Sveum Announces Spring Starters … and Other Notes from Cubs Camp

Dale Sveum announced Monday that Rodrigo Lopez will take the ball in the Cubs’ spring opener Sunday against the Oakland Athletics at HoHoKam Park. Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza will follow Lopez in the rotation and by pitching Dempster in the second game and Garza in the third both pitchers will be in line to face the Nationals on Opening Day.

The Cubs received a scare Monday when Kerry Wood hit Starlin Castro near his wrist in batting practice. Castro was not hurt and did not receive X-rays.

The bunting tournament resumed Monday and the first round is all but complete … and Dale Sveum edged out Kerry Wood to advance into the second round.

The Cubs time at Fitch Park this spring is almost over. After Thursday’s workout, Dale Sveum and company move down the street to HoHoKam Park. The first pitch of the Cubs 2012 Cactus League schedule is just around the corner.

Day nine of Cubs Camp is in the books, here is the update …

Cactus League Rotation
Dale Sveum announced Monday that Rodrigo Lopez will start the spring opener Sunday against Oakland. Ryan Dempster (A’s, March 5) and Matt Garza (Rockies, March 6) will follow for their first starts of the exhibition season.

Sveum said do not read too much into Dempster making his first start before Garza. The Cubs have not decided whether Dempster or Garza will face the Nationals on Opening Day (April 5) and by starting Dempster in game two and Garza the following day, both pitchers would be in line to start Opening Day.

The Cubs only off day this spring is on March 21. If Garza stays on his regular rest and pitches in minor league camp that day he would be in line to start on Opening Day … if the Cubs decided to push all of their starters back a day with the off day on March 21 then Dempster would be in line to start the first game of the regular season.

Starlin Castro
The Cubs received a big scare Monday when Kerry Wood plunked Starlin Castro in the wrist with a fastball. Castro was fine and ended up finishing his BP … and even hit one off Carlos Marmol that ended up hitting off the wall in right field.

Wood’s fastball left a mark and he checked on Castro immediately. Castro said he was okay after practice and there were not any X-Rays taken.

Dale Sveum has been working with Castro on the shortstop’s defense … and the two are forming a bond rather quickly.

The Bunting Tournament
Round one of the Cubs’ bunting tournament all but came to an end Monday … the first round match-up between Rodrigo Lopez and Paul Maholm was postponed because Maholm is still under the weather.

The first round concluded with Dale Sveum edging out Kerry Wood.

Carlos Marmol, Ryan Dempster, Dale Sveum, Geovany Soto, Jeff Baker, David DeJesus and Marlon Byrd advanced while Matt Garza, Trever Miller, Kerry Wood, Blake DeWitt, Alfredo Amezaga, Reed Johnson and Alfonso Soriano were eliminated.

The second round match-ups will be as followed:

Pitchers: Jeff Beliveau vs. Lendy Castillo; Trey McNutt vs. Rafael Dolis; Dae-Eun Rhee vs. Chris Rusin; Scott Maine vs. Casey Coleman; Travis Wood vs. Jeff Samardzija; Randy Wells vs. Andy Sonnanstine; Carlos Marmol vs. winner of Lopez-Maholm; Ryan Dempster vs. Dale Sveum

Position players: Matt Szczur vs. Adrian Cardenas; Jonathan Mota vs. Blake Lalli; Brett Jackson vs. Welington Castillo; Steve Clevenger vs. Bryan LaHair; Joe Mather vs. Darwin Barney; Starlin Castro vs. Ian Stewart; Geovany Soto vs. Jeff Baker; Marlon Byrd vs. David DeJesus

The tournament has been very competitive. Carlos Marmol and Alfonso Soriano were taunting and talking trash during their matchups against Matt Garza (Marmol) and David DeJesus (Soriano). Several players took note as to how Sveum competed during his match-up against Wood and liked what their manager brought to the table.

