Garza and Almora Ready for Season Debuts … and Other Cubs News and Notes

Two players that began the season on the disabled list are set to make their 2013 debuts, Matt Garza and Albert Almora. While one will be on a big league mound on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh and the other one will be patrolling the outfield in Single-A ballpark, having both players back on the field is important for the Chicago Cubs.

Matt Garza has not pitched in a Major League game in exactly 10 months. The last time Garza threw a pitch in a regular season game, he threw a fastball past Matt Holliday to end the third inning. The Cubs were rumored to be on the verge of dealing Garza for a package of prospects before he hurt his elbow and ended up on the DL for the remainder of the season. Garza reported to camp in the spring ready to resume his career after successfully rehabbing the elbow in the off-season … but he strained his left lat during his first live batting practice session and put his return to the Cubs rotation on hold.

The Cubs really need for Garza to be healthy and effective over the next couple of months. If Garza can be both, the front office would have options moving forward with him. Multiple reports have suggested that the Cubs have not ruled out signing Garza to an extension and adding him to a rotation that could consist of Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood for the next few seasons. Reports have also indicated that the Cubs could keep Garza for the remainder of the year then make a qualifying offer to him in the off-season that would tie draft pick compensation to him if he signed with another team. Then of course there are the trade rumors with many thinking Garza could be a hot commodity leading up to the deadline if the Cubs decide to move him.

Kane County’s roster officially lists Albert Almora as being on the seven-day DL but from all indications the Cubs’ first round pick from a year ago has left Extended Spring Training and should make his 2013 debut in the coming days. Almora broke the hamate bone in his left hand on March 14 and had successful surgery to remove the unnecessary bone the next day. Reports at the time suggested Almora would be ready to go by the end of May but recent reports suggested Almora might be held back until the beginning of the second half of the season (June 20).

Albert Almora made a few appearances in Cactus League games this spring before the injury delayed the start to his season. In 33 games last year in rookie ball and with Short-Season Boise after signing with the Cubs, Almora hit .321/.331/.464/.795 with 12 doubles, one triple and one home run.

Ian Stewart

Ian Stewart spoke with Carrie Muskat and Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register about his demotion to Triple-A Iowa. Stewart said he is “over the not being in the big leagues part” and is “just trying to put some good games together.”

According to the report from Carrie Muskat when Stewart was removed from the 40-man roster and outrighted to Triple-A Iowa, Theo Epstein told him that Josh Vitters would be getting a majority of the at bats at third base. With Vitters hurt and possibly on his way back on the DL, Brent Lillibridge started at third on Sunday and not Stewart. Epstein told Stewart that Vitters is the “future at third.” Stewart understood why he was told that and explained to Carrie Muskat that he was not surprised.

“It was basically if I wanted to stay with the Cubs and accept my assignment here, they were letting me know I wasn’t going to play a lot here. I don’t know if that was a way to get me to take my free agency, because there’s money involved in all of that.”

Stewart has not considered leaving and testing free agency.

“I really didn’t. It’s tough, because when you’re put in that situation, you’re almost playing for the wrong reasons. … It wouldn’t really make sense for me to take a release or ask for free agency, because then I’d be giving up my contract, and that doesn’t make sense for me financially or for my family.”

When asked if he is prepared to spend the entire season in the minors, Stewart replied, “I need to play to get everything figured out, and if I end up staying here the whole year, then it is what it is. This is my job and I’ve made a commitment to the organization to try to give them my best. If that means staying here the whole year, then that’s it.”

Stewart doesn’t think he will ever get back to Chicago and put on a Cubs’ uniform again … something he felt last season and announced on his Twitter account.

“From my vantage point, it looks like they’ve moved on. It’d almost be a surprise if they called me up, because they’ve pretty much decided Vitters is the third baseman. Stewart said he thinks the Cubs gave him plenty of opportunities. “I definitely got my fair share of playing time, trying to show them that I can be the third baseman. This year’s been a little different, but like I said, that’s part of the business. What are they going to do?”

