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The Cubs head to Peoria to take on the Seattle Mariners for a 3:05 CT tilt. Travis Wood gets the start – perhaps his last chance to put a stamp on the Spring. So far, he’s done nothing to impress, and few believe he’s got a chance to win a spot in the rotation at this point. That might be true even if he throws four innings of no-hit ball today. He isn’t batting today, which could be a totally meaningless notation. Or not.

The game will be broadcast on Cubs.com (audio) as a freebie, and we’ll get a Game Thread going on the Message Board.

Today’s lineup sees Darwin Barney returning to the lineup (unnervingly in the two-hole (don’t do it, Dale)):

1. David DeJesus, RF

2. Darwin Barney, 2B

3. Starlin Castro, SS

4. Alfonso Soriano, LF

5. Jeff Baker, 3B

6. Marlon Byrd, CF

7. Reed Johnson, DH

8. Joe Mather, 1B

9. Welington Castillo, C

  • bob

    Another day, another position for Mather. Can there be any doubt he’s this year’s “super-sub?”

    • CubFan Paul

      Good bye jeff baker

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    Has he now played everywhere but shortstop, catcher, and pitcher?

    And when is he scheduled for those positions?

    • CubFan Paul

      2B? Has logged some time there too? 1B, 3B, LF, CF, RF is enough for him to make the team, in my opinion

  • Kyle

    I really, really hope Joe Mather doesn’t make the team. Unless they really liked him for some reason before ST started.

    • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

      ya, I just checked his stats – not good offensively, hopefully then can get him to figure out how he was acceptable in 2008 and that he provides plus defense everywhere. I think I would much rather have Jeff Baker and his ridiculous splits.

      • SirCub

        Just play Baker against Lefties (every single one of them (and not a single AB against a righty)), and you have the best bench player in baseball. That’s it. Just use him right.

  • Chaz

    Dale can’t possibly put Barney in the 2 hole to start the year..can he?

    • CubFan Paul

      Hopefully its Cardenas in the 2 hole & Barney backing up SS & 2B ..that keeps Soriano from batting 3rd also

  • http://bleachernation.com Tarheel Cub

    wow, I look at this line-up and one name pops out: “Joe Mather”. He has become this months flavor. I hope he is next’s months flavor , as this would mean he made the team and is playing well. Is this guy a triple crown threat from nowhere? ROY HOBBS perhaps…

    • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

      in 2010 and 2011 he logged 147 PA’s and managed a .215/ .259/ .296 triple slash. So I guess he could contend for the Triple Crown of last place finishes in everything.

  • MaxM1908

    I’m not sure where the dislike for Mather comes from. Sure, he’s no superstar, and his numbers could stand to improve. But, for a guy who can play almost any position on your bench, we could do a lot worse. I also notice in looking at his stats that his best year came in 2008, also when he had the most plate appearances. Could his poor numbers in 2010 and 2011 be a result of lack of consistent plate appearances? I think it’s hard to string together impressive state lines if you don’t have consistent playing time. Let’s give him a chance. Maybe he’ll surprise us.

    • Kyle

      The question isn’t why would anyone like him.

      The question is “why does anyone like him?”

      And now, 15 decent spring-training at-bats are not a good reason.

      • CubFan Paul

        I like him because he makes jeff baker expendable. Same player but mather is cheaper and has the wheels for CF

        Mather over Baker allows Campana to be the 25th man for late inning game usage

      • MaxM1908

        I like him because he can play practically every position. That gives us much more versatility off the bench. I like him because he has the potential to hit better than his 126 Major League at-bats indicate to-date. Maybe 15 ST at-bats don’t tell us much, but it at least indicates he has some potential. I see no reason to deny him the opportunity, especially when I consider that the alternatives could all use more development in the minors.

      • MaxM1908

        Also, look at his splits with runners on and players in scoring position: .977 and 1.064 OPS respectively. Just as he’s indicating in Spring Training, he may be the kind of guy who heats up when it’s most important. I like that in a potential pinch hitter.

        • DocWimsey

          Or these are all just artifacts of sample size….

          (And, yes, 126 ABs is a tiny sample size; remember, half a season of ABs is pretty much useless for predicting the next season.)

          • MaxM1908

            I agree, Doc. It’s exactly why I’m excited to give him an opportunity. People may poo poo Mather, but I think that’s largely based on his number from 126 major league at-bats. Sure, we shouldn’t get too excited about Spring Training performance, but we obviously do use it to make judgments of who should and who should not make the team, rotation, etc. It’s a competition. Some players rise to the occasion, and others don’t. Mather has risen to the challenge, and for that, I think he deserves a solid shot at proving himself with the team. If we give him 126 ABs or more this year, we could see numbers worse or much the same of what he’s done in the past. But, I have a feeling we’ll see better numbers than he’s shown previously.

