Countdown to Cubs Cactus League Opener: 3 Days
Shane Victorino is in Cubs camp on a minor league deal trying to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster. Victorino has missed a majority of the past two seasons with injuries. Victorino says he’s healthy. And for the first time since 2013 he is back to switch-hitting.
Victorino stopped switch-hitting over two years ago. Back pain forced Victorino to bat only right-handed. Victorino is a natural right-handed hitter and for his career, Victorino owns a .299/.369/.491 slash line versus southpaws with a .859 OPS. From the left side, Victorino has hit .268/.329/.401 against right handers.
Victorino told ESPN Chicago Sunday, “Two years removed from back surgery, I’m very excited to be back switch-hitting, trying to be the dynamic player I once was.” Victorino admitted to Comcast SportsNet that he might feel different a month from now, but right now he feels great physically.
If Victorino is healthy he could push for a job on the Cubs roster, one that Matt Szczur appeared to be the front-runner for just last week.
Mark Gonzales provided an excellent in-depth report on the options Joe Maddon has to work with on the Cubs roster.
The Cubs have a rather crowded outfield with Dexter Fowler back and Shane Victorino in camp and competing for a spot on the Opening Day roster. What was believed to be the Cubs honoring an agreement with Victorino, might be a little bit more.
Maddon really likes what Victorino could bring to the table with pinch running, pitch hitting and defense. If he’s healthy, Victorino could find a spot on the Cubs’ bench. Plus Victorino can bat leadoff on the days Fowler is not in the lineup.
Maddon could also bat Ben Zobrist leadoff and hit Anthony Rizzo in the two-hole.
According to Mark Gonzales, the Cubs believe Kyle Schwarber “can develop into a dependable catcher.” And Gonzales confirmed the Cubs are talking about him catching Kyle Hendricks this season. Schwarber catching once every five days would give playing time to Jorge Soler in left field and help keep Miguel Montero fresh. Gonzales explained Maddon “hasn’t committed to having Schwarber catch Hendricks exclusively because he wasn’t to keep left-handed hitting Miguel Montero sharp.”
The front office has given Maddon plenty of options. Now it’s up to the Cubs’ skipper to find the right fit that produces wins.
News and Notes
• Jake Arrieta talked about playoff experience and expectations … click here for the video.
• According to the Tribune, the Cubs “are expected to reach terms with all of their remaining unsigned players by Tuesday.”
• Rick Sutcliffe really liked what he saw from Ryan Williams on Sunday. Sutcliffe called Williams a “strike-throwing-groundball machine” and understands now why he was the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
• Click here for a photo of the Cubs Spring Training coaching staff.
• Joe Maddon’s ‘Embrace the Target’ theme hits bull’s eye in opening speech according to Paul Sullivan.
• ESPN Chicago reported that Miguel Montero is hoping for more consistency in year two with the Cubs.
• Joe Maddon thinks the sky’s the limit for Kris Bryant according to a report from Carrie Muskat.
• Comcast SportsNet took a look at the Cubs’ newest pitcher, RHP Aaron Brooks.
• Javier Baez worked with the outfielders Sunday at Sloan Park.
• Bruce Levine asked if Joe Maddon can be a better leader.
• RHP Rafael Soriano signed a minor league contract with the Blue Jays that includes a non-roster invite to Spring Training. Soriano will receive $750,000 if he’s on the Jays roster according to Jon Heyman. Soriano did not have anything left when he pitched for the Cubs last season. Soriano was 2-0 in six appearances with a 6.35 ERA, 1.58 WHIP and 6.84 FIP.
• Tony Clark, the executive director of the MLBPA, is unhappy with the media after the Dexter Fowler snafu according to a report from Hardball Talk. Clark would “like to reduce the media’s access to the clubhouse when the next collective bargaining agreement is negotiated.”
• David Schoenfield asked where have all the big-hitting first basemen gone.
And last, but not least, Monday is photo day at Cubs camp.
This Day in Cubstory
1960 – Bill Long, born