Intrasquad, Lead-Off Hitters, Bunt Tourney and Other Notes from Cubs Camp

The Cubs first intrasquad game took place Friday afternoon at HoHoKam Park … and Rick Sutcliffe’s Blue Team beat Dale Sveum’s White Team 10-4.

Matt Szczur stole the show. The speedy outfielder drove in six of his team’s ten runs with the big blast of the day. Szczur hit a grand slam off Travis Wood a couple of innings after showing off his speed. Szczur tagged and scored from second base on a wind-blown sac fly to right off the bat of Reed Johnson. David DeJesusreportedly caught the ball against the wall and Pat Listach waived Szczur around third. Szczur added a two-run double off Andy Sonnanstine later in the game.

Brett Jackson led off the scrimmage with a home run off Travis Wood, added a RBI double, scored two runs and walked twice Friday afternoon.

The White Team and Blue Team square off one more time before the exhibition season gets underway Sunday. Jay Jackson will face Chris Rusin in Saturday’s contest that begins at 1:00pm MT (2:00pm CST).

The ‘Sweet 16‘ of the Cubs’ bunting tournament was set Friday. Dale Sveum advanced when he beat Ryan Dempster. Paul Maholm gets the next shot at the Cubs’ new manager.

Alfonso Soriano hit leadoff for Dale Sveum’s squad in Friday’s intrasquad game. Could Soriano hit at the top of the Cubs’ lineup for the first time since 2009 during the season?

Here’s the update …

Alfonso Soriano and the Lead-Off Spot
Dale Sveum hit a nerve Friday when he announced his starting lineups for the first of two intrasquad games. Sveum inserted Alfonso Soriano at the top spot of the squad he was managing and in turn sparked the debate on whether Alfonso Soriano should or should hit lead-off again for the Chicago Cubs.

What was ignored was the fact that Friday’s game was just a scrimmage and meant less than nothing. There is no denying the fact Soriano has been a very successful leadoff hitter during his career but those days appear to be long gone.

Sveum said his decision Friday “wasn’t any indication that Soriano would lead off at times during the season” but Sveum would not rule out it could happen.

From the Tribune, “You can possibly see just about anything,” Sveum said of his lineups. “But like I said, the middle of March, (maybe) March 20, you’ll find out that I have made up my mind.

Alfonso Soriano said he would welcome the move if that is what his manager wanted to do.

From the Tribune, “I don’t know my last time leading off here, two or three years ago? I told the manager today I’m open to any decision he makes. The most important thing is I’m feeling good. We’ll see what happens.

Sveum knew the first line of questioning Friday would be about Soriano hitting at the top of the order as soon as he posted the lineup.

Intrasquad Games
Rick Sutcliffe’s team beat Dale Sveum’s squad in the first of two intrasquad games Friday at HoHoKam Park. Two of the Cubs’ top prospects left an impression on at least one of their teammates.

Brett Jackson and Matt Szczur hit home runs off Travis Wood in the Blue Team’s 10-4 victory over the White Team. Jackson led off the game with a solo shot over the right field wall and Szczur hit his first Grand Slam since little league. Jackson hit a homer and a RBI double to go along with two walks and Szczur added a two RBI double and a run scored to his Grand Slam. All in all, Szczur drove in six of his team’s ten runs.

Tony Campana was 3-for-3 with two runs scored and a RBI on the afternoon.

Randy Wells allowed three runs, two earned, on four hits with three walks in three innings. Travis Wood gave up six runs on six hits with two walks over three innings … but the second inning was cut short when Wood hit his pitch count. At the time two runners were on base.

The Blue Team’s lineup was: Brett Jackson (CF), Matt Szczur (RF), Jeff Baker (2B), Anthony Rizzo (1B), Reed Johnson (LF), Josh Vitters (3B), Junior Lake (SS), Michael Brenly (C) and Tony Campana (DH). James Adduci, Welington Castillo, Edgar Gonzalez, Joe Mather, Bobby Scales, Alfredo Amezaga and Micah Gibbs were on Rick Sutcliffe’s bench. Casey Coleman took over for Randy Wells and closed out the game.

The White Team’s lineup was: Alfonso Soriano (LF), Ian Stewart (3B), Starlin Castro (SS), Bryan LaHair (1B), Marlon Byrd (CF), David DeJesus (RF), Blake Lalli (C), Darwin Barney (2B) and Blake DeWitt (DH). Adrian Cardenas, Steve Clevenger, Dave Sappelt, Jae-Hoon Ha, Jonathan Mota, Jason Jaramillo and Matt Tolbert were on Dale Sveum’s bench. Andy Sonnanstine relieved Travis Wood.

