The week of Opening Day is here (I don’t count that A’s/Mariners/Japan business). Thursday still feels weeks away.

  • Bobby Scales, who returned this offseason to the States from a stint in Japan, has been released by the Cubs, and signed with the Mets, where he’ll play for their AAA team. He was expected to play for the Iowa Cubs this year, but I wonder if, instead, the Cubs were pushing him to consider starting his coaching career. Scales may not have been ready to hang ’em up yet, so he headed out to a place where he could play. Best of luck to him.
  • It looks like the Cubs are going to lose both of their Rule 5 Draft picks, at least to start the year. Ryan Flaherty has long been expected to make the Orioles as a utility infielder, and now Marwin Gonzalez, despite a mostly crappy Spring, is likely going to make the Astros. “Marwin has done a great job defensively; he’s shown that he’s capable of taking Major League at-bats,” Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow said. “I think we saw a couple of good plays in the game today. He’s ready. He’s a valuable asset for us and we like to have a guy like that in the organization. To do that, we have to keep him on the 25.” Gonzalez, 23, would have come in handy for the Cubs at some point if they grow weary of having their starting second baseman (Darwin Barney) serving double-duty as the back-up shortstop.
  • Bryan LaHair’s touchy back would have allowed him to play yesterday, but the Cubs are being cautious. “He’s much better today and probably could have played,” manager Dale Sveum said. “His back is better. It just got stiff and locked up. He had some discomfort down the leg so there is obviously something there with a nerve or whatever but today he was much better. Hopefully we’ll have him in there tomorrow, but if not the last day.” The Cubs aren’t worried about LaHair’s homer-less Spring Training, either.
  • The Cubs have considered dropping Travis Wood all the way down to AA Tennessee, but he’ll “probably” start a AAA Iowa this year. The crowded rotation at AAA plays into the decision, I’m sure, but sending Wood from the bigs to AA would be an easy way to kick his confidence in the crotch.
  • HarballTalk offers a particularly caustic take on the 2012 Chicago Cubs. It’s also a grim take: 70 wins is the upside.
  • Matt Garza says that kind of talk doesn’t faze the Cubs. He thinks they’re going to be good. “That’s more motivation than anything,” he said, according to Paul Sullivan. “We’re going to take all that [talk], let it motivate us and see if we can shock some people.” In that case, Matt: I guarantee the Cubs won’t win more than 85 games this year. No chance. None at all.
  • Phil Rogers takes a look at the Cuban prospects in the Cubs’ system, starting with lefty Gerardo Concepcion, who’s looking good in his early Minor League camp appearances.
  • MLBullets at BCB, featuring the Ubaldo/Tulo dustup.
  • Spencer

    Seems like it would make more sense to drop another pitcher down to Tennessee rather than Wood. I know I sound like a broken record, but with Flaherty and Gonzalez making rosters, I think it makes even more sense for Castillo to be put in the bullpen for opening day at the very least.

  • CubFan Paul

    Wells, wood, Rusin, Coleman, and Jackson ..who else is in the Iowa rotation? McNutt will probably start in AA now

    • Luke

      Ryan Searle could be a candidate.  Maybe Dallas Beeler, too.

      • Brett

        Nick Struck.

    • npnovak

      that’s what I’ve been saying, but everyone thinks McNutt is a lock for AAA

      • Luke

        McNutt, baring injury, should be in Iowa by the end of the season. He had such an unstable year in Tennessee last season, though, that a half a dozen starts at Double A would probably be a good thing for him.

  • hansman1982

    Thursday still feels weeks away.

    Tell me about it – I took PTO on Thursday and Friday and I have to squeeze 30 hours of work in between now and then.

  • Clark Addison

    Iowa looks loaded.

  • ColoCubFan

    Bummer #1. When my back kept locking up, followed by some nerve pain in my leg, I had to have back surgery. I wonder if that’s what’s ailing LaHair.

    Bummer #2. My wife scheduled her foot surgery for Thursday afternoon! AARGH!!!!

  • Noah

    One good reason to start Travis Wood in AA: fly ball pitchers get destroyed in the PCL. Not saying they should put him all the way down there, but I do see some legitimate reasoning for it to start the season.

  • Ivy Walls

    ♬ to the the tune “Waiting for the UFO’s”

    waiting for the trades

  • czechxican

    Yeah, LeHair with back and leg/nerve issues? Don’t like the sound of this. Get the feeling Blake Dewitt is our regular for a while

    • njriv

      …or joe mather

      • Andrew

        … or jeff baker

  • Sweetjamesjones

    Just read this: Bill Murray will be throwing out the first pitch/singing the 7th inning stretch on Thursday!

  • Kyle

    So we have room on this team for Joe Mather and Reed Johnson, but not Ryan Flaherty or Marwin Gonzalez.

    Nice asset management, Hoystein.*

    * – (I’m guessing we’re still at the point where I can’t criticize a move by the new management without also stating that I’m extremely excited about many of their other moves, and believe that they will have an excellent tenure in charge of the Cubs’ bright future).

    • Noah

      No, I agree that leaving Gonzalez and Flaherty off the 40 man was a mistake. However, if the biggest mistake that the Theo/Hoyer regime makes is letting a couple of utility players go, I’ll be very happy (which is pretty much what you said anyways).

