Decisions, Decisions, Decisions … and Other Cubs Notes

Mike Quade along with members of his coach staff are scheduled to meet with Jim Hendry and the front office Tuesday morning to discuss the team’s roster. The main topics up for debate are the backup catcher’s job, backup infielder, second base, two spots in the pen, and the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation.

A majority of the Cubs’ Opening Day roster has been set for months. It appears both Reed Johnson and Darwin Barney have earned a spot this spring. Johnson was a non-roster invite to big league camp and will have to be added to the team’s 40-man roster, which currently stands at 39 players. Barney has opened a lot of eyes this spring and right now is the only viable backup to Starlin Castro.

The backup catcher’s job could go to Koyie Hill, Welington Castillo or Max Ramirez … while Blake DeWitt is on the roster “right now” but the team has not left Arizona yet. If DeWitt does not make the cut, it could open a spot for Scott Moore or Bobby Scales. Both Scales and Moore were non-roster invitees to camp and would have to be added to the 40-man roster.

Here’s the update on decision day that includes info on Angel Guzman, plus notes from radio interviews with Pat Listach and Jim Hendry

Roster Discussion … and Decisions
Mike Quade told the media Monday, “I think the conversation tomorrow basically talks about everybody’s role on this club — who’s still alive to make this club, who’s not, where we see the depth, the rankings from the pitching to the bullpen, the whole club. We have decisions to make. We know a healthy [Aramis] Ramirez is our third baseman, but we’re going to go through the whole club — at least that’s what I want to do. We’ll look at every angle, every possibility.”

According to multiple reports, Quade has already had “some healthy disagreements with Hendry, Bush and others” about the roster.

Welington Castillo has impressed Quade this spring. The question with Castillo is, would he be better to play everyday in Iowa or backup Geovany Soto in the big leagues.

Blake DeWitt could have played himself out of a job to start the season. Jeff Baker and Darwin Barney have out hit DeWitt while the former Dodger has worked on the changes he and Rudy Jaramillo made in the off-season to his batting stance. Barney has also shown the ability to catch and throw the baseball … something the entire roster has struggled with this spring.

Quade said Monday that DeWitt has a spot on the roster “right now” then pointed out the Cubs have not broken camp yet.

Bruce Levine broke down the Cubs’ roster. According to Levine, Randy Wells will be the team’s fourth starter. Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood, John Grabow and Jeff Samardzija have secured five of the seven spots in the bullpen. If the Cubs go with a third lefty in the pen, it will be either James Russell or Scott Maine.

Reed Johnson has won the fifth outfielder’s job, which means the Cubs will option Fernando Perez to Triple-A Iowa … Perez has one minor league option left.

According to Bruce Levine, Darwin Barney is a lock to make the roster unless Hendry claims a veteran infielder off the waiver wire.

Angel Guzman
Angel Guzman is rehabbing in minor league camp and is scheduled to throw batting practice Wednesday. If all goes well, Guzman could throw in a minor league game in the next week.

Tuesday (March 22) is the one-year anniversary of Guzman’s reconstructive shoulder surgery.

Guzman threw Sunday and is looking forward to pitching in a rookie league game.

News and Notes

According to Bruce Levine (during Saturday’s Talkin’ Baseball), the Cubs have several options with Carlos Silva. 1) They could include money and trade him 2) Put him in the bullpen until they can trade him 3) Have him come up with an “injury” and put him on the disabled list 4) Last alternative, to release him. The Cubs are prepared to release him but that is the worst-case scenario.

The Carlos Silva situation has been created by Jim Hendry’s worst signing. The Cubs got more out of Silva last year than they ever thought they would.

According to Keith Moreland, Welington Castillo is pushing Koyie Hill for the backup catcher’s job.

Pat Listach on Talkin’ Baseball
Mike Quade’s bench coach joined Bruce Levine and Dave Juday Saturday morning during Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000)

Pat Listach began the interview by saying the first camp under Mike Quade has gone very well. Listach indicated Quade is extremely hands-on and is extremely intense.

Listach jumped at the chance to return the Cubs organization. Listach said the Cubs have a great organization and it was a no-brainer to return.

The Cubs have a lot of candidates for the second base job. Listach brought up the rough spring Blake DeWitt has had but pointed out that he is working on a revamped swing. Listach described DeWitt as a hard working kid. DeWitt comes in early, stays late and is always working … both on his defense and offense. DeWitt takes grounders and works on his throws daily.

DeWitt spent time over the winter revamping his swing and stance with Rudy Jaramillo. Listach hinted at the fact that could have something to do with the horrible spring he’s had.

Outside of DeWitt, Jeff Baker and Bobby Scales have had good springs … and Darwin Barney has opened a lot of eyes.

