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Yesterday, among many other comments (which will be discussed later), Matt Garza noted that things were already better for the 2012 Chicago Cubs because now “we’ve got better cooks.” He was, of course, referring to the food in Mesa, but I couldn’t help but see the metaphor. The Cubs definitely have better cooks, Matt.

  • New manager Dale Sveum says he’s at home in Spring Training, being around baseball. “It seems like I got hired two years ago,” Sveum said. “You’re just waiting for this day to come to finally get on the field, and it took until late afternoon to get out there. When you do this for so many years, the most comfortable spot you’re in is when you’re on the grass and Spring Training and when the balls are being hit and caught and thrown and to be able to talk to everybody. It’s officially baseball season, finally, and that’s when we’re all most comfortable.”
  • One of Sveum’s first orders of business? Figuring out what he’s got in Jeff Samardzija, who emerged as a quality reliever last year, but still hopes to have a chance to start. “We just want to look at him and see how he reacts to multiple innings and see what happens by the end of Spring Training to make that decision,” Sveum said on Samardzija’s future role. “We haven’t promised anybody anything. The fact of the matter is to see what we’ve got there. He might wow us – you never know. That’s a power arm and a power body that is obviously built to start.” The question for Samardzija as a starter remains a simple, two-parter: can he keep the walks down, and can he utilize three quality pitches so that opposing lineups aren’t teeing off on him by the second and third time through the order. If he can do those things, he could be an excellent starter. If not, he could remain a very good reliever.
  • Sveum confirmed my guess that the only three pitchers locked into the rotation right now are Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, and Paul Maholm, saying that a list of pitchers including Randy Wells, Chris Volstad, Travis Wood, Casey Coleman, Andy Sonnanstine, and Samardzija are competing for those last two spots.
  • God’s Wrath may have been camping out in Mesa, just waiting for the Cubs to arrive – lefty John Gaub strained his back lifting weights, and won’t be able to pitch for a few days. It’s not serious, but, hey: this is how it starts. Next thing you know, Starlin Castro is having a finger removed after a surprise outbreak of flesh-eating bacteria.
  • Buster Olney says the Yankees have a deal in place with Raul Ibanez, pending a physical, which is a bummer. Did you already forget why? Now that Ibanez has signed a Major League deal (as opposed to having to settle for a minor league deal), the Cubs’ compensatory pick for Carlos Pena falls from number 54 next year to number 56. Not a huge drop, maybe not even a meaningful one. But still stinks, ever so slightly.
  • Joe Cowley interviewed former Cubs GM Jim Hendry, who, as always, acquits himself as a super-nice guy. But, I’m getting mighty tired of seeing the kind of inherently conflicted logic that we’ve been seeing for years (in this instance, from Cowley). Namely: You can’t, on the one hand, extol Hendry for being the only GM to take the Cubs to three postseasons, and then, on the other hand, say that the last three years weren’t his fault, since the Tribune Company insisted he spend big money on overpriced free agents and in-house extensions. Guess what? Without those overpriced free agents/extensions, the Cubs don’t make the playoffs in 2007 and 2008. You can’t have it both ways, no matter how much you want to deride fans who criticize a number of Hendry’s decisions.
  • Another set of MLBullets at BCB – Chone Figgins as a leadoff hitter? Seriously?
  • Ryan

    John Grabow is no longer on the roster, correct?

    • Fishin Phil

      Correct. God bless America!!

      • Ryan

        agreed, I couldnt stand him.

        • die hard

          he could get lefties out though and that could be problem now without Marshall.

  • ty

    Good morning Brett–still dark here at Fitch but clubhouse full of blue ready to get outside. Jeff certainly improved but third pitch not there yet. Maddux worked with him but no real spin as yet. When you stand behind the backstop up close you feel very comfortable that you could have some good cuts at essentially two pitches. He appears physically stronger this year as in past he had gotten very slim. Good work ethic and such a good kid and probably very close to even more success. Spring training is the time to work on another pitch–hard to do during the season except for bullpen outings. Greg talked to the guys about changing speeds more than anything else and Smardj is getting there as he gets older.

