Position Players Report Tuesday, Castro a Leadoff Candidate and News from Day Four of Cubs Camp

Position players do not have to be in Mesa until Tuesday. The first full squad workout of the spring is not until Wednesday and the forecast is looking good in Arizona for the entire spring roster getting on the field (81 degrees with a slight chance of rain).

CubsMesaLogo-pubMany of the position players are already in camp, including four former first round draft picks. Kris Bryant and Albert Almora reported Sunday along with Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson. And both Vitters and Jackson spoke with the beat writers.

It is good to know Josh Vitters has reported to camp early. Last year he was one of the last position players to report and while he was not late, many thought he should have reported early in order to get ready for what was viewed as an important season for him. Vitters did not get off on the right foot two years ago when he showed up late to the first meeting of the spring. So maybe with Vitters being in camp before he had to be this year that will lead to good things for him during the season.

There have been a lot of expectations placed on Josh Vitters since the Cubs selected him with the third overall pick in the 2007 draft. Vitters has hit at every level he’s played at except for the Major League level in 2012. Vitters does not turn 25 until the end of August and the Cubs are hoping the move to the outfield will get his career on track. Vitters said Sunday he received a call about the position switch this winter and tried to prepare as well as he could for the move.

Vitters addressed the expectations many have for him with Jesse Rogers. Vitters said, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to fill the void in everyone’s head of me because it’s obviously pretty big. But I think I can rejuvenate my career.”

According to ESPN Chicago, Vitters worked with the Cubs’ psychologist this winter. Vitters focused on learning how to “relax more” when he is playing so he’s “not jittery.”

Brett Jackson has “never been more excited to be back in Spring Training.” Jackson told Carrie Muskat he did not have fun last year, he was hurt and struggled. Jackson said, “I rediscovered that fun a little bit this off-season. I feel I’m in the best physical shape I’ve been in and the best mental state I’ve been in a long time.” Jackson added he is “excited to be part of this new regime.” And he is not going to talk about his strikeouts anymore.

In regards to the changes he made to his swing, Jackson said, “The changes I was trying to make last year had all the right intentions and all the right cues for me to become a better player. However, I was fighting my nature, I was fighting who I was as a natural athlete and I think that made my time at the plate a struggle.”

The Cubs gave Vitters and Jackson the winter off to ‘hit the reset button’ on their careers. Both players have a lot of talent that has yet to be seen on a Major League diamond and both former first round picks could help the Cubs moving forward.

Starlin Castro

Rick Renteria reiterated Sunday that he is thinking about hitting Starlin Castro at the top of his lineup. Castro is one possible option and one that would make sense for the Cubs and Castro.

For his career, Starlin Castro is a .300/.345/.431 hitter for his career leading off for the Chicago Cubs. Castro has nearly a full season of plate appearances under his belt hitting at the top of the lineup (114 games). To go along with a .777 OPS, Castro has hit 25 doubles, three triples and 11 home runs.

One spot down in the lineup, Castro has hit .291/.326/.416 with a .742 OPS in 245 games with 56 doubles, eight triples and 19 home runs. The days Emilio Bonifacio is in the lineup, if he makes the team, hitting Castro behind the speedster would work as well.

Pitchers Pitching and Practicing

Jeff Samardzija, Justin Grimm, Kyle Hendricks, James McDonald, Wesley Wright and Travis Wood were among the group of pitchers that completed their second bullpens of the spring on Sunday. Blake Parker threw again as well on Sunday, but this time it appears he stayed hydrated enough to keep from throwing up.

Jake Arrieta was also scheduled to throw but he isn’t ready to pitch off a mound yet. Arrieta took part in the other drills and played catch.

Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant reported to camp Sunday to reportedly “find his locker and get comfortable.” Bryant plans to ask questions and make the most of his first big league camp. Bryant took swings in the cage Sunday.

It is all baseball now for Kris Bryant, but according to the Tribune he plans on returning to the University of San Diego to finish his degree in financing.

As for a possible switch from third base to the outfield, Bryant told the Tribune he will play wherever the coaches tell him to play.

