Today, I’m headed to Salt River Field to check out a Reds/Rockies game. Perhaps I’ll get to see new Reds closer, Sean Marshall, in action.

  • Dale Sveum kinda told Jim Bowden yesterday that he had four pitchers locked into the rotation – Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Paul Maholm, and Chris Volstad (not Jeff Samardzija) – and then later in the day kinda denied that he said that. Volstad was largely expected to be in the rotation, so there’s no surprise there, whether he’s locked in, or just pretty-much-locked-in. It’s interesting, though, that Sveum didn’t mention Samardzija, a guy he’s previously called a near lock for the rotation. I’m assuming he wasn’t swayed by one bad Samardzija start…
  • Speaking of which, Sveum says Samardzija learned a valuable lesson from his beating at the hands of the Rockies on Friday. “You can’t throw 90 percent of all your pitches 91 miles an hour and above. You better have unbelievable location if you do that. Obviously, his location was not so good and up in the zone. It doesn’t matter how hard your cutter is or how hard you throw, if you’re up in the zone against big league hitters, it’s going to get hit. You’ve got to control bat speed and we really didn’t do that too well yesterday. It was hard, hard, hard, hard and the location is not there.”
  • Assuming both Volstad and Samardzija are in the rotation, that means it’s bullpen or bust for Randy Wells (who looked very much like he was competing for a relief job yesterday). “There’s obviously competition going on,” Wells said. “If you start getting caught up in that, it makes it tougher to pitch. I just go out there and try to do my best …. I’d be disappointed [not to make the rotation]. Three years in the rotation, to have to go to the bullpen – but it could be a new challenge and something exciting.” I’m not sure that Wells would be in the pen long-term, though. He’d probably be the first or second to fill in when a rotation injury inevitably happens, or if someone doesn’t work out as a starter. Or, he could still be traded.
  • Sveum suggested in a couple places yesterday that he could go with just one lefty in his bullpen (James Russell), much to our surprise. Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood, Rafael Dolis, and Russell are essentially locked in. That leaves three spots, which could go to Wells, Lendy Castillo, and one of Casey Coleman, Rodrigo Lopez, or Manny Corpas, for example.
  • Marcos Mateo’s MRI revealed no structural or ligament damage, but the righty will be shut down for at least 10 days before being reevaluated. The elbow injury is similar to the one he suffered last year, before sitting for over three months.
  • Kerry Wood is battling back issues, and hasn’t pitched in a week. Wood has had back problems for years, and Sveum says he’s not worried.
  • Dale Sveum says he doesn’t buy the day games at Wrigley Field as a problem for Cubs players. “In Chicago, it’s always the thing that’s brought up — the day games. It’s irrelevant. You should have the home-field advantage, if anything, playing all the day games, playing at Wrigley and having that kind of atmosphere every day. When you cross those lines, I guarantee there’s no one tired. I’ve never heard anything like that. Baseball players, we stand around the whole game.” I would expect Sveum to say nothing less. I’d be annoyed if he said it was an issue, actually. But, yeah, it’s an issue, as we’ve discussed at length here before.
  • Ian Stewart isn’t overly emotional.
  • gratefulled

    I don’t understand why the Shark doesn’t have a better off-speed pitch. After 6 years of trying to make the rotation you would think he’d have something. Like Sveum referred to, it’ll be a short stint in the rotation if he can’t mix up his pitches more effectively. That is if he makes it there in the first place.

    • Brett

      Good point. Everything he throws is hard – not sure why he doesn’t have a decent changeup at this point, but I’m sure he’s tried to cultivate it. I think he uses his splitter as his changeup.

      • gratefulled

        As much as I want him to make the rotation from an accomplishment standpoint, I think we still benefit most from him being in the bullpen. I’m concerned that demoting Shark after a bad first month in the rotation might have a negative effect on his entire season.

  • Ivy Walls

    Cubs probably want to see a solid start from Samardzija, one where he actually pitches and doesn’t simply hurl. The object of a starting pitcher is what Maddux and Dempster do and did day in day out; get to the 7th or 8th inning with your team in position to win. It is about many things, having weaker bats hit baseballs into the field of play in low counts, challenging stronger hitters in areas that they are weak or not giving in, It is about getting 21 to 24 outs. What is that word—oh quality start (real ones, not 6 inning jobs).

