Are Barney and Johnson the Leaders for Cubs Bench Jobs?

The Cactus League schedule is winding down. There are only 12 practice games remaining … the Cubs 2011 season begins in two weeks.

The Opening Day roster is starting to take shape. The Cubs have 40 players in big league camp (39 without Angel Guzman) after two roster cuts. According to a report from Bruce Levine, the Cubs could announce as early as Monday or Tuesday which two pitchers will follow Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza in the rotation. Reportedly Randy Wells has locked up the fourth spot … with Andrew Cashner the favorite to begin the year as the Cubs’ fifth starter.

According to the Sun-Times, Darwin Barney and Reed Johnson are “pulling away in races for the last two bench jobs.” The Sun-Times reported “Barney has all but wrapped up a job” due to his performance and Augie Ojeda’s lingering back problems.

With all eyes on Opening Day, here’s the update from Mesa …

News and Notes

According to a report from the Sun-Times, Randy Wells still has to take care of business over his next few starts to lock up a rotation spot.

The Sun-Times reported if Wells is indeed a lock, then the final spot could come down to Andrew Cashner or Braden Looper … with Carlos Silva being third in line for the fifth spot in the rotation. The Cubs want Cashner to win the job, which could push Looper to the pen. Looper could serve as the long man or emergency starter.

According to the Sun-Times, Mike Quade is not ruling out Starlin Castro eventually taking over the leadoff spot for the Cubs.

Bruce Levine reported John Grabow and Jeff Samardzija are locks to make the team. Scott Maine or James Russell (if the Cubs do not decide to send Russell to Iowa to start) could join Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood and Sean Marshall in the pen. The Cubs have two open spots in the pen and will likely begin the year with three southpaws in the relief corps.

Carlos Silva may end up in the pen if he does not make the rotation or isn’t traded according to Bruce Levine.

According to a report from Bruce Levine, the final roster spot might not be decided until March 30.

Chattin’ with Bruce Levine

Mr. Talkin’ Baseball held his Thursday chat on, here are the highlights …

Jim Hendry has not spoken with the Rangers since the winter meetings. The Cubs were interested in Chris Davis but the players the Rangers were interested in return for Davis were used in the Matt Garza deal.

The Cubs and Rangers have not discussed a Carlos Silva for Michael Young swap. The Rangers have little interest in Silva and the Cubs have no interest in the money still owed to Young.

Darwin Barney has played well this spring and has impressed the coaches and management with his business-like attitude for his game. According to Levine, Barney is the leading candidate to backup Starlin Castro at short … as well as Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt at second base.

Augie Ojeda has suffered from back spasms over the past week and the injury is hurting his chances to make the roster.

James Russell has progressed as a starter to the point the Cubs may ask him to go to Triple-A and continue to hone his skills as a starter. Russell is the only lefty starter close to the big leagues and the move would benefit the organization.

According to team sources, if Andrew Cashner doesn’t make it in the rotation he will go to the bullpen. Cashner will not start the year in Triple-A.

Bobby Scales is a backup in case there is an injury to some of the middle infielders. According to Levine, Scales is not scheduled to make the team out of Spring Training.

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Well, there’s the update … and I’m sticking to it.

Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax
  • Ripsnorter1

    The FACT is Bobby Scales is the best leadoff hitter we have.

    His OBP is outstanding. He works the count. He takes walks. He hits for some average. He has some speed (more than any starter except Castro).

    Why he doesn’t have a chance: if he were 24, he’d be a lock for the job. But he’s 31, so they won’t look at him seriously, and his power is insufficient to overcome his weaknesses with the glove. He plays everywhere, but just doesn’t excel with the glove anywhere.

    But I think he’d be a real help to this team in the leadoff spot. Yesterday he pinch hits and gets a walk. Send DeWitt down! They won’t do it, so you’ll watch his .229 bat with no power and no speed and a weak glove and no walks at 2B.

  • Ripsnorter1

    “Grabow and Samardzija are locks to make the team.”

    Bob Brenly on 670theScore yesterday: “When I managed in AZ, the GM there did not make any roster decisions for me. I took the best 25 guys with me regardless of contract size, experience, how many options they had left, or any other consideration.”

    He also said, “Last year, Lou ran such a relaxed camp that Aram in particular did not get nearly enough swings in to get ready. He was on vacation the entire camp. And it showed when the season began.”

    Brenly cuts it straight. I like he just giving us the facts without covering up for a player’s or coach’s lackadaisical attitude or work.

    • Tony

      Rip – Brenly may say that the GM didn’t make any of the 25 man roster decsions, but c’mon man, I don’t believe that for a moment.

      He didn’t have contracts like the Cubs do, that he would try to cut someone who had lots of money owed.

      Options – How can you not consider that? If a player with an option is better than a player without an option, but not by much, you keep the guy without the option, unless you just don’t care if you lose that player.