Dale Sveum from the Sun-Times on the tournament, “It’s a fact that this tournament shows you guys that like to compete. You get a feeling of the guys bearing down and competing and some guys that aren’t competing as well. You get to know somebody a little bit through this tournament.

Notes from Cubs Camp

  • The Cubs are preaching fundamentals according to Comcast SportsNet … and according to David Kaplan Dale Sveum is focused on fundamentals.
  • According to a report from ESPN Chicago, the Cubs look serious about improving their defense.
  • Paul Maholm threw his side session on Monday before being sent home. Maholm is still dealing with the flu and is not 100 percent yet.
  • Dale Sveum gets to the park very early.
  • Jeff Beliveau is hoping to make the Cubs take notice.
  • Geovany Soto participated in the bunt tournament Monday but did not practice. Soto is still dealing with a groin injury and is listed as day-to-day. Micah Gibbs was called up (for the day) to fill in for Soto. Sveum alluded over the weekend that Soto could miss time when the exhibition season begins.
  • Anthony Rizzo created a buzz Monday when he launched several bombs over the fence off Rick Sutcliffe. Several of the homers ended up on the street (for those that have not been to Fitch Park that is long way from home plate) and one ended up sailing over the batter’s eye in center and traveled more than 450 feet.
  • Brett Jackson joined in on the home run derby off Rick Sutcliffe.
  • Monday was photo day for the team. The Cubs dressed in their home whites … but it was a photo taken of Jeff Samardzija that caught everyone’s attention. Click here for Samardzija’s pose.
  • Tim Sheridan posted photos from Monday … and was on hand for the Anthony RizzoBrett Jackson homer contest.

News and Notes

  • Bryan LaHair won the Central Iowa Sports Award for the best pro athlete of 2011.
  • Sean Marshall signed a three-year extension with the Cincinnati Reds on Monday. Marshall will be paid $16.5 million and the contract includes incentive packages for each season worth $2 million. The incentives are based on games finished … and games started.
  • For those looking for a Starlin Castro bobblehead or a Ron Santo Hall of Fame plaque, the Cubs released their promotional schedule for home games.

Theo Epstein
The Boston Globe ran an article at the end of last week that is really a must read … Epstein relishes challenge in Chicago. It is a rather lengthy article but well worth the time.

Quote of the Day
From the Tribune: Jeff Baker noted the difference in camp under Dale Sveum, who he said is more “hands on” than his predecessors. “You’re doing it right from the get-go, and you’re getting ‘coached up’ if you don’t do it right. Obviously we’re not going to sit back and wait for the three-run home run. We’re going to run the bases right, bunt, play hard and aggressive. I think it’s one of those things that’s going to stay for 162 (games) and not just for spring training and then kind of die off and go back to hitting homers.”

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

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO

Quote of the Day

"The riches of the game are in the thrills, not in the money." – Ernie Banks

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  • Vivid_Reality

    I’ve been hearing that Mike Minor might become available at some point throughout the season. This is the type of player Theo seems keen on adding. Saw alot of Jackson for Minor proposals but that seems like too much. Szczur for Minor seems more appropriate or even Byrd+ for Minor if Byrd is having a really good year.

    Minor had some encouraging numbers in his stint last year. Surface numbers may not be fantastic but good supporting numbers / peripherals. Looks like he could be similar to a lefty version of Garza in a few years.

    Hamels / Grienke / Cain – Figure we take a shot at one next year
    Garza – Pending trade / extension
    McNutt / Rhee / Cates / Whitenack – Figure one has decent success
    Wood / Wells / Volstad

    Not exactly WS caliber, but that rotation could contend for the central down the road.

    • daverj

      I like the rotation ideas, but Minor will cost significantly more than Szczur or Byrd plus a prospect.  Today, Minor would likely cost Jackson (and then only if the Braves scouts like Jackson as there are some around the league that think Jackson will not develop into an above average player).  I can’t see the Braves taking anyone other than Jackson, Baez or Rizzo and the Cubs aren’t dealing the latter two.