    There are many things but the important one is strategic; Cubs roster will be evaluated and maneuvered or changed throughout the year. In the mean time Sveum & Co will not mail in one ball game, one situation and compete to keep this team in the hunt despite the media’s chosen and comfortable narrative.

    I think Cubs would love to shop Byrd and get BJackson on the field ASAP. I think Soriano appears ready for a good first half of the season and if that provides him a value to go somewhere else in July okay. LaHair might not see too many close games in the 9th inning (along with Soriano) in the field.

    Pitching, it is obvious Cubs are trying to shop Wells, cheap, rather youngish but experienced though he has had arm troubles (risk) and is a journeyman-type pitcher. Trouble is this kind of club actually should be carrying only 11 pitchers not 12. The bench of Clevenger or Castillo, Baker, DeWitt, Johnson and Mather is quite versatile, (3 IF/OF’ers, 2 three OF’er defenders, and if Clevenger makes it—my bet, a catcher who can play a corner IF), but one more utility player would allow Sveum & Co to do even more in game situational platooning. Trouble is Sveum & Co need 5 quality starters who can carry the team into the 7th or 8th inning to get away with 6 situational relievers. And all this brings us back to Samardzija—

    Put him in the rotation and the risk goes up that a game like Friday appears. Place him in the bullpen and you know what you have. This leads to Wood, Kerry Wood if his back is a known but managed problem than you need to have a good 8th inning set up man—Samardzija to go with Marmol, Russell, Dolis, K Wood, and ? Here is the Cubs quandary—they wanted T Wood to step up and be the 4th starter that is now obvious. He was okay yesterday but one start does not make a ST. Phil Hughes of the NYY might be available but at what cost? Maybe Texas has something that along with another Cub Byrd could bring a 4th starter where Samardzija can move to the bullpen and make the Cubs a stronger team. I think this would allow the Cubs to bring bring up BJackson and also bring with the club a 14th position player, (Campanas or Cardenas or someone else that is waived in the final cuts). Lot of moving pieces.

    Finally what people need to understand that the bottom of the roster (6th-7th bullpen arm, 5th starter, and 13th or 14th position player) is the difference of possibly 3 wins per year, (or 3 losses). Cubs finished with 71 wins last year change that to 74 wins with the bottom of the roster player who provides impact. Improve team defense and the Cubs might pick up 3 more wins—suddenly the team is at 77 wins. Bring up a couple of ready and able studs and you might pick up another 3 wins and you are approaching 80 wins. This before Sveum’s better moves or approaches to the game which might pick up 2 to 4 more wins—or a better Marmol without ten or so blown saves.

    But all this goes back to making the right roster moves at this junction.

  • Eric

    I have seen Mateo throw at Iowa a handful of times. When I have seen him his stuff is hard and breaks sharp, but he never looks as sharp with the Big Cubs. He definitely falls into that AAAA category. I’d love to see him break through some year.

  • Dougy D

    Thank you Dale! Like I said before, it is the visiting team that is at a disadvantage when visiting Wrigley for day games.

    • Brett

      Whatever Dale actually thinks, do you really think he would say, “yeah, my players are at a disadvantage, but we’ll do what we can”?

      • Dougy D

        No, but I think it is a total cop out to think that you are at a disadvantage playing more day games than other teams. These are professional athletes that get paid a lot of money. If they think that they are at a disadvantage, they need to adjust their lifestyle to accommodate. I think that for a team that plays almost nothing but night games, coming into the hot summer sun for 3 days straight might be tough on them. At the same time, I understand where the anti-day game sentiment comes in. Being out in the hot summer sun for half of your season can wear you down. We are talking about baseball though. I’d give my left nut to go and play baseball everyday in the hot summer sun!

        • DocWimsey

          “If they think that they are at a disadvantage, they need to adjust their lifestyle to accommodate.”

          What kills the Cubs is that they don’t get a constant lifestyle. All the other players do. Remember, an non-constant lifestyle does not affect you immediately: a week or two of topsy-turvy life is a little annoying (or sometimes fun!) but nothing serious. However, multiple weeks of it add up: you cannot settle into a routine, and humans thrive on routine.

