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