Let the Countdown to the End of the Off-Season Begin

The incredibly long off-season that began on October 5 is almost over. Pitchers and catchers report to Fitch Park in Mesa, AZ in seven days … and the first Spring Training game is on March 4 against the Oakland A’s, just 22 days to go.

Jim Hendry spoke with the media on Tuesday as the truck carrying the Cubs gear departed for Arizona. The Cubs’ GM provided updates on Ryan Theriot’s arbitration case, Ted Lilly and Starlin Castro.

Here’s more with a week to go … including the latest from the mill. Plus, two new iPhone apps for the Faithful that feature the CCO.

Chatting with Bruce Levine

The always-informative Bruce Levine held his weekly chat (for the last time in the off-season) Tuesday afternoon on ESPN Chicago. Here are the highlights:

  • Bruce Levine thinks Starlin Castro could “cover an awful lot more ground” at short than Ryan Theriot … while Ryan Theriot would give the Cubs an upgrade at second base.
  • The Cubs are pursuing trades to add a primary right-handed setup man to the bullpen … to take pressure off pitchers such as Jeff Gray, Esmailin Caridad and Angel Guzman.
  • The Cubs never had (or have) interest in Kris Benson. According to Levine, that was a member of the media doing a favor for an agent.
  • The only way the Cubs will add a pitcher before (or during) Spring Training is via a trade.
  • No one seems to know what to expect out of Carlos Silva.
  • Jeff Gray and John Gaub are two relievers to keep an eye on this spring. The Cubs like Gray’s arm (he is a right handed pitcher) and Gaub offers a power arm from the left side.
  • The Cubs are not looking at Jeff Samardzija as a reliever, but solely as a starter. Many in the organization, including Samardzija, feel his progress has been hurt from going from the pen to the rotation.
  • The Cubs feel Jeff Baker is a part-time player and a viable one at second and third.
  • Bruce Levine would offer Derrek Lee and Ted Lilly short extensions … and he feels they would accept extensions to remain in Chicago.
  • Levine labeled Ted Lilly an “important clubhouse contributor” and agreed that a two-year, $20 million contract sounded about right for ‘The Bulldog.’
  • Chad Tracy will compete with Micah Hoffpauir for a spot on the Cubs’ bench. Tracy is looking to serve as the Cubs’ backup at first and third base.
  • Jermaine Dye balked at the Cubs offer, one Levine labeled as a “solid offer.” The Cubs also did not like Dye saying if he could not get the contract he was looking for then he would retire.

During his chat, Bruce Levine threw out his Opening Day lineup for the Cubs:

  1. Kosuke Fukudome – RF
  2. Ryan Theriot – 2B
  3. Derrek Lee – 1B
  4. Aramis Ramirez – 3B
  5. Marlon Byrd – CF
  6. Alfonso Soriano – LF
  7. Geovany Soto – C
  8. Starlin Castro – SS
  9. Carlos Zambrano – P


More from Bruce Levine

Bruce Levine spoke with Jim Hendry after the truck carrying the Cubs gear departed for Mesa on Tuesday. Here are a few of the highlights … click here for the full report:

  • Cubs are always on the lookout to add depth to their roster.
  • Hendry likes his club.
  • The Cubs have more players coming into camp from within their organization than ever before.
  • There will be opportunities for the Cubs “young players to make the club.”
  • The Cubs have “some ideas” of players they would like to scout in camp.
  • Would look at adding players before camp begins if “something got going.”
  • Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano should be able to go “full throttle” when position players report.
  • Hendry said Rudy Jaramillo would be “a major positive influence” on Alfonso Soriano.

Starlin Castro

Jim Hendry discussed Starlin Castro during his time with the media on Tuesday. Hendry said, “Ideally, Castro should be given an opportunity (in Spring Training), but he’ll probably will need more time.”

The Cubs are not looking to put pressure on the soon-to-be 20-year old.

Starlin Castro has been compared to Elvis Andrus in recent days. Andrus succeeded in Texas after being given the starting job at short at a very young age. According to Levine, the Cubs should be better defensively with Castro at short … and a better team overall, even if he hits .250.

Adding an Arm

The Cubs continue to look for an arm to add to the backend of the bullpen. According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs have been talking with the Blue Jays about Jason Frasor (the Cubs feel Frasor is more of a proven commodity than a few of their internal options) as well as Scott Downs … and the Padres about Luke Gregerson and possibly Heath Bell.

Levine also reported “according to league sources, the Cubs have had contact with any number of teams in pursuit of solidifying their middle relief situation.”

The Cubs could trade for an arm or go to camp with the pitchers they already have on the roster.

Ted Lilly

The return of Ted Lilly was another topic discussed on Tuesday with the media. According to a report from ESPN Chicago, the Cubs do not have a “clear-cut date” for Ted Lilly’s return … but they are not going to rush him.

Reports have suggested that Lilly would not return from off-season shoulder surgery to late April or early May. Hendry spoke with Mark O’Neal (Cubs trainer) and he indicated Lilly “is coming along just fine.

Hendry threw out a date of April 15 but indicated the Cubs would not rush him back to the mound. Hendry pointed out that Lilly’s surgery was a “real minor procedure.”

Ryan Theriot

The Cubs and Ryan Theriot appear headed for arbitration. According to multiple reports on Tuesday, the Cubs and Theriot have not spoken “in a while.” Jim Hendry discussed the situation with the media and is not optimistic about avoiding an arbitration hearing with his starting shortstop.

Hendry said he was O.K. going to a hearing with Theriot if something is not worked out before hand.

According to Bruce Levine’s sources, Theriot’s hearing is scheduled for sometime during the weekend of February 20 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

iPhone Apps featuring ChicagoCubsOnline

With the baseball season approaching, two new apps for the iPhone or iPod Touch are available through iTunes for the Faithful … featuring the RSS feed of ChicagoCubsOnline.

FanMisery.com Index Project

Provides stats, opinions and news links to everything Cubs Baseball. This app is well designed and user friendly. The stat link should be extremely useful during the season for those on the go.

The news section is well organized with previews to articles on the net … including the latest from the CCO.

The cost of the app is $2.99 and well worth it.

FanMisery.com Index Project – Chicago Cubs


FanPulse is a free app and allows you to discuss games with friends before, during and after (unless you are on the CCO, of course).

If you can’t watch a game, FanPulse will deliver scores and news sent straight to your phone … including the latest from the CCO.

Former ESPN, Yardbarker and Digg.com employees founded FanPulse.

FanPulse – Chicago Cubs

ChicagoCubsOnline recommends and endorses both apps for the iPhone …

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

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." - Albert Einstein