            • DocWimsey

              It’s not about players rising to the occasion. If it were, then you would be able to predict which players do well during pennant drives or in post-season based on ST competitions. But you cannot: you cannot even predict who is going to play well in the WS based on who played well in the LCS.

              What it ultimately is about is a guy who has posted a .260/.335/.450 line in 11 minor league seasons. Hey, I’m not pretending I’d do that well: I’d be more like 0.000/0.020/0.000 based on a couple of hit by pitches. But I’m not going to dismiss 3600 PAs of data, either!

            • bob

              Were the bad results because of lack of appearances, or were the lack of plate appearances the result of his poor performance? It can work either way. That said, I’m still rooting for him.

  • cubfanincardinalland

    The downfall for Mather with the Cardinals was the breaking ball. Would not be the first career minor leauger who caught fire at his age and had some productive major league seasons. He has power, speed and can glove it. We’ve had a lot worse in the last few years.

  • ferrets_bueller

    I like him simply because Jeff Baker should have been traded months ago. This facilitates that, even though Mather is not the player we’re seeing right now. Who cares about 2012.

  • http://bleachernation.com Tarheel Cub

    Well, Mather had a couple of good years in little league, played great in Legion ball… So what if he had a bad 09 & 10… is it relevant now? should he just quit and give up?… or keep chasing the dream. I enjoy a feel good story every now and then. Perhaps this one goes nowhere and you guys can keep spouting negativity. But maybe this underdog will come through.

  • Kyle

    Wood has given up a walk and a two-run home in the first three batters.

    I’ve given up on him having a decent spring. He still deserves a rotation spot.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      His ERA went down that inning…

      • ferrets_bueller

        lmfao!!!

      • Turn Two

        I am with Kyle, over the course of actual professional major league games Wood has looked fine in his past in a much bigger sample size and we could really use the left handed arm in the rotation in the future. If Wood goes down, then suddenly he is an aging prospect who everyone gives up on and he never makes it back.

        • Deer

          If by fine you mean good enough to to spend much of 2011 in Indianapolis helping their AAA team, then yes, I agree.

          • Turn Two

            By fine I mean the 35 starts he has had the last two seasons.

            • JustSwain

              Given the competition in the rotation, and the stats that his competitors have put up in previous years (Wells, for instance) its hard to see your point here. If you are saying he deserves a spot over Smardzi, I could see it, but if we were to take your argument of past success, wouldn’t Wells be the much better choice? He has a lower career ERA, more games, and while both have one standout year, Wells pitched to the tune of a 3.01 ERA during his year. This was laid out as a competition for those spots from the beginning. Wood is the one who didn’t step up, why would you start him?

          • Cubbie Blues

            Indianapolis is the Pirates AAA team. The Cubs AAA is in Des Moines, Iowa.

  • CubsfanKevin

    enjoy Des Moines Wood!

    • Smitty

      He has to be going down after this game.

  • Legendary1993

    I really didn’t want to see K. Wood on a back of a jersey anyway. Kerry should be the one and only Wood.

  • die hard

    If Mather sticks then Cubs front office can point to him as proof of their diamond in the rough strategy… just dont stick with this too long just to prove a point if it isnt working by May 1

  • rbreeze

    Why can’t there be a Wood and a T. Wood?

    Brett, you had the contest for starting line up and starting rotation. What’s the bullpen going to look like if the Shark is a starter?  Predicitons?

  • Kyle

    I keep hoping that all this “rotation battle is based on spring training game results” is coming from the media and not management itself.

    2011 spring training:
    Marmol, 2.00 ERA
    Wells, 2.10 ERA
    Dempster, 2.57 ERA
    Grabow, 2.57 ERA
    Garza, 10.38

    Out of those five, which four had disappointing seasons and which had a breakout year?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      None of those guys was battling for a spot – i.e., knowing they had to perform to make the team/win a spot. Spring stats aren’t everything, but neither are they nothing. I’m a huge Wood supporter, but it matters that, today, he was trying his damnedest and he got lit up. Again.

      • Kyle

        Respectfully disagree. They are completely and totally nothing.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Well, at least we’re half-way there – I’m with you on guys who’ve got a job secured.

        • Bric

          Totally agree- spring training stats mean absolutely nothing. In fact, I’m sure Travis Wood is proud of his 25+ ERA and his lit-up-for-7 runs in two innings performance today. Just as LaHair’s .188 batting average despite having the second most plate appearances out of 50 something guys is also nothing.

