The Other Fifteen

The Cubs hit the halfway point in the 2008 campaign on Saturday and last season they received contributions from just about every player on their 40-man roster. With all of the injuries over the past few weeks taking a toll, are there any players that could step in and give the team a lift as so many did a year ago? Reportedly Jim Hendry is attempting to strengthen his club and in order to do so, changes will have to be made to the big league roster. Here is a look at the other players that remain on the Cubs 40-man roster and how they have fared so far this season….

Pitchers

Chad Fox – Fox was placed on the 15-day DL back on May 19th with ulnar neuritis in his right arm. If and when the Cubs make a move, Fox is a likely to be moved from the 15-day to the 60-Day DL. Little has been mentioned about a timetable for Fox’s return and while he can be seen during the game on the Cubs bench, the feel-good-story of his return to the majors might have come to an abrupt end once again.

Angel Guzman – Not counted on the 40-man roster, Guzman is on the 60-day DL and is rehabbing in Mesa. Reportedly Guzman will not throw that many pitches off a mound this season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery last fall. Guzman has one option year left.

Adam Harben – Harben was acquired from the Twins as the player to be named later in the Phil Nevin trade back in 2006. Harben underwent Tommy John surgery last year and has pitched poorly this season for the Daytona Cubs.

Harben is 2-5 in 14 games, 7 starts, with a 5.48 ERA and has walked more hitters (47) than he has struck out (40) in 44 1/3 innings pitched. The Cubs like Harben and there is a ton of upside but his performance in his first season back from elbow surgery should make it hard for him to remain on the 40-man roster. Harben was placed on the DL on June 6th and was activated on June 16th.

Harben has two option years left and the Cubs will likely give him another season to fully recover before removing him from the 40-man roster.

Kevin Hart – Hart returned from the concussion he suffered two weeks back and tossed 3 innings of perfect baseball against Albuquerque on June 28th….and struck out 5 in his first start since June 18th. Hart figures to be back to the Cubs at some point this season but he must find the command that landed him on the Cubs post-season roster a year ago if he wants to stay in the show.

Hart made the club out of Spring Training but in two stints with the Cubs he has posted a 2-1 record with a 6.62 ERA and a 2.04 WHIP in 12 games. His 13 walks and only 14 strikeouts to go along with 23 hits allowed in 17 2/3 innings has not sat to well with his skipper.

Hart can still be a factor, especially as a long man out of the pen. Throwing strikes (and a new number) will allow him to stick around. Piniella is not too forgiving and a third time might be his last if he is not effective.

Rich Hill – Rich Hill is back in Mesa on an apparent ‘mental break’. After being demoted to Triple-A he could still not throw strikes. The likelihood of Rich Hill being a factor for the Cubs in the second half is probably slim to none….but if something could change is his fragile make-up, Hill could be the lift the Cubs pitching staff needs….but until then, his fall remains a mystery.

Hill could be included in a trade to land pitching but with his stock at an all-time low, it is likely the Cubs will look for him to return in 2009.

Billy Petrick – Petrick made his debut last season and his electric fastball met the approval of his manager. Petrick made 8 appearances out of the Cubs pen, with varying degrees of success. Petrick came down with an arm injury (shoulder soreness) and after being in camp with the big league club, was optioned down and spent most of the first part of his season in extended spring training.

Petrick was the third round pick of the Cubs back in 2002 and still has 3 options left but was less than effective in 8 games with the Daytona Cubs. Petrick was 1-2 with a 4.09 ERA before being shutdown on May 25th. Petrick was placed on the I-Cubs DL at the beginning of the season and was expected to rejoin Iowa in May before he was placed on Daytona’s DL on June 4th. Petrick was sent to Mesa on June 9th for rehab on the shoulder.

Petrick, like Harben, will likely remain on the Cubs 40-man roster for the duration of the season but the earliest Petrick would be able to contribute to the big league club would be 2009 and beyond.

Carmen Pignatiello – After making the 25-man roster out of Spring Training, Pignatiello was optioned down to Iowa on April 9th in favor of Sean Marshall and was skipped when the Cubs recalled Neal Cotts on May 29th. Pignatiello pitched in only 2 games (2/3 of an inning) and gave up a run on 2 hits with 2 walks and no strikeouts….after a very good spring.

Pignatiello has not shown any improvement with the I-Cubs and is 0-1 in 27 games (27 innings) with a 6.33 ERA (19 runs on 33 hits with 11 walks and 28 strikeouts) while opponents have hit .303 against him. Pignatiello has 3 option years left, but does not figure into the Cubs plans for this season or beyond. Pignatiello was the 20 round pick of the Cubs in 2000 and could be released in order to make room on the 40-man roster.

