MLB could announce the official addition of two extra Wild Cards for the 2012 season tonight or tomorrow. If scheduling problems preclude the addition this year, the two extra Wild Cards will have to wait until 2013.

  • It sounds like 22-year-old corner infield prospects Anthony Rizzo and Josh Vitters are becoming fast friends (and the two were actually friendly before Rizzo came to the Cubs). I’m sure they’d love to see each other across the diamond at Wrigley Field in a couple years – and, if it means they’ve developed well, I’m sure Cubs fans would love to see it, too. This year will be a very important one for Vitters, who was finally mostly healthy in 2011, but whose bat didn’t come along far enough to mask the fact that his glove didn’t really come along much at all at third base. A step forward in both areas this year at AAA Iowa could mean big things.
  • Dale Sveum knows Spring Training standings don’t matter, but he still wants the Cubs to win. “I don’t care where you’re playing,” Sveum said, “winning is winning and you want to win all the time. At the end of the Cactus League, will the record matter? Of course not. I think the bottom line is to stress to beat the other team every time you step on the field. It’s not always what the final score dictates. Can you go home at night and say you kicked the other team’s butt besides the final score of the game? You can win a lot of games and a guy can hit a walk-off, two-run homer on a great pitch and you lost the game but you really won 8 2/3 innings, too. There’s a difference between winning and losing sometimes and how you get it.”
  • After Paul Maholm dispatched Rodrigo Lopez in the final first round matchup of the Cubs Bunt Tournament, the second round kicked off yesterday. Adrian Cardenas, Blake Lalli, Jeff Beliveau, and Trey McNutt won, while Matt Szczur, Jonathan Mota, Lendy Castillo, and Rafael Dolis were eliminated.
  • Geovany Soto is feeling better, but is still at least a week away from returning to the field after a “minor” groin strain. Mmm hmm. Minor. No worries. Feeling good. Precautionary. I’m not at all paranoid about Cubs injuries. Not at all.
  • Ron Swanson – the BN’er, not the fictional Director of the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department – spent last week in Mesa checking out Spring Training (jealous), and sent me a bunch of great pictures and stories about the experience. I gathered the pictures, with some thoughts on each, over on the Bleacher Nation Facebook page (because that’s one thing that Facebook does very well). I think it makes for a pretty fun read/look, and gives you an idea of what it’s like to be a fan at Spring Training before the games start. Thanks again, Ron. (Start with the first picture, read the caption in the upper right, and then click ahead to the next picture, and so on.)
  • Also over on the BN Facebook page (you see why you should “like” Bleacher Nation on Facebook?), BN’er Danny offers his “from the ground” report on last night’s analytics presentation, featuring Cubs’ Assistant to the GM Shiraz Rehman. Among Danny’s thoughts: despite there being an open bar, folks didn’t go nuts; most of the questions came from Cubs fans rather than journalists or bloggers; Shiraz Rehman would be a cool dude to have a beer with. You know who else is a cool dude? Danny. Head over to the Facebook page to see the rest of his thoughts.
  • Fluff on Paul Maholm, who is all about letting batters put the ball in play. “I’m going to do everything I can [and] I’m going to have every bit of confidence in the guys to put up runs and make the plays [behind me because] I’m not a strikeout guy.”
  • Carlos Marmol, who lost about 15 pounds this offseason, talked at length with Dave Kaplan about his farm in the Dominican Republic. Carlos Marmol: farmer. I dig.
  • The Cubs will play a couple intrasquad games at the end of this week (Friday and Saturday at 1pm at HoHoKam, open to the public for free) as they get ready to open up the Cactus League on Sunday.
  • More MLBullets over at BCB – was the Derek Jeter “flip” play really that impressive? (Yes. It was, Bobby Valentine.)
  • brittney

    Love the picture! I am trying to mentally picture marmol as a farmer, sitting on his tractor just chuggin along.

