Archive for January, 2008

Saturday Morning Trivia & Did You Know

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

Trivia Question

I think this one will be an easy one. Extra points if you can nail the number of games as well.

Q: Who was the last Cub player to post a hitting streak of at least 30 games?

A: Click Here

Did You Know?

According to John Dewan’s Stat of the Week:

Chicago Cubs pitchers have led the National League in strikeouts for the last seven consecutive years. But they’ve never led the league in ERA during that strech. Striking out batters suggests more dominance on the part of pitchers, but it also leads to higher pitch counts because a strikeout simply requires more pitches. Also, strikeout pitchers are more prone to control problems.

Is it a good thing for a pitching staff to strike out a lot of batters?

Here is some evidence that suggests yes, it is a good thing.

Based on the 2007 season, pitching staffs that strike out more batters collectively have better ERAs:

  Avg. Team
Pitcher
Strikeouts
ERA
Top 10 1,159 4.39
Middle 10 1,071 4.42
Bottom 10 989 4.6

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week™, www.statoftheweek.com.”

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The 2008 Chicago Cubs Convention and Other Marketing Miracles

Friday, January 18th, 2008

On a Saturday afternoon twenty-three years ago, former team President John McDonough and Cubs Vice President of Marketing and Broadcasting Jay Bunk sat down to talk about ideas away from the office. Bunk was skeptical about a Cubs Convention because as Chicago baseball fans know there is nothing pleasant about downtown Chicago in the middle of winter with the first pitch being months away. McDonough thought differently, and the rest as they say, is history. The 23rd Annual Cubs Convention will be held this weekend at the Hilton Chicago.According to Cubs.com, proceeds from the Convention benefit Cubs Care. The 2007 Cubs Convention raised more than $300,000. To date, the Cubs Convention has raised nearly $4 million for Cubs Care. The convention is not the only McDonough marketing miracle, there are more. Let’s take a closer look.

Cubs Convention
Obviously this event provides fans an opportunity to mingle with current and former Cubs players, broadcasters and front office executives, although who really wants to mingle with front office executives? As big as the event has gotten, it is still a good time, and here is why. The Cubs record at the time of the convention is 0-0, and with that record comes hope. Could this year be it? Watching Jim and Lou under the microscope. There are NO questions off limits and usually the best and most honest questions are asked by the kids.

How about shaking D. Lee’s hand and looking up and up and up and up. Sitting next to Andre Dawson and being too scared to say a word, looking over at him and see him smiling at you. Having a beer with Jody Davis and Keith Moreland. Seeing the ’89 team, those rock stars. Don’t worry there is also useful Cub information too, the coach’s panel is always informative. Watching Kathy and Judy from WGN make the players blush, except of course, Mark Grace. Sitting in the same room with Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams and listening to their stories. I could go on and on, but you get the drift.

Attending a Cubs convention, simply put, is an experience.

Beanie Babies
This may be more than you ever wanted to know about beanie babies, but bear with me for a second. The first giveaway, Cubbie, was on May 18, 1997. The first 10,000 children at these games received Cubbie accompanied by a commemorative card noting the special event. Today, these first Cubs giveaways sell for $100+ on the auctions today.

The whole beanie baby idea from a business standpoint is smart. One or two games a year, the team will draw thousands of young fans they otherwise might not attract. Who knows, maybe the young boy or girl will fall in love with the game that day.

Oh, and did I mention “retired” beanie babies draw extra security at the ballpark? I think it is odd that baseball teams have had to hire extra security on beanie baby day, but I have seen the lines at the mall the day after Thanksgiving and the stories about body slams over Elmo dolls. It is serious business. I find it funny that dads want their beanie babies just as much as their children do and players have their own collection.

Here comes abhorrence from baseball purists. I know, I know, baseball should be about the game and that is it. Well, the Hall of Fame shouldn’t allow cheaters in either, but it is not a perfect world.

Guest Conductors
According to Vineline, the Cubs monthly publication, some of the most famous people in the world contact the Cubs to ask about being a “guest conductor” for the seventh-inning stretch. OK, I understand no one messes with tradition at Wrigley Field unless you are a) ready to spend big bucks or b) content with the fact you may be lynched by a mob of angry, drunk fans. Let’s be honest and take the guest conductor role for what it is – product selling and celebrity worship – which has what to do with baseball?