          These guys just WANT US to think they suck and are not ready to be on the roster. (Insert Iverson quote about practice here)

  • morgan

    lets talk about how bad this t.wood for marshall trade is looking. t.wood gave up 7 runs to the MARINERS. t.wood instead of playing his way to rotation spot hes looking at hopefully starting in AAA. thats how bad he has looked this spring. Theo going to learn real quick that bad trades and a bad team wont help him. looking like the worse trade of the offseason. we sapplet but sign reed johnson so this kid has nowhere to play and sign dejesus so the other kids cant play like b.jackson. Reed shouldnt be on this team, and if dejesus doesnt do better than he did in oakland him n his wife wont be smiling alot

    • Eric

      You’re kinda forgetting about Ronald Torreyes a kid who’s ability to make contact is off the charts good, even battling guys 2 and a half years older than him. You can’t just exclude parts of a trade just to make your false lying point that the trade is bad.

    • Noah

      I was unaware they kept track of spring training statistics. Or that success or failure in spring training means anything regarding success in the regular season.

      Wood should go down to Iowa because he could really benefit from trying to incorporate a cutter if he can master the pitch and has an option year left.

    • JustSwain

      Reed Johnson hit .309 in just under 250 at bats last year, all the time playing spectacular defense in all three outfield spots…what does it take to get a return invitation in your world? Reed Johnson is one of, if not the best backup outfielder in baseball. Kinda hard to build a team around one of those though… Woods going to the Minors that is true…to the minors…because he has options left…and is under team control for five years. Could turn out not to help us out at all this year, and then be our number three starter for the next four years while costing almost nothing in payroll. Clearly the present value of Marshall was higher than that of the players who were traded for him, but the FUTURE value of the guys the Cubs got could be through the roof. Its not a science, but even after seeing his spring numbers, I love the Wood trade.

      • JustSwain

        I think part of the problem is that we all saw tape of Wood, and thought, jeez, this kid has a live arm, and a good arsenal of pitches…he’s already set for the majors! We got our expectations up without realizing that Wood still has minor league options left, because he was pushed into the bigs pretty early in his career. New system, new coaches, new eyes to see if he is tipping pitches, or has a mechanical problem. I’m starting to think that Epstein signed him KNOWING he would go down to the minors this year. Look at all the other starting pitching he brought in this offseason, most of it after the Wood trade. IT seems in the front office there was no illusion that Wood was going to throw another 8 2/3rds No hitter his first time out. His stats at the end of last year point to that. Instead he’s a project. Get him into the system, get him ready to pitch in the majors, get him confident enough for him to throw his pitches in any count, and then send him to the majors when he is actually ready. His success during his age 23 season shows he has loads of talent, his decline in his age 24 season shows he was thrown into the mix too early and lacked the maturity to put up consistent performances. Let the system straighten him out, and get him back to the bigs when he is ready to become the budding star he showed himself to be in 2010.

      • ThereWillBeCubs

        Spectacular defense? I’m no saber-nut, but baseball reference and fangraphs both have Reed at below replacement level defensively.

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/j/johnsre02.shtml
        http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=1702&position=OF

        Do you think there’s some confirmation bias in your defensive analysis? Everybody remembers the grand slam he stole from Prince and all the crazy diving plays… but spectacular?! Are you sure these web gems wouldn’t be more routine/less amazing to a better defender?

        • Kyle

          Well, to be fair, his defense is spectacular. It just isn’t very good.

          He makes amazing, diving plays on balls a good outfielder would jog to.

        • JustSwain

          Could be some confirmation bias from that and other highlight reel plays. I’m suprised he’s below average though because I always thought he got a good read on the ball and took a good route to it. He’s not fast by any means, but I thought he covered ground well. The stats seem to point otherwise.

  • cubsin

    If T. Wood is trying to remake his mechanics in accordance with instructions from Bosio, send him to EST. If he isn’t, send him to a doctor.

    • JustSwain

      Send him to a doctor? Has his velocity dropped? I’m waiting till the season starts to renew my MLB subscription so I’m going off stats, highlights, and second hand knowledge, so I was unaware if that is true. Control issues can be best explained by experimentation with a new grip. It takes awhile for a pitcher to fully integrate what is working in bullpen sessions into what is working against live pitching, so I see that as a pretty viable explanation for Woods struggles. Lack of control *Could* signal an injury, but its usally accompanied by a lack of velocity as well.

  • PoppyPants McGee

    The biggest battle on this ballclub is currently the backup catcher position. Castillo had a couple hits today and picked off a runner at 2nd base. Clevenger subsituted for Castillo and threw Chone Figgins out trying to steal. It really is 50/50 at this point.

    • JustSwain

      How do the two stack up against each other defensively? Who has the better arm? Who calls the better game?

  • ibcnu2222 (John)

    I say that from now on, if the cubs release someone, they have to do it at Olive Garden.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t get the reference…

      • Fishin Phil

        Hee, hee, Don’t worry John, I got it.

      • ibcnu2222 (John)

        There was an article on Yahoo about an indoor football team in which the owner took his players to Olive Garden and released every player.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          That is every kind of hilarious.

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