Tim Sheridan posted photos of Friday’s intrasquad game.

The Cubs have one more intrasquad game before their Cactus League opener on Sunday against the A’s. Jay Jackson will square off against Chris Rusin to start the game with Trey McNutt and Alberto Cabrera pitching in relief.

The starting lineups for Saturday’s scrimmage were released late Friday.

Saturday’s Intrasquad Line-ups

White Team – Dale Sveum
Dave Sappelt – CF
Adrian Cardenas – 3B
Anthony Rizzo – 1B
Steve Clevenger – DH
Micah Gibbs – C
Jonathan Mota – SS
Matt Szczur - LF
Bobby Scales – 2B
Brett Jackson – RF

Blue Team – Rick Sutcliffe
Tony Campana – LF
James Adduci – RF
Jae-Hoon Ha – CF
Joe Mather – 1B
Welington Castillo - C
Edgar Gonzalez – SS
Alfredo Amezaga – 2B
Matt Tolbert - 3B
Blake Lalli - DH

Jeff Samardzija on Sports Night
Jeff Samardzija joined David Kaplan, Brian Noonan and Andrea Darlas during Thursday’s Sports Night (WGN Radio). Prior to the interview, Kaplan raved about what he saw from Samardzija earlier in the day. Samardzija was consistently hitting 97 MPH with his fastball on the gun. Kaplan said the ball had good downward movement and was coming out of his hand free and easy. Dale Sveum has been impressed with Samardzija this spring … and spoke highly of Samardzija to Kaplan.

Samardzija said he feels great and is excited about the opportunity he’s been given. Samardzija really wants to be a starting pitcher at the big league level and is trying to take advantage of the situation.

The only thing Samardzija did differently this off-season was he spent more time in Arizona which allowed him to throw outside instead of inside off a plastic mound. Samardzija talked about how different if feels to pitch off an actual mound and he thinks that prepared him better.

Samardzija is trying to build off the momentum he finished with last season. He has added his cutter back into the mix.

As for his hair, Samardzija said he was going to cut it right before reporting date then just didn’t “feel it.” He is going to let it grow for a while but may cut it in the summer.

Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster figure to anchor the Cubs’ rotation this season and other than Paul Maholm, the remaining two spots are up for grabs. Samardzija thinks the competition is a good thing and he feels it is good for the team to have so many pitchers competing for two spots. He thinks the competition will last throughout Spring Training and into April … and it will be up to the coaching staff to do what is best for the team.

Everyone is focused on the season ahead in camp. Samardzija thinks the front office has done a good job putting together a roster of similar players that want to play the game right and win.

Kaplan brought up a conversation he had with Reed Johnson about Dale Sveum. Johnson told Kaplan it is unbelievable how organized Sveum is. Samardzija said Sveum and the staff are doing drills and focusing on the little things for one reason … to make the team better. Sveum set the tone early, the practice have been crisp with a lot of energy.

Samardzija was asked about the press photo that surfaced. Samardzija laughed and said he was just trying to wake up … the photo session started at 7:00am. He has been getting a lot of flack from his friends and added, “There is nothing wrong with a good laugh.”

Samardzija felt the need to come into camp and stand out. It is easy for a pitcher to get lost in a reliever’s role, especially if the pitcher has been successful in the role. He would like to big a big part of the Cubs’ puzzle moving forward. Samardzija feels like he set a good foundation so far in camp and now it is time for him to build on what he has done.

The bunting tournament was all fun and games when it first started with a field of 64 but now it is getting more serious. Guys are taunting one another and Samardzija would not be surprised if the side bets increase as the tournament progresses.

Jeff Samardzija sounded very confident but he knows he must prove himself when the exhibition games begin.

The Bunting Tournament
The ‘Sweet 16 is set in the Cubs’ bunting tournament.

Randy Wells (beat Andy Sonnanstine), Jeff Samardzija (beat Travis Wood), Joe Mather (beat Darwin Barney) and Starlin Castro (beat Ian Stewart) advanced to the final 16 on Thursday. The match between Samardzija and Travis Wood was so intense that Wood reportedly broke his bat after Samardzija eliminated him.

The tournament shifted to the back field at HoHoKam Park for Friday’s match-ups.

Most figured Ryan Dempster would end up winning the bunting tournament but he was eliminated by the Cubs’ skipper on Friday. Dale Sveum has defeated both Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster on his way to the final 16.