      The Minor rumors were triggered by Minor’s statement that he wants to be traded if he doesn’t make the Braves rotation and apparently the Braves’ brass was not happy with that comment by Minor.  If Minor doesn’t make the rotation, I think the Braves will send him to AAA unless they are overwhelmed with a trade offer.

      • Vivid_Reality

         I disagree on Minors value. If the deadline comes around and Szczur is showing progression, the deal could get done. Probably have to include a lower prospect such as a Marco Hernandez type. I just cant see them commanding a big prospect without a bigger sample size from Minor at the major league level.

      • cubs1967

        stupid rumor.  cubs are not trading bjax or rizzo or probably baez…….only if braves love vitters or maybe mncutt with him.


  • Tony_Hall

    Reading Jeff Baker’s quote should tell everyone of the difference between the Jim Hendry management and hiring style and the Theo Epstein management and hiring style.

    “You’re doing it right from the get-go, and you’re getting ‘coached up’ if you don’t do it right….”

    The whole quote is great, but when is the last time you heard a Cubs player talk about getting “coached up”.

    • cubtex

      You seriously don’t think you find these type of quotes every spring???

      • RynoTiger

        in Cubs camp?…nope!

      • Tony_Hall

        You should take off the anti-Theo Goggles and put down the anti-Theo kool-aide and you might see that the environment around the Cubs is different.

        No, I can’t say I ever remember hearing anyone say, that Lou Pinella “coached them up” on defense.  The only coaching he did was batting.  Q wasn’t coaching anyone, and Dusty was just a cheerleader dude.

        So, no in the world of the Cubs, I think this is new, and judging the defense we have seen the coaches weren’t doing much either.

        • cubtex

          I looked back in the archives a year ago and in 1 minute this is what I found. Can you guess who it is from??? Haha. Ye of short term memory.

           like the fact that Q is hands on, stressing fundamentals. After what seemed like decades of managers who manage from afar, it’s nice to see a manager say, that they guys aren’t going to get your message and style by osmosis. Not sure if it was a direct dig at Lou, but it tells you that their was a lack of communication

          • Tony_Hall

            Q was Qlueless.  He had no idea how to handle major league players.  Obviously the fundamentals he stressed didn’t sink in very well.

          • cubtex

            that was your post from last year spring training my man :)

          • Tony_Hall

            I kind of figured that.  

            Little did we know that Q was so Qlueless.  I will be shocked if Sveum is Qlueless.  Let’s face it, Quade would never have made it through the interview process that Theo did, while JH just wanted to hire Q and set it up for him to be the guy.

            Now if Sveum starts calling the guys by little pet names…

        • cubtex

          Look…I am excited that baseball is starting up as well….but to say how this camp is soooo much different and the players are finally getting coached up is ridiculous. You mentioned you have never been to spring training. I have been to several. It is an insult to every manager and coach before Sveum to imply that they never coached and taught. Pinella and Baker have won a hell of lot of mlb baseball games. How many mlb games has Sveum won??? 6? Let’s not put Sveum in the hall of fame yet and let’s not diminish the accomplishments of Pinella and Baker. You certainly wouldn’t do that with a rookie gm comparing him to Theo….would you?

          • Tony_Hall

            It isn’t just Sveum, it’s Theo’s camp too and I’m sure it is a group effort as to how it is being run.

            Sorry, Dusty is a rah-rah cheerleader. 

            And I do get it, managing a MLB team isn’t easy, and not even AAA managers can know what it is like, until they do it, especially in a big market.  

            By no way do I think even Q is a bad baseball guy, it’s just that MLB was above his ability.  Most all of us would get run over if we had to manage a MLB team for a week.  But just like in the business world, there are people who are ok and adequate at their jobs, and there are others who just change the dynamic of any situation they are involved in.  Theo is the kind of guy who changes the dynamic.