Dustin Geiger

Dustin Geiger was named the Florida State Player of the Week on Monday and became the fourth player on the D-Cubs’ roster this season to earn player or pitcher of the week honors (Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Ryan Searle). Geiger had a day to remember on Friday. Geiger went 7-for-8 in a doubleheader against Lakeland with four doubles, one triple, five RBI and two runs scored. Geiger is hitting .327/.398/.513/.911 with 11 doubles, one triple, five home runs and 36 RBI in 41 games for the Daytona Cubs this season. The Cubs selected Geiger in the 24th round of the 2010 first year player draft and this is the 21-year old’s first stop at the High-A level.

#GeigerFever is spreading around Daytona this spring.

Minor League Transactions

The Cubs released catcher Micah Gibbs. Gibbs was in big league camp a year ago with the Cubs but the third round pick in the 2010 draft didn’t hit enough. In 78 games with the D-Cubs in 2012 and 2013, Gibbs managed just a .192/.333/.295 slash line with seven doubles and five home runs.

The Cubs also released right-hander David Cales. The Cubs selected the now 25-year old right hander in the 24th round of the 2008 draft. Cales made it to Iowa in 2010 and was 4-2 in 57 games that season with the Smokies and I-Cubs. Cales posted a 4.03 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP (58 strikeouts, 24 walks and 71 hits allowed in 73 2/3 innings) but arm injuries derailed his career. Cales pitched in five games for the D-Cubs this season and posted a 2.92 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP (16 strikeouts, seven walks and 11 hits allowed in 12 1/3 innings).

News and Notes

Starlin Castro is excited about his family spending time with him in Chicago this summer. Fred Mitchell caught up with Castro and spoke with him about what it means to him to have his parents, three brothers and sister visit him from the Dominican Republic. Mitchell reported that his family is a calming influence on him while Alfonso Soriano feels Castro is doing a good job adjusting to life in the big leagues at such a young age.

The Cubs opened their new facility in the Dominican Republic on Monday. Tom Ricketts, Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod were on hand for the opening.

The Cubs are expected to designate Michael Bowden for assignment on Tuesday to make room on the active roster for Matt Garza. The Cubs have not made the announcement and could be trying to trade Bowden or make another roster move to clear a spot for Garza.

Kevin Gregg is putting the finish on what the Cubs start according to the Sun-Times.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

Quote of the Day

"Baseball, just a game as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes." - Ernie Harwell
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  • Ripsnorter1

    Ian Stewart would be well served to just let his bat do the talking for him.

    • Tony_Hall

      Read the full articles that Neil linked. There is always more to the story.

      We all sometimes forget that these guys are people and have families.

      ——–
      Processing the demotion wasn’t easy. Stewart’s wife, Susan, along with their daughters, Ellsi Gray, 3, and Mila, 6 months, had been waiting for him to return to the lineup and the family’s rented house in Chicago.

      They were so ready for the season that they had furniture moved in and had filled closets full of clothes.

      “It is tough when your daughter’s like, ‘Daddy, when are you coming home?’ ” Stewart said.

      ——–

      • Ripsnorter1

        Everyone has a family.

        And everyone–even people like you and me–have a responsibility to come to work on time, do our jobs to the best of our ability, and keep our mouths shut.

        This guy is getting paid $2 million per year, but his effort doesn’t appear to be 100%. And Tweeting about “the Cubs don’t love me” and other statements like that does not endear him to management–the very ones that pay his salary.

        He’d be better served not to Tweet, and just let his bat do his talking for him.

        • Tony_Hall

          Actually there would be no internet if everyone had to keep their mouths shut. What fun would that be?

          He is getting $2M for this year and was expecting to play 3B for the Cubs. An injury happened (again!) and he went to Iowa to rehab. Wrong or not on his part, he thought he was just getting work in and getting to where he could play everyday. Valbuena and Ransom have been good (actually better than good), the plan was for Vitters to play 3B in Iowa, not Stewart. So he is now in a situation he never expected to be in, back-up for a AAA team.