      I am sure Brenly thinks he had total say, but I don’t think he had issues like this team has had, with all of its bad contracts.

      As a manager in sports, business, anything, you have as much say in what you do, until the person above you disagrees and overrides you.

      That is when you know what your limit of authority covers. Brenly was never over-ruled.

      But I love the way Brenly calls it like he sees it.

    • The Maven

      Remember, Levine also said that Augie Ojeda was a lock to make the team.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Silva has pitched 3.1 innings, and given up 13 hits, 14 runs, 11 earned runs, 2 HR, 1 BB, 1 HBP, AND ZERO STRIKEOUTS. He’s a lock to make the team, too. And in the running for a starter’s job.

    On what basis? Past experience? Out of options? Contract size?

  • Tony

    Second base will continue to be a hole for this team. Baker and Dewitt were not that exciting in the offseason, now as we have seen their ST performance, it is really hard to believe that they have kept their jobs.

    Barney could be the back-up infielder for many years. Right now, he is our best, all around option for 2B. Send Dewitt to the minors. He has an option left, and has not earned the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes, a well-timed trip to AAA, can work extremely well, and clearing a young players mind, and get them re-focused.

    • The Maven

      Is there any chance that DeWitt can get “hurt” (wink, wink) and start the season on the DL?

      • Tony

        Always a possiblility, but I really think he needs to go to Iowa and spend a month or 2. He may actually become useful, if they do that.

  • Tony

    Neil – Not one mention of Scott Moore? I would take him north! His versaltility and left handed bat, would be nice addition to this team.

    • Tom U

      Part of the reason that Moore is getting the short shrift (is that how you spell that word?) is that he has been playing professional ball for nearly a decade. Over the past 5 seasons, he has bounced from AAA to the majors, never getting 100 AB’s in the majors, nor 300 AB’s in the minors during that time. His offensive and defensive numbers in the minors are decent, but not eye catching. While he seems to have been around “forever”, he is only 27. That makes him younger than Fernando Perez, the touted fifth outfielder. Moore reminds me a bit of Ross Gload, a player that bounced around and was never given a real chance until he found his niche.

      • Tony

        Tom – I’m not sure if you are for or against Moore, by your response, but I think you are for him making the team, by your comparison to Ross Gload.

        We traded for this guy and traded him away. Somehow trades with Bo and Rocky’s are memorable, and I think he is the type of player that can do well, if given an opportunity on the bench. I am not saying he is a everyday starter, or a future all-star. Sometimes we seem to always think, that if the young player isn’t going to be an All-Star, then they are no good. He could be a very versatile and useful role player on this team.

        • Richard Hood

          I for one have been against Moore making a spot on this team because when he struggles and he will struggle the same guys that say he should make the team will crucify Quade for playing him. Why even put your self in that position. 4A players always seemed to get hot in spring training or early in the season and everyone thinks they have value.

          Now I do believe that Camp should be given a chance to make this team over Johnson or Perez. Just to give us some flexibility but I doubt it happens. The next 2 weeks are going to be telling on to what we are actually looking at this season.

          • Tony

            There are 4 types of players on a major league bench.

            1) Aging vet, who was a starter most of career
            2) Young top prospect, who is projected to be a starter
            3) The career bench player
            4) The AAAA player

            A good bench (and a good team) has a mix of these type of players.

            Moore could be just a AAAA player today, but could turn into a career bench player. Either way, I like him better than Baker.

            I don’t see Camp heading north on the 25 man roster.

          • Richard Hood

            I do not see Camp heading north either but I would rather have him than Johnson/Perez. He hits well he runs well and can play everywhere.
            I just think we already have a 4A type player on our bench in Colvin. The more that guy gets exposed the more I think Fontenot has been reborn. So why go and put another one trick pony on our bench in Moore.

          • Tony

            I just don’t see why you think Colvin is a AAAA player. His average is low, but the HR/AB are pretty good, way better than Fontenot.

            Moore is pretty versatile (can play all over the infield), and I’m not saying he is on the team all year, but he’s doing good now, use him.

          • Richard Hood

            Like Fontenot’s first year Colvin was given just enough exposure to make the ever hopeful Cubs fans salivate for him to have a full time spot. Even though the more AB’s he got last year the worse he looked. He has horrible pitch selection. No eye what so ever and his defense seems to get worse the more time he sees. So that is why I compare him to Fontenot because he is being presented the same way that we have seen before. Colvin is and always will be at best a 4th OF. I like the Mair Stairs without the OBA. That seems like a very acurate rating of Colvins future.

          • BillyFinT

            I need to agree with Richard on this one. Matt Stairs is the first comparison came to my mind when Richard brought up this issue (that Colvin’s ceiling as a bench player) a day or two ago.

