The Cubs have completed 12 games thus far in spring training, and through those games, they are 8-4. This does not mean much, but it does mean that they have been getting good performances from a lot of players so far.
Here are the important stories so far in spring training.
Ted Lilly’s Road to Recovery
Lilly was expected to miss the beginning of the season, but according to skipper Lou Piniella, Lilly’s progress is ahead of schedule and he could even see some time in the Cactus League.
“We want to keep him under the radar gun and not talk much about it. He’s coming along really well. He’s had no setbacks whatsoever," said manager Lou Piniella. "He’s actually ahead of schedule. We feel pretty good about the possibility of him pitching some Spring Training [games].”
This could be big for the Cubs, who are having a tough time finding a fifth starter for when Lilly is healthy, let alone adding a hunt for another starter. I do not want to jinx anything, but if Lilly comes back strong without missing too many starts, the Cubs could be looking at a strong start with a pretty weak schedule the first month or so.
Carlos Silva Eyes a Roster Spot
Silva came to the Cubs solely to get rid of Milton Bradley, but Jim Hendry would really like to show that he got some value for the departed clubhouse cancer. Silva has been doing the best to prove Hendry right.
After a horrible first performance this spring, letting up six runs in just two innings of work, Silva showcased his new delivery in a much better second outing. He threw three scoreless innings and only walked one batter.
Silva has had bloated ERAs in almost every season that he has pitched. His ERA has been over 4.00 in all but two of his eight seasons. Even with the high career ERA, he is still making a little over $12 million this season and getting a little value for all that cash would not be a bad thing.
Kevin Millar’s Leaving It All on the Field
The Cubs are stacked at first base, with Derek Lee and Micah Hoffpauir likely to be the two first basemen on the roster. Chad Tracy is also trying for a spot, but Kevin Millar is doing his best to change Piniella’s mind and get himself on the Cubs roster for the season.
At 38-years-old, Millar is not exactly a spring chicken. But he has had a pretty effective spring thus far. He is batting .385, and on Tuesday against the Angels, he went 2-2 with a home run, a double, and three RBI as he makes his push for a roster spot.
Millar helped the Red Sox break their curse back in 2004 (possibly the only clean one), and if he can be a significant part of the Cubs breaking their drought (although the Red Sox drought was nothing compared to the Cubs’) he will have his place in baseball folklore cemented.
Starlin Castro Impressing
This 19-year-old prospected has been highly touted around the Cubs, and he has been showing why this spring. He is hitting near .500 and has four RBI so far this spring, and he has been showing Cubs players like Mike Fontenot that they should not rest on their starting spot.
He has made believer a believer out of Aramis Ramirez who spoke about the young player and whether or not he thought he could make it in the majors this season.
“Because he’s 19, that doesn’t mean he can’t perform. But at the same time, he’s still a young kid and can get better at the Minors and come up and be a great player. I don’t think [age] is an issue,” said Ramirez of Castro.
Although Castro has been crushing the ball, he does need to work on his plate discipline. He has only walked once so far this spring.
These are just a few of the stories that have peppered the Cubs’ spring training so far, and with 21 games to go, there will is plenty of time for these stories to play out.
I’m Joe W.