Notes from Day Ten of Camp Lou … Bullpen Help Wanted

The countdown has begun to the Cubs’ Cactus League opener against the Oakland A’s at HoHoKam Park … only five days until the Cubs play an actual game.

Day Ten of Camp Lou IV was pretty quiet for the most part … with a few exceptions.

Ted Lilly returned to the field and called his viral infection a setback. Lilly did not want to begin the season on the DL, but missing five days has turned the inevitable into reality. By all accounts, Lilly would not have been ready to pitch the first week of the season before his recent illness.

Lou Piniella wants another arm in his pen. Jim Hendry admitted to Dave Kaplan during his interview on Sports Central that a right-handed veteran reliever is on the Cubs’ wish list. Bruce Levine reported that the Cubs continue to have conversations with the Padres about Luke Gregerson and the Blue Jays concerning Jason Frasor.

Here is the rest from day ten of Camp Lou and more from Jim Hendry’s interview on Sports Central

Notes from Mesa

Jim Hendry on Sports Central

The Cubs’ GM joined Dave Kaplan during the first hour of Sports Central on Friday night. Kaplan led off the interview by saying how good his team has looked this week. Kaplan told Jim Hendry, everything appears to be going good with the exception of Angel Guzman.

Hendry is happy with his club and described them as a “really great group of guys.” Hendry likes what he has seen over the first week of camp. Hendry discussed the fact so many players reported to camp early … then mentioned how great Rudy Jaramillo has been.

Kaplan discussed a conversation he had with Lou Piniella about Baseball Prospectus’ win projection for the Cubs. Piniella was surprised to hear the Cubs are projected to win only 79 games and told Kaplan, “We’re going to win more than 79 games.” Piniella feels he has a 90-win team if everyone can stay healthy.

Hendry said that’s Lou, always open and honest.

The Cubs won 83 games in 2009 with a lot of injuries and turmoil. Hendry said he doesn’t pay attention to all of the pre-season predictions.

Kaplan prefaced his question about the bullpen by telling Hendry that Angel Guzman told him on Friday that his shoulder was feeling better. Kaplan asked if Hendry is concerned about his pen.

Hendry quickly answered, he is always concerned about everything.

Angel Guzman has had a lot of bad luck. Hendry described him as a great kid. He’s dealt with a lot of injuries of late and personal tragedy. The Cubs are hoping the latest with Guzman is just a little setback.

As for surprises in camp, Hendry explained it is too early. “Let’s wait to play the games and see what happens.” There are six or seven guys that will compete for the last two spots on the bench. Hendry mentioned Chad Tracy, Kevin Millar and Brad Snyder.

The fourth and fifth spots in the rotation will be a competition between Sean Marshall, Mike Parisi, Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny and Jeff Samardzija.

The Cubs never set a timetable on Ted Lilly. Hendry thought he would be ready around the second week of the season … but another week is not that big a deal. He explained they have plenty of depth to choose from to begin the season.

Kevin Millar, who is in camp on a non-guaranteed minor league contract, has been practicing with the minor leaguers. Hendry talked about how good a guy he is then explained that Millar is willing to do whatever it takes to make the roster.

Hendry had a conversation with Millar before he signed him and explained he would have to beat out several players in order to make the roster. Millar knows what lies ahead of him is a “tall task.” Hendry added that the decision on the final two spots would be made on how the players perform in Spring Training.

Kaplan asked about the Cubs flying under the radar of the National media. Hendry said that is fine with him … then explained last season was not disastrous but disappointing.

The players that under performed last year “heard it” from Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella. Collectively the Cubs need five or six guys to play better this season.

One of the reasons Greg Maddux came back to the Cubs is his relationship with Jim Hendry. Kaplan told Hendry about a conversation he recently had with Maddux and what he said about him.

Kaplan asked Maddux why he picked the Cubs’ front office when he could have gotten a job with the Braves or the Padres. Maddux said the Cubs will always be in his heart and his relationship with Hendry.

Hendry said he and Greg worked together on his departure from the Cubs (when Maddux was dealt to the Dodgers for Cesar Izturis). Hendry said he knew the organization would be better in the long run with Maddux in it.

Maddux’s future off the field looks to be as good as the one he had on the field according to Jim Hendry.

Carlos Zambrano needs to pitch well this season. Nine wins cannot happen again. Zambrano has come into camp with the right mindset but he has to do it for the long haul … and just not in Spring Training. Hendry is sure Maddux will have an impact on Zambrano. And he mentioned Zambrano’s best years came when Maddux was his teammate.

Jim Hendry thinks, without a doubt, that Tom Ricketts will allow him to make additions at the trading deadline … if the team is in the race at the end of July. Hendry explained it is very important for the front office to show the guys in the clubhouse they are doing everything they can to improve the team. Hendry used the additions of Jason Kendall and Rich Harden as examples.

The Cubs are going to have scouts throughout the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues when the games begin next week. Hendry would like to add a veteran arm to the pen. He told Kaplan if they can find the right deal that makes sense, they would do it. Hendry has a conference call scheduled with all of his scouts early in the week.

Paul Sullivan on Sports Central

The Cubs beat writer for the Tribune joined Dave Kaplan on Friday night. Sullivan said it has been a very slow spring, media wise … as slow has he can ever remember. Kaplan talked about the open spots in the pressroom with only the Cubs’ beat writers. Sullivan added this spring the Cubs are not the prime destination for the media.

Maybe Aramis Ramirez is onto something …

Carlos Zambrano has said and done all of the right things this spring, but he has in the past as well. Sullivan, like most, feels Zambrano has to carry it over to the season and maintain his spring throughout the year.

Last year humbled Zambrano according to Sullivan.

Lou Piniella was pretty upset on Friday about the oft-injured Angel Guzman. Piniella is tired of him constantly being injured. Sullivan has not heard, but would not be surprised if Guzman begins the year on the DL.

Justin Berg has a good shot of making the team according to Sullivan. He also thinks there will be a “surprise guy” that will step up.

As for the Cubs’ Opening Day second baseman, Sullivan thinks that will depend on the pitcher. If it is a righty, Mike Fontenot … a lefty, Jeff Baker. Fontenot being left handed will help keep him in the lineup to give a little balance.

Sullivan was shocked by Baseball Prospectus’ prediction as well. He does not think the Cubs are a 79-win team. He said if players stay healthy and they can add to the pen, the Cubs are a 90-win team. Sullivan pointed to Carlos Marmol as being a plus over Kevin Gregg … plus Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez being healthy and Xavier Nady and Marlon Byrd together will put up better numbers than …

But they have to add another arm to the pen.

Jason Frasor and Luke Gregerson

As mentioned, the Cubs have continued their conversations with the Padres about Luke Gregerson and the Blue Jays in regards to Jason Frasor. Bruce Levine, during his update on the Afternoon Saloon, said the Cubs are in dire need to solidify their bullpen.

Well, there’s the update … and I am sticking to it!

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Quote of the Day

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