The official message is it is a way to honor the memory of Harry Caray. Yeah, I am sure Ozzie Osborne knows exactly who Harry Caray is. How about Jeff Gordon? He didn’t even know where he was, it is Wrigley Field, not Wrigley Stadium. Here is some advise Jeff, prepare a little. In my opinion, if you want to honor Harry Caray drink a Budweiser, now that he would respect. I know I have touched on this before, but I say let Ron do it. He would love to and is giddy with Cub love anyway. At the very least get people who care about the Cubs or baseball or at least Chicago. That way we can still poke fun at the Ditkas of the world.

Three very different marketing tactics, yet they are all tied to John McDonough and the Cubs tradition. Of course he had a little luck on his side too, namely Haray Caray, Wrigley Field and Wrigleyville. As successful he was for the Cubs, McDonough has said, “winning is the greatest marketing idea of all time.” I agree maybe the Cubs should try it.

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Random Dose of Oxymoronic Speech

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

In the federal hearings held the other day, Donald Fehr mentioned that as of right now, there is not a “reliable test” for detecting HGH usage in the players.

Then, he proceeded to brag about how the player’s union and the owners have stepped up their game by banning HGH.

Donald, if there is no test for HGH, essentially meaning no way to police the issue, is it really a big step to ban it? Come on man, get your head out of your butt.

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Cubs Sign Jon Lieber

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

From the Cubs Media Department:

CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs and right-handed pitcher Jon Lieber have agreed to terms on a one-year contract for the 2008 campaign. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jon back to the organization,” said Cubs Vice President/General Manager Jim Hendry. “Jon was an All-Star during his four outstanding seasons in Chicago, he has excelled throughout his career at Wrigley Field and has continued his success since his first stop with the Cubs.”

The most-recent Cub to win 20 games in a season, Lieber went 48-36 with a 4.03 ERA (371 ER/827.2 IP) in 121 starts for the Cubs from 1999-2002, including a 20-6 record with a 3.80 ERA (98 ER/232.1 IP) in 2001 en route to a spot on the National League All-Star team and a fourth-place finish in Cy Young voting. He has a career 29-18 record with a 3.62 ERA (191 ER/474.2 IP) in 70 appearances (67 starts) at Wrigley Field.

Lieber, 37, is 129-121 with two saves and a 4.28 ERA (1022 ER/2151.1 IP) in 375 major league appearances, including 321 starts, with the Pirates (1994-98), the Cubs (1999-2002), the Yankees (2004) and the Phillies (2005-07). He has four seasons with at least 200.0 innings, has averaged better than 6.1 innings per start in his career, and has 175 career quality starts, 53.1 percent of his outings.

The righthander has walked only 416 batters in 2,151.1 innings pitched, an average of just 1.74 bases on balls per nine innings. Lieber boasts the fourth-lowest walks per nine innings ratio (min. 1,500 IP) of any pitcher since 1994, the year of his big league debut, trailing only Greg Maddux (1.34), Brad Radke (1.63) and David Wells (1.67). He has walked two batters or fewer in 282 of his 326 major league starts (87 percent) while his 3.67-to-one strikeout to walk ratio ranks fifth among active pitchers.

Lieber has reached at least nine wins in eight of his last 11 seasons, including a 17-win campaign in 2005 with the Phillies when he matched his career high with 35 starts and eclipsed 200.0 innings for the fourth time (218.1). Lieber has missed time due to non-arm related injuries in each of the last two seasons. He made 27 starts in 2006 after missing six weeks with a strained left groin and last year missed the final three months of the campaign with an injured tendon in his right foot, necessitating surgery and ending his campaign on June 20 following 14 appearances, 12 as a starter.

Lieber has won 43 games with a 4.49 ERA in 103 outings since undergoing Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow on August 8, 2002, forcing him to miss the 2003 campaign. In his first season back, he helped the Yankees to an appearance in the 2004 American League Championship Series by going 14-8 with a 4.33 ERA in 27 starts, leading to a three-year contract with the Phillies prior to the 2005 season

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Who Needs Brian Roberts Anyway? We’ve Already Got Him!