          • daverj

            I agree with you here cubtex.  It’s same old spring training bs where everyone is happy and chatting up about how great things are this year.

          • cubtex

            I am looking forward to seeing some baseball. All this talk on how these players are being taught different things is ridiculous. Sveum is doing things in a different way possibly….but they worked on bunting, baserunning, cutoffs etc… every other year too.

  • Tony_Hall

    Neil – Thanks for sharing the Boston Globe article on Theo. 

    I recommend it to anyone, except those that don’t like Theo, you might start drinking the Theo kool-aide if you read it.

    • Scott McMeekan

      I echo that Neil, thanks.  It reinforces the feeling I had about him before we hired him, his leadership style and ability to get the most out of his staff.  And while I wasn’t sure about the Sveum hiring at first, I’m really excited about seeing him manage a game and how he’ll deal with losses.

  • Zonk

    Not sure what you guys think, but I really like this bunt tournament idea.  It’s probably the only skills competition the whole team can participate in equally (and the manager).  It’s fun and emphasises a real baseball skill.

    Hopefully, they carry that competitiveness into the season, which maybe is the point (not bunting better)

    • John_CC

       Agreed Zonk. It’s a great exercise for many reasons.  It takes bunting away from the old drills that bored the hell out of players and makes it competitive.  So not only does it immediately make players want to be better at the skill, it introduces the competitive mentality to camp right away.

  • Jeff in AZ

    i love what I am seeing in this year’s camp.

  • cubtex

    Some quotes from camp Quade from this time last year. Same ol same ol every year. Talk is cheap. A lot of short term memory on here. Managers ALWAYS say they will stress fundamentals.

    Camp Quade won’t be a whole lot different than Camp Piniella. He’ll still delegate authority to his hitting and pitching coaches in their particular areas, though Quade confirmed he expects to be very “involved” with the players regarding fundamentals, a sore point with the team in 2010.
    “The purpose and some of the things I want explained, I will explain and make sure they understand that the point of emphasis is coming from me,” Quade said.
    Quade mentioned bunt defense, cutoffs and relays and going from first to third as particular areas of interest.
    “They are the tough jobs, the jobs that nobody wants,” he said. “People will hit and pitch and play defense all day long. We understand we’re going to leave here in April and you can pretty much book it — the first week in April it’s going to be 3-2, 2-1 (games). It’s great to say we’re working on fundamentals and we’ll be ready in June or July, (but that’s) probably too late.”

  • Neil

    Just announced … Cubs will play intrasquad games Thursday and Friday at HoHoKam

    • Neil

      Correction … Intrasquad games at HoHoKam on Fri. and Sat. in advance of Sunday’s Cactus League opener. Not known if it’s open to public.

  • paulcatanese

    I hate to start my day with a negative comment here but have to.
    When does this “bunting for dollars” end.
    Can anyone seriously think that Soriono, LaHair, Soto, Castro,and Byrd will bunt runners over this year?
    Sveum gets to play with the kids, and show that he is the premire bunter on the team, well he can’t play this year.
    Valuable time is being spent on this nonsense.
    “Coach up”, great phrase, but I havent heard anything about taking players aside that have work to be done with their game and getting additional coaching.
    Has anyone taken the speed burners they have in camp and put in extra work on leadoffs,bunting etc?
    It’s early, I know, but it’s also late and ST fly’s by and the season starts.
    I know they are working on defense, and they will need to with the staff they have to throw the ball.
    Competition between players? How about a ping-pong tournament after practice? Improves the batting eye, and time would be better spent.
    Heard all of this for years, coming out of ST, but as the saying go’s, “you can lead a horse to water, but you cant make him drink”.

    • daverj

      I’m with you on this Paul.  There are certain players that should be focused on working on their bunting (Campana comes immediately to mind), but many of these guys won’t be bunting and it is wasting valuable time.

