OK, I’ll be honest, do the catchers and pitchers report Wednesday? Or is it Tuesday, or Thursday? Maybe Friday? I’m so excited about the fact that baseball is just around the corner, I can’t even remember. Whatever day it is, it can’t come soon enough. This fall and winter have been absolutely brutal for Chicago sports fans. The Bears? Yikes. The Blackhawks? Um, yeah, who are they? The Wolves? Even they aren’t up to their perennial winning ways. The Bulls? Don’t ask. There just isn’t much to keep the Chicago fan occupied during these frigid months.
With the pitching staff reporting, along with their backstop mates, the ball is rolling. All of the changes, although there really aren’t that many, bring on a slightly spiffied up Cubs roster. Here are five things I’m looking at for Spring Training.
- Centerfield. Does the job finally fall into Felix Pie’s hands, or are we going to see Fukudome in center, with Murton hanging around in Right Field? Felix is capable defensively, but can he get his bat going? Do the Cubs really need a high powered bat, with all the other bats in the lineup?
- Shortstop. Which weak shortstop on the roster takes the everday spot? Does Theriot retain his spot with his fan friendly “scrappy” play, or does the incredibly dunderheaded Cedeno take it back? I guess I’d rather see Theriot, but only because he’s the lessor of the two evils. Cedeno makes my skin crawl.
- Second Base. Does Jim Hendry get his man, in Brian Roberts, or doe we get to see Mark DeRosa keep his spot? Mark’s been grumbling about the possibility of being moved to a super sub position, and I agree. No need to change this spot. Mark is fine by me, and like my love for Todd Walker, I think there’s no real need for a change. What can I say? I love white second basemen with five o’clock shadows.
- The Closer. Who takes it? Marmol, Howry, Wood, or Dempster? As I continuely pointed out last season, I think Dempster’s fine. Yes, he gives up runs when the Cubs are up three, but when the game is on the line, he succeeded more often than most of you give him credit for. I like the Howry, Marmol, set up going into the ninth, and I don’t want to see that messed up. To be honest, I’m not comfortable with Wood just yet. I need to see him pitch back to back days, more than a few times to give him the nod. Keep Dempster as the closer, and see how things shake out.
- The back half of the rotation. Looks like a ton of mediocrity. Not just from what we already had, but Hendry’s desire to sign Jon Lieber. Good gosh, there’s no one that frightens me after our number two spot. I’m hoping, dreaming, what have you, that the likes of Rich Hill, or Sean Marshall really turn the corner and at least make that back half of the rotation a bit more scary to deal with. Heck, maybe even have Marquis give a full year of half decent pitching, not one good half, and one waful one. That’s not to take anything away from them, as Joe has shown, this is a formibible rotation.
In short order, The year of 100 will be upon us. How it will shake out, I can’t tell you, but I do have better feelings about this year, than last. Although I felt the same way going into Dusty’s second year, so who knows.
What are your five things to look at for Spring Training? With the Cubs, or with other clubs.