Day Six of Cubs Camp: Bullpens and The Soler Show

Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson and Matt Garza completed their second bullpen sessions of camp on Friday and Dale Sveum was happy with the way Garza threw on Friday.

While the early part of the day was all about the bullpen sessions, the focus quickly changed when Jorge Soler stepped in the cage for his first batting practice of the spring.

Jorge Soler reported to camp on Friday and reportedly put on a show in his first BP of the spring. Theo Epstein and Dale Sveum watched Soler hit. According to a report from Carrie Muskat, after Soler hit a ball over the fence, Epstein walked over to Soler to shake his hand and welcome him to camp. Sveum labeled his first day BP as “pretty impressive” and said he is interested in seeing him in the field. According to the Tribune, Dale Sveum said that Soler reminded him of a right-handed hitting Cliff Floyd.

It figures to be must watch TV when Jorge Soler and Javier Baez are on the field together this spring.

The Cubs have no plans to rush Soler to the big league but when he was asked when he thinks he will be playing in Chicago, through an interpreter Soler said next year.

Saturday is the official reporting date for the position players on the Cubs’ Spring Training roster. While a majority of the players are already in Mesa, a few notable players have yet to report. The second annual bunting tournament begins on Saturday with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer squaring off against one another for a shot at winning the final spot in the field of 64.

The first full squad workout is scheduled for Sunday … and the Cubs kickoff their Cactus League schedule in seven days against an Angels’ split squad in Tempe. This is the last Saturday without a Cubs game until October.

Ian Stewart

Ian Stewart reported to camp on Friday and has something to prove according to a report from Comcast SportsNet.

Reports last season and early this winter indicated that Stewart rubbed the Cubs’ brass the wrong way when he decided to leave the team following his season-ending wrist surgery. Stewart reportedly rehabbed on his own and worked on his hitting with Rod Carew during the off-season.

The Cubs non-tendered him at the deadline and then re-signed him less than a week later to a non-guaranteed contract. The Cubs have given up a lot for Stewart, in terms of players, and a good season from him would go a long way towards putting a bad trade in the rearview mirror.

According to Patrick Mooney’s report, Stewart hashed everything out with Dale Sveum and Theo Epstein before the Cubs inked him to the one-year, $2 million contract. But when players began reporting to camp, questions about Stewart’s commitment to baseball popped up again when he was not among the first players in camp.

Stewart reported to camp on Friday in very good shape and pain free in his wrist. Stewart explained why he left the team last year and said he received backing from management at the time. Stewart needed to be with his pregnant wife.

As Mooney reported, Matt Garza decided to stay with the team last year despite the fact he could not pitch … something he said at the time he would not have done if Mike Quade still managed the team.

Sveum told Stewart that he could have been around a little more last season but it wasn’t a major issue according to the report.

Ian Stewart feels he owes the Cubs for standing behind him.

Chattin’ with Jesse Rogers and Darwin Barney

Jesse Rogers held his weekly chat on ESPN Chicago on Friday afternoon with special guest Darwin Barney, here are the highlights:

  • On what he has done in the off-season to improve on his offense … Darwin Barney said he joined Brett Jackson in November to tweak his mechanics. Barney explained that in the past he had been a little steep and was content with shooting the ball the other way. Barney worked on trying to take advantage of good counts and drive the ball to all fields. Barney also upped his workout regiment and has come into came bigger and stronger than he ever has before.
  • On if he will be asking, or offering, Brandon Phillips any fielding advice this year, Barney said that Phillips took time out between innings of a Spring Training game a few years back to talk to him about turning a double play. Barney was grateful and is assuming there won’t be any dialogue as to how to play the position this year.
  • On if all of the talk about Javier Baez will affect his approach and state of mind this year, Barney said it would not at all. He explained that if the team is going to get better they will need players like Baez to pan out and if he does his job then they will all be on the field at the same time.
  • On possibly being a better shortstop than Starlin Castro, Barney said he is envious of the plays that Castro can make and that he is one of the most talented players he’s ever played with and he is not convinced he could play a better short than Castro.

Full Chat Transcript on ESPN Chicago

Spring Training News Bites

The much publicized fight in the dugout between Matt Garza and Dioner Navarro back in 2008 might have helped turn his career around. The two were teammates, along with Edwin Jackson, on the World Series bound Tampa Bay Rays. Patrick Mooney reported the two are very close, and have been since the altercation, and it would not be surprising if Navarro becomes Garza’s personal catcher this season. Garza appears more relaxed this spring and was pumped when the Cubs’ signed Navarro after he told the front office that he thought they should sign a veteran catcher to work with Welington Castillo.

Welington Castillo is eager to get started according to a report from Cubs.com and Castillo said that Dioner Navarro has been helping him a lot. Castillo did not play winter ball and spent five weeks working with a trainer at a facility in Florida instead. Castillo is considered the Cubs’ number one catcher as the spring games begin and he knows the key for him is to stay healthy.

Brett Jackson broke down his new swing with ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers (link to video).

Dale Sveum and Chris Bosio mapped out the starting pitching rotation for the first round of the exhibition schedule on Friday.

Luis Valbuena reported to camp on Friday and is expected to push Ian Stewart for the third base job. Valbuena signed a one-year, $930,000 contract to avoid arbitration in January. Dale Sveum likes what Valbuena brings to the table and he should make the team out of camp … if nothing else as a bench player due to the fact he can play third, short and second base.

It appears Scott Feldman will slide into the fourth spot of the Cubs’ rotation when the season begins but Feldman knows that nothing is guaranteed. Feldman was promised a shot at starting when he signed with the Cubs and told the Sun-Times he was not upset when the Cubs inked Edwin Jackson.

According to Carrie Muskat, there could be some uniform number switches before Opening Day.

Former Cubs’ starter, Randy Wells is looking forward to his fresh start with the Rangers and competing for the fifth spot in Texas’ rotation after fully recovering from surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow last July.

Cubs’ hitting coach, James Rowson, spent time this off-season working with Jorge Soler in Miami.

Jim Bowden ranked the off-seasons of all 30 big league teams … and the Cubs checked in at number 21. Bowden pointed out that the Cubs were active but most of their moves were made in order to stockpile more talent at the trade deadline. Bowden thinks the Cubs best “moves” will be Matt Garza proving he is healthy and the continued development of Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Jeff Samardzija.

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Quote of the Day

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