Lou Piniella, Jim Hendry and Randy Bush followed the Ricketts family on Saturday morning. Bob Sirott and Dave Eanet hosted the Meet Cubs Baseball Management session.
The Cubs are not done adding players from what Jim Hendry indicated on Saturday morning. Hendry said the Cubs are not looking to add a free agent starter but a right-handed reliever to setup Carlos Marmol.
From Greg Maddux to Marlon Byrd to Geovany Soto’s weight loss to Rich Harden and Piniella’s starting seven plus the Cubs untouchable prospects, there were a lot of topics discussed with the Cubs Baseball Management … Jim Hendry began the session by saying he feels good about the Cubs off-season but will be adding a couple of players in the next two weeks. Hendry thinks the Cubs will be a better club in three weeks.
Hendry was asked about the addition of Milton Bradley last season. Hendry explained the team won 97 games the year before but they had been swept out of the playoffs two straight years. They made a decision to “shoot for the moon” and missed. Hendry once again took full responsibility. He said they tried to improved on a 97-win team and basically failed.
Randy Bush fielded a question about Casey McGehee. Bush said the Cubs needed a spot on their 40-man roster in order to protect a couple of players they did not want to lose. They gambled by putting McGhee on waivers, exposed him to other teams and lost him.
Jim Hendry is glad Greg Maddux is back with the organization. Hendry described Maddux as a special man and when he walked through the door, the organization got better. Hendry explained how he had to grab Maddux up before losing him to another organization.
Lou Piniella was asked about Marlon Byrd’s playing time. Piniella said Byrd would play everyday in center. Sam Fuld will help when needed and they can always slide Kosuke Fukudome over if needed. Byrd had a really nice year with the Rangers a year ago according to Piniella.
The starting eight is basically set. Derrek Lee will be a first, Ryan Theriot at shortstop, Aramis Ramirez at third, Alfonso Soriano will be in left, Byrd in center and Kosuke Fukudome in right.
Piniella pointed out they have a situation at second base. They will have to decide between Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker .
Piniella said Geovany Soto will be his catcher and pointed out how good he looked after losing nearly 40 pounds since the Cubs last game.
Micah Hoffpauir, Sam Fuld and Andres Blanco will serve as reserves … for now.
Most of the competition this spring will be with the Cubs’ pitching staff. Outside of Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells the starting staff is not set. Carlos Marmol will be the club’s closer.
The inevitable Mark DeRosa question was asked. The Cubs “love DeRosa” they just feel like DeRosa got too old to play second base. Hendry pointed out the Giants penciled him in for left field to begin the season. All three teams he’s been on since he was traded used him in the outfield and at third … the Cubs have Ramirez and Soriano. Hendry said they still keep in touch with DeRosa.
After answering a question about Jake Peavy, Hendry was asked if he feels like his time is running out with the Cubs. Hendry said he does not get caught up in his own agenda and future with the team.
Rich Harden added a spark to the Cubs in 2008. Harden dealt with a lot of injuries before and after being traded to the Cubs. Hendry said Harden had a great relationship with Mark O’Neal, the Cubs’ trainer.
The Cubs were concerned about the amount of money Harden could earn in arbitration and his health. Harden worked extremely hard to stay on the field while with the Cubs.
Lou Piniella said they talked to Geovany Soto about losing weight at the end of last year. They encouraged him to get a trainer, work with a nutritionist and lose 10 to 15 pounds … not the nearly 40 pounds that he lost.
“When I saw him the other day he looked like a jockey. I mean that complimentary,” Piniella added.
Hendry was asked about the lengths of the contracts he hands out. Hendry indicated the Cubs were not the only club that had a three-year deal on the table for Milton Bradley … or a two-year deal on the table for Aaron Miles.
Hendry said, “They were the right guys at the right time.” Players are not robots, sometimes they have bad years … Miles had a horrible season according to Hendry.
The possible addition of free agent pitchers was the next question for Piniella, Hendry and Bush. Hendry is not worried about Ted Lilly. It is not an issue that the start of his season is going to be delayed.
The Cubs need Zambrano to be more like Zambrano. Randy Wells to pitch the way he did last year and Ryan Dempster to pitch the way he is capable.
Jeff Samardzija, Tom Gorzelanny, Mike Parisi and Sean Marshall will compete for the other two spots … the Cubs also feel they can resurrect Carlos Siva’s career.
Jim Hendry finished by saying they are not actively looking to add a starting pitcher.
Lou added about Lilly that the beginning of the season is the best time for a pitcher to miss time. Piniella is happy with the staff he will open camp with and added, “We’ll put together a nice little staff.”
The most important aspect in Piniella’s mind is to have a better backend of the pen.
Jake Fox would have only been a bench player for the Cubs. Hendry pointed out they received a good arm in Jeff Gray for Fox. There was simply no room on the Cubs’ roster. The Cubs do not believe Fox can be effective without regular playing time.
Piniella is envisioning Marlon Byrd hitting fifth with Fukudome and Theriot in the top two spots of the lineup … Kosuke one and Theriot two, or vice versa.
Jim Hendry feels the Cubs’ scouting has taken an upswing since the arrival of Tim Wilken. He feels they have made tremendous strides with their International scouting. The Cubs scouting and player development is considered on the high-end by baseball. Hendry said the layers within the organization, under the front office, are in better shape than they have been in decades.
The Cubs are not looking to anoint any of their players as top prospects or “can’t miss prospects.” Hendry said, “Baseball America does that for you.” No one thought Geovany Soto and Ryan Theriot would have the impact they’ve had.
The Cubs’ GM added there is a really solid group of young players in the organization and a group they will not trade. Starlin Castro, Andrew Cashner and Brett Jackson could have been used to land bigger players if included in deals … but they are not going to trade those types of players.
Hendry feels the Cubs’ system has been over ranked in the past (by Baseball America).
The Cubs’ management was asked about Orlando Hudson. Hendry said Hudson is a good player but they have decided to choose between Jeff Baker and Mike Fontenot to begin the season as their starting second baseman. Hudson is not the same player he was and Hendry pointed out the fact he was benched by the Dodgers at the end of last season.
Hendry was asked about his treatment as the Cubs’ GM and how tough the job must be. Hendry responded, “I’ve been here a long time. I feel like I’ve been treated fairly by the Cubs fans. The positives outweigh the negatives.”
Lou Piniella was asked about playing Bobby Scales down the stretch last September. Piniella said they were trying to win as many games as possible, finish in second place above .500. The question was then asked as to why he did not play Tyler Colvin, Micah Hoffpauir or Jake Fox in left instead of the career minor leaguer, Bobby Scales.
Lou appeared to lose his patience at that point. Piniella responded, “Look sweetheart we did not bring up Colvin until September.” Hendry explained they dealt with a rash of injuries in September and Colvin was brought up to get by … Colvin was on his way home.
Micah Hoffpauir struggled at the end of the year and Piniella was caught up in trying to win games. Piniella apologized to the lady for not playing Hoffpauir and Colvin. He said, “Sorry we did not play those two guys as much as you would have liked.”
Ted Lilly’s shoulder was brought up. Piniella said he spoke with Lilly on Friday night and he feels like he will be ready by the second week of the season. The Cubs are not going to push him and allow him to return to early.
More from Day Two will be posted soon …
Recaps of the 2010 Cubs Convention