Cubs Exploring All Options and Other News Bits

With only five games left in Arizona and seven games remaining on their practice schedule, the Cubs are exploring all options to fill the last two spots on the roster. It appears that 23 of the 25 spots on the Opening Day roster are filled, with only one spot in the pen and one spot on the bench still available.

The Cubs are looking primarily for a utility infielder as players become available during the final days of Spring Training. Steve Clevenger still has a very good chance of ending up on the Opening Day roster. The team reportedly likes the versatility that Clevenger could provide them late in games.

Comcast SportsNet reported that the Cubs are not inclined to sign Bill Hall, despite his relationship with Dale Sveum, and Chone Figgins does not appear to be on the Cubs’ radar. The Sun-Times added that any player the Cubs might consider would have to beat out Steve Clevenger for the last bench spot. Dale Sveum said Saturday that he will be sitting down with Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and the coaching staff to look at the list of available players and see if there are any that fit the Cubs needs.

Starlin Castro celebrates his 23rd birthday on Sunday (March 24) … and what a resume he has put together at the big league level in just two full seasons. Castro owns a career line of .297/.336/.425/.761 in 445 big league games with 529 hits, 96 doubles, 26 triples and 27 home runs.

As the last week of Spring Training begins, the Cubs equipment truck leaves for Chicago on Wednesday and the team breaks camp on Thursday after the final game at HoHoKam Park against the Mariners. The Cubs wrap up their exhibition schedule in Houston on Saturday … and the Rangers and Astros open the 2013 season next Sunday night.

Scott Baker

Scott Baker is scheduled to have his right elbow examined by Dr. Stephen Gryzlo on Sunday. Baker told the media on Saturday that his elbow felt much better than it did six days ago. Dr. Gryzlo is making the trip from Chicago to Arizona to do a more in depth exam to determine if what the medical staff saw in the MRI was correct. The Cubs were concerned enough about what the MRI revealed to shut him down until the team orthopedist could examine him.

Scott Baker will likely stay in Mesa for Extended Spring Training … the Cubs have not put a timetable on Baker’s return.

News Bits

David Kaplan spoke to a scout he knows about the Cubs and Kaplan shared what he learned via Twitter on Saturday morning. The scout told Kaplan that if Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer remain committed to their plan they could build a monster. The Cubs have the resources and the prospects to do so. The question remains if they will have the guts to do it. The scout feels like the Cubs are building the organization the right way and the key is to keep stockpiling talent. The scout added that Epstein and Hoyer are doing what everyone in baseball feared. They are developing talent and have big money to spend in a winnable division.

The same scout told David Kaplan that he knows the Cubs want to take a college pitcher with the second pick in the draft but if Mark Appel goes number one they could end up selecting the best position player available.

According to a report from Carrie Muskat, Scott Feldman is expected to stay behind in Mesa when the rest of the team departs for Houston on Thursday. Feldman will make his final spring tune-up in a Minor League game on March 31 (scheduled to throw 50 pitches).

The Cubs are hopeful that Brett Jackson will be able to play in a Cactus League game this week. Jackson was able to hit and throw on Friday after resting for a week. Jackson is dealing with inflammation in his right shoulder.

While Alberto Gonzalez remains in camp, the Cubs appear to be leaning toward Steve Clevenger for the last bench spot with the way the roster is currently constructed.

Dusty Baker gave Dave Sappelt his nickname, Might Mite. Gordon Wittenmyer spoke with Sappelt about the trade that landed him with the Cubs … and the deal in which the Cubs received two players that will be on their Opening Day roster.

Dale Sveum said the Cubs are not leaning toward any of the four relievers remaining in camp battling for the last spot in the pen. Three non-roster invites, Hisanori Takahashi, Cory Wade and Zach Putnam, along with Rafael Dolis are in the mix for the final spot.

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  • Tom U

    A very happy birthday to the Cubs’ shortstop Starlin Castro

  • Ripsnorter1

    Brett Jackson–is this the same shoulder he hurt in Wrigley last year?

  • Ripsnorter1

    I think it’s interesting that the scout remained anonymous.

    • Tony_Hall

      Really??? You hear scouts making comments and giving their name and what team they work for all the time?

  • Ripsnorter1

    Matt Garza and Tim Lincecum…

    When Garza came to the Cubs, he changed the way he pitched. Perhaps he was worried about giving up too many HR’s in the Friendly Confines, or perhaps the Cubs told him to throw more breaking pitches. But he went from throwing about 70% fastballs to 67% breaking pitches. That’s harder on elbows. And now Garza has had an elbow problem.

    Keith Law wrote this article on Tim Lincecum. Note how Lincecum admits that the slider is hard on his elbow, and how Law states that he cannot throw 40 of them in a game.

    http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/blog/_/name/law_keith/id/9048855/tim-lincecum-lack-fastball-command-velocity-concern-mlb

    I got a too-brief look at Tim Lincecum on Tuesday night at Scottsdale Stadium, an outing in which he couldn’t complete his third inning of work as the San Diego Padres were squaring him up too regularly for him to stay out there. (Final line: 2 1/3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 K, 1 BB.)

