Weekend Update … Pitchers and Catchers Report on February 17

Is there some big event that the Cubs are not involved in on Sunday afternoon?

Players are preparing to make their way to camps in Arizona and Florida and a couple of Cubs have already reported to Fitch Park … Carlos Zambrano and Kevin Millar. Another sign that Spring Training is just around the corner, trucks depart from 1060 West Addison on Tuesday for Mesa filled with the team’s equipment.

While the world is focused on Miami … here is the latest on the Cubs with updates on Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Theriot, second base, Ted Lilly and the bullpen. Plus, in honor of the shield’s biggest game of the year a few baseball commercials from yesteryear.

Carlos Zambrano

After spending a majority of the winter in Chicago, Carlos Zambrano made his way to Mesa over a week ago in order to prepare for Spring Training. Zambrano took the Cubs advice, got in shape and reportedly is a man on a mission.

Zambrano has promised he will be in better shape and will do a better job with his preparation during the upcoming season.

Carlos Zambrano is a very talented pitcher, one that is capable of being one of the true aces in the game. Zambrano did not pitch as bad as his record from a year ago suggests but history has proven Zambrano can be his own worst enemy.

With that said, in order for the Cubs to prove all of their critics wrong in 2010, Carlos Zambrano is one of a handful of players that will have to put together a tremendous season.

A couple of years ago, Aramis Ramirez said the Cubs go as Carlos Zambrano goes … and those words still ring true.

Ted Lilly

By most accounts, Ted Lilly will begin the season on the DL after shoulder surgery this off-season. As Bruce Levine pointed out on Saturday morning, the timeframe for Lilly’s return has been all speculation from the media.

Ted Lilly told Levine at the convention the Cubs will have to hold him back. He is preparing to begin the season in the Cubs rotation. While Lilly’s return from surgery that soon is highly unlikely, Lilly has not said when he will be able to pitch … and neither have his doctor nor Jim Hendry and the Cubs. The late-April or May timeframe has come from the media only.

The Bullpen

The Cubs are still looking for bullpen help and realistically the candidate to replace Carlos Marmol as the Cubs right-handed setup man is on anther team according to Bruce Levine.

Levine and Jonathan Hood discussed the Cubs bullpen options on Saturday morning.

Jeff Gray and Esmailin Caridad (both right-handers) are two in-house candidates while Angel Guzman has the inside track to replace Marmol if he is not traded.

The Cubs have serious interest in Jason Frasor and Luke Gregerson.

If the Cubs make a deal for a reliever, one of three pitchers could be used in a trade: Angel Guzman, Sean Marshall or Tom Gorzelanny.

Here is the full report from Saturday afternoonCubs Still Looking for Bullpen Help

In an interview with the Associated Press, Alex Anthopoulos (the Blue Jays’ GM) said …

“I anticipate going into camp with the number of arms that we do have. We still continue to talk to clubs about various trades. We have a lot of irons in the fire with respect to trades and also free agent signings, but for me to characterize what I think the likelihood of us doing anything prior to reporting to camp, it’s very hard to say.”

Ryan Theriot

The Cubs appear headed for an arbitration hearing with Ryan Theriot. Reports last week indicated talks between the Cubs and Theriot had broken off. Theriot’s hearing is scheduled sometime between February 8 and February 20 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Theriot is looking for $3.4 million in his first year of eligibility and the Cubs submitted a $2.6 million figure. While it is “only” $800,000, the two sides seem far apart.

According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs are not going to settle with Theriot prior to the arbitration hearing. Theriot will get to sit across the table from Jim Hendry and Scott Nelson (the Cubs’ Director of Baseball Administration) and listen to why he is not worth $3.4 million to the Cubs.

Levine and Hood feel there is more going on between the Cubs and Theriot than meets the eye. Levine said something had to happen along the way … neither side is budging at this point.

If the two sides do not settle before the hearing, the arbitrator will have to award one figure (the Cubs $2.6 million) or the other (Theriot’s $3.4 million) … he cannot cut the difference in half and meet in the middle.

Second Base

Like many, Bruce Levine and Jonathan Hood do not think Jeff Baker and Mike Fontenot are going to cut it as the Cubs’ starting option for second base. Both are bench players and not starters.

Levine thinks the Cubs best solution is for Starlin Castro to make the team out of Spring Training, which would force Ryan Theriot to move to second base. With Castro at short and Theriot at second the Cubs defense would be much improved. The only problem with the scenario is Castro limited experience … not to mention the 31 career games at the Double-A level.

Levine mentioned a possible comparison between Castro and Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers … and possibly Alcides Escobar of the Brewers and Yunel Escobar of the Braves.

The comparison to Elvis Andrus is probably the most accurate. Castro turns 20 on March 24 and Andrus played a majority of his rookie season at the same age (Andrus turned 21 on August 26). Andrus played 118 games at the Double-A level in 2008 before the Rangers decided to make him their starting shortstop.

The emergence of Elvis Andrus forced the Rangers to move Michael Young to third base.

Jonathan Hood questioned why the Cubs have not signed Felipe Lopez to play second and give Castro a little more time. Levine explained it is not all Xs and Os with Lopez. He has questionable makeup issues in his past … as well as his possible asking price.

Levine thinks the Cubs would like to add a player like Lopez (or Adam Kennedy before he signed with the Nationals earlier in the week) but there is not money left for free agents. The only flexibility Jim Hendry has in his payroll will be used on adding an arm to the bullpen.

Baseball Commercials

In honor of the big game in Miami and with a hat tip to Jeff Joyce on XM Radio, here are a few baseball commercials. Why doesn’t MLB market their players the same way as the ‘shield’?

Bob Uecker

Nike – Chicks Dig the Long Ball

Nike Baseball

George Brett

Lou Piniella

Joe DiMaggio

Under Armour

Harry Caray

Harry Caray

Chicago Cubs

Andre Dawson

Ernie Banks

Random Rumor from Bruce Levine

In the midst of a discussion about the South Side on Saturday morning, Bruce Levine mentioned he feels Jermaine Dye will regret turning down the Cubs $3.5 million offer for 2010.

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

Follow the CCO on Twitter

Make sure to check the CCO’s twitter feed during the day. With the pitchers and catchers reporting soon, news and notes will start popping up that are worthy of a mention but not front page news. The CCO will tweet what we hear, of course from reliable sources.

If you don’t have an account on the CCO … sign-up for one to share your thoughts and interact with the rest of the Faithful.

Quote of the Day

"Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points." – Knute Rockne