Day Thirteen of Camp ‘Q’ … Let the Cubs Spring Games Begin

Practice for the 2011 version of the Chicago Cubs is over … Spring Training baseball begins for Q’s crew Sunday afternoon. The Cubs are scheduled to play 34 games over the next 31 days with one break in the middle, the Cubs only day off of the spring is March 16. On the schedule is four split squad games, a trip to Las Vegas for the annual ‘Big League Weekend’ at Cashman Field. The first spring with Mike Quade at the helm ends on March 29 against the Diamondbacks at HoHoKam Park. The Cubs play an Intrasquad game on March 30 before leaving for Chicago.

The Cubs moved up Center Street Friday afternoon and held their first workout Saturday at HoHoKam in preparation of Sunday’s Cactus League opener.

Here is the update from Mesa, including notes from Randy Bush’s interview on Talkin’ Baseball …

News and Notes
According to a report from Carrie Muskat, Mike Quade told his team he would like for them to just play over the first week or two of the spring. Quade will not be managing the games early on and would like his players to play and think on their feet.

Greg Maddux joined the Cubs at HoHoKam on Saturday. Maddux will work with pitchers and do some scouting.

Tyler Colvin hopes to avoid making foolish mistakes while learning first base.

According to multiple reports, Keith Moreland is ready for his first broadcast as Pat Hughes’ new partner. Hughes and Moreland will call their first game together Sunday. Moreland filled in several times last season for Ron Santo but Sunday will be his first as the Cubs’ color analyst after he got the full-time gig a couple of weeks back.

Mike Quade and the players are eager to start the spring games and erase the taste of a disappointing 2010.

According to a report from the Tribune, some of the pitching depth that the Cubs have in camp “will be auditioning unknowingly for spots elsewhere, with the Yankees, among others, looking for a starter or two.”

According to the Sun-Times, the Cubs are confident smart players can take them a long way.

According to a report from Cubs.com, Blake DeWitt changed his batting stance to eliminate a tap step. The change is expected to help DeWitt hit to all fields. DeWitt spent time with Rudy Jaramillo this winter working on the change.

John Grabow on Talkin’ Baseball
The Cubs’ lefty joined Bruce Levine and Fred Huebner Saturday morning. John Grabow said his knee is feeling good. Grabow chose to rehab his knee, instead of opting for surgery. Grabow spent about eight weeks rehabbing the knee to make sure it was strong to start the season.

Grabow admitted he thought he could pitch through the injury last season. He tried but t got worse. He said just as he started pitching better over his last five or six outings he had to shut it down.

Grabow is willing do whatever the team asks of him. He does not feel he is just a lefty specialist because he can also get right-handers out.

As for the transition from Larry Rothschild to Mark Riggins, Grabow said Riggins has left him pretty much alone, which is the case for most relief pitchers. Grabow stressed that the most important thing for a reliever is to throw strikes. And if a reliever is doing that, there is nothing much a pitching coach needs to change.

Grabow said it has been really relaxed in camp so far. Guys came into camp ready to go and focused on getting their work in. Grabow showed up in Mesa a couple of months ago and there was already 30 guys at Fitch preparing for Spring Training.

John Grabow sounded focused on making last season’s performance a distant memory.

Randy Bush on Talkin’ Baseball
The Cubs’ Assistant GM joined Bruce Levine and Fred Huebner Saturday morning during the third hour of Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000). Randy Bush discussed all things Cubs on the eve of the start of the Cactus League schedule.

It is a good thing the games are beginning. Bush feels the guys are prepared and ready to start facing other competition. Bush is happy with where the team is right now. The Cubs have a lot of work to do but that is what Spring Training is for, getting ready for the regular season.

Randy Bush feels good about the pitching depth. There are two open spots in the rotation behind Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza. The Cubs are interested to see how Andrew Cashner performs as a starter. Cashner made strides last year at the big league level and prepared to be a starter in the minors.

Mark Riggins is familiar with Cashner and his repertoire from being the Cubs Minor League Pitching Coordinator and he feels Cashner could be very successful as a starter. Bush said it would be shortsighted on their part not to make sure they have a homegrown talent, like Cashner, that could be an impact starter.

After Cashner, the last two spots are between James Russell, Carlos Silva, Randy Wells and the list goes on and on according to Randy Bush.

Bush reiterated that it has been a good camp so far. The players are healthy and preparing very well. The team is also happy with Mike Quade.

Quade is very involved with every aspect and the players are excited about him being their manager.

As for the importance of having a lefty in the rotation, Bush pointed out that ultimately a team wants its five best guys in the rotation. If they all end up being right-handed then so be it, but if that is the case better have a bullpen with plenty of southpaws. The Cubs could begin the season with three lefties in the pen, if they start with an all right-handed rotation.

