The Cubs first game of the Cactus League schedule is two days away and the first ten days of Camp Lou III have been very quiet. Lou Piniella described camp as being very workman like so far as the players prepare for the games to begin.
With the long exhibition season, the Cubs figure to get extended looks at players that might have slipped through in years past. After the minor league teams report to Fitch Park on March 12, look for many to make the short drive down the street to participate in the games with their big league club.
The Cubs have 21 non-roster invitees in big league camp, 11 pitchers and 10 position players. Here’s a look at the pitchers that will be fighting for a job, highlighted by Mike Stanton and Esmailin Caridad. Edward Campusano
The southpaw reliever spent a majority of last season with the Tennessee Smokies. Injuries have derailed what once looked like a promising career.
After missing the entire 2007 recovering from left elbow surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament, Campusano posted a 3-3 record with a 6.34 ERA with a 1.59 WHIP in 34 games out of the Smokies pen. Many thought Campusano would have been a mid-season call-up for the Cubs but his struggles at the Double-A level prevented him from being promoted to Iowa, much less the big league team.
Campusano has the stuff but has yet to stay healthy long enough to progress past Double-A. With only one spot up for grabs in the Cubs pen, Campusano should start the season with Ryne Sandberg in Tennessee.
The Cubs have reportedly been impressed Esmailin Caridad early on in camp. He is a hard thrower (consistent fastball in the low 90s, topping out at 96 MPH) and induces a lot of groundball outs…the type of pitcher the Cubs need at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs signed Caridad, 23, as a non-drafted free agent in December of 2007 and the Cubs, especially Oneri Fleita, have been real high on the right-hander since his signing.
Baseball America described his mechanics as being smooth with allows him to control one of the best fastballs in the system. Caridad posses an average breaking ball and a changeup that can appear as a splitter at times.
After starting the 2008 campaign with the Daytona Cubs (6-4 with a 4.41 ERA in 14 games, 13 starts, with a 1.17 WHIP), he was promoted to Double-A and excelled… 7-3 with a 3.16 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in 14 starts.
Caridad is one of the upcoming prospects in the Cubs’ system (ranked 22nd by Baseball America) and is projected to start the year at Iowa, but could end up being a factor for the big league team as the season wears on.
The Cubs top pick in last year’s draft struggled early after making his debut, mostly with his command. In 20 innings at three different stops (rookie ball in Arizona, Boise and Daytona), Andrew Cashner walked 23 batters and struck out only 19 while giving up 24 hits and 13 earned runs.
The Cubs attributed his struggles to the long layoff between the draft and signing with the organization.
Andrew Cashner is projected to be in the starting rotation for either the Daytona Cubs or the Peoria Chiefs when the season starts.
The Cubs are giving Chad Fox another chance at pitching in the big leagues after he threw in three games out of the pen for Lou Piniella last season….his first action in the majors since 2005.
Fox was 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP in 3 games (3 1/3 innings) with 3 walks and a strikeout last season…and made only four appearances in rehab assignments for Daytona and Tennessee.
Chad Fox making a return to the majors was a feel good story last season. He worked hard and made it all the way back. However, many feel he is destined to be a coach as injuries have taken their toll on him.
The Cubs signed the 35-year old veteran right-hander of the Japanese Central League over the winter. Many thought Ken Kadokura, a former teammate of Kosuke Fukudome, was signed to allow Fukudome to have a familiar face in camp as he tried to forget his horrible second half. However, with Fukudome participating in the WBC and will likely not rejoin his Major League team until the end of Spring Training, the signing makes little since.
Kadokura was solid in 11 games last season (0-2 with a 3.55 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP) but does not figure into the Cubs plans for the season.
J.R. Mathes (given name Alfred G.) was picked by the Cubs in the 16th round of the 2004 draft and will participate in his first big league camp.
Mathes was 9-5 with a 4.29 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP in 27 games, 22 starts, last year with a complete game shutout in his second full season at Triple-A Iowa. Mathes was a Pacific Coast League All-Star last year.
The Cubs once compared the southpaw to Ted Lilly. Mathes does not posses an overpowering fastball but has solid mechanics and command with his best pitch being described as a “wicked” change-up.
J.R. Mathes figures to start the year in the I-Cubs rotation.
Rocky Roquet has the stuff to be a dominant late-inning reliever but has yet to put it all together. He fell out of Baseball America’s Cubs’ Top 30 Prospects after spending a majority of last season in Double-A.
Roquet was 4-2 with a 3.70 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP in 39 games out of the Smokies’ pen with 54 strikeouts and 27 walks in 48 2/3 innings. He began the year in Daytona at Daytona and posted a 1.74 ERA with a 0.97 WHIP in 7 games (10 1/3 innings).
The former college outfielder possesses a mid 90s fastball that has touched the upper 90s at times with a low 80s slider.
This is the second consecutive big league camp for Roquet and he could be a sleeper if he has improved on his command. Roquet has yet to pitch above the Double-A level, which is likely where he will begin the season.
Brian Schlitter was acquired from the Phillies late last season in the deal that sent Scott Eyre to Philadelphia after the Cubs DFA’d him. Schlitter was a late addition to big league camp after Bill White did not pass his physical and was released.
Schlitter was 0-1 with 3 saves in 7 games for the Daytona Cubs last season with a 2.16 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP. Schlitter has not pitched above A-ball and figures to begin the season in Daytona.
Matt Smith, 30, was the 4th round pick of the Yankees in 2000 draft and made his big league debut on April 14, 2006. In 35 big league games he has posted a 0-1 record with a 2.55 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP (23 walks and 22 strikeouts in 24 2/3 career innings).
Matt Smith was traded from the Yankees in the deal that sent Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle to New York from the Phillies in July of 2006.
Smith was 1-1 in 10 games, 2 starts, in the Florida State League with a 5.06 ERA and a 1.97 WHIP.
The southpaw figures to begin the season in the Iowa Cubs’ bullpen.
The Cubs have one spot open on their 40-man roster and it could be used by Mike Stanton…especially if Neal Cotts struggles this spring, or is traded. If Sean Marshall makes the starting rotation to begin the season, the Cubs will have only one left-hander in the pen.
Mike Stanton was released on the final day of Spring Training last year by the Reds and was unable to catch on with another team. After taking time off, he realized he still had the desire to play and has come into camp as a man on a mission.
Stanton will turn 42 in June and was less than effective in his last stint in the big leagues. He was 1-3 with a 5.93 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP in 69 games (57 2/3 innings) out of the Reds’ pen in 2007. For his career, lefties have hit .251 against Stanton while righties have hit .261 against him.
Mike Stanton could be a wild card to make the roster out of camp…but he is several years removed from the dominant seasons he put up in 2001 and 2002 for the Yankees.
Jason Waddell was the 8th round pick of the Giants in the 2001 draft. In his eight minor league seasons, he has started only 13 out of 251 games. Waddell has not pitched above the Double-A level and was 0-3 in 44 games with a 3.38 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP in 64 innings (70 strikeouts and 36 walks) last year.
Waddell figures to join Ryne Sandberg’s bullpen when the season starts.
Coming Soon: Storylines of the Spring…The Non-Roster Position Players
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