    [+] Enlarge
    Gregg Forwerck/Getty ImagesLincecum’s fastball isn’t what it once was.

    His stuff was about where it was late last year, but I think the concerns about him having difficulty pitching off that fastball in a starting role are legitimate.Lincecum was mostly 90-91 mph with his heater, hitting a few 92s but nothing higher that I saw, and that was the pitch that gave him the most trouble, as he wasn’t commanding it and it doesn’t have any kind of plane to keep a hitter from squaring it up for a line drive or a long fly ball.

    When Lincecum was younger and throwing harder, his fastball was still straight, but it was more explosive up in the zone and hitters were more apt to swing through it. Now Lincecum has to rely more on his off-speed stuff, using his slider more heavily on Tuesday, most in the 83-85 range and breaking hard down in the zone or into the dirt. It’s a strong pitch, an eye-level changer that generates swings and misses on its own, but he can’t throw 40 of them a game, and he even indicated last spring that the pitch is hard on his elbow.

    Lincecum had a blister on his right middle finger, but said after the game that it wasn’t a factor in his poor outing, nor would it explain the modest (for him) velocity, anyway. He felt he lost his rhythm (in his delivery) in that third inning, although all I noticed was that his arm was a little late relative to his front leg compared to where it would have been two or three years ago.

    My fear — and I use that word because I miss the old Lincecum, as, I imagine, most Giants fans do, too — is that Lincecum won’t be able to turn a lineup over three times without relying too much on his breaking stuff. His stuff can be absurd in relief, as we saw in October, but I don’t think the Giants or Lincecum are seriously considering that as an option right now.

  • Tony_Hall

    Clevenger makes sense from the standpoint of he is already on the 40 man roster, hits LH, and can play all of the infield and catch. Not sure you want to have to cut someone to make room for a 25th guy.

    With Clevenger

    LH Hitters
    C Navarro (S)
    C/IF Clevenger
    1B Rizzo
    3B Valbuena
    OF DeJesus
    OF Schierholtz

    6 of 13 position players hit left handed (46%)
    4 starters hit left handed (50% of starting lineup)
    2 of 3 catchers hit left handed (67%)
    3 of 6 IF’s hit left handed (50%)
    2 of 5 OF’s hit left handed (40%)

    6 (LH) hitters lineup
    1. DeJesus CF
    2. Castro SS
    3. Rizzo 1B
    4. Soriano LF
    5. Schierholtz RF
    6. Navarro C
    7. Valbuena 3B
    8. Clevenger 2B

    7 (RH) hitters lineup
    1. Sappelt CF
    2. Castro SS
    3. Rizzo 1B
    4. Soriano LF
    5. Hairston RF
    6. Castillo C
    7. Lillibridge 3B
    8. Barney 2B

    I have to say this team seems very balanced to me.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Casey Coleman is now exclusively a reliever.

    Talkin’ Baseball had an audio clip of Casey Coleman’s response to being sent down. He said he pitched well enough to make the staff with several organizations. He pitched 6 innings, gave up 5 hits, no walks, fanned 4 and hit one batter. He thought he earned a spot in the pen.

    He basically said, “They said, “Don’t walk anybody,” and I didn’t. They said, “Don’t give up runs,” and I didn’t. They said, “Throw strikes,” and I did. And I still didn’t make the staff.”

    Of course his past performance weighed in on this one, and he’ll have to provide a much larger sample size before they believe he’s an effective ML pitcher.

    • Tony_Hall

      I don’t think he heard Theo say that the biggest roster mistakes are made when you only look at September and Spring Training stats.

      • coachdon

        I still think Coleman is a better option than any of the four they are contemplating keeping. Perhaps the lefty because he’s lefty but not otherwise. Unfortunately, he has still has the stain of being on the Cubs with the prior administration so new guys will get a better shot.

        • Tony_Hall

          Coleman had a 2.014 WHIP last year and a career 1.678 WHIP and you think he is a better option than these guys.

          Hisanori Takahashi
          http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/t/takahhi01.shtml
          CAREER WHIP 1.269 and 1.252 last year, 1.167 with the Angels over 42 games.

          Corey Wade
          http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/wadeco01.shtml

          CAREER 1.120 WHIP – last year 1.385

          Zach Putnam – 24 years old career WHIP 1.500 – very limited major league experience – 9.1 IP

          Rafael Dolis
          http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/d/dolisra01.shtml

          Last year 1.658 WHIP

          Even as bad as Dolis was last year, he was better than Coleman. Dolis is only getting the last spot if they can’t open up a 40 man roster spot. Putnam is a young arm that probably is the 4th choice of the 4.

          Cory Wade and Takahashi are both good options, and I believe Takahashi will win the last spot.

          Coleman was cut already because all 4 of these options are better, not because he is from the previous regime.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Do you see how Tony is misusing these stats? He’s twisting them to get them to say what he wants them to say. That’s awful!!!

            Not really. He’s stating the facts. There’s nothing wrong with the TRUTH.