Jeff Samardzija – The Shark was recently promoted to Triple-A despite the fact most feel he did not deserve it. Many think Samardzija has received promotions for the past two years due to his contract and not his performance. He was 3-8 with a 4.95 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP in 24 games, 20 starts, for Daytona before making the jump to Double-A. Samardzija posted a 3-3 record with a 3.41 ERA in 6 starts with a 1.22 WHIP to end his first full season in pro ball.

Samardzija was 3-5 in 13 starts, 14 games, for the Tennessee Smokies with a 5.32 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP before being promoted last week to Triple-A. He is 1-1 in 2 starts with the I-Cubs with a 3.00 ERA and posted his first win on Sunday.

Samardzija gave up a run on 4 hits in 6 innings with 4 strikeouts and 6 walks in a 7-5 win on Sunday….his first at the Triple-A level.

Samardzija can handle the pressure of pitching at Wrigley and if the past year and a half is any indication he will receive at least a September call-up. If the Cubs are indeed fast-tracking him, this could be a plus and a minus. The second half figures to be a dogfight down the stretch with the Brewers and Cardinals and every game is likely to be just as important as the next. If Samardzija is not ready, he could cost them not only this season but beyond. Can the Shark actually help a pitching staff in need of depth….only time will tell.

Catchers

Jake Fox – The hitter without a position. Fox can hit, there has never been a doubt, but he is not very good behind the plate and is trying to learn how to play in the outfield. Fox started the year out in Triple-A but was demoted to Double-A after 29 games. Fox has hit the ball very well (.275/.376/.479/6 hrs/14 doubles) but does not figure into the Cubs plans in the near future.

Fox is occupying a valuable spot on the 40-man roster and if the Cubs need to promote from within, Fox is likely one of the first released to make room (2 option years left). With Welington Castillo torching the Southern League, both at the plate and behind it, Fox will have a hard time finding a place to play in the organization.

Infielders

Micah Hoffpauir – Hoffpauir figures to be up and down for the entire year between Iowa and Chicago….depending on the health of Daryle Ward and Derrek Lee. Hoffpauir can hit but is a man without a position. Lou Piniella was reportedly unhappy with his defense in Tampa but Eric Patterson’s has been even worse. Hoffpauir was optioned down on June 24th in order to activate Daryle Ward, look for Hoffpauir to be back in time for the Cardinals series.

Outfielders

Sam Fuld – Fuld became a fan favorite last year and was thought to be in the mix for the starting centerfielder job this past spring. But Fuld struggled at the plate and in the field and found himself optioned to Iowa to start the season. When the Cubs signed Jim Edmonds and demoted Felix Pie, Fuld was reportedly sent to Double-A to make room for Pie on the I-Cubs roster. Well Pie is in Mesa and Fuld is still with the Smokies and has not hit the ball all year.

Fuld is batting just .237 with a .313 OBP in 37 games at Double-A with only a .646 OPS. Those numbers are not going to earn him a promotion. Fuld has 3 option years left but if he does not start hitting he could be released in order to free up a roster spot for the big league club. The Cubs like Fuld, but he is not performing they way they thought he would all winter long.

Felix Pie – The Cubs’ top prospect could not hit big league pitching was sent down when the Cubs signed Jim Edmonds and after struggling at Triple-A is in Mesa rehabbing a hand problem. Pie has the tools and the talent….he should help the Cubs win games in the second half.

Worth Watching

There are a couple of prospects down on the farm the Faithful should keep an eye on that could help the Cubs in the second half.

Jose Ceda – After starting the year with Daytona and posting a 2-2 record in 15 games, 12 starts, with a 4.80 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP, he was promoted recently to Double-A. Ceda is 1-0 in 4 games with a 1.35 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP while opponents have hit .231 against him. In 6 2/3 innings, he has struck out 12 and walked 2 while giving up just 6 hits. Ceda made waves in the spring but his control sent him down to the minors.

In 61 innings, 65 strikeouts and 30 walks. Ceda is not on the 40-man roster and would require a couple of moves to get him to the big club but a power arm in late August and September could be the lift the pen needs.

Donald Veal – The highly touted southpaw has pitched very well this season in Double-A and many thought he should have been promoted to Triple-A before Jeff Samardzija. Veal is 4-5 with a 3.22 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 13 starts with 67 strikeouts and 48 walks in 89 1/3 innings. Veal is coming off two rough outings but if he can throw strikes he could find himself in Chicago before the end of the year. His low 90’s fastball would be a good compliment to the hard throwing backend of the Cubs’ pen.

Quote of the Day

"What scares me is what scares you. We're all afraid of the same things." - John Carpenter

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