Ryan Dempster

Ryan Dempster announced Sunday he will not be pitching for the Red Sox during the upcoming season. And the speculation began that Dempster might have thrown his last pitch. Dempster cited personal and injury reasons as why he told the Red Sox he would not be able to pitch this year. Dempster has three children he would like to spend more time with.

Dempster will not spend the season on the DL in order to collect his $13.25 million salary for the 2014 campaign. Dempster said he could not do that and also pointed out he does not want to end his career on the disabled list. Dempster does not feel he would be able to pitch to the standards he’s set for himself. Dempster has been dealing with disc issues and a bone spur in his neck.

According to reports from the Boston beat writers, Dempster told the Red Sox front office within the last two weeks that it was a possibility he might not be able to pitch this year. Dempster made the announcement official on Sunday.

News and Notes

The Cubs signed Emilio Bonifacio to a minor league contract Saturday. Bonifacio is expected to be in camp at some point this week. Reports are unclear if he will be in Mesa in time for the first full squad workout Wednesday or not. It is not unusual for players that sign as late as Bonifacio did to report to camp a little late.

Rick Renteria would not commit to starting the season with either an 11-man or 12-man pitching staff on Sunday.

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Quote of the Day

"Never let the fear of striking out get in your way of playing the game." – Babe Ruth

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  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    From Paul Hoynes: Heard Reds getting close to 6-year deal in $100 million range with Homer Bailey. Bound to influence Indians talks with Justin Masterson.

    • Richard Hood

      If the Reds do extend Bailey does that mean they are going to have to trade some other of their arbitration eligible players to keep with in budget? With Votto about to make over 20mil a year, Bruce and Brandon Phillips being in th 12 to 13 mil range and probably around 15 to 17 mil for Bailey they are going to have to be penching pennies when it comes to Latos and Cueto. Maybe we can be some of their budget relief. Especially with Chapman also almost being a free agent.

      • mutantbeast

        Latos just got hurt. Makes you wonder if hes the most likely candidate to go, his pitching mechanics are not exactly the best.

        • Eugene Debs

          Well if he’s hurt let’s trade a good player to get him.

  • Tony_Hall

    Is it just a misspeak or misquote but don’t teams generally keep an extra bullpen arm at the beginning of the year (from 7 to 8) to account for starters not going as deep into games to start the year. That would be the difference between 12 and 13 man pitching staff.

    I can’t imagine going with 11 out of the gate unless they are going to only go with 4 starters due to off days, but they play 5 in a row the first week and then 6 in a row the 2nd week.and then finish the month with 11 days in a row. They need 5 starters and at least 7 relievers to get through April this year.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Tony, I went back and checked to make sure I had his statement correct, and that is what he said. I agree with you on needing the 12-man staff to get through April.

      The 11- or 12-man staff would influence the starting rotation more than the pen. I do not see them carrying less than seven relievers at any point. There are four off days before a seven-game homestand begins on April 18 so that is what he could be thinking.

      The off days could give a guy like Arrieta a little more time to get ready, but if he’s not on a mound soon that is going to be a moot point, not matter what he says.

      • Tony_Hall

        They will need a 5th starter on Sunday April 6th as it will be game 6 and 5 in a row. Then they go 6 days in a row. After that they could get away with 4 starters as they have Monday and Thursday off, but following that they play 11 days in a row.

        I am assuming Renteria hasn’t looked that closely at the schedule for April yet.

    • Ripsnorter1

      I thought that sometimes the Cubs have left off a bullpen arm at the beginning of the season due to more off days.

      There are 4 off days in April, and of those 4, two are in the first 7 days of the season. and the other two are the 14th and 17th days of the season.

      • Tony_Hall

        I just went over it in the reply to Neil, but they could skip the 5th starter one time in April during the 3rd week. That is it.

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  • Ripsnorter1

    Did you listen to Brett Jackson? He said, “Dale Sveum messed me up.” And I agree. He also said Theo and Jed messed me up.

    That is reading between the lines. And it is right on the money.

    • calicub

      if it’s reading between the lines, isn’t it alittle dishonest to put that in quotes after saying this is what he said?

      • Tony_Hall

        We can all decide for ourselves. Here is the real quote.