            But Stairs has better pitch selection, and as a result–higher OBP in his career, even before he became a pinch-hit specialist forever. Now, I’m not pro-Stairs, or believing the ever-importance of having a veteran bench guy. I see the Cubs gave Colvin more chances to show what he got than Pie had, but still, not enough.

            I am guilty because I picked up Colvin on my own fantasy league the first month he got regular playing time, even knowing that his power cannot compensate his on-base ability. But I thought again that this spot, a bench or pinch hitter, is for a veteran, so I dropped him.

            That is a single fan-view, but out from my experience and belief, at least right now, with what a certain type of baseball player is best for a team.

            You know, I think April will be the cut or go month for Colvin, given regular starts. He’ll either improve on what pitches to swing, or he’s just another freakish athlete with muscle and raw talent but no brain and instint to properly field for Major League baseball teams.

        • Tom U

          Tony, sorry to respond so late. I’m not for or against Moore, but I’ve always liked him as a player. Not every player is cut out to be a star. That’s not to say they can’t be useful.

          When you look at Scott Moore, you see a player that is still relatively young, bats left handed, has some pop, and is capable of playing several positions. What’s more, he not “so good” that starters would feel nervous about taking a day off, while he’s not “so bad” that you would feel you were “giving up” a position when he plays. As a bench player, what’s not to like about him?

          As far as making the team, if you are honest, you look at the players who seem the most ready when you break camp. At this time, Moore seems to be more ready than several other infielders on the roster.

  • The Maven

    To borrow a term from my daughter, OMG! Bruce Levine is actually supportive of a young player who is not considered an A+++++++++++++++++ prospect?

    Darwin Barney, your day has arrived!

    • paulcatanese

      I hope your’e right,but I wouldn’t count Ojeda out just yet. As I recall statements were made a week or so ago about Ojeda’s injury and he would be given time to recover. He is a JH pick and for that reason he’s still around.Barney has beat him out on the job fair and square.I’m not happy with Perez or Johnson either. 0 talent there among the three,just don’t trust JH on this one,he would have to admit failure,I don’t think he has the guts to do it.

  • Tony


    Dempster, Zambrano, Garza, Wells, Cashner

    Works for me. This rotation will not be the reason this team doesn’t win more games. It is more than capable of keeping the team in games, and giving the offense a chance to win, almost every day. That is all you can ask of your rotation.

    Russell to Iowa, works for me. Let him get some time starting, and if he is pitching better than Coleman, call him up to start if needed.

  • Tony


    Marmol, Wood, Marshall, Samardzija (contract), Grabow (if healthy), AND Silva (if healthy and not traded/cut).

    That would leave 1 spot for Maine.

    Of course I would love to see, Grabow and Silva on the DL to start the year, and give us 2 more useful arms in the pen, of which, the last weeks of ST, can help decide, which arms.

  • Tony

    Reed Johnson is running away witht the 5th OF spot. Now that’s the power bat, I was looking for…

    We don’t need a 5th OF, that can do everything, we need a 5th OF who can jack the ball out of the park, for late innings, pinch-hitting!

    • The Maven

      A plan could be to have Jeff Baker assume the role of 5th outfielder and keep a bat like Max Ramirez or Scott Moore on the bench.

      • Tony

        I like the later, but just cut Baker, please!! and take Hill with him.

    • paulcatanese

      Tony,I wouldn’t call one home run a power bat, but if he is all that is available given the fact that it would hurt a young bat to just sit the bench,I would have to agree. I still don’t like him on the roster,but as you say a very limited appearance here and there could work,unless they give him a steady diet of high fast balls. It would be a disaster for a young man to sit the bench in that situation and not gain valuable experience in the minors. “is that all there is”?

      • Tony

        Paul – I would have thought you can see my sarcasm by now.

        You made my point, but I would prefer to sign a power bat from either an aging vet, looking to catch with a team, or pick-up somebody else’s player that is out of options.

        • paulcatanese

          Tony I do see it youre point,just rambling around with nothing important to say it was a bad reply,sorry. By the way the Mets released Castillo today a 2baseman over the hill,do you think,maybe JH is chopping at the bit?

          • Tony

            No problem, Paul. I always enjoy your responses.

  • Tony

    13 position players – what it looks like will happen.

    1. Soto C
    2. Hill C
    3. Pena 1B
    4. Baker 2B
    5. Dewitt 2B
    6. Barney SS
    7. Castro Ss
    8. ARam 3B
    9. Soriano OF
    10. Byrd OF
    11. Colvin OF
    12. Fukudome OF
    13. R Johnson OF

    I would swap out the following.

    M Ramirez for Hill (Castillo is a phone call away)
    S Moore for Baker
    Scales for Dewitt (AAA)
    Bat TBD for Johnson

    Internal bat options are limited – but I would look to other teams, roster cuts, and FA.