    • MichiganGoat

      Greg Maddux is still with the team? I thought he took a job with the Rangers? Someone please confirm or deny.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Good stuff, ty. Thanks for the update. Dig it.

  • http://aeonimaging.com Cubbie Blues

    I saw something about Chone over the weekend. They were saying it is hard to hit behind Ichiro (being very aggressive). Chone previously looked like a good candidate to hit behind Ichiro with not going after pitches, being patient and a descent OBP (2010). Last year batting behind Ichiro he felt like he had to see a lot of pitches for the team (which is what he did in 2010) but it made him press to do it and after seeing Ichiro aggressive it made him want to be aggressive as well.

    Don’t know how much I put into that (not much) but it is something I wanted to pass along.

    • Toosh

      Last year Figgins was statistically the worst hitting regular in all of baseball. He was a good candidate to hit behind everybody.

      • BD

        Worse than Adam Dunn? Or is he not considred a “regular”?

      • Cubbie Blues

        True but I do expect him to bounce back quite a bit. His career BABIP is a very good .329 and last year it was .215 (.114 difference). That combined with his BB% going down by 3.3% from his career average would account for a significant drop in OBP.

  • http://aeonimaging.com Cubbie Blues

    You gotta love any post that includes necrotizing fasciitis which is always better than Fournier’s Gangrene.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I also used “necrotizing fasciitis,” as it’s one of the few technical terms I know.

  • CubFan Paul

    samardzija may not make the opening week rotation but hopefully he gets a shot after Dempster and Garza are traded in july. the cubs dont have many power arms in waiting besides jeff.

    with 3 spots set, i expect travis wood & volstad to be handed the final two. Jeff has been patient & his time will come ..hopefully McNutt or Chris Rusin will be worthy of a july call-up to join samardzija in the rotation after trades

    • Andrew

      I think Wood gets handed one but Volstad has to beat out Wells and Samardzija. I’m rooting for Samardzija to be lights out in spring and make the rotation because he could be a great starter.

      • CubFan Paul

        in my opinion samardzija has top of the rotation stuff (#2 or #3 starter) but with the garza/demp/maholm contracts blocking him, July will be his time.

        Wells is overpaid ($2.7M) and hopefully he gets traded before the end of March. Theo&Co. have no ties to Wells and wont keep running him out there to soft toss and be mediocre. Theo&co. didnt acquire Volstad to be a releiver either (he has more upside and better stuff than Randy) so Wells has an uphill battle to make this team (..never had a shot with all the new *cheaper* starting pitching depth)

      • die hard

        Fergie Jenkins made move from reliever to starter after he learned how to extend his pre game warmups by 25 pitches to tire his arm and throw knee high consistently. Smardzjia should think about how his warm up routine could affect his game pitches in similar manner.

        • http://bleachernation ferris

          and dennis eckersley went from starter to dominant closer……..i think jeff s. could be awesome in that role if he cuts down walks that would allow us to trade marmol in july.

    • Beer Baron

      Who among the candidates for the final 2 rotation spots has options left? Obviously Smardzija would go back to the pen if/when he doesn’t get a starting spot, but among Wood, Volsted and Wells at least one won’t be in the rotation and in my opinion it makes more sense to keep them stretched out by starting in Iowa than pitching 2 innings per week in Chicago.

  • ty

    right goat–Greg is with brother Mike in Texas–one heck of a one-two punch with Nolan around also.

    • MichiganGoat

      So who is working with Jeff on his pitches? Or are you speaking of Greg working pitchers last year?

      • die hard

        K. Wood will help make him a starter. Wood will also be there for other youngsters as unofficial pitching coach.

  • ty

    last year Goat! Spring training started yesterday. We have a minor league pitching co-ordinator who has worked with Jeff for years especially when he was triple A player but all of our pitching coaches have been with him at one level or another. The pitcher that I have high regards for is Randy Wells. When he is on a roll the movement on his pitches is outstanding. You can not notice it very much on t.v. but standing up close he is very deceptive. Staying healthy he should cruise into 12-14 wins.

    • BetterNews

      I could see Wells winning 14 for sure if he has some run support. If Smarj gets a starting gig this year the Cubs could have a good rotation. I wonder if the Theo has considered moving Dempster back to pen?

