Shapes of things before my eyes,
Just teach me to despise.
Will time make men more wise?
~ The Yardbirds
That song is running through my head as I write this – even though the shape of the Cubs 2010 roster, which is evolving as we speak, isn’t necessarily teaching me to despise. In fact, with one relatively minor annoyance, I’m mostly happy with what’s gone down thus far in spring training. And I’d like to use today’s “In the News” to build on Joe’s great post from yesterday about projecting the roster. So let’s get to the news*:
Now leading off for the Chicago Cubs…Ryan Theriot! Well, er, probably. Most of the reports I’ve read about this indicate it’s a done deal, though the linked-to ESPN article indicates Lou is “80% certain” about the decision. This is my minor annoyance. I just feel like, in Kosuke Fukudome, you have a guy with strong splits against right-handed pitchers in terms of OBP and P/PA (pitches seen per plate appearance) and who’s, therefore, perfectly suited to this role. I know, I know…he’s not fast, but he’s a smart baserunner with (based on my wholly subjective take) better instincts on the basepaths than Theriot. That said, I have no problem with Theriot batting leadoff against left-handed pitchers, where his splits are very strong. (Ryan has a career .360 wOBA [.813 OPS] vs. LHP.) Why not just platoon them, Lou? Anyway, I’m not going to freak out too much about this decision. It could change. (In a related story, Kosuke’s hitting coach from Japan is back on the scene.)
Mike Fontenot, scrappy as ever, has a leg up. (See the fourth paragraph of this linked-to Bruce Miles blogpost.) I’m referring to the second base position, of course. As Bruce mentions, this would free up Jeff Baker to be that oft-mentioned “super sub,” playing second, third and first base. I also read somewhere yesterday (can’t remember just where at the moment) that Baker will play some left field in spring training so Lou can get a look at him in the outfield. I know some Cubs fans will see this as bad news, but I’ve never completely given up on Mike Fontenot. He’s got a good skill set (compact swing, some power, good defense at second base), so he could rebound. I’m a little concerned about using him as a full-time player, but I’m guessing we’ll still see Baker at second base vs. left-handed pitchers and perhaps Andres Blanco (assuming he makes the team) there as well.
Ted Lilly is a father…oh, and he’s feeling better. Ted and his wife welcomed a son (his first child), Theodore Roosevelt Lilly IV, to the world on Sunday. Congratulations to the happy couple. From a health perspective, Ted seems to be doing well and getting close to making a spring training appearance. As Carrie Muskat mentions in the linked-to article, we still shouldn’t expect Ted to make his first start until mid-April or very early May.
Update: Bruce Levine posted the following on his live chat page today (Tuesday) regarding Ted Lilly – “According to Piniella, Lilly will throw against live hitters on Thursday when he returns to camp then do that again a few days later. That will be followed by a simulated game and then, according to Piniella, he will get what he assumes will be one start in a Cactus League game before spring training ends. After that, Piniella said he will probably need only three minor-league starts before making his way back to the 25-man roster.”
Turning to the bullpen… How is that shaping up? Well, nothing particularly earth-shaking to report. As Bruce Levine reveals in the linked-to article, Jeff Samardzija will throw a minor league intrasquad game tomorrow (Wednesday) to try and hold ground in the rotation battle. (Were I a betting man, I’d put money on the Shark winding up in the bullpen. But we’ll see.) And Jeff Gray, the right-hander acquired in the Aaron Miles/Jake Fox trade is finally expected to make an appearance later this week.
As I mentioned in the comments section of Joe’s post yesterday, I’m keeping an eye on RHP Thomas Diamond, who I saw pitch (on TV) in Vegas on Friday night. He’s a mountain of man who, if he can throw strikes, could be a intimidating presence in middle relief. And, of course, there’s still hot prospect Andrew Cashner, who seems to have trouble throwing strikes whenever I see him pitching. But he’s got tons o’ talent. Oh, and Ken Rosenthal reports a Cubs scout was on hand to watch potential trade-target Jason Frasor of the Toronto Blue Jays pitch (not very well) this week.
Update: There was some speculation about the Cubs going after veteran RHP John Smoltz for the bullpen or even a starting role. Ain’t gonna happen. Smoltz just accepted a job as an analyst on the TBS network. There’s some confusion on this, however, as baseball biz expert Maury Brown is insisting Smoltz is heading to MLB Network, not TBS.
Another, Smoltz-specific update: Maury Brown was nice enough to personally contact me and clarify that Smoltz will be working at both MLB Network (as an analyst) and TBS (commenting on Braves games). Thanks, Maury!
The first round of roster cuts hath occurred. And more could be on the way, according to a reported, uh, Sun-Times report. I, for one, am glad I got a chance to catch a fleeting glimpse of Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson, both of whom could play starring roles on the Cubs someday. As expected, last year’s Rule 5 guy, David Patton, was sent to Double A to work on his consistency and try to erase the memory of Albert Pujols hitting that massive grand slam off of him last season. (Sadly, if Patton never pitches in a major league game again, this is probably what I’ll always remember about him. Twas like a lamb led to slaughter, I tell you.)
Major League Baseball has formed a platonic relationship with Victoria’s Secret. That’s right, guys. You now have a valid reason to wander into a Victoria’s Secret location at the mall. (Lizzie, I await your commentary.) They’re selling baseball-themed women’s wear under the “PINK” label. In all seriousness, for some cutting remarks on the matter, check out this post by Twitter favorite Ari Bo Bari.
Previous day’s (Monday’s) game results: Cubs lose 5-2 to Rockies. And, in case you haven’t heard, their bus broke down on the way to the game and Kevin Millar was HILARIOUS. Big Z gave up a bunch of hits but only one run and claimed he felt great.
Current day’s (Tuesday’s) game preview: Cubs vs. Rangers, 3:05 CDT. Gave coverage will be broadcast on WGN radio (and, presumably, via mlb.com’s Gameday audio). Word is, we’ll get yet another dose of Carlos Silva. He’ll quite ironically square off against a young, mega-fireballer by the name of Neftali Feliz. Here’s the lineup via Carrie Muskat:
And here’s the Rangers lineup via Rangers beat reporter Jeff Wilson:
Julio Borbon CF
Elvis Andrus SS
David Murphy LF
Nelson Cruz RF
Chris Davis 1B
Matt Brown 3B
Taylor Teagarden C
Joaquin Arias 2B
Neftali Feliz RHP
C.J. Wilson and Pedro Strop will follow Feliz.