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Let me preface this by saying that I would not be opposed to Brian Roberts coming aboard, but to think that without him, the Cubs can’t compete for the World Series is absurd. We don’t need Roberts. After all, we’ve already got him…sort of. I know you’re thinking that I’m off my rocker, but I believe our answer to Brian Roberts is not only in our system already, but also Major League ready. Who is this mystery player you ask? None other than Eric Patterson. Stop laughing and listen for a second.

Let’s break down the main tools Roberts brings to the table and compare them with what Patterson brings.

1. Speed
There is no question that Roberts has tremendous speed and, as a veteran, has earned the green light on the base paths. Last year, he stole 50 bases with a success rate of 88%. That is above the 75% rate recommended by sabermetricians for there to be any sort of benefit to the team as a whole. Those 50 SB’s were a career high for Roberts, so it’s not necessarily the norm. Looking at his career 162 game average of 37, a 40 SB year is about what you can expect. A quick look at Eric Patterson in the minor leagues over the past three years and you’ll find that he’s also put up good SB numbers. 24, 46, & 43 are his last three years totals. That’s an average of 38 a season, just a shade below Roberts totals. Remember, Roberts has more experience as well, so his learning has taken place.

2. Leadoff Hitting Ability
There is no arguing the fact that moving Alfonso Soriano out of the leadoff spot, which Roberts would do, would be great for the team. Roberts has a great ability to make pitchers work hard to get him out and has the ability to take a walk. In 2007, he posted an on base percentage of .376 in the leadoff spot and managed a very impressive 4.2 pitches seen per plate appearance. Those are the kind of numbers that have me salivating. However, let’s look at Patterson. Hitting primarily out of the leadoff spot for Iowa (AAA), Patterson posted an on base percentage of .362 and has a career Minor League on base percentage of .366.

3. Lefthanded Bat
Brian Roberts is a switch hitter and would provide another lefty bat for the lineup dominated by right handers. Eric Patterson is a lefty and would also provide the balance.

4. Versatility
Roberts can play both middle infield spots. Patterson plays second base as well as the OF, which he worked on last season.

5. PECOTA Projections
Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus has produced a stat projection system called PECOTA. Like any projection system, it has it’s flaws. After all, can we really predict the future? Of course not, but can we use prior performance to make fairly good educated guesses using lines of regression and other math? Of course. PECOTA does just that. It provides best case and worst case scenarios for a player, and I tend to gravitate toward the mean of those. Looking at Silver’s PECOTA projection for Patterson last year, since it’s the only one up right now, we see that Eric Patterson was ML ready last year and was projected for a fairly successful season. Let’s use those projections and call them his 2008 projections for the sake of argument. Here is how he compares with Brian Roberts actual 2007 numbers.

Name Avg OBP % Slug % HR 2b SB
Roberts (Actual) .290 .377 .432 12 42 50
Patterson (Projected) .286 .356 .476 14 31 32

Patterson projects for a little more pop in the bat, but less plate discipline. Both appear to be very similar to each other.

Conclusion
Bringing in Roberts is a great idea IF the Cubs do not have to mortgage the farm to get him. To get him by giving up both Sean Marshall and Sean Gallagher as well as perhaps Ronny Cedeno is too much. I’d rather take my chances with Patterson and save the prospects.

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Non-Roster Invitee List for Spring Training

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

In addition to the players on the current 40 man roster, the Cubs have invited the following players to compete for a job in Spring Training. If they make the team, a space will need to be made for them on the 40 man roster in some way. Here’s the list courtesy of the Cubs Media Relations Department:

Andres Blanco, 23, signed with the Cubs as a minor league free agent November 20, 2007, after spending his first seven seasons in Kansas City’s system. The switch-hitter played 78 big league games with the Royals from 2004-2006, batting .252 with 19 RBI. Blanco last year missed time due to hamstring strains in both legs, appearing in 28 games for Triple-A Omaha.