        Jackson said, “The changes I was trying to make last year had all the right intentions and all the right cues for me to become a better player. However, I was fighting my nature, I was fighting who I was as a natural athlete and I think that made my time at the plate a struggle.”

        BJAX is pretty classy in this comment, say ing “I’ over and over. Of course Sveum and the hitting coaches were working with him to find a way for him to make contact. That is/was their job to work with him.

        • Richard Hood

          With the comments from both guys it seemed that last year was humbling. Which in Vitters case is a huge thing.

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

      Boo, c’mon Rip. That is a bit of a reach. Knowing your feelings it hasn’t got credibility.

  • paulcatanese

    Castro to hit 1 or 2 in the lineup? Put him at leadoff and leave him there. Don’t screw with his head. He did a good job leading off, just let him swing the bat and be himself.
    Start moving him around, even to the 2 slot and they are asking for trouble.
    The Cubs need to look back how he performed when they did that.
    Sveum did Castro no favors when he moved him around, stating that Castro could hit wherever he was in the lineup, everyone knew how that worked out.
    Even moving him to 2 in the lineup and then back to 1 when a speedster is in the order will change Castro’s mindset. Just leave him alone and he will return to his former self.

    • Ripsnorter1

      You are so right. The damage done by Sveum, Theo and Hoyer in 2012-2013 against Castro and Jackson was huge.

      Let’s see if Hoyer and Theo have learned anything at all in 2014.

      • Eugene Debs

        Is there any other organization that people say “The manager, the GM, and the Team President” messed up a player by moving him through the lineup?

        I think we can blame the on-field stuff on Sveum and leave the roster judgments and salary management for Jedi Hoyerstein.

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

          I have read a lot about Theo. Everyone close to him says he admits that coaching and on field aspects of his game are not his strength and he stays away from. He is a scout and saber metrics guy. If he meddled with teaching a guy how to hit it would be completely against his reported style. He may say, “work with him, do what you need to do to help him,” but beyond that is completely not the type of guy he is. He leaves baseball fundamentals to the baseball guys. He has enough to do running the team. Say what you want, but Theo stays out of day to day baseball stuff. Anything related to action on the field. Read Francona’s book… I’ve said it before and if u wanna know what Theo is like read it.

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

            He s relatively humble and knows his limits.

          • cubtex

            I think we all saw that firsthand during the infamous Dale Sveum bunt contest watching the highlights of Theo:) Wow. One of the most unathletic bunting forms I have seen :)

          • Eugene Debs


          • Eugene Debs

            That’s pretty much how I understand it as well.

            I think that Epstein overall runs a solid organization, I would have liked to have seen a better band-aid approach (i.e. more successful) the last couple of years but I would be an idiot to not feel hopeful for the future.

            We have at least a couple of brutal seasons ahead. But, they’ll win more games this year and more than likely next year as well.

            Some good stuff is happening at all levels of the organization.

  • paulcatanese

    Got a chuckle out of Bryant when he said returning to
    San Diego and get his degree in Financing. Good move for him, and he will need that degree dealing with Theo.
    (meant to be funny). Aside, like his attitude, seems like a great kid.

  • paulcatanese

    Doing this separately, Vitters in camp early. that’s definitely an improvement. I would like to be wrong about him and hope he makes the conversion to the outfield.
    And might as well include B Jackson here. Another one that seems to have his head on straight. Wish him well also.
    If those two make it, they will be a big help and I will have to eat crow. So what, I have had bad meals before, and be glad to do it.

    • Richard Hood

      It is not uncommon for “can’t miss” guys too because productive players after the prospect hype is gone. Look at the career that Patterson had as a 4/5th outfielder or even Gordon in KC. Here is to hoping one of these guys can get enough good vibe going to at least be a back up.