      • paulcatanese

        Thanks, and I would say that the winner of the contest will be Sveum, proving that bunters never forget how, no matter how long it’s been.
        And teaching old dogs new tricks, spring training is too short, and their are so many other problems to address.

        • Zonk

          I don’t think the point is bunting better.  I think the point is building teamwork, comradery, and competitiveness.  If it gets the players more engaged, so much the better.  I like this idea, as I mentioned above.

          I think Soriano is a hard worker, his biggest problem is one that batting practice isn’t going to sovle.  He is getting old, and can’t turn on a fastball like he used to.

          • paulcatanese

            You have you’re opinion Zonk, and I respect that.
            The whole idea of the contest is just mind boggling to me.
            Getting the players engaged should not have been the ultimate reason,as well as teamwork,comradery and competitivness.
            That should be the fact that they are being paid a salary and bonus to be there in the first place to spur them on.
            The one fact that fails to be addressed is not how good a teamate they are but how they produce to remain on the roster.
            If players do not realize that it takes a team effort and system to consistantly win then any number of these contests will not bring that about.
            They should also have in the back of their mind that there are what,80 players in camp and only 40 will remain on the roster, thats incentive.

          • Theboardrider

            I respect you Paul and think you’re a great poster but…

            “That should be the fact that they are being paid a salary and bonus to be there in the first place to spur them on.”

            …sounds like a quote that Piniella or Hendry would have made.

          • paulcatanese

            Good one,dis -agreement never hurts.

          • paulcatanese

            I might add that I may sound a little like Pinella as the both of us  are asleep most of the time, but never JH,ever:)

          • RynoTiger

            so bunting doesn’t produce? I think I saw many instances last year where the Cubs couldn’t bunt and nothing was produced…which is exactly what you don’t want!

            we have guys working on bunting…a fundamental….and they’re having fun while practicing a fundamental.

            it’s a different approach to practice fundamentals, whether the players or posters realize it.

          • paulcatanese

            I agree, bunting should produce and last year it didn’t. They had no-one that could lay it down.
            It does need to be worked on, along with other fundementals, just didn’t like the contest.
            I like small ball, always have, and maybe the added speed will be condusive to that happening.
            Don’t watch the HR contest at all star break either.

          • Theboardrider

            I agree completely with Zonk.  I don’t think it’s about getting better at bunting.  It’s a chance for Sveum to set an example and to show the team that the little things (fundamentals) are important.  Also the competitive side of it is huge.  It’s a chance to compete and I believe what Sveum says about getting to know who is competitive and who is not so much.  This team needs a more cerebreal approach and I believe this is a good example.  

            Plus, I don’t know how many times last year we needed a clutch bunt and a player struck out or popped up back to the pitcher.  This is a way to break these guys down and then build them back up the correct way…the Cubs way!  

            Also, it doesn’t seem like it’s taking all that much time.  A couple of hours a day over a 3 day isn’t that much.   

          • paulcatanese

            One other thought Zonk, instead of what I didn’t like, I think I should mention what I did like.

            Sveum spending time with Castro on footwork, how to approach ground balls, etc.

            From what I saw on Sveums injury shortened career he was a pretty fair shortstop, and I know how he thinks here, one shortstop to another.

            He has that instinct to spot the little things, it should only help Castro.

          • John_CC

             Totally agree here, Paul.  I am really impressed and encouraged with the bond that Sveum is building with Castro so quickly…and the comments from Castro about Sveum prove the positive nature of their growing relationship.  Very important.
            I’ve commented before that I really like what I see and hear out of Sveum, and I will continue until he gives reason to comment otherwise. 

  • paulcatanese

    Isn’t it ironic that Wood was eliminated in the bunt contest by an inch, yet missed his target by three feet and hit Castro in the arm?:)

    • cubtex

      :) And being an 8th inning guy he will probably bunt less than 5 times all year

      • cubtex

        I was way off on that. Wood didn’t have a plate appearance all year last season. No point wasting time bunting for him.