          He came back to Chicago because it gave him the best opportunity to play, the $2M would have been there with any of his offers.

          He obviously has issues, and is his own worst nightmare when he opens his mouth. I doubt we will ever have to worry about him suiting up for the Cubs again.

          • DWalker

            Had he performed, he would not have stayed in Iowa. He failed. Whether its mental or physical, he failed to perform. you can’t say he cubs didn’t invest in trying to make him succeed, so its on him and not the cubs. No club is going to commit 2 million on the hope of failiure.

          • Tony_Hall

            I totally agree that he failed and was given every opportunity. I didn’t want Stewart when they traded for him, I wanted Headley.

            I just haven’t agreed with well the bashing.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Tony,

    Your bet for the Cubs’ #1 pick in the draft is….?

    • Tony_Hall

      Mark Appeal. If he is not there then Gray.

  • redlarczykg

    Good to see Kyle Burke get his first start at Daytona Monday. 5 in. – 1 run – 5 so. Anyone know why he start the season at Daytona?

  • Ray Ray

    Good conversation this morning on mlb radio between Memolo and Hollandsworth talking about OBP and Sabermetrics. They were basically talking about how you should want your 3,4,5 hitters to swing the bat and not care so much about OBP. This is what Dusty Baker says and many others. If your 3,4,5 hitters walk then you are leaving the RBI’s during a game to your inferior hitters. Makes perfect sense. For example if you have a man on 3rd with 2 outs and your #5 hitter at bat…..do you want him to work the count and look for a walk…or would you rather put the bat in his hands to try and drive in the run? He is obviously a better RBI guy than the #6 hitter and that is why he is in that situation. OBP should be for the 6,7,8,1,2 hitters. The inferior hitters. Glad to see this brought up and talked about because too many get so caught up with OBP from the middle of the order bats.

    • Tony_Hall

      And yet most of the best 3,4 hitters have a high OBP. Not because they take good pitches, but because they don’t swing at bad ones. A high OBP is not the goal as much as making better decisions on what pitches to swing at each at bat. A high OBP is the result of being a smart batter who doesn’t swing outside the zone and at pitchers pitches until they have 2 strikes and are defending the strike zone.

      • Ray Ray

        The point is do you want a 3,4,5 batter to take take hittable strikes with runners on base or be aggressive? Example, walking Prince Fielder with a man on 3rd and 2 outs is a win for the pitcher. Would you rather have Rizzo swing the bat(especially if he is on a hot streak) with a RISP or take a walk against a tough RHP with a good slider knowing that Soriano is batting next and might not have as much success against that hitter? See the point?

        • Tony_Hall

          Who has ever said for middle of the order bats to take the very pitches they are looking for each at bat. You might want to re-read my posts.

          • Ray Ray

            You can relate to this since you have a high school baseball player. Memelo’s son who is in high school plays baseball and bats 5th for his team. He was batting with a man on 3rd and 2 outs and he walked and the next kid struck out. Memelo told his son that the next time he walks with a man on 3rd and 2 outs he won’t get dinner that night. OK…..there are exceptions to the rule(if the pitcher doesn’t throw anything near the strike zone) but you get his point. 3,4,5 hitters are the ones you want swinging the bats.

          • Tony_Hall

            At hittable pitches.

            The cubs philosophy is to swing at those pitches, not to let them go by. But not to expand the zone like we still see too often.

          • Ray Ray

            again this is not about philosophy from the entire team. This is about middle of the order bats. Different set of rules should be applied to those 3.

          • Tony_Hall

            So you want them swinging at pitches they can’t drive. Because I want them to swing at pitches they can drive, not hit weakly. That is the best way to drive in runs.

          • Ray Ray

            forget it dude. you always try and twist things. have a good day.

          • Tony_Hall

            Just because you don’t understand sabermetrics doesn’t mean you can’t learn. I don’t know any more than the main sabermetrics stats. I am trying to learn more but just haven’t spent any time on them.

            As far as twisting things, you keep trying to insinuate that I and others want the 3,4 hitters to let meatball pitches go by all in the name of taking a walk to increase their OBP. That is just not true.