      With that said, I’m not convinced that we won’t get either player back eventually. I know both of these teams are bad… but Flaherty was made to look really foolish at the plate in AAA last year and Gonzalez could potentially bat .200 this season, on top of the fact I’ve heard he’s kind of fringe defensively. We’ll just have to see if either or both will be able to stick around active rosters all year long.

    • dabynsky

      I was disappointed with losses, particularly Flaherty, but I don’t think we are going to be rueing the day Flaherty was left off the 40 man roster five years from now.*

      *Well maybe some of us will since I am still upset that they kept Augie Ojeda over Miguel Cairo over a decade ago.

    • CubFan Paul

      Soriano, Byrd, Dejesus, Johnson, & Mather ..I just realized how sad the OF is

      • Dustin S

        I’m all for trading Soriano if we can pull it off at some point, but it does get you thinking about the lack of power in the OF and the really whole lineup if/when he is gone. It’s actually possible that the team wouldn’t have a player with 20+ HR this year.

        The most likley are Soto, Lahair, and Stewart (who’s looking like the most likely after this spring) but all 3 are borderline for 20+. I see alot of doubles from Lahair this year but only ~15-20 HR. Soto, depends on if he can stay healthy.

        Definitely going to be alot of small ball and agressive baserunning this year. That can work though and I’m optimistic that we will be better than expected this season. It will just take some adjusting for alot of fans after many years of our only offense being waiting for 3 run homers.

        • DocWimsey

          The Cubs offense was not one of waiting around for the 3-run HR. Weaverball (now called Moneyball) is about getting lots of guys on base: as Earl put it, play for 1 run, score 1 run; play for 3 runs, win the game. That means avoid outs, and that means that you’ll get a lot more PAs with 1 and 2 guys on base: and thus a lot more 2-run and 3-run HR.

          The Cubs have been too fond of situational hitting: i.e., if we just get all of our clutch hits, then we’ll outscore the other team. However, none of the teams that frequent the playoffs play that way.

          As for small ball and aggressive baserunning, just who are the teams that win this way? There are the mythical Tampa Bay Rays: but the actual Rays offense is about drawing walks and hitting for power. (They were 8th in team OPS and 8th in runs-scored: so, the baserunning didn’t have a huge effect!) It makes a nice story: but really the Rays are about run-prevention: they make everybody look like the Mariners…..

  • AB

    Apparently Hayden Simpson has been assigned to extended spring training

    • Luke

      Good move.  There are reports that he is not back to full strength yet, and until he gets his strength and velocity built back up, there is no reason for him to be starting in a full season league.

      To be honest, I wish the Cubs had done this last season.

  • MaxM1908

    I’m probably drinking the kool aid, but I’m with Matt Garza on this one. I think this team will surprise many people this year. In the past, I think a lot of Cubs losses came from poor game management and a lack of focus on the fundamentals of baseball. Dale Sveum appears to “get it” and I think that will be reflected in a lot of close victories that in previous years would have been losses. We won’t compete for the playoffs this year, but if 70 is the over/under I am firmly taking the over. I’m predicting between 75-80 wins this year–more if our bullpen exceeds expectations.

  • Big Puma

    Hey max, you are drunk off your ass on Kool Aid.. The Cubs will show who they are after the first month when they win all of 7 games. The cubs best RBI guy is soriano, and that says all you need to know about the cubs scoring issues..

    The cubs will need everything to go right to win games and teams like that probably don’t win more than 70 games.

    Plus Byrd and maybe Garza even will be gone, for more f’ing prospects.

    It’s not gonna be pretty.

    I will be in the stands with a paper bag over my head that says shame on the cubs.

    • MaxM1908

      So if the Cubs are at least 10-13 at the end of April, will you admit you are being a tad overly-pessimistic?

    • DocWimsey

      The fact that you refer to “RBI guy” tells us a lot right there…..

  • TampaCubsPhan

    I think the Central division winner last year had 91 wins and that was with Pujols in St Louis and Fielder in Milwaukee, with both being gone I say 85 victories wins the division this year!!

  • rocky8263

    Say big puma what should the cubs have done this off season? Any real ideas? You remind me of the casual fan that says” yeah the cubs always start well and lose in the end”.

  • Big Puma

    I don’t have too much of a problem with what the cubs did this offseason, I just think in addition to what they did building for the future the Cubs should have signed Prince and Yu Darvish. The cubs could have paid them both and fielded a competitive team, then in a couple years when they were done paying for soriano and zambranos contracts they could have signed a couple more free agents and by then their young guys would have had a couple years to grow and mature, everyone would still be in their prime and we could legitimately think about a world series. There’s no way this team competes in two years now, and any more than two years is too long when the cubs franchise makes the money it does, it should invest in top players in their prime, and not sell hope to desperate fans who will buy tickets even if the team stinks because we are loyal fans and we love our team.

    Jerks raise prices and give us David de”who”sus??..

    I want to be excited about baseball but it’s hard when your team looks like a minor league squad.

    And yes if the Cubs are 10-13 I’ll admit I was wrong..

  • Big Puma

    You’re not smart for pointing that out doc, just small.