  • Swish23

    So Bailey will be out of the the market, missed on Sanchez, Ryu, Darvish, Tanaka, no effort on Fister, traded Cashner, don’t want Smardz, did not try on Garza, think a 2nd rounder better than a cheap Santana or Jimeniz, in other words there will be no FA signing for 2015 either (Masterson is same guy as Smardz and Sheilds is 33). Whose going to pitch in 2016; the make it or break it year of Theo and Ricketts. No one. Gotta try; losing on purpose thinking everyone will just be waiting for ya is fools gold; as Harry would say what about the pitching? (Price will cost a lot of prospects plus 150m plus; owner has no stomach for that kinda of money). 2016; it ain’t gonna happen,

    • calicub

      to be fair to Theo on the Fister deal, many GM’s reportedly didn’t know Fister was avaialble which was why the return for him was so much lower than expected

    • cubtex

      They better draft a pitcher with the 1st pick in the next 2 drafts!

      • GaryLeeT

        They won’t draft according to need, they will draft the best available player. Right, Tony?

        • cubtex

          and that is why Theo has never had a surplus of starting pitchers with Boston.

        • Tony_Hall

          With their pick in the 1st round they will take the best player available.

          • GaryLeeT

            Didn’t we settle on that it had to be in the top 5 or something? When they to #25, the clear cut “best available” get’s a lot harder to discern. To the point where you could use “need” to make a push towards a certain player.

          • Tony_Hall

            I agree with that. that is why starting with the supplemental and 2nd rounds and beyond they concentrate on pitching.

          • cubtex

            and that is the most difficult way to find an ace. You need to get lucky and find a late bloomer or some guy that makes a huge jump in velocity and command if you wait till the 2nd round and beyond.

    • cubtex

      and Julio Teheran just got extended. It is harder and harder to get starting pitching. You need to draft it and you need to get the elite arms early in the draft.

      • Swish23

        Like Cashner and Smardz; hmmmm; one traded and one will be. You sign pitchers when they are available; not waste seasons on purpose; thinking they will be there when the team is ready. Teams need to be built as you go along; Theo is wasting seasons and ricketts is too cheap. Where’s the pitching? 2016 or bust.

        • cubtex

          I agree. You cannot time pitching. Anytime you can get a young controllable arm is the “right” time. If you miss an opportunity…you might not get another one. That is why I was all for the Garza deal with the Rays. You aquired a controlled TOR starter for several years who will build value and help win games and attract FA to go to you…or you can trade him(like they did) for more value than you got him for.

        • paulcatanese

          Swish23, is you’re moniker referring to a certain right fielder that played with the Cubs? If so, saw him play many times, and marveled when he would hit one out in right that cleared the stands and out into the street.
          Never used to see that very often at Wrigley. Would say at least 10-15 to one as they had little problem to left.

  • John G

    Good luck to Ryan Dempster. Pretty stand-up move to bypass $13.5MM by staying off the DL. I always liked him and thought he was a class act. Even more so after he threw at A-Rod to make a point.

    • cubtex

      And that is the reason I have a hard time believing he gave 100% approval to accept a trade to the Braves before the trade was consummated and then renig.

      • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

        Please move on from this. Thank you.

    • BillyFinT

      Ol’Demp is a quality guy. He’s active all-rounded and a nice companion on TV, off it, for the community, with family (fought for his newborn daughter who couldn’t ingest, and brought to public awareness such disease), and the unsung coaches (remember the new gift from the pitching staff to a Piniella coach?).

      The wrist-flicker is no ace, and make no mistake, even when healthy, he’s no Chris Carpenter. It’s a disservice to judge any pro player based only on his career record. If there is a comeback player I’ll root for, it’s to this longtime and former Cubbie.

  • paulcatanese

    Saw a blurb where Sveum was promised a man made lake so he could fish after practice. He had to know what was coming when they took his rod and reel away and handed him a cane pole and a bucket filled with tap water and goldfish:)

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  • jtrain23

    I’m somewhat optimistic/hopeful that Vitters could provide some quality to the team still. He has had trouble putting it all together, but has had success at every level, especially with more exposure at that level. He could be a pleasant surprise for this team.

    I would like to think the same about Jackson. I just have a hard time seeing him being anything besides a defensive option late in games and a possible pinch runner. He has had success at some minor league levels, but his strikeout numbers are astronomical. I’ll have to see the “changes” to his swing before I have hope. I’m not claiming that I could hit Major League pitching either, but his swing is so full of problems that it would take a lot to fix it.

    They will both be interesting story lines during spring training, however.