          • 07GreyDigger

            Why would Memelo punish his kid for the other kid striking out? Stupid.

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

      Sabermetrics and OBP are proven indicators of successful players and teams. They just are…

      • Ray Ray

        OBP is overrated and overused as indicators for success from middle of order bats. That is the conversation. Would you rather have a guy with a higher OBP or a middle of the order bat with more RBI. The teams who score more runs are the ones who win. That is why Memelo and Hollandworth were bringing this up.

        • Tony_Hall

          RBIs is an extremely over valued stat. Not your best argument on this topic. Teams with higher OBP win more games.

          And yes scoring runs is the goal, RBIs is just not the best gauge of a player.

        • 07GreyDigger

          RBI don’t tell the whole story. To add another wrinkle, would you rather have a guy with a lot of RBI and a low OBP where a lot of his RBI’s were outs or a guy with a little less RBI but a high OBP. You want guys on base. That’s really the story of OBP. If you have guys that are on base a lot, those mediocre 6 and 7 hitters can suddenly make themselves more valuable. Who cares where you’re getting your RBI’s from?

          • Ray Ray

            apples to oranges. I want a guy with more RBI. If you are comparing a guy with 5 fewer RBI on the year(that is not significant) Do you want Rizzo to have a .350 OBP and 75 RBI or would you want Rizzo to have 100 RBI and a .310 OBP. I would take option #2 and every baseball manager would as well. I am just using Rizzo as an example.

          • Tony_Hall

            Rizzo has no control over runners on base in front of him. He could have great season and drive in 75 runs and have a bad season and drive in 100.

            Talk about comparing apples to oranges. No wonder why so many didn’t understand why Trout had a better season than Cabrera….

          • Ray Ray

            Yea. I guess those guys who talk about baseball for a living and one who played professionally don’t know anything. Talk about being one sided. I won’t confuse you with the facts since your mind is made up

          • Tony_Hall

            Just because someone use to play professionally doesn’t mean they have a clue about modern stats, just that they were good at playing the game.

            Many of the guys on TV are old school guys, that you can relate to more. There are no facts that can prove your point, it is an old school mentality that average is everything and the 3 most important offensive stats are AVG/HR/RBI’s and it is just not true.

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

            I have to agree completely with this. Just because they played doesn’t make them experts on what translates to wins and losses. That’s why most of the successful GM’s in baseball never played an inning in the big leagues. I’ll take Theo as my GM and some other team is welcome to take Todd Hollandsworth.

          • Sonate

            Agreed. The point of working the count is not to get a walk, but rather get a pitch to drive. Mantle and Ted Williams practiced this. Our own Sammy Sosa was another Dave Kingman until he learned the strike zone and worked counts. His OBP and his Slugging Pct both improved afterwards.

          • paulcatanese

            to win a game. forget it Tony, lost the whole post. Too bad it was great.

          • 07GreyDigger

            Hawk Harrelson played baseball professionally and he’s a giant idiot. So is Joe Morgan. Doesn’t mean a thing.

            But then you have guys like Joe Maddon or Andrew Friedman who played baseball in college and the minors, but never played in the majors who are considered baseball’s greatest minds.

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

            Those examples are redundant across the league. Andrew Friedman, Theo, Cashman, Beane, Frank Wren, Mozeliak. These guys are all proven baseball minds that never played at the highest levels. When it comes to managers there are more examples of guys that played, but successful GM’s are guys that are really smart and study the game.

          • gary3411

            Those 2 situations would never occur over a long term so they are irrelevent. The point is that the RBI will even out and they are a more luck-based stat. No way a hitter has 25 RBI less while getting on base 40 points lower without extreme luck being involved it just won’t happen. So the answer is take the 350 OBP percentage because next year he cannot get so unlucky and will probably drive in over 100.

