What’s up, Cubs fans? Are you ready to rock?! Well, then move along because I have no rock ‘n roll for you. What I do have is a smattering of baseball news as a fairly interesting spring training continues to roll along. Naturally, unavoidably, tragically, the big story of the last day or so is Milton Bradley’s ESPN interview. And I’ll provide some follow-up on that, but conscience prevents me from making it the lead story. At this point, I’d recommend Cubs fans either enjoy the Milton spectacle as theater or simply avoid it entirely. Anyway, here are some other stories* to peruse:

Xavier Nady may not be full strength until June. X may be generally regarded as a bench player, but I think he’s a pretty important part of the 2010 team. By platooning in right field with Kosuke and perhaps giving Soriano some regular rest in left field, he could see a lot of playing time and his bat is one to be feared – especially at Wrigley Field, where he’s hit pretty well.

Problem is, it’s looking like he either may not be ready to play the field until a month or two into the season OR he could be a defensive liability (in the throwing department) if he is out there. Is his bat worth the risk of putting a guy in right field who can’t really throw to the plate (or maybe even third base)? I think so – assuming he doesn’t try to push his arm too early and blow it out again. Otherwise, Marlon Byrd could play right field against left-handed pitching and Lou could go with Sam Fuld in centerfield to shore up the defense. As with most things Cubs, I urge against panic.

Milton seems as surly about his interview as the rest of us. After reiterating and expanding somewhat on his charges of rampant racism at Wrigley Field, Milton was back to giving the media the ol’ stiff-arm after yesterday’s Mariners game (in which he was hit by a pitch, amusingly enough). And so goes Milton’s now-familiar love-hate/on-off/emote-shutdown approach to life. What more can be said about this? Milton Bradley is a talented baseball player who can’t seem to comfortably exist in any clubhouse outside of Texas. A few people in the Cubs blogosphere have suggested Jim Hendry shouldn’t have fired back, but I’m glad he did. Milton made incendiary remarks to a national media outlet, and those remarks demanded a response. As long as Hendry doesn’t spend the rest of the month or even week talking about Bradley, all is well.

I don’t know what, if any, truth exists in Milton’s remarks. If he was receiving hate letters, why didn’t he stop reading his mail? Or ask an intern or his agent or someone to vet his mail before it got to him? At the end of the day, the interview told me two things:

  1. There really was a huge communication gap between Bradley and the Cubs. Some fault for that probably lies on both sides but, quite frankly, Milton doesn’t seem like an easy person to communicate with – even though he is very well-spoken and seems quite intelligent. (Unfortunately, intelligence often doesn’t equal behavioral stability.) In fact, his soft-spoken intensity is probably what seduced Hendry into signing him in the first place. (And his left-handed bat and +1 OPS in 2008, of course.)
  2. The idea that Milton could ever return to the Cubs, which a few fans did champion, was utterly ridiculous. Hey, I love stats as much as the next guy, and I could see the cold logic in their arguments, but let me reiterate the position I settled on months ago: This was an employment dispute that could only be resolved by moving said employee to another organization. I have to admit, there were moments this off-season when it appeared Tampa Bay was the only taker for Milton Bradley, and the Rays cut-throat financial demands were going to make a deal highly untenable for the Cubs. Fortunately, Jim Hendry found a way around that problem (thank you, Seattle!). Carlos Silva may be a bitter – and big – pill to swallow, but at least he can be buried in the ‘pen.

OK, enough about Milton. Again, there’s no denying he makes for some great theater, but let’s move on.

The Cubs lost 5-1 to Giants yesterday. In case you missed the game, well, you didn’t miss much. Big Z got the start and was fine for the first two innings, but fell apart in the third – eventually giving up a granny to his ol’ friend Kung Fu Panda. And the two really are friends – check out this great story. They are kindred spirits, don’tcha think? Or don’tcha.

The good news from yesterday’s game is none of the SIX pitchers who took the mound after Carlos surrendered a run. That list includes John “Ol’ Man River” Grabow, Mike “Rule 5″ Parisi, Andrew “Cash Money” Cashner, Thomas “Needs No Nickname ‘Cuz His Last Name Is So Cool” Diamond, John “LOOGY of the Future” Gaub and Justin “Case We Need Another Reliever” Berg.

Want to read a 2010 Cubs preview that doesn’t leave you wanting to throw yourself in front of fast-moving vehicle? Then check out this pithy Sporting News piece. Unlike pretty much all of the pre-season stat projections, it will leave you feeling at least a little sunny inside. Naturally, the author doesn’t  pick the Cubs to win the division, but he has them solidly in second place and in the thick of the wild card hunt. I’ll take it.

Today’s game: Cubs vs. Padres, 2:05 CST. It appears mlb.com will offer the Padres audio feed – so you’ve got that to look forward to. And here’s what else I know so far via my Twitter sources: Innings-eater Jon Garland  will start for the Padres, with closer Heath Bell, set-up guy (and potential Cubs trade target) Luke Gregerson following. A couple dudes named Perdomo and Stauffer, respectively, will follow. And here’s the Pad’s lineup:

Cabrera

Eckstein (← ooh, scrappy!)

Headley

Hairston (← which one?)

Venable

Stairs (← pound his ass!)

Torrealba

Durango

Garland

As far as the Cubs go, Carlos Silva will be getting another start. So you’ve got that to look forward to as well. The press notes tell me that Caridad, Marmol, Mathes, Perkins and Stevens will also pitch. Here’s the lineup:

Fuld CF

Castro SS

Colvin RF

Millar 1B

LaHair LF

Fontenot 2B

Tracy 3B

Chirinos C

Silva RHP

An interesting mish-mash of mostly youngsters with a few oldsters sprinkled in.

*Reddish phrases are hyperlinks. Check back for updates. Go Cubs!

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Update: Carrie Muskat gives us a handy-dandy injury update here. She chimes in a bit more on Nady and tells us Blanco is coming along fine.

Update: Muskat continues her hot hitting, giving us this summary of today’s “State of the Union” address by Cubs President Crane Kenney. Check it out for some great info on the prospective spring training site, the all-important Triangle Building and team payroll.

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