      • die hard

        Coleman has toughness to make contribution too. Needs to get control over inside game. His pitches move well outside.

      • http://bleachernation ferris

        no way dempster eats 200 innings per yr wich helps your whole bull pen out….you need as many 200 ip guys as poss.especially looking at all these 160 ip guys at the back of the rotation

  • die hard

    I like way Sveum tells the truth and doesnt try to sugar coat his views. Hope this carries over to season though calling out players in public should never be done. Thats for behind the scenes one on ones. One reason K. Wood brought back is to tutor Smardzija on becoming a starter is how I see it. By bringing in so many broken down pitchers to camp, there should be no lack of batting practice pitchers which saves the arms of those to make the final 25. Why was Gaub allowed to lift weights? Whos watching how these pitchers get ready if hes free to do something like this?

  • Andrew

    So Mike Cameron is retiring, sounds like the Nationals could be in the market for a good defending centerfielder right?

    • die hard

      rather squeeze 1/2 good season out of Byrd who has something to prove and then trade at All-Star break. Same as to Soto.

    • DocWimsey

      The Nats have been planning to move Werth to center all winter. They are giving Harper a shot at right.

      • die hard

        Harper needs 1/2 more season in minors or could set him back carrying over to next year.

      • CubFan Paul

        what a disaster that’ll be

        • die hard

          disaster sending him down or letting him start season?

          • CubFan Paul

            werth in center & a 19yo on a ‘contending’ team

  • Tim

    The Nationals released a statement saying they were going to go in house for their new centerfielder.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That’s one option – but it’s pretty rare that, in Spring Training, a team says, “yeah, we’re going to need to trade for a player.”

  • die hard

    Detroit Tigers 3B problem not solved yet with Cabrera. Move Stewart there and bring up Vitters or keep Stewart and move Vitters could be down the road. Cabrera at 1B for Cubs? Their clubhouse may be too small for him and Fielder’s egos. Throw in Garza in deal?

    • Andrew

      We’d have to trade half our team if we wanted cabrera.

      • die hard

        Nah…how about Stewart, Garza, Coleman and Soriano? Should do if Cubs pick up Sori’s salary.

        • http://bleachernation ferris

          no way they do that, cabrera is better than fielder if they thought it wouldnt work theyd have not signed prince

        • Edgar

          If the Tigers would trade anyone it would be Fielder. Cabrera is proven in the AL and has a smaller contract and is not as big.

        • MichiganGoat

          Seriously die hard? Detriot isn’t moving any of their big bats, they are all in for the next couple of years. Miggy is one of the best bats in baseball and the Cubs have no package (outside of trading their entire farm system) to obtain such talent.

          I seriously love the satire but I fear YOU are being serious about the idea. Someone needs to collect all you proposals and then show us what the roster would look like. Keep up the great work brother, your insights and solutions are enjoyable.

          • die hard

            you dont think they would welcome Garza?…he gets them into the WS without Cabrera is how I see it…Soriano would pick up some of the slack as DH and Stewart gives them legit 3B which is not Cabrera’s position….

            • MichiganGoat

              Dude, they are not going to give Miggy up for anybody. Remember they were unwilling to give up two top prospects for Garza. How can you believe what you write?

              • die hard

                remind me in June of what you said when Tigers IF is worst in AL causing their pitchers to mutiny.

  • TeddyBallGame

    First of all, hearing Sveum reiterate what this team is going to be all about is very refreshing. I know it was the same thing with Quade, but it seems like when Sveum talks about this team he’s very clear in what he wants and expects from the players day in and day out.
    At the beginning of last season, watching Samardzija walk batter after batter was as painful as you could imagine, but when he decided to pitch like a major leaguer you could actually see him turning that corner. Give him a legit shot at starting and if it doesn’t work out, then another good arm in the pen. Not a bad scenario.
    As for Jim Hendry, he’s a great guy on a personal level, I just think that after we got swept out of the playoffs for the 2nd straight year he was defeated. He just couldn’t regain his momentum and Zell’s encouragement to bring in big ticket players at any cost was the end of him.
    Most importantly, baseball is here!! Nothing better than turning on my TV and seeing players at Fitch getting back into it. Record aside this year, I think the Cubs will be fun to watch because I expect the effort and mental toughness to be there on a daily basis.