    • Frank

      Story is he’s got 40 horses and 700 head of cattle, some chickens . . .

      • Bric

        Even if the horses thing is a joke it might be true. I recall Moises Alou and his whole family are big horse guys. He owned a couple hundred, breeds them, has a stable, etc. It’s huge money. At one point I remember him in the off season going to somewhere in the middle East (Saudi Arabia I think) and he brought back like 40 horses. A pretty cool pass time for guys who have the money and inclination.

  • hansman1982

    I wonder how much actual farming Marmol does.

    When Sveum was first hired I had the meh feeling about it all and much prefered Maddux. Now, I am 100% on board the Sveum Train, everything this guy says just makes me feel better and better about choosing him.

    • Spencer

      When the Cubs were on their little .500 streak to start last season that’s how I felt about Mike Quade too. Then the rest of the season happened.

      • Brett

        Ah, .500. The good ‘ole days.

        • Toosh

          The Jim Hendry plan. Put together a team that can play .500, hang around in the division and maybe make the postseason.

          • DocWimsey

            We do tend to forget that putting together a team that can play 0.500 was a radical innovation for the Cubs. Before that, I think that the plan was to… um… Actually, I don’t think that there were any plans before that.

            • Dave H

              lol……….how true!

  •!/Shawn_Oetzel Shawn

    anyone else think Maholm could win at least 12 games this year? I think he could be one of those under-the-radar moves which could pay some decent dividends – and in my opinion at this point Josh Vitters = Jake Fox

    • DocWimsey

      It will be tough for any Cubs’ starter to win 12 games this year, as the offense (probably) is going to be a bit worse than last year’s offense. Even if it is the same, then, well, it will be tough for a starter to win 12 games! If you have a league-average offense, then you really need to pitch very well to win 12 games.

      As for Fox and Vitters, they have almost nothing in common except the inability to draw a walk.

      • Alou and Vinegar

        The only thing they have in common is that both will have short Cubs careers

      • Shawn

        Vitters and Fox are both Cub draft picks who had decent offensive numbers but were poor defenders with no true position – Vitters is a little more highly touted but when all is said and done will have a career similar to Fox if he breaks into the Majors at all that is – I’m willing to go out on a limb to say that if Vitters does see Major League action it won’t be in a Cubs uniform

  • Spoda17

    Bret, bro; I have to ask… what is it with you and cats dude..? lol… MEOW!

    • Brett

      I like them.

      But that’s not why I use them in pictures, actually – I just find the idea of using pictures of cats or other animals, where it conveys the subject of the post (usually Bullets), to be hilarious. Call it an idiosyncrasy.

      • Spoda17

        Just bustin your ballz bro! Cats “live” in my house too…

        • hansman1982

          wrong location of the quotation marks:

          Cats live in “my” house too…

  • HoustonTransplant

    I love the pictures you find for your articles. They make me chuckle. Keep ’em comin’!

    I checked out those pics on the FB page about 2 minutes after you uploaded them; great shots and great captions. They just make me jealous and wish I was there…with God as my witness, one of these years during my Spring Break, I’m headed to AZ to catch some Cactus League action!

  • Cheryl

    Sveum coming up with the bunt tournament was a great idea. The cubs actually seem to be enjoying this spring.

    • CubFan Paul

      & finding out who your best bunters are this early is pretty cool too. Adrian Cardenas is my guy to keep an eye on. I’d like for him to start over Barney & bat 2nd, 7th or 8th. Cardenas would give us 4 LH bats early season lineup (lahair,dejesus & stewart)

      • ottoCub

        Couldn’t agree more about Cardenas. He’s not as good in the field as Barney, but his minor league walk to strikeout ratio and OBP are strong. Would love to see his left-handed bat in the lineup, taking pitches, pushing opposing pitchers into stressful counts, and putting the ball in play.

        • Deer

          I thought his defense was poor? Has anyone ever seen Cardenas play? Seems a little premature to want him to start, or maybe that’s just the Barney hate on this board talking.