Barney is not a carbon copy of Ryan Theriot … but close. Listach said that Barney is a little stronger, a little faster and is bigger than Theriot. Nothing against the former Cub, but Listach said that Barney can play both positions (shortstop and second base) better than Theriot.

Listach went on to explain that Barney is a winner … and a winning attitude can be contagious.

Levine asked Listach what are a few of the differences between Lou Piniella and Mike Quade. Listach reminded Levine that he was not with the team when Lou was here. Listach knows Piniella demanded respect. Listach said that Lou intimidated younger players … Mike Quade does not want the young players to be scared of him.

Aramis Ramirez appears healthy and had fresh legs. Listach said that Ramirez was a little stiff early in camp but appeared to be refreshed when he came back from the day off.

Camp has been very good with a lot of energy. Listach credits the energy in camp to everyone being positive and upbeat. All of the players want to win and win now.

Jim Hendry on The Score
Jim Hendry joined Barry Rozner and Matt Spiegel on Hit and Run Sunday morning. The Cubs’ GM is real happy the team has stayed healthy this spring, as well as other things.

Hendry did not sound happy about the Cubs’ spring record. He said no one like to have a terrible record and the goal is to play around .500 ball in the exhibition season.

The pitching staff is healthy. Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano have put together good springs but Hendry is very happy with the way Randy Wells has pitched in Arizona. Andrew Cashner is progressing well and Hendry doesn’t think he’s ever seen Kerry Wood pitch as well as he has this spring.

Carlos Silva hasn’t pitched very well this spring but the position players have struggled behind him in his outings. Hendry said he’s also been hit hard, which has not helped. The Cubs still plan on giving him a chance at a spot in the rotation. There have been a lot of guys in the big leagues that have had a bad spring then put together a good season.

Barry Rozner asked if Hendry was exploring a trade for Silva or if they were thinking about just releasing him. Hendry said he will never talk about a players future in the media before pointing out they have cut or released very few players.

Hendry said the goal is to try to break camp with the best 25 players.

The Cubs’ GM believes the Cubs can be a contending team. Hendry feels if the players stay healthy they will perform well. Hendry said if they can stay in the race they will be able to add on in July and go from there.

Jim Hendry feels the players have worked hard and Mike Quade has run a good camp. He acknowledged they have a lot to accomplish before the end of camp and would like for the team to finish strong going into the season.

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

Quote of the Day

"Our lives improve only when we take chances and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves." - W Anderson.
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  • studio179

    “Listach said that Barney is a little stronger, a little faster and is bigger than Theriot.”

    Plus, Barney plays on the right side of the Cubs / Cards rivalry. ;)

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Well played!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PBHBYUJCQF7ANNELZQQGLFSODY Papi Lubricante

      “Nothing against the former Cub”

      Maybe just a little against The-former-Riot

    • http://twitter.com/kylejohansen Kyle Johansen

      I love that, bigger, stronger, faster, better defense… um start the guy? Couldn’t be more pain-stakingly obvious.

  • studio179

    “According to Keith Moreland, Welington Castillo is pushing Koyie Hill for the backup catcher’s job.”

    I agree, Keith…but does Quade and Hendry agree.

    • Cheryl

      Castillo can still be sent down for a year and that may play into their thinking. Max Ramirez still raises questions. Can he make the team? He has the power and that may be a selling point. Plus, he has no more options.

      • studio179

        I don’t mind what you are saying. I thought about that scenerio as well. I would rather Castillo get some more experience behind the plate and consistant ABs in the minors as opposed to a back up on the big club at this point in his young career. Take what he has gained and work on his game to fine tune it. Maybe keeping Ramirez would be a good option off the bench. Either scenerio is better than keeping Hill at this point.

  • Dorasaga

    From what I’m seeing, Barney is not just a “backup to Starlin Castro.” The man comes from a winning organization (TWO College World Series Championships). He plays solid defense. He squares for contact. He runs the bases smart. Moreover, he talks like a winner:

    http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=13085647&c_id=chc

    Of course, Darwin has not been exposed to enough Major League pitching from both sides of the mound *(85 PA). His minor league numbers look iffy. He showed limited power in 1546 AB of minor league play (82 doubles and 10 HR), not a strong candidate for today’s second base, as some others pointed out before.

    I can hope that, at age 25, he still has a lot to show ahead and becomes a good competition to Dewitt (who also happens to be 25) for earning that regular job. This might be our “X Factor” this year.

    • Tony_Hall

      He hits like a SS, wouldn’t you say.

  • Wickitkevin

    Neil,

    I will do a recap and I even talked to Grant off air about the farm system during the taped interview, about the Cubs farm system and Szczur. I will post it when I came it home and can use my lap top.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Thanks Kevin …

    • http://twitter.com/kylejohansen Kyle Johansen

      Szczur!

