Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock.
The wait is almost over for Chicago Cubs baseball. If your glass is half-full, then you're probably very optimistic about this season.
On the other hand, you might not be so rosy about this Cubs squad and might not think too much of 2010.
Either way, the 25-man roster has been finalized, and manager Lou Piniella will head out to the dugout for his fourth season on the north side.
This squad is likely his least talented in his four seasons, but anything can happen in the game of baseball.
Cubs fans whose glass is half-empty will be hoping this statement is true.
Here are the 25 Cubs who will comprise the 2010 opening day roster.
Geovany Soto, Catcher:
If Geo can return to his 2008 form, I'll be using the song "Creep" by Stone Temple Pilots as the background music for an end-of-the-year montage. The song sums up Geo's new physique with its "half the man I used to be" refrain, and, indeed, Soto looks like someone cut him in half. He showed up to camp some 40 pounds lighter—he'll need to drive in about 40 more runs this season for the Cubs to compete.
Derrek Lee, First Baseman:
We shouldn't expect a repeat of last year's gaudy numbers (.306 BA, 35 HR, 111 RBI), but anything around a .300 average, 25 home runs, and 90 runs batted in should suffice. Lee is one of the most consistent bats in the National League.
Mike Fontenot, Second Baseman:
Hitting .358 in spring training is nice, but Fontenot was a huge disappointment last year for the Cubs. All but given a starting second base job after the trade of Mark DeRosa, Fontenot hit just .236 with no sign of his promising power. He is a Cub on the hot seat in 2010, especially with Jeff Baker in the fold now.
Ryan Theriot, Shortstop:
Hopefully the awkward arbitration issue is behind Theriot—who lost his appeal for a bigger paycheck in 2010—because the Cubs will need him to get on base for Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Marlon Byrd.
Aramis Ramirez, Third Baseman:
The most important bat in Wrigleyville, Ramirez needs to be on the field for 150 games and provide the big bat that was missing last year for the Cubs. Always prone to injuries, Ramirez's star is fading among the elite third basemen at his position. 2010 marks a huge season for Ramirez.
Alfonso Soriano, Left Field:
Are you still here? Five more years? You make how much?
Marlon Byrd, Center Field:
The best part about Byrd is he's not Milton Bradley. If Byrd can provide solid defense—which he should—and hit .270 with 12-15 home runs and a handful of RBI, I'll be all smiles. Reunited with former hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo should help him—and several other Cubs, too.
Kosuke Fukudome, Right Field:
A return to his natural right field position will likely help Fukudome, but no one can tolerate his career .246 batting average in the second half, or his minuscule .381 slugging percentage after the mid-summer classic. With Tyler Colvin on the scene, Fukudome just might be seeing less and less at-bats as the season wears on.
Koyie Hill, Catcher:
A backup catcher won't get much praise, and Hill won't get much from me here either.
Chad Tracy, First Base/Outfield:
Tracy earned the final bench spot on the 25-man roster Tuesday, but he hasn't exactly been Mr. Durable over his last three seasons (he's failed to amass 300 at-bats in each of them). He'll likely do little, if anything, for the Cubs in 2010.
Jeff Baker, Second Baseman:
Already breathing down the neck of Mike Fontenot for more at-bats, Baker can take over the job full-time if he can repeat his numbers from the second half of last season, in which he hit .312 with a .460 slugging percentage. He'll also spell Aramis Ramirez at third from time to time.
Tyler Colvin, Outfield:
After hitting a robust .457 this spring, it was impossible for the Cubs' brass to turn away Colvin from making the opening day roster. But with nearly $200 million already on the books by the Cubs' starting outfield, it's anyone's guess as to how many at-bats Colvin can get this season.
Xavier Nady, Outfield:
Nady will be watched closely for the first few months as he works his way back from another Tommy John surgery. This is a former 20-homer slugger, so anything even close to those numbers will be icing on the cake for Lou Piniella—if he gets the at-bats of course.
Carlos Zambrano, Starting Pitcher:
Another Cub who is noticeably slimmer, Zambrano has said all the right things so far, but we've been down this road before with Big Z. Will he ever reach his potential and win 20 games? Now might be as good a year as any to reach that lofty goal.
Ryan Dempster, Starting Pitcher:
As solid as they come, Dempster is as valuable to this team's pitching staff as anyone in the National League Central. He'll be counted on heavily in the month of April as Ted Lilly works his way back to form.
Randy Wells, Starting Pitcher:
Using the glass half-full/empty approach, you'll likely come across different opinions of Randy Wells in 2010. I'm not sold on him as a No. 3 starter, but you could do a lot worse.
Carlos Silva, Starting Pitcher:
Speaking of "doing a lot worse," here's Carlos Silva. One of the worst pitchers in North America the past two seasons, Silva has a clean slate in Chicago—whether or not that's a good thing is yet to be determined.
Tom Gorzelanny, Starting Pitcher:
What's goofier: his last name, or his presence in the Cubs' starting rotation? If you answered "both," you're right.
Carlos Marmol, Closer:
Marmol was his own worst enemy last season, walking everybody and their brother, but a relief pitcher who can strike out 100 batters (as Marmol nearly did last season) makes for an intriguing closer. But, Carlos, please tone down those walks...
John Grabow, Relief Pitcher:
Sporting a 3.36 ERA, Grabow was a very nice arm last season. He has a nice track record, but this bullpen is dangerously thin if he's your second-best option.
Justin Berg, Relief Pitcher:
Not much to write about at this time with Berg. However, I like his 2.43 ERA at AAA Iowa last season.
Esmailin Caridad, Relief Pitcher:
He has a very electric arm, but we don't know enough about him just yet. 17 K's in 19 innings last season is impressive though.
James Russell, Relief Pitcher:
Sean Marshall, Relief Pitcher:
I still feel he's better suited to start (especially with Grabow established as the top lefty option), but I love Marshall's stuff and his attitude can't be beat. A lot of teams would love to have a versatile lefty like this on their team.
Jeff Samardzija, Relief Pitcher:
I still maintain my belief that if Samardzija never played for Notre Dame, we wouldn't know (or care) about him; so far I've been right in my assertion. The 7.53 ERA last season is startling, but how about the fact that he couldn't win a starter's job against the likes of Carlos Silva and Tom Gorzelanny? What does that tell you? Samardzija had better grow up and produce quickly.
For better or worse, there is your 2010 Cubs team (with the notable exception of Ted Lilly, hopeful to return to the rotation by late-April).
As with most teams, there are too many questions and not enough answers, but we won't know anything until the first pitch is thrown.
I'm ready for baseball.
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