Chicago Cubs Spring Training Update, Injury Report, and Bullpen Search.
Angel Guzman is going to sit out practice for a little while, due to a sore shoulder, he has yet to throw off the mound. He had knee surgery earlier this winter, and the Cubs are hoping he will be ready by opening day.
Ted Lilly was back to work on friday after missing a couple of days with the flu, he had shoulder surgery earlier this winter, and is expected to miss atleast the first month of the season. Lily also had some pain in his knee, an MRI showed no significant damage,just normal wear and tear. The cubs have adjusted his workout, they are having him run less, and ride the excersise bike more to relieve any unneeded stress on the knee.
Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker are competing for the starting job at second base, according to Lou Pinella the man with the best offensive spring will win the job. Fontenot will also get some time at shortstop this spring to see if he can be a viable backup for Ryan Theriot, and give him a rest every now and then. If Theriot were to get hurt the cubs would call up Starlin Castro and give him the job.
Andres Blanco is a natural SS, but has yet to impress at the plate. He is also out of options, so if he doesn't make the team he would be released. According to Bruce Levine Fontenot has until March 12th or 15th to prove he can play shortstop, otherwise Blanco is the top option. Pinella is hoping that Fontenot can assume the role so the cubs can free up a roster spot to carry another bat off the bench. Brad Snyder, Kevin Millar, Chad Tracy, Bryan LaHair, and Micah Hoffpauir are competing for that spot. Starlin Castro will likely start the year off at double, or triple A to get some more seasoning.
With the injury concerns of Guzman the Cubs search for a right handed veteran reliever might intensify. Levine mentioned Luke Gregersen, Jeff Frasor, and Heath Bell are options for the Cubs to trade for. Heath Bell's salary, and the Cubs lack of funds make him an unlikely candidate, but the Cubs have shown interest in all three.
According to Paul Sullivan, Larry Rothschild had this to say about Jeff Samardijza.
"He said the first couple of years that Samardzija's been here, he looked like a football player that was pitching, (and) this year he looks like a baseball player that played football," Piniella said. "That's a big transformation, and a really profound statement as far as I'm concerned.'' (Lou Pinella refering to Rothschild statement)
"Making those adjustments and really stepping forward, looking like a major league pitcher... He's got natural talent, it's just a question of refining it. Look, we're going to let this guy pitch, and around the 20th of March we'll see exactly where he's at."
Samardijza will be competing for a spot in the rotation with Carlos Silva, Mike Parisi, Sean Marshall, at Tom Gorzellany.
Esmailin Caridad is a lock for a spot in the bullpen, and a candidate for the setup roll. Carrie Muskat quoted Lou Pinella saying this. "He's on the team," Piniella said. "He's almost got to pitch himself off it. I don't think he will. I like this young man. He competes, he's got a good arm, he can pitch a lot. He handled himself here quite well the last two months of the season."
Geovanny Soto lost 40 pounds, in the off-season and has been working with Rudy Jarramillo a lot the Cubs hitting coach. Soto had a disappointing sophmore season, he was extremely unlucky in terms of his BABIP ( batting average for balls in play) at .246. With the weight loss, so far there hasn't been a drop in power at least in batting practice. In fact his bat speed has increased. Soto is hoping to turn things around this year.
Carlos Zambrano lost some weight as well, about 15 pounds, he is also dropping his cut fastball, it has caused him a lot of problems, in terms of control. He will use his fastball, split-finger fastball, and his sinker. Zambrano had a better ERA last year than his previous two years, but in terms of wins, innings pitched, durability, and the ability to go deep into games, it was Zambrano's worst year yet. On Dave Kaplan's Sports Central Hendry said Maddux will have a positive impact on Zambrano noting his best years were when Maddux was his teammate. Carlos hopes to turn things around as well.
The Cubs have two bench spots available, with 8 or 9 guys competing for those spots, Sam Fuld, Andres Blanco, Kevin Millar, Chad Tracy, Micah Hoffpauir, Brad Snyder, Bobby Scales and Bryan LaHair. Then their is the starting rotation competition, the bullpen competition, second base and spots on the 40 man roster. The competitions should make for a very interesting spring.
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