Chicago Cubs: Cubs' Spring Training News Roundup
Lost among the soap opera that is the Los Angeles Lakers, the Blackhawks’ historic point streak and Gareth Bale continuing to take the footballing world by storm, is news from MLB Spring Training.
But any baseball news that could be reported out of Cubs camp has been buried beneath Teixeira’s wrist, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's version of Murderer’s Row and the updates of Stephen Strasburg’s elbow, which are so frequent that it should have its own Twitter account.
Here are a few stories you may, or may not, have missed.
5. Injury Bug Bites
Maybe it is a good thing Anthony Rizzo is training with the Italian national team for the World Baseball Classic. Otherwise he could fall victim to the proverbial injury bug that is spreading around the team like a virus.
Matt Garza, Starlin Castro, Josh Vitters, Brent Lillibridge and Ian Stewart have all suffered injuries in camp.
Luckily for the Cubs, the injuries appear to be slight, except in the case of Matt Garza.
Brent Lillibridge’s groin injury does not look like it will hamper his chances at making the 25-man roster.
But for Josh Vitters and Ian Stewart—both with quad injuries and both battling for third base with Luis Valbuena—injuries could cost them spots on the Opening Day roster.
4. Brett Jackson’s Offseason Work on His Swing Shows Mixed Results
After being called up last August Brett Jackson showed flashes of being ready for the big time. However, he also showed how outclassed he was by MLB pitching.
Everyone remembers Brett Jackson in center field darting to his right, tracking down a long fly ball hit by Andrew McCutchen, then sacrificing himself by leaping to make the catch and crashing face first—while still in the air—into the fencing in front of the Cubs’ and Pirates’ bullpens.
That play alone cemented Jackson into Cubs lore alongside the “Homer in the Gloamin’” and the black cat in 1969.
His defensive capabilities have never been in question, nor has his ability to get on base—earning 22 walks in 142 total MLB plate appearances last season. But his ability to make contact—highlighted by him striking out 59 times in 120 official AB with Chicago—was his most glaring fault.
So this offseason Brett Jackson met up with manager Dale Sveum, hitting coach James Rowson and assistant hitting coach Rob Deer to work on his swing. And by all accounts, the work has paid off.
“Jackson hit two triples…in the Cubs' Cactus League opener against the Angels. He had three hits in Friday's (2-22-13) intra-squad game.”
Well, the work has somewhat paid off, as his strikeout woes continue.
Brett has struck out four times in 11 Cactus League AB. And while he has earned four walks to go along with the aforementioned three hits, he will need to continue to work on keeping his strikeout totals down if he wants any real shot at breaking camp with the big league squad.
3. Brian Bogusevic Has Impressed
You could have color me surprised when I learned who the leading candidate is to become the team’s fifth outfielder: Brian Bogusevic.
Thus far, Bogusevic has been the club’s surprise of surprises. It may only be Cactus League baseball, but Bogusevic is batting .450 with a 1.422 OPS.
As a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, Brian Bogusevic was not expected to challenge for a spot on the Opening Day roster, but lo and behold he is the front-runner to win the fifth outfielder’s spot and could become Anthony Rizzo’s primary backup at first base.
2. Carlos Marmol’s Future Remains Uncertain
On Tuesday, Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com posted an article claiming—to the contrary of Epstein and Hoyer’s assertions—Carlos Marmol is still available for trade.
Given that Marmol was already traded once in the offseason before Dan Haren’s medicals made the Cubs call the deal with the Angels off, some skepticism remains on what Marmol's future holds with the club.
Especially after you compound his earlier "trade" with the Cubs signing Kyuji Fujikawa—who accumulated 220 saves in Japan—to a two-year contract this winter, the legitimacy of Levine's belief of Marmol's availability is strengthened.
Clubs often proclaim a player that is rumored to be on the trading block will remain with the team, but there is nothing Epstein or Hoyer can say to eliminate the doubt surrounding the pitcher's future with the organization.
1. Matt Garza Strains Lat
While continuing his comeback from last season’s stress-reaction injury to his pitching elbow, Matt Garza strained his left lat muscle while throwing during a batting practice session.
The injury was not believed to be severe and would not cause him to miss any significant time. Unfortunately for Garza and the Cubs, belief did not translate into reality.
On Sunday, it was announced Garza will be out until May due to the injury, throwing a real monkey wrench into the Cubs’ rotation and bullpen plans.