Paul Maholm (beat Carlos Marmol), Jeff Baker (beat Geovany Soto) and David DeJesus (beat Marlon Byrd) were the other winners Friday and advanced in the much-publicized bunting tournament.

Sweet 16 Match-Ups: Jeff Beliveau vs. Trey McNutt; Chris Rusin vs. Casey Coleman; Adrian Cardenas vs. Blake Lalli; Welington Castillo vs. Steve Clevenger; Joe Mather vs. Starlin Castro; Jeff Baker vs. David DeJesus; Paul Maholm vs. Dale Sveum; Jeff Samardzija vs. Randy Wells

Notes from Cubs Camp

News and Notes

Quote of the Day
From the TribuneDale Sveum on whether his personality rubs off on the team: “I just try to be myself, and whatever happens, happens. But I do believe a team does take on the personality of their manager a lot. Not that I have any kind of personality.

Well, that’s the update … and the exhibition season begins in one day.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO

Quote of the Day

"Our attitude towards others determines their attitude towards us." - Earl Nightingale
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  • Ripken Boy

    If Sveum bats Soriano lead-off, I will jump off the ship.

    • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

      I’m not completely against it.  I didn’t like it in years past because I felt we were wasting RBI’s but these days Soriano is worthless.  Might as well bat him where he has been the most productive. 

    • RICK

      You should jump then. Soriano was good batting lead off why not go back to what worked

  • cubs1967

    even Quade i don’t think would utter the words anything is possible when it comes to soriano batting leadoff…………..just sayin’

    only 1 game……..non-counting game………..but the shawn estes comparisions can now “officially” start with t wood……along with the why did we trade sean marshall again comments……???

    • Jeff in Az

      Sigh…

    • Gramps

       Laughs…

  • Coachdon

    Not predicting it will happen, but what would the result be if Matt Szczur really rakes in ST and outplays all other outfielders? Would he get a shot at the big time?

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      I really do not think so. Szczur needs to play everyday and unless there are a bunch of injuries he would sit and watch.

      Double-A is where he should start the season.

      • John_CC

         I know anything is possible, but what are the odds Szczur could leap-frog Jackson?

        • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

          I’m not a betting man, but I would say slim.

        • paulcatanese

          Wouldn’t rule anything out at this point. If Szczur puts the bat on the ball more often and
          K’s less, who knows.
          Go back a few years, wasn’t Willie Mays in a similar position? Didn’t Duroucher throw him in there? Don’t quite remember.

        • Ripsnorter1

          Jackson fans too much to make in ML as a regular. I know the Faithful are looking to him as a Savior, but the facts are that his contact rates are below Tyler Colvin and Felix Pie and Corey Patterson.

          Pie’s contact rate at AAA Iowa=77%
          Patterson’s contact rate at AAA Iowa=81.6%
          Colvin’s contact rate at AAA Iowa=73%

          Brett Jackson’s contact rate at AAA Iowa=65%

          By any measure, he ain’t ready. It would be a mistake to dump Byrd so this man can play when he’s Anthony Rizzo in 2011–he ain’t ready. 

          Ted Williams wrote a book on hitting. He said that the most important factor in hitting is to control the strike zone. In other words, you must know the difference between a ball and a strike, and swing only at strikes, and swing only at pitches you can hit. Jackson is not there yet. 

          • RickinMSP

            I’m with on this one Rip.  Bjax swings and misses and thus Ks way to often to be successful in MLB.  Despite all of his tools, if he can’t make contact, they don’t matter much.  Hopefully, he cna improve on that at AAA this year.

  • paulcatanese

    Impressed with Sveum and his choice of lineups. He is playing everyone, alternating different spots in the lineup and getting a
    true feeling for what he has.
    Don’t know once the season starts and what he will do, but for now
    he is using the right approach.
    I didn’t see this last year, matter of fact in a number of previous years.
    No lineup or players are set, in his mind, and it looks as though Theo
    is letting him do his job.
    It’s refreshing for a player to know that if you hustle,produce, you have a chance.

    • John_CC

       Me too.

  • Ripken Boy

    Soriano should be 1st, the first one out cut

  • cubs1967

    time for team theo to earn their keep and move bryd now!!!
    as i hope and predict; bjax is gonna tear the cover off the ball this spring and needs to be starting opening day………reed, campy and saffelt are fine back-ups for him when time off needed; the nats need a CF and think they can contend or try the indians with sizemore hurt again……….let’s go jed……..tick tock……….