          “I think that for a team that plays almost nothing but night games, coming into the hot summer sun for 3 days straight might be tough on them.”

          It is not. It is playing long stretches of games under hot suns that kill them. Remember, all of the other guys do this on weekends and getaway days. Then they get long breaks from it: and that is why they are playing better in September.

          • Dougy D

            Well, I guess that’s just like, you’re opinion man.

            Like I said, I understand the argument. If the team wants to change it, they need to move elsewhere. They are under the community’s scrutiny more than any other team.

            Like Svuem said, ”In Chicago, it’s always the thing that’s brought up — the day games. It’s irrelevant.”

  • Keith

    Volstad should definitely be starting based on spring training as well as the investment in him. He also has a lot of experience starting at such a young age there is no downside to him starting, it is what he knows and what he has been groomed for. As for Samardjzia, he has only shown success in the bullpen, starting him could be a major set back for him. He seems to get hit hard when he starts as evident by his spring training stats and he seems to go down hill when he has bad outings. Two years ago when he got lit up trying to start in spring training, it made him have to go to the minors almost the entire year and took him almost the year to get his confidence and partial control back. Wells has shown that he is a great 5th starter. He has his ups and downs but what team wouldn’t be happy with a 5th starter with a career 4.01 era? Samardzjia has proven valuable in the bullpen and useful so why mess with it at this point until he shows more offspeed control, in my opinion it has very little upside to switch the two of them. Wells is not going to come in and dominate a 7th or 8th inning and Samardzjia is more than likely not going to improve on Wells 4.01 era. Plus the control issues of Samardjzia will make him another 5 inning starter due to his pitch counts which is why the Cubs had so many struggles in the bullpen last year. Zambrano, Dempster and Garza all struggled with pitch counts early in the season and wore out the bullpen.

    • gratefulled

      I wish you wouldnt have reminded me…I forgot Zambrano did a stint in the bullpen and how much this organization had turned into a freaking joke. Hopefully some day I can look back and laugh.

    • Bric

      Yeah, I think Volstad was actually the best trade Thed pulled off during the winter. He accomplished something most Cub fans have been hoping for and non biased analysts have said is a must for 3 years- the divorcing of Zambrano.

      Reality is a must for this current mgmt in order to turn the ship after having been swept in two playoffs and very little pitching coming from the minors. Yeah, they also traded away the best pitching prospect the Cubs had so it’s kind of 1 step forward, 1 step back but whatever.

      But I think Volstad just needed a change of scenery and will be as reliable as Wells and Maholm (I’m still hoping Shark will go back to the bull pen). I always viewed Wells as the happy benefactor of good mojo (pitching being Demp, Z, and Lilly, didn’t have much pressure and most guys hadn’t seen him before). Malholm’s injuries are probably the reason more teams didn’t show much interest in him (why do we assume the Cubs doctors and trainers are better than, say, the Astros, and Yankees?) I don’t really expect that much out of either so Volstad should fit right in.

      In any case it always seems the smaller moves are the ones that have the bigger impact without all the scrutiny.

  • rcleven

    Getting excited watching Stewart at third base. Above average glove. Hitting for high average. Question still remains will he hit for power. 25 home runs seems a little over optimistic to me at this point.

  • Jay Anderson Jr

    If this is true, I’m extremely disappointed in the Organization. Wells has done nothing to lose his job. If Volstad is put in the lineup over Wells, then its all BS, propaganda. I not saying Volstad hasn’t impressed, but Wells hasn’t pitched bad enough to lose his job to him. Theo/Jes/Dale are trying to prove a point about trading Z. There are looking for justification, and this is going about it all wrong. Honestly, I was coming around on Volstad, but now I kinda hoping he falls on his face, so Wells can’t get his deserved spot back.

    S/N; the same people who are saying Spring Training stats don’t matter are the same ones saying Volstad should start over Wells because he has better Spring Training Stats. Hypocrisy at its best.

    • Bric

      I agree with you mostly but not sure I’m on board with the political side of it. If anything, it would be more of an ego thing, which none of these guys seems to have. As far as the ST game stats, absolutely. Either these games mean nothing, or they mean something. If they meant nothing, they wouldn’t even keep score.