Ed Campusano, 25, was re-acquired by the Cubs October 10, 2007, after he missed last season recovering from left elbow surgery while with Detroit. Originally signed by the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent in July of 2001, he produced a 3.17 ERA (75 ER/213.0 IP) with 77 walks and 224 strikeouts in 109 minor league contests (19 starts) before Milwaukee selected him in the major league portion of the 2006 Rule 5 Draft and traded him to Detroit.

Esmailin Caridad, 22, was signed by the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent December 19, 2007. The six-foot, 195-pound righthander spent 2007 with the Hiroshima Carp. He was 1-2 with a 4.02 ERA (14 ER/31.1 IP) in 25 relief appearances for the Carp’s Dominican club and later appeared in two Central League contests.

Welington Castillo, 20, owns a .273 batting average in 168 minor league contests since he was signed by Chicago as a non-drafted free agent in December of 2004. Last season, the right-handed hitter batted .271 for Single-A Peoria, including a .323 average (31-for-96) off southpaws.

Jose Ceda, 20, enters his third season with the Cubs after being acquired from San Diego June 31, 2006 in exchange for Todd Walker and cash considerations. He held opponents hitless in his final 23.1 innings pitched (15 appearances) for Single-A Peoria in 2007. Between Mesa and Peoria last season, he posted a .099 batting average against (16-for-162).

JD Closser, 27, spent time in the majors with Colorado from 2004-2006, batting .239 with 10 home runs and 48 RBI in 160 contests. He began last season with Triple-A Nashville in Milwaukee’s system before he was traded to Oakland May 4. He completed the year at Triple-A Sacramento, hitting .238 with 11 homers and 45 RBI for the Rail Cats. The switch-hitter was originally selected by Arizona in the fifth round of the 1998 Draft.

Tyler Colvin, 22, has batted .288 with 27 home runs and 134 RBI in his first two minor league seasons, including a .299 mark between Single-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee last year. Chicago’s first round selection (13th overall) in the 2006 Draft, the left-handed batter was a Florida State League All-Star in 2007 and was a member of the gold-medal winning Team USA in the 2007 Baseball World Cup.

Josh Donaldson, 22, was named a Short-Season All-Star by Baseball America while his .460 on-base percentage between Mesa and Boise ranked third-best among all minor leaguers and his .590 slugging percentage ranked 13th. Originally selected by the Cubs in the second round of the 2007 Draft, he batted .346 (56-for-162) in 49 contests for Boise and led Northwest League catchers with a .990 fielding percentage.

Luis Figueroa, 33, batted .302 with 22 doubles and 53 RBI in 117 games for Triple-A Fresno last season while his one strikeout per 14.47 at-bats was the best in the Pacific Coast League. He is a .276 career minor league hitter and has seen major league action with Pittsburgh (2001), the New York Mets (2001), Toronto (2006) and San Francisco (2007), appearing in a total of 22 games.

Chad Fox, 37, signed with the Cubs as a minor-league free agent January 11, 2008 for his second stint with the organization. He made 11 relief appearances for the Cubs in 2005, his last active season, and converted one save with a 6.75 ERA (6 ER/ 8.0 IP). He is 10-11 with a 3.57 ERA in 214 relief appearances in all or part of eight major league seasons.

Koyie Hill, 29, batted .322 in 47 games with Triple-A Iowa last season and played in 36 contests for the Cubs from June 1-August 20, with the club going 17-8 (.680) in games he started behind the plate. A career .280 hitter in eight minor league seasons, the switch-hitter was originally drafted by the Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2000 Draft.

Micah Hoffpauir, 27, batted .319 with 16 home runs and 73 RBI in 82 games for Triple-A Iowa last season before an injured left knee in July sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Originally selected by the Cubs in the 13th round of the 2002 Draft, the left-handed hitter owns a .280 career minor league batting average with 122 doubles, 71 home runs and 377 RBI in 604 games.

Geoff Jones, 28, spent a majority of the 2007 season with Double-A Tennessee, going 4-2 with a 1.02 ERA (5 ER/44.1 IP) in 39 relief appearances en route to Southern League All-Star honors. Originally selected by San Diego in the 32nd round of the 1998 Draft, Jones has struck out 461 batters in 477.2 career innings, walking just 182.