    • die hard

      Always felt if Zell allowed to buy a team why not Cuban? Cuban would make sure he would have a winner. Is he barred by Selig? Zell never was thinking long term and he was looking for making a quick buck in a turn around. Cuban could be next Bill Veeck which was great for baseball.

      • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

        Zell didn’t buy the Cubs. He bought the Tribune Company (which owned the Cubs). Selig would have had nothing to do with that transaction.

        • die hard

          Nobody can own a team without ok of MLB no matter how many corporate shells separate team from field.

          • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

            True, however, MLB has no jurisdiction over who bought the Tribune.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            Selig could have effectively forced Zell to sell the team, but he could not have blocked the sale of the Tribune Company to Sam Zell.  You were claiming that Zell was allowed to buy a team; MLB could not allow or disallow him from doing anything regarding his acquisition of the Cubs.  Zell bought the Tribune Company, which happened to own the Cubs.  That purchase was conducted outside the scope of powers possessed by MLB.

            What MLB could have done is forced a sale of the Cubs by a number of means, up to and including threatening to revoke permission for the team to operate.  None of that needed to happen because Zell announced he was going to sell the Cubs fairly quickly.  Odds are, Zell being a smart businessman, he kept Selig in the loop on his plans all along, but it is pointless to speculate.  The reality is that MLB could not have blocked the sale of the Tribune Company because they did not want the buyer of the Tribune owning the Cubs.  Therefore, we cannot state that MLB allowed Zell to buy the Cubs.

            Simply put,  you can’t use Zell as a basis to evaluate the treatment of Mark Cuban at all.  The two cases are not really related.  Cuban has been trying to buy a team; Zell bought a company that owned a team, but immediately put the team up for sale.  If Mark Cuban could find a company that owns a baseball team and could manage to buy that company, he would control the team.  MLB would then have the option to try to force him to sell the team, but they would not be in any position to prevent the sale of the parent company.  The only caveat on that is if there were additional language in the agreements between MLB and the corporation that owns team addressing the status of the team in the event of the company being sold.  I’m not sure how that would be worded, though, especially in the case of a publicly traded company.

  • TeddyBallGame

    Die hard,
    Cabrera is going nowhere. The AL has a DH for a reason. He also hits .330+, 30+ HR, 100 RBI a year…There’s enough room in the clubhouse for those two, they’ll just have to get in the buffet lines separately. They don’t wanna backup the kitchen…and Casey Coleman is hot garbage. Zero faith in him regardless of age or anything. We’ve ALL seen too much of him. He’s just not good enough, simple as that..

    • die hard

      But how do you really feel about these players? A food fight in the Detroit clubhouse should make for good press. Hot garbage does not compute? Something like severe conservative.

      • Andrew

        Why do you think the clubhouse wouldnt handle those personalities? You are seriously just guessing that they wouldn’t get along. There wont be any of those issues in Detroit, because Detroit will win many games on account of having an excellent team. Fielder has a great reputation as a good teammate if you take Sveum’s word or anyones word for that matter.

    • Andrew

      I think Coleman has some potential from a few games he pitched last year. The problem is he still needs to learn how to pitch. He was thrown in too early, but I think some seasoning in triple A could make him a decent major league 5 starter/long reliever but not much more than that.

  • TeddyBallGame

    Now that’s a good point…simple answer, in my opinion, baseball owners don’t like Cuban because they’re all scared of him making them all look bad…he’ll spend a lot of money, keep his colorful personality and voice his opinion if he disagrees with someone…ALL things Selig and other owners don’t want which is straight up BS…

    • die hard

      So you agree Cuban belongs? Careful, you may get a bad rep. Letting Zell in and keeping Cuban out speaks to the game’s hypocrisy.

  • Canadian Cubs Fan

    I am by no means a Hendry apologist, but if his playoff teams in 03, 07, and 08 hadnt choked on their own vomit and won a WS, I believe he would be viewed very differently. In fact, if two of those teams had won it all, he’d have the exact same resume as Epstein, who is also responsible for some of the worst free-agent contracts of the last 10 years.

