third. Wood faced the minimum in the 4th with a strikeout. Jon Lieber threw 4 shutout innings of relief, after Kerry Wood. Lieber struck out 3, walked 1 and gave up only 2 hits.

Alex Cintron was hit in the face with a foul ball off the bat of Mark DeRosa in the 6th inning on Friday. Cintron was in the on-deck circle and the ball hit him on the right side of his face, below his cheekbone. Cintron remained on the ground for a couple of minutes before leaving the field on his own power. He was taken to a local hospital for X-rays and is listed as day-to-day.

Derrek Lee was 2-for-4 with a double, a triple and 2 runs scored in his best game of the spring. Eric Patterson made the start in center and hit in the leadoff spot. Patterson was 2-for-4 with a walk and a run scored. Henry Blanco added a solo shot in the 6th for the Cubs last run of the day.

The Cubs offense started off the game on more than a positive note. Eric Patterson walked and scored on a double by Alfonso Soriano. Derrek Lee followed with a double and Soriano advanced to 3rd. Aramis Ramirez singled to left, Soriano scored. Kosuke Fukudome then grounded out to 2nd, Lee scored from 3rd and the Cubs were up 3-0….and Lou’s new look lineup appeared to be clicking on all cylinders.

After Dempster’s very long 2nd inning, the Cubs offense could not get back on track. Ervin Santana worked around an error in the 2nd and struck out 2, including Alfonso Soriano with Eric Patterson in scoring position.

With 1-out in the 3rd, Aramis Ramirez was hit by a pitch and advanced to 3rd on a 2-out ground rule double by Mark DeRosa. Alex Cintron grounded out to end the inning. Derrek Lee added a 1-out triple in the 5th and scored on a wild pitch when Aramis Ramirez struck out. After Blanco’s home run in the 6th, Jon Lieber and Eric Patterson singled but Alfonso Soriano struck out to end the inning.

Ryan Dempster must get back on track….with Jason Marquis and Jon Lieber pitching the way they have over the past two days, Dempster might be on the outside looking in at the rotation.

Lou Piniella’s crew is 6-11 with 15 left to play….17 days until Opening Day.

Box Score from Friday’s game

The Cubs travel to Tucson on Saturday to face the White Sox for the first time in 2008. Rich Hill is slated to make the start against Nick Masset. Masset was the only Sox pitcher to record a win last season against the Cubs. The game will be carried on WGN, but with the Sox announcers.

Oneri Fleita on XM Radio with John Sickels

Oneri Fleita joined John Sickels during his show on Friday. Sickels talks prospects every Friday from 11:00am – 12:00pm C.T. Sickels asked Fleita about several of the Cubs top prospects…..Geovany Soto, Felix Pie, Kosuke Fukudome, Eric Patterson, Tyler Colvin, Josh Vitters, Sean Gallagher, Donald Veal, Jeff Samardzija and Jose Ceda.

The Cubs are obviously very high on Geovany Soto and John Sickels thinks he could end up being one of the best rookies in the NL this season. Fleita said it is hard to find a good catch and throw guy that can also hit. The biggest thing with Soto is the veteran pitchers are working with him, they feel comfortable with the young catcher and most importantly they trust him.

Felix Pie is having a good spring and Fleita reminded Sickels it is not uncommon for young players to have a rough start to their Major League career. Pie performed the way they wanted him to in winter ball and they feel he will hit this year….he has at every other level.

Kosuke Fukudome has done well with his adjustments to a new culture. Fleita credited Jim Hendry and Joe Urbon (Fukudome’s agent) for making the transition easier for him. Fleita added Fukudome is getting along well with his teammates and Ryan Theriot, Derrek Lee and Ryan Dempster have gone out of their way to make him feel comfortable. They are learning his language and he is picking up English quite well.

John Sickels asked Fleita how Eric Patterson fits into the club’s plans. Fleita said that is the reason he is learning how to play the outfield, versatility. The Cubs know Patterson can hit and Fleita said Patterson has done a good job at preparing himself in case he gets an opportunity.

Tyler Colvin will start the season at the Double-A level with the Tennessee Smokies according to Fleita. He added if Colvin gets off to a fast start then they will go ahead and promote him to Iowa. Fleita praised Colvin once again. He likes to hit with the game on the line and the Cubs have fast tracked him over the past two seasons. Fleita did not rule out the possibility of Colvin making his big league debut this year. They are concerned about Colvin’s aggressiveness at the plate and they feel he will earn how to be more patient.

The topic then switched to Josh Vitters. Oneri Fleita said, “This guy is going to be special, he sticks out from other players.” Vitters lost 10-12 pounds over the winter and has looked good so far this spring. With all of the depth at 3rd base in the system, Vitters might start the season in the Arizona Rookie League.

Sean Gallagher made a start on Friday in the first game of minor league camp between the Cubs’ farm system and the Padres’ farm system. Fleita described Gallagher as a “strike machine.” Gallagher has put himself in line to be a guy in the rotation according to Fleita. He thinks Gallagher will be a solid 3rd or 4th starter at the Major League level….not bad for a 12th round pick. Fleita admitted the Cubs have fast tracked Gallagher as well but they feel when Sean fails it only makes him stronger.

Donald Veal will start the season in Double-A according to Fleita. He said he has looked great so far this spring and kept repeating how good an arm Veal has. Veal must work on his control.

Sickels asked Fleita about Jeff Samardzija and the numbers he put up last year. Fleita said Samardzija’s numbers are skewed and he watched him go from a thrower to a pitcher last year. Samardzija has a good sinker and has a ground ball to fly out ratio of 3:1. Fleita compared his reports on Samardzija to those he did on Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Marmol. Fleita added like both Zambrano and Marmol, Samardzija could wind up being a starting pitcher that throws 200 innings or a closer….but a number 1 or number 2 type guy is hard to find.

Jose Ceda was the last prospect they discussed. Sickels asked about the reports he read that Ceda reached 97-98 MPH on the gun last year. Fleita said what he read was true and they must teach him how to pitch. Contrary to what Fleita said back in January, he told Sickels on Friday the Cubs plan on starting Ceda in the rotation this season in Double-A and pairing him with another pitcher in order to limit his innings….so Ceda will not be in the bullpen at the beginning of the year. Fleita said Ceda has the stuff to be a number 1 starter or a dominant closer.

News from Arizona

A report on Cubs.com mentioned the Cubs are still interested in Marlon Byrd.

The Cubs rotationshould be settled by the end of next weekaccording to a report on Cubs.com. Lou Piniella said each pitcher would get another start before he sets the rotation in preparation for season.

Quote of the Day

"And if I have my choice between a pennant and a triple crown, I'll take the pennant every time." - Carl Yastrzemski
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