      But I still think Sveum will make the right decision and put Shark in the bull pen (shark tank?). A more bottom half of the glass possibility is that Maholm may not be ready at all is going to to the 15 day soon.

      • Jay Anderson Jr

        Every person in sports has an Ego. From writers to coaches, managers and players. Hell, I have an Ego problem. I won’t knock that. But just imagine if we traded Z, paid the whole 18 mil( which we basicly did) and didn’t get a player back who can’t contribute. At the same time, Z has a 16-18 win season(possible). Can you imagine the backlash that might create? It’s definitely political.

        • Dougy D

          I think that getting rid of Z was based on the fact that he was a terrible teammate. I also hated eating the entire contract and only getting Volstad in return, but the fact of the matter is that the Marlins took out our trash and we got something in return. I don’t really see politics in the move. I would hate for Z to have a 16-18 win season, but I really wouldn’t be surprised if he did it. I am just happy that he is gone and I moved on very shortly after the deal was done.

    • Dougy D

      I think that Volstad should start over Wells based on the fact that he is a better pitcher. In his time with the Cubs, Wells hasn’t done much and doesn’t seem to be improving at all. I think that a move to the pen would actually make him a better pitcher, at least I am hoping so. He would have the opportunity to throw as hard as he can throughout his outing. I guess that I am hoping it could do for him what it has done for Kerry Wood, extend his career. I could see Wells getting traded to fill in a starting role for another team toward the back end of their rotation.

    • Shawon O’Meter

      YAY!!! More anti-Volstad rhetoric! So let me get this straight, Wells “deserves” a spot in the rotation because he has earned the right? Is this based on his 2009 performance? Have we found a time machine to go back to 2009 and redo 2010 and 2011 (I know we all wish we could)? I guess the new Front Office will give Randy a mulligan for the past 2 years when he clearly was wronged by amassing the following line: 329 2/3 IP, 350 H, 42 HR, 110 BB, 226 K in 55 starts (basic stats don’t tell the whole story I know, but I don’t have the time to break down the Iso’s and War’s). There is no hypocrisy here whatsoever. It’s called wiping the slate clean and basing decisions for an improved future. This is not a Volstad vs. Wells competition. It’s apparent the front office wants to find out if Volstad will be part of the young nucleus moving forward, something Wells will most likely not be apart of in 2014 and beyond.

      • Brett

        (I’m not fighting the overall point (in either direction), but can we please end the mistaken belief that Wells was bad in 2010? He wasn’t. He was good.)

        • Shawon O’Meter

          Certainly, that is absolutely fair. To tell you the truth I don’t like denigrating Wells at all because I actually do like what he brings to the table (moxie, team player, etc.). It was more in response to the Volstad/Wells face off and Randy became a victim of friendly fire.

          • Jay Anderson Jr

            Shawn, you call out those stats as if they are 10th times worse then Volstad. Volstad has been worse over that stretch. If we were replacing Wells with Verlander, I’m all for it. But Verlander is not walking through those club house doors. It’s the other V.

            Besides, the FO is setting a dangerous precedent by replacing Wells like this. Remember, internal personnel decision can effect future external free agent decisions. It Either turns potential FA’s away, or causes you to over pay(Soriano) to get them to sign.

            • Dougy D

              I don’t think the FO has replaced Wells. As far as I know, he is still in the mix. If he is left on the ML team, it’s Svuem and Bosio’s decision where he pitches.

        • Bric

          Brett, is it too soon to use the Volstad act joke again?

          • Brett

            Not if there is a clever tie involved between the pitcher and intoxicating liquors.

            • Bric

              Just this: Volstad bad, beer good.

              • MichiganGoat

                Beer? I’ll have a couple.

  • gratefulled

    Volstad’s line over the past two years:

    340.2 IP, 374 H, 40 HR, 109 BB, 219 K, 4.70 ERA, 1.42 WHIP.

    Your argument has very weak reasoning.

    • Shawon O’Meter

      I railroaded my point by including stats. Whatever guys, believe what you want to believe and I am not here to persuade you because frankly I don’t care. This decision will be based on what’s best for the Cubs moving forward and I happen to have faith that Theo, Jed, Jason, Dale and Chris know what they are doing.