        • paulcatanese

          The most bunt attempts last year were what?
          Pena? Campana?,Pena is gone and who knows how much Campana will play.
          Unless the new guys are bunters I don’t see that many more bunts atempted.

          • cubtex

            You are probably right. A team like the Giants would be great to do this. With their pitching staff and alot of 1 run games…..they should be the team doing this. The Cubs have only 1 pitcher who can shut down a team (Garza)… need bunting when you are 5 runs down in the 6th :)

          • paulcatanese

            One thing for sure, everyone will see what Cespedes brings to the table when he faces the ace, Lopez, this weekend.

  • cubtex

    I heard Sveum talking about the starters the other night and he never even mentioned Wells. He mentioned every starter by name except Wells. Unless he pitches lights out in the spring…….I don’t think he is going north with the team.

    • Neil

      Here are two recent quotes from Sveum that included Randy Wells:

      [Plus] obviously the pitching staff with [Ryan Dempster], [Matt]
      Garza, [Paul] Maholm, [Randy] Wells, [Travis] Wood and you go on and on
      with the bullpen and [Carlos] Marmol and [Kerry] Wood and [Jeff]
      Dale Sveum clarified comments he made Friday about the rotation. Sveum listed five starters Friday: Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Paul Maholm, Randy Wells and Travis Wood. Sveum said Wells, Travis Wood, Chris Volstad and Rodrigo Lopez are all in the running for jobs Saturday.

      • cubtex

        Ok thanks. I think it was on WGN TV where he mentioned 5 starters excluding Wells.

  • Neil

    Bunt tournament round 2 results from Tuesday: Adrian Cardenas, Blake Lalli, Jeff Beliveau and Trey McNutt advanced … Matt Szczur, Jonathan Mota, Lendy Castillo and Rafael Dolis were eliminated

    • jw


      Were the starting players in this contest….what do you make of it that only the minor league players are advancing?

      • Neil

        The players that figure to be the starters when the season begins did not participate today. Here is the full list of second round match-ups:

        Pitchers: Jeff Beliveau vs. Lendy Castillo; Trey McNutt vs. Rafael Dolis; Dae-Eun Rhee vs. Chris Rusin; Scott Maine vs. Casey Coleman; Travis Wood vs. Jeff Samardzija; Randy Wells vs. Andy Sonnanstine; Carlos Marmol vs. winner of Lopez-Maholm; Ryan Dempster vs. Dale Sveum

        Position players: Matt Szczur vs. Adrian Cardenas; Jonathan Mota vs. Blake Lalli; Brett Jackson vs. Welington Castillo; Steve Clevenger vs. Bryan LaHair; Joe Mather vs. Darwin Barney; Starlin Castro vs. Ian Stewart; Geovany Soto vs. Jeff Baker; Marlon Byrd vs. David DeJesus

        Based on the way the big league team has played the last three years it does not surprise me that the younger players and minor leaguers are doing better.

  • paulcatanese

    Great post today Neil, plenty of things to comment on. And good articles to bring up, liked or not, the article on Epstein was very well done, and a pretty fair insight on his personality.

  • Tony_Hall

    Article that explains Super Two status and how to get an extra year of control. 

  • jw

    “Given the lateness of the hour that I completed my collections, there was no FedEx office located within 50 miles of Miller Park that would ship packages that day or Sunday. Therefore, the earliest that the specimens could be shipped was Monday, October 3,” Laurenzi said”

    “”I followed the same procedure in collecting Mr. Braun’s sample as I did in the hundreds of other samples I collected under the program,” Laurenzi said of his collection of Braun’s urine samples on Oct. 1.”
    Laurnzi statement about Braun’s sample…I need the name of Braun’s attorney…if the glove doesn’t fit you must acquit!

  • Cubs 31

    The best all-time bunter, in my opinion, was Greg Maddux.