    Hill and Baker can just be cut, Dewitt can go to Iowa, to get straightened out.

  • Tony

    Pitching staff – what it looks like right now

    1. Dempster
    2. Zambrano
    3. Garza
    4. Wells
    5. Cashner

    1. Marmol
    2. Marshall
    3. Wood
    4. Maine
    5. Grabow
    6. Samardzija
    7. Silva

    Now the bullpen needs help and here are our internal options in camp still

    Berg, Coello, Coleman, Mateo, Russell, Stevens, Looper, Wellemeyer

    Take out Grabow and Silva and DL them and pick the better of the old guys (Looper/Wellemeyer) and one young arm, not named Coleman or Russell).

    Coleman and Russell should to Iowa and start every 5th day.

  • Mark

    I think John Grabow and Jeff Samardzija are garbage. They should NOT make the team. Darwin Barney and Reed Johnson would be great as the back ups. Ojeda is finished, so is Bobby Scales! You need to keep Silva and work him to death out of the pen, perhaps work him to lose about 20 lbs. We need to be careful with Carshner. You decide to keep him up and put him in the pen and he starts blowing it, he’ll lose his confidence. We need this guy to be strong with his arm. Will he be able to do it in the big leagues?

  • cubtex

    Mets release Luis Castillo……. I hope we don’t go there!!!!

  • Cloycub13

    Luis Castillo was just released by the Mets… would cost 400K. 2B and leadoff… Thoughts??????????????????? I know people will throw out that he is old (35), and diminishing… but compared to Baker/Dewitt… perhaps a slight upgrade and the Mets footing the bill. 400k is a bargain for a guy who most feel can still play.

    • cubtex

      As I mentioned right before you posted…..God I hope not!!! Castillo cannot play and is not an upgrade!

    • Tony

      See above!

      • Cloycub13

        Figured as much, and yes John you are right that it is a sad state of affairs. Castillo will sign with someone, I do not see all teams passing on a 400K player.

        • John_CC

          The truly saddest part is that Castillo is probably the best option!!! For the money, why the hell not just cut Baker and send DeWitt down and use Barney on the days when Luis is tired.

          • Tony

            I will give you one reson – Castillo could turn into a Neifi Perez syndrome, where they keep trotting him out there. Let Barney and Moore take 2B, until Lemahieu is ready. We have enought “veteran” experience already.

          • paulcatanese

            Tony, I have a gut feeling about Barney since the first time I saw him play. Felt he had the best glove up the middle and would do no harm to the Cub defense and I think his bat,given the opportunity will surprise a few people.Barney is a winner and if he gets the job,he may be tough to move out of there. I totaly agree,the Cubs do not need another Vet.(especially with issues).

    • John_CC

      What a sad state of affairs, just having to consider this.

  • paulcatanese

    As most of you know I have been a Cub fan for over 65 years. Given the information over the last few months that has been posted there is no reason to believe that the Cubs will finish over .500 this year and then not until some serious changes within management occurs. The pitching is adequite not stellar but will hold there own. But the defense, and lack of hitting will be the downfall of this team coupled with poor management is almost too much to overcome. They will not progress until those changes take place. They cannot continue with has beens to fill out the roster,but need new blood out there. They have no-where to go but up if they go with youth,but they won’t and therefore will not make a run in 2011. I have and always will be a Cub fan and take it as it comes, win or lose I will watch.

  • cubtex

    News out of Milwaukee is that Marcum has a sore shoulder and could be sidelined for a short time! Greinke is to miss 3 or 4 starts to start the season.
    It appears right now that Garza was the better choice! Cmon Aaron….let me hear from you! Garza will give the Cubs 200 innings and Marcum has only gone over 160 innings once in his career and Greinke is a huge longshot now to come close to 200!!!!

    • The Maven

      This oughtta be good

      • cubtex

        Marcum’s shoulder might not be serious but Roenicke did mention to Buster Olney that it is something that could linger the entire year! IMO, Marcum is not very durable! He threw a career high 195 innings last year and he is already starting to have shoulder issues. Not a great sign if you ask me!

        • The Maven

          I’m sorry, I should have made myself clear. I’m just anticipating Round 1 between you and Aaron :-)

          • cubtex

            I knew what you meant :)

  • 1375

    So far, spring training has proven only one thing, the Cubs are at best a mediocre team. Defense is still sloppy, and as much as would like to see Mike Q be successful, it will not happen with this team. Maybe the new owners should have not spent big money to improve washrooms etc., and concentrated on improving the team on the field. I have lost interest in this team, for that matter, I lost interest and couple years ago, and this decision from a man that had been a fan since my father took me to see the Cubs and Tigers in the World Series in 1945.

    Chuck from Alaska