Bush explained that the Cubs would like to have a lefty in the rotation but it is not critical of they do not.

Brett Jackson is a special young man according to Randy Bush. Jackson carries himself with a swagger, but in a good way … not cocky. Jackson is very self-confident and has no self-doubt. Jackson sees himself as a big leaguer for a long time.

Jackson is a “fasttrack” guy according to Bush. He’s handled all promotions and the Cubs are excited about his progress. Bush would not put a timeframe on when Jackson would make his Cubs’ debut but he did say it would be sooner rather than later.

Bruce Levine asked Bush if he would be happy if Geovany Soto drove in 85 runs this season. Bush said they would be thrilled then spoke very highly of Soto.

Geovany Soto is already on the short-list of catchers in the majors from an offensive standpoint. Soto is making strides defensively and is working very hard at improving. Bush said for a young guy to call a game the way he does and to handle a pitching staff the way he has is impressive.

Randy Bush thinks Geovany Soto can be an outstanding catcher for the Cubs for a long time. It would not surprise anyone if Soto had a breakout year reminiscent of his rookie season.

So far, Carlos Pena has been everything the Cubs thought he would be when they signed him. Pena has shown outstanding leadership abilities and is already taking charge.

Levine asked Bush if he thought Carlos Marmol was underrated. Bush agreed that he feels that Marmol is overlooked as a closer. Bush thinks many of the fans and talk shows get caught up in the walks but at the end of the day it is all about wins and losses. Bush admitted that sometimes Marmol will make you reach for the chewable tablets but he gets the job done.

The Cubs feel real good about the backend of the pen. With Kerry Wood, Sean Marshall and hopefully John Grabow, the Cubs feel they have the right combination and balance to have a very good bullpen.

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Well, there’s the update … and it’s time to PLAY BALL!

Quote of the Day

"The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man's determination." - Tommy Lasorda
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  • Gary J

    I know a lot of folks around here are thinking “the vets are the favorites because that’s the history with the Cubs” … but where there’s smoke…

    Cashner sounds like everyone in the organization thinks this kid has the goods. Scouts, pitching coach, mgr, etc.

    I personally think he’s going to have to pitch himself out of a spot in the rotation this spring or someone else is going to have to really outshine him… both of which could easily happen. But if it’s a choice between him and someone else having relatively similar springs, I’d bet it’s Cashner that gets the nod.

    And as for the IF, I think if they have similar springs, it’s also Barney that gets the nod… but he looked over matched at times last year and he could easily hit .240 like he did at the end of the year if he’s pressing.

    Reed Johnson vs. Perez though…. to me that’s a toss up. I still think Perez gets the nod simply because of his speed – which is something we all know the Cubs lack in general – but Johnson’s been getting a lot of positive comments from the coaches too.

    We’ll see.

    PLAY BALL!!!!!!!!!! :-D

    • Tony_Hall

      I agree on Cashner has a spot to lose, and that Barney should win the spot, What I don’t like is why bring an Augie Ojeda or Reed Johnson in at all.

      I know, the first argument will be, what’s wrong with a little competition? Nothing, but lets have a competition with our guys, in our system. Give them a better look. Guys like Augie can be had at anytime. Players like him, will be cut at at the end of March and readily available, if needed.

      Second argument – Reed Johnson, is a great clubhouse guy and gives 110% effort. That is all great, but we have our 110% effort guy and great clubhouse guy already in the OF – Marlon Byrd. The last OF spot, needs to be a bat, since we will have such a weak hitting bench, and have 4 OF’s that will take up all of the starts. I don’t want either Reed or Perez for that roster spot.

      I am so glad, that starting today, we can see some real production, to help decide these spots.

      • cubtex

        I agree! The Cubs bench does not thrill me at all! Best case scenario to me would be that Cashner,Wells and Silva all pitch well this spring. Maybe a team will look at Silva for a year and deal for him. A bad contract for a bad contract for 1 year.
        One thought……. The Tigers are stuck with Carlos Guillen at 13 mill for one more year. They have 2 young second baseman in Will Rhymes and Sizemore who they are high on. If one of them plays great this spring and wins the job……maybe a Silva for Guillen swap for 1 year?? Of course the Tigers would need to throw in some cash to balance out the contracts….but I would much rather have a Carlos Guillen playing a utility role ala Mark DeRosa than Ojeda!!
        This is just one example…but hopefully some team will look at the Cubs depth at starting pitching and they could deal someone for a quality bench guy!

