Chicago Cubs … Storylines of the Spring and Roster

The first pitch of the Cubs’ 2010 exhibition season is less than 24 hours away. While most of the roster spots may be filled, Lou Piniella has stated in recent days his team has six open spots on the active roster … that will be decided during Spring Training.

Beyond the Opening Day roster (that many focus on this time of year) is the Cubs’ Major League roster or 40-man roster. It is important for young players, as well as non-roster invitees, to have good springs and make positive impressions on the big league coaching staff.

Here is a look at a few storylines of the spring, a couple of names to keep an eye on and a complete Spring Training roster, with each player’s number. If you listen close enough you can hear Pat Hughes practicing his lead-in …

Storylines of the Spring

Mike Fontenot

This is a big spring for Mike Fontenot. Not only is he battling for a job with Jeff Baker, the Cubs also want to see if he can backup Ryan Theriot at shortstop.

With Fontenot, the bottom line is he has to hit. Fontenot’s defensive skills are lacking and if he is not hitting … well the Cubs went down that road in 2009.

Lou Piniella has talked about the importance of having a more versatile roster this year. Defensively Mike Fontenot can play only one position … Piniella tried him at short in 2007 and moved him in the middle of the game. The fact he hits from the left side of the plate may be the only thing keeping him on the team.

Alfonso Soriano

Alfonso Soriano is beginning his fourth spring … and season with the Chicago Cubs. Soriano just needs to get his work in this spring and make sure his knee is ready when the games count on April 5.

How Soriano runs the bases during the final two weeks of exhibition games will tell the Cubs all they need to know … if he is grimacing as he rounds first on a double, it will be another season of dealing with Soriano not playing at 100%.

Xavier Nady

Call him ‘X‘ or ‘Nagy‘, but hopefully Xavier Nady will be healthy enough to start the season on the active roster. Nady is not expected to play much outfield this spring or the first month of the season … but Nady could give the Cubs a big bat on the bench that the opposition has to plan for late in games.

As for this spring, as long as ‘X’ is the Cubs’ DH more times than not, he is right on schedule with his rehab.

A healthy Xavier Nady on a contract year could pay dividends for the Cubs in Twenty-Ten.

Starlin Castro

According to most reports, Starlin Castro will begin the year with Ryne Sandberg in Iowa … and that is the right decision. There is no reason to have him sent on a bench in Chicago when he should be playing everyday. Unless Castro is starting in Chicago, the Cubs cannot hurt his development by breaking camp with him on their active roster.

Here is the wild card with Castro … if Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker struggle and Starlin Castro continues to impress Lou Piniella, could the Cubs change their mind?

How Starlin Castro handles himself this spring is more important than the inflated spring numbers he could amass.

Andrew Cashner

Andrew Cashner has a bright future ahead of him, but will it be as a reliever or as a starter? When the Cubs drafted him, he was a closer. They decided to stretch him out as a starter … and the experiment has worked so far. By most accounts the Cubs’ front office see Cashner as a front-line starter down the road.

Piniella has been dropping hints since the Cubs Convention that Cashner could be in the mix for a job with the big league club. Then on Monday Piniella mentioned Cashner could be a candidate for a bullpen job. There is something Piniella has seen that he likes in Cashner.

The Cubs need pitching and Andrew Cashner has the arm …

The Backend of the Rotation

Reports last weekend suggested Ted Lilly could miss the first month of the season. The Cubs do not need a fifth starter until they leave for New York on April 19 … but it appears they will break camp with a five-man rotation.

Tom Gorzelanny and Jeff Samardzija are rumored to be the leaders in the proverbial clubhouse for the last two spots. Piniella wants at least one southpaw and Sean Marshall is a better reliever than Gorzelanny.

The Cubs are happy with the progress Jeff Samardzija made in winter ball … and the way he reported to camp. Now it is time to see if he can retire Major League hitters the second (not to mention a third) time through a lineup.

Carlos Silva has the most to prove. The Cubs were not happy with the way he reported to camp but he is owed a lot of money … and will likely break camp with the Cubs either as a starter or the longman out of the pen.

An interesting name to keep an eye on is Mike Parisi. Early reports are very positive on this year’s Rule 5 guy. Parisi is scheduled to pitch in the first game against the A’s and has said he will pitch as a starter or a reliever.

The Backend of the Pen

The backend of the Cubs’ pen is very inexperienced. Some have used the phrase ‘paper-thin’ but inexperienced is a better description. The Cubs have several good, young arms … even with Angel Guzman and Jeff Gray nursing injuries. James Russell, John Gaub and Blake Parker had good seasons a year ago and pitched well in the Arizona Fall League.

Esmailin Caridad (or Smiley) was impressive at the end of last season, then there is Justin Berg … and the same could be said about his performance following his call-up.

What the Cubs do not have after Carlos Marmol and John Grabow are guys that have pitched late in games under pressure situations … and in stadiums with upper decks.