          • Tony_Hall

            Hey now, I am just as good as twisting stats as the next guy to suit my opinion….but in this case, you are right, no twisting was needed.

          • coachdon

            You’re not twisting, just cherry picking…Wade had a 6.46 era for a much better team(Yanks), Dolis had a 6.39 era, Putnam has given up 13 hits in his 9 inning career and couldn’t scratch time with the Rockies who had a horrible staff, and since you are all into building for 2015, Takahashi will be 40 on opening day in 2015. I am not voting Coleman a Cy Young award or anything. I’m just saying that it seems like waiver wire retreads get a better shot than kids that have been here awhile(especially if they ever played for the Red Sox or Padres). Coleman, with a 92-94 sinker could be a good long/middle guy if you gave him a legitimate long term shot. His stats last year could partially be explained by the fact that he was yo-yoed between starting and relieving last season, as well.

          • Tony_Hall

            7.40 ERA

            2.014 WHIP

            That’s not cherry picking, it’s telling it like it is. I like WHIP way better than ERA. But my point was very simple, all 4 I would take over Coleman and so would the powers that be for the Cubs. It has nothing to do with who brought Coleman to the party, but what he has done while at the party.

            Building for the future is not all about young guys. You need short term players of any age versus signing long term guys for big money that will be past their prime when the team is competitive.

            Bullpens are built with mostly short term guys. Takahashi is not going to be around in 2015, doesn’t mean he doesn’t make this team better or that the Cubs should give Coleman a spot because he still could be around. He needs to go back to AAA and show he can get batters out for more than 10 innings in ST.

            And none of the 3 that are left, have playerd for Boston or the Padres….not sure your theory works on this one.

            Cory Wade
            Dodgers and Yankees

            Hisanori Takahashi

            Mets, Angels and Pirate

            Zach Putnam

            Cleveland Indians
            Colorado Rockies

          • SuzyS

            HaHa!

  • Tom U

    There are many in the mainstream media that like RHP Mark Appel, primarily because he is one of the few college baseball players they actually know the name of.

    However, selecting Appel at this point in the Cubs’ process may be a big risk. He will be 22 years old after this year’s draft. You would have to be convinced that he could start his professional career at the Double-A level in order to have the impact on the major league team you desire.

    Appel also could have already starting his first full professional season, had he signed with the Pirates. So don’t look for a quick sign if he is selected #2 overall. That would be even more wasted time in his development.

    It may be a blessing if the Astros make this a moot point.

    • Tony_Hall

      Manaea is the other college arm that could be taken with the 1 or 2 pick if they dont’ go for Meadows or Frazier. But when talking about the #1 (or in the Cubs case #2) pick, I would hope the list is short, as if it is long, it means that the pick doesn’t have as much value over 3, 4, 5 etc, if they are that interchangeable.

      Appel 38 IP – 54 K’s, 7 BB’s 1.18 ERA
      Manaea 28 IP – 35 k’s, 7 BB”s 0.64 ERA

      I hope they don’t choose Manaea just because he is LH and isn’t Appel, and that they choose the best player.

      • SuzyS

        It’s also going to depend on who the Astro’s pick first. I have a question….anyone know what agent(s) Manaea, Meadows and Frazier are with?
        During the winter, I found it interesting that Manaea had a Cubs logo on his twitter handle…I heard he removed it…and haven’t checked since… don’t know what it says…but it was cool.

        • Tony_Hall

          Not sure. I am confident with any of those 4 right now. Manaea is very interesting, as top lefties are so hard to come by. But I still believe the guys that do this for a living when they say Appel is the #1 pick.

          • 07GreyDigger

            I’m guessing they get Appel simply because Houston isn’t going to want to spend the money.

    • Ray Ray

      Tom, I respectfully disagree with thinking that is a concern. Appel will be exactly 1 year older when Strassburg started his major league career. Appel is advanced and won’t need alot of minor league time. He has been dominant this year at Stanford and if he is there I would jump on him at #2. He has top of the rotation stuff and won’t be down in minors long. Turning 22 this July shouldn’t be a concern at all.

      • Tom U

        RayRay, it doesn’t seem like we are that far apart. I don’t dismiss Appel, just stating some concerns. If he follows a minor league trajectory similar to Mark Prior, he may be worth it.

        • John G

          As long as he doesn’t follow a major league trajectory similar to Mark Prior. But, of course, that’s stating the obvious.

  • Tony_Hall

    Here is a good article on Baez. Interesting to hear conversations between Mcleod and Brandon Hyde (farm director).

    http://www.csnchicago.com/blog/cubs-talk/cubs-what-difference-year-makes-javier-baez

    McLeod says that Baez will start in Daytona, that it is pretty much set in stone. But that he has come so far from last year when he was talented but playing out of control. That they last spring they had to take him out of games to do basics things like tee drills.

    He may start in Daytona, but I bet he spends quite a bit of time in Tennessee this year.

    Also, not sure if it is just me, but CSN Chicago has really been putting out some great articles. Patrick Mooney and Joe Posnanski have both been excellent.