  • Ripsnorter1

    The last roster spots . . . .

    Pitching Staff:
    They have locked up Marmol, Marshall, Grabow, Wood and Samardzija. Two have locks based simply on contract status alone: Grabow and Samrdzija. Silva would be a lock if he can pitch one good game in the next eight days. His contract will win him a job. Sure, he’s pitched 11 innings and given up 29 hits, but the Cubs have no real intention of eating multi-million dollar contracts like the Mets have recently (Castillo’s $6 and Perez’s $12 million dollar boon dongles). SO just one good outing wins him a job. Samardzija’s 7 IP, 9 hits, 2 HR’s, but 2 BB’s and 9 k’s helps him out. I still think he stinks, and his 6.43 ERA in ST is going to be lower than his ERA in MLB this year. Russell’s 8 IP and 16 hits doesn’t look so good. Maine hasn’t pitched as well as I had hoped. 6 IP and 8 hits, 6.00 ERA, and 1 HR given up, but 6 k’s and 2 BB’s is okay. Looks to me like Russell goes down to work on being a starter, and Maine stays. Mateo has pitched very well. 5 IP, 2 h, 6 k’s. Maybe this is his time. If not, Wellemeyer wins the job due to veteran experience. But we know what he is. His career ERA is 4.83, and last year his ST ERA was 2.70, and during the year it was 5.83 with 35 BB and 41 K in 58 IP. His control sinks him. And in this ST, it is the same story: no control. I’d cut him. I’d have already cut Looper. And that leaves Stevens. Has pitched 5.2 IP with 6 K’s and 3 BB and 3 ER for a 4.76 ERA. Not great, and we know what he is.

    SO the way it is shaping up so far, in the last eight days, if Silva can give at least one good outing, he makes the team, and the staff looks like this to me:

    Dempster, Z, Garza, Wells and Cashner as starters.
    Marmol, Marshall, Wood, Grabow, Samardzija, Silva and Maine or Mateo as your relievers. Maine or Mateo will have to battle it out for that last job. Maine has the advantage of being a LHP; Mateo has outpitched him thus far.

    It will be interesting to watch the rest of the show . . ..

    • cubtex

      I think with an all righty rotation they need to have 3 lefties in the bullpen….Marshall,Grabow and Maine(over Russell)

      • studio179

        The talk was Russell going to Iowa to continue to start ‘if’ he did not make it as a starter out of camp. You are right, if they go three lefties, it has to be Maine over Russell.

      • paulcatanese

        Agree ,but Grabow is still a question mark with his knee. If it’s okay fine.

  • Ripsnorter1

    The last spots . . . . Position players.
    Soriano, Byrd, Funko, Colvin, Johnson in the OF are apparently set.

    But for the rest of the roster, what should happen, and what will happen, are most likely two very different things.

    INF:
    Pena, Aram, Castro are locks. So what of 2B? The best player won’t win the job. Scales has won the job, but HE PROBABLY WON”T MAKE THE TEAM. He’d be my starter and leadoff man until he proves he can’t do it at the ML level. He walks, he hits, he runs and he occasionally hits a tater. He’d be an excellent leadoff hitter for this team that has no leadoff hitter (please don’t tell me Funko is a leadoff hitter). He’s my man. DeWitt would be out to AAA. Between Barney, Baker and Moore, you have to have a SS. Barney and Moore are SS. They have both really earned a job this ST.

    Therefore, it is simple: since Scales, Moore and Barney deserve a spot, Jim Clueless will cut Scales, Moore and Barney, and keep Baker, DeWitt and pick up a waiver wire cut at the last moment to play reserve INF.

    Catchers: Soto is a lock. I’d cut Hill and save both money, time and frustration. Ramirez can’t field to my satisfaction, and I prefer Castillo. The guy can hit and field well enough, so I’d play him twice a week as a starter. Who knows? He may even take the job away from Soto. He’s been raking this ST. He’s 12 for 17 this ST, hitting .706, and is Jim Clueless likely to be cut. Hill, hitting just 1 for 27, has the inside track. Only on a team that is winless in the last 102 years and counting could such a thought ever be entertained.

    Therefore, the catching situation is also very clear: Jim Clueless will send Castillo down for yet more seasoning, and Ramirez, too, will be let go. Koyie Hill has won the job hands down.

    And your roster is set.

    • paulcatanese

      You know Rip,thinking on your’e thought about Barney. In my mind he is the best shortstop out there at this point. Unless Castro really cleans up his act with mental and physical blunders he could move himself out and over to second or third,he is displaying more power to warrant a move like that. Probably in no way that would happen, just a thought.

  • Tony_Hall

    I posted this over the weekend. Today we will call it a prayer.

    I would love to see the Cubs make some, well, un-Cub like moves.

