- Darwin Barney, who’ll open the year as the Cubs’ starting second baseman, says his side strain is feeling fine now, and an MRI showed nothing. In his return to the lineup yesterday, he hit safely yet again (something he’s done in every Spring game in which he’s appeared). While I don’t have particularly high hopes that his offense will improve up to a league average level at second base (which would require him hitting better in the bigs than he ever did in the minors), I am hopeful that his defense at second base will continue to improve, perhaps even to an elite level. If that happens, Barney could overall become a quality starter at second base. Although defense tends to peak in a player’s mid-20s (Barney is 26), given that Barney is a career shortstop (a very good one) switching to second base, we really could see dramatic improvement in this, his second full year at the position.
- Randy Wells pitched in a “B” game yesterday morning (doesn’t count in the standings) against the Indians, and threw three innings, allowing three hits, three walks, two runs, and striking out two. Dale Sveum wasn’t overly complimentary when discussing Wells’ outing. “You try not to put too much on it, because the conditions aren’t that well,” Sveum said. “On the other hand, you have to pitch in those same conditions in Chicago, if not worse. Wells actually was fairly sharp down in the zone. He got the outs when he needed to. [Cristian] Guzman, trying to get the guy over, hooked the ball out of the park on him. Other than that, he didn’t give up any runs. He got out of some big jams with bases-loaded ground-ball double plays. It wasn’t bad by no means.” My Volstad-beating-Wells prediction remains unchanged.
- On Travis Wood, who was terrible yet again yesterday, Sveum was even more dour. “It looked like it was coming out of his hand better,” Sveum said. “But still, it’s not the full package, to be able to get through big league hitters using the changeup and throwing it for strikes and a breaking ball. I still don’t think his cutter is where it needs to be and where I’ve seen it before. But I thought the life was there on some pitches. Just another unfortunate outing.” When discussing the plan for Wood, Sveum said he’ll have to keep plugging away, “whether it’s a game or a Minor League game.” I think we all know what that means.
- The back-up catcher battle is still murky, solely because of how good both Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger have looked. Sveum says both guys could be starters – not just back-ups – at the big league level. If that proves to be true in the early season, you can be sure you’ll hear a whole lot about Geovany Soto on the trade block.
- Fluff on Steve Clevenger switching to catcher back in late 2007/early 2008.
- Everything you ever wanted to know (and I mean *everything*) about the state of the players on the Cubs’ 40-man roster (options, service time, contract status, etc.), and the myriad MLB transactions, thanks to TCR. Seriously, this is everything, and it’s more than you ever thought was going on behind the scenes.
- Why the 2012 Houston Astros Will Suck. We did it before with the Cincinnati Reds, and the results were awesome, so let’s do it again with the Astros. It should be easier, if nothing else. Join in.
- The Opening Day contest ends tomorrow evening. Don’t miss your chance to (1) proclaim victory over your BN chums, and (2) win $75 to SportsWorldChicago.com (Cubs swag). Here are the details of the contest, but the gist is this: go to the BN Facebook page and “like” it; then go to this post on the BN Facebook Wall, and guess the Cubs’ Opening Day lineup (batting order and defensive positions) and rotation as of Opening Day. That’s it. The winner will be selected at random from the correct guesses.
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