The first fifteen games of the 2009 Cactus League schedule are in the books for Lou Piniella’s crew…and has anything been resolved after a month in Arizona?
When pitchers and catchers reported to Fitch Park nearly a month ago there were several questions that the Cubs needed to find answers to. Many things have changed since the last time the Cubs played a game that counted, including a 40 percent turnover of the roster.
Here some of the highlights, lowlights and unanswered questions (in no particular order) as the Cubs get back to work following a much-needed day off. Plus a new episode from the CCO Radio and a possible addition to the site…
- Micah Hoffpauir has become as popular as a backup quarterback in the NFL. Hoffpauir has continued to hit this spring but the Cubs have yet to find a place for him to play.
- The Cubs signed Corey Koskie to a minor league contract. If he is healthy, he would give the Cubs a proven power threat off the bench…and could lead to Micah Hoffpauir starting the year in Iowa.
- Rich Harden made it in a game before the first off day of the spring. A good sign but the Cubs want six more from him before Opening Day. Harden has the best stuff on the Cubs’ staff and if he could make 25-28 starts…look out.
- Milton Bradley made more headlines with his shortened debut than time spent on the field. But with Bradley somewhere in the middle of Lou Piniella’s lineup, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee could have big years.
- Aaron Heilman…no one thought he would pitch the way he has so far. Three words…Keep it up.
- Mount Lou almost erupted right on schedule. Every spring since his arrival, the Cubs have struggled and Piniella voiced his displeasure. So much for his off-season reading list…
- Will Luis Vizcaino be the odd man out at the end of Spring Training? Other than Kevin Hart, he has been the most disappointing…or as advertised, just depends on your point of view. Piniella will not put up with pitchers that cannot throw strikes, just ask Stevie Ire. Many thought Vizcaino would be flipped to another team before the season started and with his large contract that does not appear to be a possibility.
- Bobby Crosby? Where did that one come from? Crosby does not fit the Cubs needs for a back-up infielder that can hit right-handed.
- Jake Peavy…sorry force of habit.
- Lou Piniella mentioned the three players in the mix to back-up Geovany Soto were not hitting. Paul Bako did not get the memo and neither did Mark Johnson….but Koyie Hill did. If Hill can continue to hit, the Cubs have an out with Bako that will not cost them the full $725,000.
- Who will close? Kevin Gregg or Carlos Marmol. Back in the day a manager would use his best pitcher in the pen to get the biggest out (or outs) late in a game. It did not matter if that was the seventh, eighth or ninth inning. Piniella should remember how Billy Martin used Sparky Lyle and do the same with Carlos Marmol…just with less innings. Many games are saved before the ninth inning and unless Marmol comes back an emotional mess from the WBC, he is the best pitcher in Piniella’s pen.
- Carlos Zambrano has looked pretty good this spring. As many have mentioned, it is time for Big Z to take a big step in his maturity. Zambrano is a big key for the upcoming season. Some are thinking Zambrano will not win more than 14 games, and when asked about the over/under on his win total for 2009 starting at 14, many of the ‘experts‘ are picking under. It will be a long summer if Zambrano wins less than 14 games.
- David Patton and Jason Waddell have made waves so far this spring. Piniella likes Waddell and Patton has been sharp in all but one of his outings. Waddell could start the year in Iowa because that is an option. As for Patton, they either take him to Houston or send him back to Colorado. Jim Hendry said last weekend that they could always make changes after the first week.
- Many of the questions in the bullpen must be answered soon…Lots of arms, not that many openings.
- Jake Fox can hit…he has proven that again this spring. Too bad he cannot catch the ball. Reportedly he is working hard learning new positions….if he could just play third.
- “Little Babe Ruth” has pounded the ball this spring. Can he keep it up? He is hanging in against southpaws and could make it hard for Aaron Miles to get playing time. If Mike Fontenot hits when the games count that would be a bonus the Cubs were not depending on.
- “The Big Three” of Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez have not hit the ball consistently with authority yet…slow bats and a lot of swings and misses. It is ‘just spring training‘ but other players of their caliber are hitting a lot better than they are.
- Jeff Samardzija, for the most part, has been lights out an inning at a time. Looks to be a better fit in the pen than in the rotation.
For those that missed the ‘CCO Radio‘ on Wednesday night, you can listen to the podcast through the player on the top of the site. Brian and Shaun will be back live on Wednesday, March 18 at 7:00pm C.T. taking calls and emails. The live show can be heard through ‘The CCO Radio‘ page on Blog Talk Radio….more on this in the days to come.
The CCO was asked shortly after the re-design of the site was launched in October about having an automatic refresh for game discussions. It turns out that our server does not have that capability yet so we have gone in a different direction…and would like some feedback.
This season there will be two options for the Faithful to use to discuss the games…the traditional comment section and the CCO Chatroll. So with Thursday’s exhibition game against Kosuke Fukudome and Team Japan this felt like the right time to try it out.
Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts (or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org) and if you would like to see this on a game-by-game basis once the season begins.