Josh Kroeger, 25, combined to hit a career-high 21 home runs while batting .330 between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa last season, including a .382 mark (86-for-225) to begin the year with the Smokies. A career .283 minor league hitter with 85 homers and 471 RBI over 887 games, the left-handed hitter batted .167 in 22 games for the Diamondbacks in 2004.

Casey McGehee, 25, spent the majority of 2007 with Double-A Tennessee, hitting .273 with nine home runs and 54 RBI in 105 games. Originally selected by the Cubs in the 10th round of the 2003 Draft, the right-handed hitter has averaged 27 doubles in his first five minor league seasons.

Bobby Scales, 30, signed with the Cubs as a minor league free agent December 7, 2007 after batting a career-best .294 with 28 doubles, 11 home runs and 57 RBI in 122 games for Boston’s Triple-A Pawtucket affiliate last season. Selected in the 14th round of the 1999 Draft by the Padres, the switch-hitter owns a .280 career minor league batting average in 871 contests with the San Diego (1999-2005), Philadelphia (2006) and Boston (2007) farm systems.

Mike Smith, 30, spent the 2007 campaign with Triple-A Memphis in St. Louis’ farm system and finished second in the Pacific Coast League with 127 strikeouts in 159.2 innings of work. Signed by the Cubs as a minor league free agent November 20, 2007, he has appeared in the majors with Toronto (2002) and Minnesota (2006), pitching in 15 games (seven starts). Smith was originally selected by Toronto in the fifth round of the 2000 Draft.

Andres Torres, 29, signed with Chicago as a minor league free agent November 20, 2007 after batting .292 between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo in Detroit’s farm system last season. The right-handed batter has appeared in 89 major league contests with Detroit (2002-2004) and Texas (2005), combining to bat .210 with 13 RBI. Torres was originally selected by the Tigers in the fourth round of the 1998 Draft.

Les Walrond, 31, went 11-5 with a 4.77 ERA (73 ER/137.2 IP) in 27 games (24 starts) for Triple-A Iowa last season. This marks his third straight invite to Chicago’s major league camp after the organization signed him as a minor league free agent January 11, 2006. His most recent major league action came with the Cubs in 2006 when he appeared in 10 games (two starts). He also logged big league time with Kansas City in 2003 (seven relief outings).

Also, don’t forget to scroll down a little more and leave us your meaningless achievement story.

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Completely Meaningless Achievements

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

I’m stealing a segment from Boers and Bernstein on the Score. Every once in awhile they do a segment called “Mundain Sports Achievements”. In the segment, listeners call in with their stories of dumb things they’ve achieved that are their claim to fame. For example, one called called in and talked about how he was talking trash in darts and stepped up and threw a bullseye. When challenged that he couldn’t do it again if his life depended on it, he promptly tossed a second bullseye.

The stories do not have to be sports related. The simple goal of this is to have some fun. What are your achievements that mean nothing to most, but are important to you. I’ll start with two of mine.

  • I’ve beaten Mike Tyson three times in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.
  • In all my life, which is soon to be totaling 30 years, I’ve never had a bloody nose of any kind.
  • I had my 7+ year non-puking streak broken about a year ago.
  • When I was in my freshman year at Moody Bible Institute, which was incidentally my only year, I was on a dinner trip to Planet Hollywood. I headed to the bathroom and proceeded to urinate next to former NBC sports anchor, Jon Kelly

So there you have it. The challenge has been issued of you. Fill this comment thread with your meaningless achievements.

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Can I start 2008 over?

Monday, January 14th, 2008

In the past two weeks, I’ve had quite a rocky start to 2008. On Christmas day, I noticed the ceiling in the kitchen had some tape joints popping. I thought nothing of it, as our unit is 12 years old. The last couple that lived there couldn’t tell the difference between a hammer and a spoon, and we’re pretty sure the crew that built our building was half in the bag when they put up the walls. To make a long story short, the past two weeks have seen my humidifier release it’s anger on my kitchen ceiling by unloading an ungodly amount of water, which required me to tear two large holes into it in order for it to air out. The hot water heater had to be drained and removed to get put back in with correct plumbing, and while playing basketball (my baseball offseason weekly workout), I pulled my groin. When I say pull, I mean pulled it so bad that I have lower abdominal pain through certain movements. Most likely diagnosis, a sports hernia.