          • Brett

            The word is that his defense, yes, is quite poor at second base.

          • ottoCub

            No hate for Barney… just hopeful (dreaming?) that Cardenas has a great spring and shows he can get on base at the same rate he did in AAA.

          • CubFan Paul

            Yea, no barney hate. Cardenas is just the better player (OPS wise). Cardenas was a Oakland top 5 prospect 2yrs ago for a reason (not sure Barney ever cracked our weak top 25).

            I’m quite the sure Cardenas knows his defense is under fire and is working hard with the coaches

            • Deer

              Higher OPS primarily because he draws more walks. Not sure if that will translate at the ML level. If he’s been a terrible defender until now, I doubt a couple weeks with Sveum is going to make a huge difference. Let’s see what he does in ST and if he makes the team first.

              • CubFan Paul

                Cardenas is not a *terrible* defender. He was just beat out by *better* defenders in the Oakland system. &after losing sizemore I bet Oakland wishes Cardenas was still on the 40man

                His higher OPS is from his SLG% (.400plus -higher than Barney).

  • Dan

    Hey Brett, I think you do a tremendous job writing articles about the Cubs. Keep it up! Anyways, is there anyway to find out the rules to this bunt tournament? Like how many bunt hacks do you get per round, etc.? Also, would you have a picture or a layout of the bunt tournament field? Maybe somebody can direct me to a website with all this information. Thanks!

    • hansman1982

      Search back in the BN articles, there are a few pictures of the field.

      • Brett

        As for the rules, I don’t know the precise numbers, but it’s something like 15 bunts per person per matchup, and you try and score as many points as you can with those bunts. Score more than your opponent, and you win. That’s pretty much it.

  • Mrp

    Good stuff as always!

    Anyone know if the official\unofficial plan is to start Vitters off in Iowa this year?

    • Brett

      Yeah, I’d say that’s the plan.

  • DocWimsey

    “At the end of the Cactus League, will the record matter? Of course not.”

    Ah, does anybody remember when the Washington Senators would win the Grapefruit League every year as a precursor to losing 90 games?

    Er, does anybody remember the Washington Senators?

    • Dave H

      I vaguely remember. My dad would always say “at least we’re not as bad as the senators”

      • DocWimsey

        You weren’t hearing his asterisk: It was “At least we are not as bad as the Senators*”

        *: excluding spring training.

    • die hard

      Like that hes demanding winning attitude early. Thats how he played. Sure the games matter in terms of developing that attitude and weeding out players who dont have that drive to win every game. Pete Rose comes to mind as a winner. Rid the image of cuddly losers is what Leo the lip tried to do and almost succeeded. He started in spring training. That shoulder chip will remain for the entire season. I like it!!!

    • rocky8263

      Hey Doc, can you tell me who the last active Washington Senator was ? Hint, played for the Cubs and lost a ball under his cap trying to make a play.

      • DocWimsey

        Wasn’t that Larry Bittner? I’d almost forgotten that. Didn’t he wind up throwing the batter out at home after he finally found the ball? Clearly, it was just a clever tactic!

        Seriously, I had forgotten that he was a Senator. Good memory….

    • Frank

      I remember the Senators!

  • Stinky Pete

    Do we have to give Lendy Castillo back since he lost in the Bunt tournament?

    • Brett

      Phillies don’t want him now.

  • die hard

    It didnt take long for Bobby V. to generate fan enthusiasm for his new reign as Bosox mgr by dissing ARod while praising Varitek. That comment about Varitek taking on ARod in a brawl is red meat for both sides of the rivalry. Thats good for baseball too. Keep fans focus. Billy Martin baseball. Wonder how Cubs mgr can do likewise? One possibility is dissing Ramirez to anger Brewers fans. Sells tickets.

  • JasonB

    bobby valentine is a sellout – I’m shocked

    Funny part is that he was on jeter’s knob when he was a broadcaster