    Cut a player, even though they have a contract they must pay.

    Cut a player, even though he is a nice guy, and is liked in the clubhouse.

    Take a chance on a player, even though is nothing more than a role player.

    Pick the young guy, who has upside for this team, versus a vet on the downside of his career.

    And last but not least – Pick the best 25 players!

    Amen

    • The Maven

      Well Said

    • paulcatanese

      Tony,youre a poet, and now you know it. Well done. You did something earlier but cant remember,it was a while ago.

  • paulcatanese

    Neil,I didnt see JH mention Garza in his post above, any reason. Or di I just miss it? Also have been a Barney supporter all along,and hope he makes it.

    • paulcatanese

      It also seems like the Cubs are finally going to make a decision regarding Silva,even to the point of releasing him and eating his salary.Maybe they are taking a page out of the book of the Mets. Reed Johnson will also make the team,but I feel rather by default than competition,no-one to really push him.But it looks like they are putting it together,good or bad.

      • studio179

        Hmm…I will believe it when I see it on Silva. Hendry even stated the Cubs cut or release very few players. I’m sure they will try to trade him and get a minimal relief on salary back. Or, if they eat the whole thing, they will get what they deem to the media as a better prospect back. I hope you are right, but I will be a bit suprised if the Ricketts family absorbs Silva’s deal on an outright release. Let’s hope the right thing is done.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Paul,
        I’ll believe it when I see it. I just don’t think that Ricketts will eat $1 worth of contract, let alone $6 million plus. But I could be wrong. The one thing Jim Clueless has done well at is trading an overpaid junk player for something of value. Maybe he can do it again.

        • paulcatanese

          Rip,I think ,(you know,I don’t think anymore,) any way you and studio are probably right,one thing I will say is that the decision on Silva has already been made and not just this morning. Quade already has it in his hands from JH. You know I just am not making it up, I truly believe he is a yes man with all my heart.

  • cc002600

    As much as we know Koyie Hill stinks and Wellington Castillo is 1000 times better, I would rather see him go to AAA and play every day than sit on the cubs bench. he’s too young for that.

    • http://twitter.com/kylejohansen Kyle Johansen

      that’s what Max Ramirez is for

  • jw

    I got it…Make Koyie Hill the designated non-hitter

    Seriously, I think while Hill is a liability at the plate and only average defensively I do like his leadership and presense behind the plate…at one time he had an odd stat that when he played the Cubs record was really good…could it be he calls a good game? I really like what Castillo has done this spring and he deserves serious consideration to come north…If Hill is cut I would like to see it be an open competition between Soto and Castillo with equal playing time.

    The problem with Castillo being on the big club is his loss of minor league options (not sure about this…would he lose the option? Help me!) and if he is exposed at the ML level (or he or Soto is hurt) who do you call up then as a back-up. If you release Ramirez and Hill and cannot get them back you have no back-up. Big risk. I would have to say based on the current situation I think Hill or Ramirez makes the team and Castillo stays in the minors and plays everyday.

    • paulcatanese

      I think you kind of made your wishes on Castillo and what he has done this spring. He does without a doubt deserve to come north afterST. I also would like to see Castillo in an open competition with Soto. I do not see in any way that Hill deserves no.2 on this team. What does it do to Castillos confidence to KNOW he can and has played better than Hill. Who does the options benefit,the player or management? If he were to be no.2 I gurantee he would get a lot of playing time. When was the last time Soto played a complete year? Hill has been an out then,now and in the future,and I really dont think his defense is all that great. I dont know how Hill can come to the park every single day and know the only reason he is their is Managements choice,regardless how he performs.

      • jw

        Castillo definitely looks better than Hill or Ramirez but can he do it for the entire year. I am not an expert on how keeping him affects his options and if they could wait till later and not use a valauble option. The other issue is having a back-up in the minors and if you release Hill and Ramirez you don’t have one.

        • paulcatanese

          Look at it this way. Castillo has grabbed the oportunity here in ST and made the most out of it. I think would do the same if he came north after ST. He seems like the kind of guy that would step in and make someone push him out.I think Soto is a better player with Castillo behind him and I dont think the Cubs miss a beat with him in there for Soto…………Then there’s Hill.

  • Cheryl

    How about sending Hill down to coach in low A ball. If Hendry still wants him as a Cub, put him there.

    • paulcatanese

      Cheryl,best idea I have seen regarding Hill.

      • Dorasaga

        I concur. Amen to Hill and his playing days.

  • David R. Brown

    the cubs could contend depending on a lot of ifs, just like every year
    Jim Hendry did a good job with the players he picked up, considering the money he had to work with.
    in my opinion the cubs are 2 players away from being a legit strong contender.
    a hard hitting outfielder & a good hitting second baseman who is a good lead off hitter. Dave