Jeff Stevens and David Patton will get considerations, but Jim Hendry will likely go outside of the organization to add a veteran reliever to the mix.

Geovany Soto

One of the players the Cubs are counting on to rebound this season. Soto put in the work in the off-season, now it’s time for him to prove last year was a fluke … and not a career path.

Geovany Soto needs to put together a good spring, get his work in and leave Arizona healthy.

Chad Tracy, Kevin Millar and the Bench

Chad Tracy could have the edge in this competition … although Kevin Millar and Micah Hoffpauir will have a say once it is all said and done.

Tracy can simply hit off the bench. As a sub, he has a career line of .299/.373/.573/.946 with 12 doubles and six home runs in 122 games (134 plate appearances). As a pinch hitter, Tracy has excelled as well to the tune of a .306/.388/.588/.976 line with nine doubles and five homers in 100 games, 85 at bats.

The main competition for the other spot on the Cubs’ bench will come from a group that includes Andres Blanco, Sam Fuld and Bobby Scales.

Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster

As for Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster, as long as they remain healthy and on schedule that is all that matters.

A quiet spring from Zambrano and Dempster would fall under the ‘no news is good news category‘. With Ted Lilly out, losing Zambrano or Dempster is the last thing this version of the Chicago Cubs needs to start the season.

Players to Keep An Eye On

The Cubs have several young, and maybe lesser-known players that could make an impact during the season … if not out of camp.

Thomas Diamond, the former first round pick of the Rangers, used to have the stuff to be a frontline starter. Arm troubles and Tommy John surgery derailed his career … but the Cubs have high-hopes that Diamond can be the pitcher the Rangers thought he was back in 2004.

Casey Coleman, the Cubs’ 2009 minor league pitcher of the year, will not blow anyone away with his stuff. Coleman throws a fastball in 88-91 range with a changeup (his best pitch) and a curveball. Coleman is known for his command and can reportedly spot his fastball wherever he wants it … sound familiar?

During an interview over the winter, Ryne Sandberg compared Coleman to Greg Maddux … and his former manager should know.

Other Possible Storylines

  • The amount of playing time Jeff Baker receives in the outfield
  • Ryan Theriot playing a position other than shortstop
  • Carlos Marmol’s control
  • Lou Piniella’s patience
  • Darwin Barney … the shortstop that is getting lost in all of the “Castro-mania”
  • Randy Wells, will he slump or thrive in his first camp with expectations?
  • Brad Snyder and Bryan LaHair

2010 Chicago Cubs Spring Roster
(Complete player roster with spring uniform number)

Pitchers

40-Man Roster

  • Mitch Atkins – 60
  • Justin Berg – 64
  • Esmailin Caridad – 33
  • Ryan Dempster – 46
  • Rafael Dolis – 66
  • John Gaub – 48
  • Tom Gorzelanny – 32
  • John Grabow – 43
  • Jeff Gray – 34
  • Angel Guzman – 37
  • Ted Lilly – 30
  • Carlos Marmol – 49
  • Sean Marshall – 45
  • Marcos Mateo – 62
  • Mike Parisi – 47
  • Blake Parker – 58
  • David Patton – 54
  • Jeff Samardzija – 29
  • Carlos Silva – 52
  • Jeff Stevens – 44
  • Randy Wells – 36
  • Carlos Zambrano – 38

Non-Roster Invitees

  • Andrew Cashner – 70
  • Casey Coleman – 79
  • Thomas Diamond – 20
  • Jeff Kennard – 78
  • J.R. Mathes – 68
  • Vince Perkins – 53
  • James Russell – 76

Catchers

40-Man Roster

  • Welington Castillo – 72
  • Koyie Hill – 55
  • Geovany Soto – 18

Non-Roster Invitees

  • Robinson Chirinos – 71
  • Steve Clevenger – 74
  • Chris Robinson – 75

Infielders

40-Man Roster

  • Jeff Baker – 28
  • Andres Blanco – 13
  • Mike Fontenot – 17
  • Micah Hoffpauir – 6
  • Derrek Lee – 25
  • Aramis Ramirez – 16
  • Ryan Theriot – 2

Non-Roster Invitees

  • Darwin Barney – 65
  • Starlin Castro – 67
  • Blake Lalli – 73
  • Kevin Millar – 15
  • Chad Tracy – 9
  • Josh Vitters – 61

Outfielders

40-Man Roster

  • James Adduci – 63
  • Marlon Byrd – 24
  • Tyler Colvin – 21
  • Kosuke Fukudome – 1
  • Sam Fuld – 27
  • Xavier Nady – 22
  • Alfonso Soriano – 12

Non-Roster Invitees

  • Matt Camp – 57
  • Brett Jackson – 59
  • Bryan LaHair – 4
  • Bobby Scales – 19
  • Brad Snyder – 56

Time to play ball!

Quote of the Day

"Change is inevitable, but personal growth is a choice." - Bob Proctor
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