A Light at the End of the Cubs Rumor Mill

It’s the first sign of spring … single game tickets for Cubs’ Spring Training games go on sale Tuesday morning at 10:00am CST. The first game of the Cubs’ 2010 Cactus League schedule is Thursday, March 4 against the Oakland A’s at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.

The Cubs made an official announcement on Monday … pitcher and catchers will report to Fitch Park on Wednesday, February 17 with the first workout scheduled for February 18. The baseball season is not too far away

Here’s the latest on Ben Sheets, a little tidbit on Carlos Zambrano, details on a free-agent veteran showcase and Rudy Jaramillo on XM Radio …

Ben Sheets

The Ben Sheets to the Cubs rumors picked up a little momentum on Monday thanks to Ken Rosenthal.

Ken Rosenthal predicted that Ben Sheets would end up signing with the Cubs this winter. Bruce Miles took a little air out of the Rosenthal report a short time after it hit the Internet.

From Bruce Miles:

“That’s a far cry from it actually happening, though. For the record, the Cubs like Sheets and always have like him. However, Sheets hasn’t pitched since 2008, when elbow problems led to surgery for a flexor-tendon problem. For any team to sign Sheets, they’ll want to see him throw. Even then, they’ll want to see him “fire a pitch in anger,” so to speak, meaning game action. In other words, spring-training games.”

“If Sheets’ agent is looking of mega-millions, he won’t find it with the Cubs, who are scraping together the dough to afford a veteran right-handed reliever and maybe a veteran backup outfielder.”

“If Sheets hasn’t signed with somebody, say, by Valentine’s Day, I can see the Cubs offering some sort of a deal with a low base plus incentives. But nothing’s imminent, based on the talk I’ve had with people today and throughout the winter.”

There was a question posted on the CCO Monday about Sheets’ career numbers against the NL Central. Here are the numbers:

  • Reds – 8-4 in 16 starts with a 2.92 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in 101 2/3 innings
  • Astros – 12-9 in 28 starts with a 3.84 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP in 178 innings
  • Pirates – 8-8 in 22 starts with a 2.92 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP in 148 innings
  • Cardinals – 6-14 in 26 starts with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP in 162 1/3 innings
  • At Wrigley Field – 6-4 in 15 starts with a 3.97 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 88 1/3 innings
  • At Great American – 4-0 in 5 starts with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP in 30 innings
  • At Minute Maid – 4-3 in 10 starts with a 4.03 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 60 1/3 innings
  • At Busch Stadium – 1-2 in 5 starts with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP in 25 innings
  • At PNC Park – 5-7 in 12 starts with a 2.82 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP in 83 innings

Ben Sheets’ Page from Baseball Reference

According to a report from the New York Post, the Mets have turned their attention to signing a pitcher … and one of those mentioned, Ben Sheets.

Rudy Jaramillo on XM Radio

The Cubs’ new hitting coach joined Holden Kushner and Jim Duquette on MLB Live Weekend Sunday morning. Holden began the interview by saying how strange it is introducing Jaramillo as the Cubs’ hitting coach.

Rudy Jaramillo acknowledged it is strange for him to say as well. Jaramillo explained it will be a little weird when Spring Training begins. Dallas is home to Jaramillo but he knows without a doubt that he made the right decision to leave the Rangers’ organization and join the Chicago Cubs.

Jaramillo then discussed the signing of Marlon Byrd with Kushner and Duquette. Jaramillo explained how he’s seen steady progress out of Byrd in his three years with the Rangers. Byrd will bring a lot of leadership to the Cubs’ clubhouse according to Jaramillo … and he pointed out the fact that Byrd is not given credit for being a very good defensive centerfielder.

Marlon Byrd has shown improvement every year under Jaramillo and he began hitting the top pitchers in the league last year. Jaramillo said before last year he struggled a little with the top two pitchers in rotations but last year he started to get it playing everyday.

Holden asked Jaramillo why he picked Chicago. He said he did a lot of thinking last summer of where he could coach if he left Texas. Jaramillo pointed out once again he did not want to take another hitting coach’s job. He saw the Cubs had two hitting coaches last season and there was an opening after the season ended.

Jaramillo said the Cubs called and the whole process was done rather quickly.

Lou Piniella has not lost his fire from what Jaramillo has seen. This will be the first time he has worked with Piniella but both have a strong desire to win. Jaramillo added that he hates to lose as much as Piniella and he looks forward to learning as much as he can from Lou.