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Hood/100000706523521 Richard Hood

        I agree with you on that Tony. I thought that the Cubs would have been better served looking for a back up Corner IF and OF’er type that bats RH for the bench. I was thinking an waiver on LaRoche would have fit the bill nicely. They should have seen if they could get him to work a little on the OF and see if he could do it.

        I do think that the kids need not only the competition but the experience a guy like Reed Johnson brings with him. He has enough experience being that 4/5 OF guy that he understands that role intimately and all the little nuances that you need to learn. My thing is at this point Johnson would be a much better “advisor” then actually looking for a spot on the roster and one more summer in the sun.

  • Tony_Hall

    Getting ready for fantasy baseball, thought I would share with you my “Cubs scouting”.

    Fantasy rankings for 2011 (offense only)
    C – Soto – 7th
    1B – Pena 17th (Dlee 16th)
    2B – Dewitt 37th (Theriot 24th, Infante 27th)
    SS – Castro 14th
    3B – Aram 13th
    OF – Byrd 64th
    OF – Soriano 67th
    OF – Fukudome 81st
    OF – Colvin 85th

    SP – Dempster 25th
    SP – Zambrano 48th
    SP – Garza 50th
    SP – Wells 97th

    Closer – Marmol 2nd

    It is easy to see that Marmol, Soto, Dempster , Zambrano, Garza should all be drafted.

    Castro, ARam , and any of our OF, will depend on how deep of a league you are playing, but none of them will be relavent in fantasy baseball, unless they go on a hot streak.

    • cubs1967

      as someone who has played fantasy baseball for 15 yrs; better list the 13 and 12 SS/3b better than Castro and ARam, no way……….both top 10 all day long.

      good luck

      • Tony_Hall

        I agree, the rankings were from my leagues website (10 team league). If I pass on Hanley or Tulowitzki, I would have no problem waiting for Castro, and for that matter ARam and hopefully get a late round deal. My problem is, I have a lot of Cub fans in my league, and they over value Cub players, so usually don’t end up with any.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Hood/100000706523521 Richard Hood

          You know what is funny. I have a bunch of Cardinal fans in my fantasy league and the they seem to overvalue Cubs players as well. I do not understand it. I was able to put together a pretty good team just by waiting till all the Cardinals and Cubs were off the board.

  • Tony_Hall

    Brett Jackson is coming to Wrigley sooner, rather than later. I can’t wait to see him in action in ST. I really doubt he will break camp with the team (I think he would have to out do, Colvin’s ST from last year), but do believe if he continues on this path, he will be in Wrigley by sometime in June this year.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Tony, I’m looking forward to seeing Jackson today. As you know he’s supposed to go in for Soriano. While it is only Spring Training, seeing an outfield of Jackson (LF), Perez (CF) and Colvin (RF) in the later innings today should be fun.

      • Tony_Hall

        I wish that the game was being broadcast, even on the web. I signed up for the MLB.com premium service where you can watch games online. I don’t see all that many additional games for the Cubs, than on the normal TV schedule. I thought I remember reading about an expanded webcast schedule.

        • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

          Tony, the additional webcasts will be audio only.

  • Patrick_Schaefer

    RIP Ron it is not going to be the same with out you this year, please welcome into heaven my wife’s Aunt Angela who passed away this morning at the 5:00 a.m. she was only 38, and like you a very good person who never harmed a soul.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Patrick, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

    • The Maven

      Sorry for your loss, Patrick

    • Tony_Hall

      Patrick, I am sorry for you and your families loss.

    • Dorasaga

      My solacement as well, God Bless.

    • paulcatanese

      Patrick,very sorry for you and your’e wifes loss. Very sad,38 yrs. way too young.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_R65T7II7FYX7HGQW2XLHDDWJRQ Agustin

      very sorry sir.

  • Skmott

    The Cubs need some speed and a 300 hitting leadoff hitter. If not a 300 hitter then a leadoff with a 400+ on base percentage. For too many years they have had 240 to 260 hitters as leadoff and in my opinion this is one of the reasons for the lack of offense. I read Fukadome would leadoff. He is a career 260 hitter. Another mistake.

  • Bryan

    Headline on Atlanta Journal Constitution Sports Page – “Young Braves have Big Day”. Freedie Freeman, in his MLB debut (1B) goes 3-3 with three doubles. Gee, a franchise and manager who immediately gets the kids out there to play.

    Instead, we concern ourselves over the likes of Reed Johnson and Augie Ojeda, and whether Jackson will make it up in June (so that we won’t have to worry about years of service, etc).

    I have Cubbie Blue in my blood since growing up, but it is nonetheless great watching an annual great franchise operate in the Braves. Just lot’s of class and professionalism in everything they do.