          • gary3411

            *40 points higher*

          • Brp921

            I will agree OBP is important but I disagree on RBI’s being mostly luck based.I will point out Adam Dunn as a prime example of a guy who consistently has had over 100 RBI’s over his career without extremely high OBP’s.RBI’s are runs that have score. OBP’s mean you get on base it doesn’t nessecarily mean you score. They are both important stats.

          • Tony_Hall

            The batter does not have control of having runners on base. Overall numbers will produce rbi’s, based on the opportunities of having runners on base. But to say that a player with 75 rbis and a 380 OBP had a worse year than a guy with 100 rbis and a 320 OBP is wrong.

          • Brp921

            I won’t argue that point. I’m just saying RBI’s are important to and good RBI guys don’t alwayshave great OBP’Sand both stats hold their own importance.

          • Tony_Hall

            Adam Dunn has a career OBP of 368 (very good) and during his best years was 380+ to a high of 417. Which would make him one of the best OBP guys of these years.

          • Brp921

            I’m working so I didn’t look it up. It surprises me that it was that high, but then again he was pitched aroundbecause he would knock in a lot of runs

          • Brp921

            Sorry about the grammar I’m using my phone to reply.

          • Tony_Hall

            He was an on base machine and struck out a lot doing it. If you could take his approach, but swing at the pitches you can drive, you would have a really good approach. He is/was a lot like Pena, you would wonder if he would ever swing, as he just took pitches to take pitches.

          • gary3411

            That’s where slugging percentage comes into play. Very important evaluation tool. It explains the RBI better than the RBI.

          • Brp921

            That may be true, but an RBI is just that, a run batted in. Ball players that get 100 RBI’s consistently can play on my team any time, whether they ever get on base or not. That’s all I’m saying. Good OBP guys can play on my team too.:)

          • gary3411

            Are you just making that up off the top of your head? When Adam Dunn was knocking in 100 a year his OBP was spectacular! usually high 300’s

          • Brp921

            I just didn’t have time to look it up. If you read my originalpost my point was that both stats are important. Give me a good RBI guy any day and I won’t care what his OBP is. I never arguedthat OBP isn’t important.

          • Brp921

            And again his OBP was that high because he was pitched aroundor pitched to very carefully because he was a good RBI guy not because he got a lot of base hits.

          • triple

            Great hypothetical, here’s a real life scenario… Albert Pujols only led the league one time in RBI’s, but he did lead the league in runs scored 5 times! Why is that? He got on base 42% of his at bats during his Cardinals career. This puts pressure on the opposing teams pitcher and defense, especially if you are in the middle of the order. Did he pass up too many RBI opportunities by taking walks while going on to win 2 World Series?

            To answer your question though, I want Rizzo to have a .400 OBP. He can only bat in the ducks that are on the pond. But with a runner in scoring position and 2 outs, if I have to choose between a violent cut on a borderline pitch that results in a HR/strikeout/ground out/flyout, or a more controlled rip (or taking a pitch) to result in a walk/single/double, I’ll take the walk/hit almost every time. That exception is if we are down by 2 or more runs in the 9th inning.

        • gary3411

          OBP compared to RBI is like comparing outs hit into to runners getting stolen while you’re at-bat. They are not even close in terms of production indicators.

          Also, yes it is slightly more important for 1-2-8-9 hitters to get on base than the middle guys no doubt, but only slightly. If anything it’s more of a knock that those hitters don’t need to hit for power than it is for middle order hitters not getting on base.

    • gary3411

      Obviously every situation is different. But in general, it has been PROVEN that your #5 hitter walking and giving the #6 hitter a chance to then drive in BOTH runs and then maybe the #7 hitter driving in even more will result in more runs scored in the long term.

      Now, little things like L vs R or wind howling in or dominant pitcher on the mound can change that logic, but in general, take a walk when given the opportunity in any position in the order will produce more runs in the long term. It’s not really a debate as 2+2=4 is not a debate.

      • Tony_Hall

        Nice to see so many on here using common sense.

    • 07GreyDigger

      Don’t forget Dusty Baker ruined two of our better SP’s in Wood and Prior with overuse. So he’s not the best guy to trust.

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