Jim Duquette spoke with Rudy Jaramillo about being the Mets’ manager when he was New York’s GM. Jaramillo would still like to manage a big league club down the line but he wants to win as a hitting coach first.

Rudy Jaramillo has already looked at video of all his kids (Jaramillo referred to the players on the roster as kids a lot throughout the interview). He said he’s already found things and there will be adjustments.

Jaramillo also said he will have to make adjustments to the way he coaches due to the different style of play in the National League. He said he has to make sure his kids are prepared to bunt, play hit and run and do all of the little things that is necessary in the National League … just not sit back and have them hit and drive the ball. Jaramillo added it is very important to have the players ready to do whatever Piniella calls for during the game.

The Cubs will have a very heavy right-handed lineup … even Byrd hits righties better than lefties. Jaramillo explained he must get the kids to commit to one another to have a successful season.

The wind at Wrigley was the next question thrown out to Jaramillo. From what he’s been told the wind has been blowing in more than blowing out in recent years. In a very confident way Jaramillo said the best way to succeed at Wrigley would be to hit line drives and find gaps in the outfield … those will always go through the wind. He added if a player is hitting the ball the right way it will not matter if the wind is blowing in or out.

Jaramillo is going into his 20th year as a hitting coach. He read books by Charlie Lau and Ted Williams to learn as much as he could about hitting when he first started. Jaramillo then told a story about talking hitting with Ted Williams.

Rudy Jaramillo discussed hitting with Ted Williams for five minutes at a time two years in a row at Spring Training in Florida. Jaramillo said the third year Williams talked hitting with him for 15 to 20 minutes. At the end of the conversation, Williams told Jaramillo that he’s going to be a good hitting coach.

Jim Duquette asked about his relationship with Milton Bradley. Jaramillo spoke highly of Bradley and explained it took him all of spring training and the first month of the season to win him over. Bradley has all of the ability in the world … he’s just got to believe in himself according to Jaramillo.

Holden ended the interview by asking Jaramillo if he knew all of the words to “Go Cubs Go“. Jaramillo said he was not familiar with it but is looking forward to learning about everything related to the Chicago Cubs.

Listening to Rudy Jaramillo talk about hitting and the excitement in his voice about the start of the season was refreshing to hear in the middle of a long winter.

Jim Duquette told Holden after the interview was over that he thinks Jaramillo has a big challenge ahead of him. The Cubs have a bunch of question marks in the lineup … namely Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto and Kosuke Fukudome. Duquette pointed out the importance of keeping Aramis Ramirez healthy and mentioned his concern over a declining Derrek Lee.

Duquette finished by saying, “The Cubs will have to have bounce back years from several of their players in order to be successful next season.

(The Rudy Jaramillo Illustration is from Cubby-Blue.comfor more from Tim Souers click on this link)

February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day will have a little competition this year. According to a report from Jon Paul Morosi, Tampa Bay Rays scout Rob Ducey has organized a Professional Free Agent Showcase for February 2 at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, FL.

Players will have to pay $750 and the deadline is January 20 to register.

“If a critical mass of players and scouts attend, the event could become a significant date on baseball’s off-season calendar.”

Neal Cotts

According to multiple reports, Neal Cotts signed a minor league contract with the Pirates on Monday. The deal includes an invite to Spring Training.

Neal Cotts did not pitch to expectations during his time with the Cubs. Many thought he would re-sign with the Cubs on a Minor League deal after they decided to non-tender him last month.

Cotts had Tommy John Surgery last July and will rehab in the Pirates organization.

Neal Cotts was acquired from the White Sox for David Aardsma and Carlos Vasquez on November 16, 2006.

Speaking of former Cubs’ relievers … Jim Bowden tweeted on Monday that the Pirates are “making a serious run” at Kevin Gregg.

Carlos Zambrano

Jim Hendry has shot down the rumors that the Cubs would trade Carlos Zambrano this winter… but they continue to surface on a daily basis. The Yankees and Mets are rumored to have asked about Big Z.

Baseball Prospectus tossed out a new scenario on Sunday. According to BP, Carlos Zambrano would invoke his no-trade clause if the Cubs try to trade him … except to go to the South Side.

John Perrotto reported Zambrano “would invoke his no-trade clause unless it would be to the White Sox, because he wants to stay in Chicago.” The White Sox are “an unlikely trading partner after their deal with the Padres that brought over right-hander Jake Peavy last July 31.

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Well, that’s the latest … and I am sticking to it!

Quote of the Day

"Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." - Joe Maddon