Great googly moogly, what is going on here? I don’t typically believe in bad luck, or curses, but there’s something strange a foot.

My 2008 has started with a bang…..or pull…..or a splash, whichever way you want to look at it. Something I can say the Cubs have not done much of. Well, maybe they have. The splash was the signing of Fukudome. The pull, perhaps thinking Marquis, Dempster, Marshall or Gallagher can compete for the bottom half of the rotation. The bang, losing marketing man John McDonough to the Blackhawks. I’m still waiting for that other big splash of bang, or pull (I’m looking at you Kerry “hot tub hot-stepper” Wood), before everyone reports to Spring Training.

Obviously, the big rumor right now is the possible deal for Brian Roberts. As many of you know, I’m for winning the World Series now. The Cubs are sitting on 100 years of futility that can’t be matched, nor will it probably ever be again, and I can’t take it much more. What’s sad, is that I’ve only had to endure it for almost 33 years, I shutter to think about the fans that have seen this going on for so much longer. So to this I say, send them who they want, to certain degree. Get these north sider supporters their championship, and be done with it. Marshall? Sure why not. Gallagher? What the hey! Cedeno? If their is a god, please do. It wouldn’t exactly be opening the coffers to get one guy that can finally set the table at the top of the order. Wait……wasn’t Soriano supposed to do that? D’oh!

The other big news, Roger Clemens and his continual insistence that he’s innocent, and has never taken steroids, or otherwise. Is it me, or is it slightly creepy that he decided he needed to record (legal in Texas) a conversation with his accuser a few short weeks after the allegations? To me, it screams “I’m desperate because I know no one believes me.” You’re right Roger, I don’t believe you. Who the heck injects vitamin B into themselves? I don’t know about everyone else here, but one Centrum does the job just fine for me. I don’t usually let someone inject anything into me without my knowledge of what it is. Although, Mr. Bonds has plead the same case, so either these guys are either complete idiots, or just have entirely too much faith in their training staff.

I used to enjoy Rick Telander, but as I read somewhere else this past week (and I forget where), these Chicago sports writers make my head spin. I believe that a trained circus chimp could put together a better thought some days. To not vote on the Hall of Fame ballot is a slap in the face to the players on it. To not vote because of what these over grown ego, money grubbing players of today are doing, is absurd. One look at Andre Dawson’s legs, and you knew that man never touched the juice. Chicken legs, boys. Chicken legs. Mr. Telander, hand in your voter card. It’s time for someone that gives a damn about the game to vote.

At least I know one thing. I’ve got a hot water heater that’s now in working order, a overflow pan that’s sealed properly, and a humidifier that is clogless. There’s still a huge hole in my kitchen ceiling, but hopefully it gets filled in just like the rest of the fill in the blanks for this year.

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Cedeno an Outfielder?

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

I guess it could be worse:

The Cubs may have a surprise outfield candidate in Ronny Cedeno.

Cedeno played about a dozen games in the outfield in the Venezuelan Winter League this winter and all reports were that he did well.

“We tried it as an experiment,” Cubs player development director Oneri Fleita said. “He was out there during batting practice [during the regular season], and it looked like it would be an easy adjustment. The reports came back that he looked like a natural.”

Cedeno has only played shortstop, second and a few games at third for the Cubs. He could challenge Ryan Theriot for playing time at short, and also could win a job as a utility player. In Venezuela this winter, he batted .300 with three homers and 16 RBIs in 55 games for Aragua.

Cubs.com – 1/11/2007

I truly believe Cedeno will make this team out of Spring Training due to the fact that he’s out of minor league options. Having him take work in the spring in the outfield just makes me him more valuable and worth keeping on the roster. If he can come in as not only a middle infield sub, but also a replacement in the outfield as well, he’s a must have on the roster simply because of flexibility. We’ll have to keep an eye on this one.

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