    That said, I think Theo & Co. Have the right ideology for sustained success.

    • Andrew

      I agree with a lot of the sentiment but keep in mind that Theo was competing in the much better AL East and had a legitimate shot at going to the playoffs and even winning it all in most of those years. The same can’t be said of Hendry’s resume even with 2 rings. To me the best way of winning the World Series requires getting to the playoffs on a regular basis then getting a little lucky or hot in October and winning. It seemed like Hendry’s idea was just go for it all every year, and end up burning out with a bunch of bad contracts, rather than ever try to make success sustainable.

    • King Jeff

      Hendry had 3 different 90 loss teams, and another 2 that lost 83 or more. Theo Epstein had two seasons that his teams failed to win 90 games, they never lost more than 76, something Hendry’s Cubs did 4 times. So, even if by some miracle, the Cubs had won a World Series or two in that stretch, Hendry still doesn’t even come close to matching Epstein.

  • TeddyBallGame17

    I’m not gonna say he belongs, but he at least deserves to be taken seriously. He just won a championship in the NBA, so he has to be doing something right. Although he is a little too outspoken for his own good, but what I do really like is EVERY fine he has been given from the NBA he’s matched that dollar amount and donated it to a given charity…I’m happy with Ricketts so far, so I’m not suggesting I’d rather have Cuban..

    • Andrew

      I agree Cuban is a fit somewhere, wouldn’t mind seeing him in LA, but the Ricketts seem to be a better fit in Chicago. The more down-to-Earth personable kind of people that I think us Cubs fans have always wanted to relate to after years with the faceless tribune. I like that the Cubs are a family owned team.

  • Don

    Saw report on wgn that cubs are going to work on pitcher fielding practice this year not only in ST, but during the season before games. This is a change from prior coaching staffs. Are you kidding me? This change and many others are exactly why cub fans should be optimistic about the future. Quade was more concerned about coming up with nicknames for the players than practicing the fundamentals of the game. I’m heading out Mesa in a few weeks to scout the team. I can’ t wait see these changes in place.

    On a different note, does anyone know were or what’s up with former number 1 draft pick Hayden Simpson?

    • ty

      Don– As you may know Hayden had a severe form of Mono that sapped his strength and he has been behind the eight ball since. Now that he has recovered he must show progress this year–he jumped from small college ball to competition unlike he had never seen-kid has interesting assortment of pitches though!

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      I haven’t heard that Simpson has had any problems in the off season, so I think we can assume that the tears in his arm are healed and that his weight and strength are back up to something close to normal. If that is the case, he could be in for a pretty big year. He still has four average-plus to plus pitches he can throw for strikes; that’s not a bad combo.

      If he looks good in spring training, the Cubs will probably start him in the rotation for Daytona. Since we really haven’t seen him pitch with anything approaching his normal stuff, I’m not going to project past that.

  • Mike F

    Brett I agree on Hendry on several fronts. The only caveat is Kenney, it’s a big mistake that TR didn’t fire him. There’s no doubt Kenney messed in this and sold TR to some extent a bill of sh.. Removing him would have made as much sense as firing Hendry, as they are both clearly linked by consistent logic.

    Beyond that, you are right, no bloated payroll and no success short of the big prize. I think the other thing about Hendry, even more so than the game passing him by, was he refused to make business decisions. Instead he made a series of over-committments to guys he liked. Hendry is a tremendous judge of pitching, he never gets the credit he deserves for his ability to scout pitching. On the other hand, he was the worst GM I’ve seen at knowing what an everyday player is.

    So you pretty well nailed it he’s a contradiction like so many of the fans hate of him.

    • Noah

      Kenney’s job these days seems to be limited to being in charge of marketing type functions and bringing other events into Wrigley Field. In that role, I’m fine with him staying in the organization. I do think it’s a good idea to have the baseball guys do baseball work, and have the more mainline business guys do more mainline business work.

  • ferrets_bueller

    “Next thing you know, Starlin Castro is having a finger removed after a surprise outbreak of flesh-eating bacteria.”
    …or after a woodworking excursion with Koyie Hill.

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