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james russell cubsWe are less than three weeks from Opening Day.

  • Travis Wood was all kinds of “meh” about yesterday’s tough outing against the Rockies. “I said it’s just one of those days,” Wood said, per Cubs.com. “Luckily, it happened in spring, so we can move forward from that and get ready for the next one.” Yeah, that’s about right.
  • After getting through his dead arm period, lefty reliever James Russell is scheduled to make his first Spring appearance in tonight’s game. (ESPN) When asked about Russell’s usage the last couple of years – Russell was among the league leaders in appearances each year, and his total appearances over that stretch lead baseball – Rick Renteria wanted to make it crystal clear that he is aware. “Obviously, he pitched a lot,” Renteria said, per ESPN. “I’m very cognizant of pitcher usage. I’m very cognizant of how many times they get up in the bullpen. I’m very cognizant of how many pitches they throw in a given day. Am I aware of it? Yes.” Ok, then. Having Wesley Wright as a second lefty in the pen is obviously going to help, and there’s still an outside chance that the Cubs bring along a third lefty like Jonathan Sanchez. Even if the bullpen is five righties and two lefties, RR will be able to much more comfortably use that first lefty earlier in the game, not fearing that he’s got to “save” him for a lefty matchup in a more high-leveraged situation.
  • It’s worth pointing out that, although Russell’s 2013 season was not as effective, overall, as his 2012 season, he still held lefties to a pathetic 183/.221/.322 line with a 4.33 K/BB ratio. With a second lefty in the pen, perhaps Russell can be used more as a lefty specialist than a full-inning setup man. His numbers against righties last year were frightening: .321/.418/.615 with a 0.92 K/BB ratio.
  • Edwin Jackson will pitch in a minor league game today in order to stay on schedule, while James McDonald gets the big league camp start. In case you needed any further evidence that McDonald has the inside track on that fifth starter job, in Jake Arrieta’s absence. (Cubs.com)
  • Mike Olt handled third base during some batting practice yesterday. (Tribune)
  • A profile on Pierce Johnson, who is going to start the year out at AA Tennessee (albeit possibly after a short delay because of a hamstring thing). Together with the C.J. Edwards, Ivan Pineyro, Corey Black crew being bumped up from Daytona, it’s going to be so exciting to watch that Tennessee rotation. Matt Loosen, Ben Wells, and Zach Cates are among the other guys who could see time in that rotation.
  • Tony Andracki (and Jason McLeod) on some of the lesser discussed prospects in the Cubs’ system.
  • Vine Line has Cubs players talking about their favorite movies. I don’t share too many favorites with them, though Darwin Barney was right on when he said that his kids are forcing him to like ‘Frozen’ as his current favorite. Not a lot of Paul Thomas Anderson fans on the Cubs’ roster, I guess.
  • Kyle

    Frozen is awesome. I’ve seen it four times in the theater now, and I’m thankful for my son being there to make that socially acceptable.

    • Edwin

      I can’t wait until I have children old enough to make it socially acceptable for me to start buying legos again.

      • JB88

        Don’t wait. I was at the Lego store yesterday with my kids and, for his birthday, some guy in his late 20s was there. His very attractive girlfriend was buying him a $100+ Star Wars Lego set for his birthday. No reason not to enjoy Legos now. Especially if you have a special someone who will buy them for you as a present. :)

        • Edwin

          I think you lost me at “his very attractive girlfriend”.

          I always feel cheated. When I was growing up, it was just normal legos. Kids these days, they get LOTR, Harry Potter, Star Wars. They don’t know how lucky they are.

          • dumbledoresacubsfan

            Not even gonna lie. The Harry Potter and Star Wars legos were/are freaking amazing. I’ve had a complete Hogwarts built and in my “room” at my parent’s house since I was like 10/11. I’m 22 now. And every time I’m home I see that and my Lego Yoda. hahaha

            The only problem about Legos now is that they’re super freaking expensive.

          • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

            I was in the Lego Store with my girlfriend and we were laughing at some of these sets. The recommended ages were 16+ (and they were like 300-400 bucks). That is just insane!!

          • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

            They’re cool in what you can create but I still love just taking the legos and building something…even if it doesn’t look as cool.

      • TheDondino

        They brought out the Back to the Future DeLorean last year which is basically meant for adults and will be releasing the Ghostbuster’s Car later this year as well. No need to wait for kids of your own.

    • WernerT

      I finally registered just to affirm what Kyle said. Frozen is all that. I have only seen it once with my boys and now I need to think of reason to go back again.

      • JCubs79

        I’m am confirming that Frozen is indeed an great movie. I saw it with my parents, my sister and brother and we all enjoyed it.

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      Take your son to the Peabody movie…TODAY.

      It is friggen hilarious.

      • JB88

        Yeah, that movie is good, but if your kids are under 7, be prepared for a bit of language (not swearing, just phrases) that you may not want your kids repeating and the ending is a litte intense for little kids.

        • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

          My 4-year old handled it well but he is a strange kid. Watches documentary type shows about dinosaurs.

          • JB88

            My two, almost three, year old son loved it. My 5 year old daughter had some problems with some of the scenes.

        • ssckelley

          The Peabody movie was a little intense at times, especially the King Tut scenes on what they do to the queen when the king dies. So I agree that this movie is not for little kids, I had a 5 year old sitting behind me that started kicking the back of my seat because I could tell he was losing interest.

    • hoosiercub

      Pretty sure I hear that “Love is an Open Door” song every time I see Javy crush a homer

  • nate1m

    New citation format?

  • Darth Ivy

    With Edwards starting the season in AA, it’s reasonable to hope he’s in the big league rotation by opening day 2015? (I guess the same can be asked about Johnson. I’m just more excited about Edwards)

    • Edwin

      It depends how you define “reasonable”. If he dominates AA like he’s dominated A, then I think there’s a chance. If he’s just very good, then I think it’s more likely they move him up to AAA to start 2015, with a late season call up.

      I think there are enough questions (can he handle a starter’s work load, can he stay effective against better competition), that it’s more likely that he isn’t in the rotation by opening day 2015. I think opening day 2015 is pretty much a best case scenerio, so I don’t think it’s too likely.

    • Kyle

      Reasonable to hope?

      Well, you can hope for anything. It’s not likely, but it’s not impossible.

      • Darth Ivy

        obviously you can hope for anything, but that doesn’t mean it’s a reasonable hope.

  • itzscott

    Why stop doing the things you always enjoyed doing which hurts no one else just because you’ve reached some chronological milestone?

    Doesn’t make sense to give up the things that made you you in order to abide by some illogical social more that makes you think that you’re keeping up with the Jones’

    Never lose your “kidness”

  • CubFan Paul

    It’ll definitely be fun watching their progress/development to see who steps up out of the Pierce Johnson, C.J. Edwards, Ivan Pineyro, Corey Black pool.

    I’m meh on Matt Loosen, Ben Wells, and Zach Cates

  • Edwin

    Was the Lego movie good? I heard good things from Onion AV club.

    • JCubs79

      Lego Movie was great. I highly recommend it. I was laughing basically the whole movie. Plus, nostalgia kicks in while you watch it as well.

    • mjhurdle

      The LEGO movie was outstanding. Best kid’s movie I have seen in awhile.

      • jh03

        Kids movie? I’m 20 and I’ve went to see it twice. Love it.

      • Jim

        That “Everything is Awesome” song hasnt left my brain yet.

        • ssckelley

          Thanks for bringing up that song. It took me about a week to get it out of my head and now it is back.

          Damn you!!!!

          • Jim

            SPACESHIP!

            • jh03

              What part is better? The spaceship part (my vote) or when Batman says, “First try!” hahaha. Both cracked me up for a longer period of time than they probably should have.

              • mjhurdle

                the song that Batman wrote for Wyldstyle had me laughing for about 5 minutes in the theatre.

                • jh03

                  Yes, that was great ha.

                  Batman was hilarious throughout the entire thing.

                  • mjhurdle

                    i loved the line when they are building the sub where he asks everyone for all the black pieces, mostly because i remember doing that same thing when all the legos were dumped out and I was making things with a bunch of friends.
                    “hey guys, i need all of the clear red rods for my lazer jail. If you have any throw them over”

  • WernerT

    So who is going to make this fabulous newfangled pen of the Chicago Cubs?

    Veras
    Pedro S.
    Russell
    Wright

    Rondon?
    Cabrera?
    Sanchez?
    Parker?

    Who am I leaving out? Are Parker and Sanchez fighting for a spot? Is Sanchez unlikely because of being left-handed?

    • Jason P

      You left out Villanueva.

    • MightyBear

      and Arodys Vizcaino

      • MightyBear

        Also, Fujikawa could be back in May.

        • CubFan Paul

          Lim.

      • Edwin

        I think Vizcaino has a shot to make it during the year, but I’m guessing he’ll spend some time in AAA first just to work some things out, and get back in throwing form.

        • willis

          Vizcaino is arguably the best out of any of them, but yes, there’s no way he starts the season in Chicago. He’ll be eased along very slowly. We may see him come summer, but not before then I wouldn’t think.

    • Darth Ivy

      Parker is underrated

      • willis

        Villanueva will get a spot and I believe, so as to not try to sneak him through waivers, so will Cabrera. So there’s one spot to be had between a handful of meh. I thought it would be Parker with the inside track, but he’s fallen a little on rough times. My guess is Rondon.

  • Isaac

    My four year-old niece singing every word of “Let It Go” has to be the cutest thing on earth. Seriously.

    I keep my kid side alive by continuing to collect baseball cards. It’s all about quality over quantity now, but it’s still fun.

    • Edwin

      Do you do things like trying to collect and organize an entire “Cubs” season roster? Or just go for certain players?

      • Isaac

        I pretty much just trend towards vintage cards (picked up a Koufax rookie the other day) and auto’s. I have all of my favorite Cubbies auto’s (Sandberg, Santo, Castro, Rizzo, Baez, Almora, etc).

  • WMUCUBS

    Any idea if/when Mitch Maier is ever going to play? Thought he was a nice pick up if he can stay healthy.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’d say it’s a fair bet at this point that he must not be healthy.

      • Fishin Phil

        Per Cubs.com the other day. He is still experiencing back issues and logging plenty of hydrotherapy time.

        • WMUCUBS

          thank you.

  • WMUCUBS

    Thanks. Just wondering if anyone has heard anything since I’ve seen nothing on the news wires and don’t get WGN.

  • candyland07

    James Russell workhorse of the Cubs Bullpen drafted in 2007 made his debut 2010 at the age of 24. Consistency and improvement in his last three years is under appreciated. Hope he continues to do well.

  • shammai

    Really disappointed that Samardzija’s favorite movie isn’t Sharknado

  • NorthSideIrish

    Professor Parks has been answering some Cubs prospect questions on Twitter in the past hour. Basically says he sees the Cubs future IF to include Alcantra at 2B, Baez at SS, Villanueva at 3B, Bryant in RF and that Castro will be traded. Though he doesn’t think Castro is enough to land a TOR starter. He thinks Castro could be traded this summer because Baez will force the issue.

    Also, says Alcantra could play CF if needed and Villanueva has “Average bat/Average pop; well above-average glove.”

    • Soda Popinski

      I just don’t get all the Castro trade rumors. I think he’ll bounce back. As doc has pointed out, his line drive rate and contact was in line with his usual numbers- except he was starting out 0-1 or 0-2 in the count.

      • NorthSideIrish

        I think Castro is definitely better than he showed last season and will have a much better year this season. In this case, Parks was suggesting that since the Cubs are building for 2016 and beyond, it would make sense to move Castro for pitching and go with a less expensive IF that would produce similar offense.

      • http://bleachernation.com woody

        I agree with that. It got to the point where opposing pitchers were giving him fastballs over the plate on the first pitch because they were reasonably sure he had the take sign. My gut tells me that Baez will be playing second base when he comes up. Whether he stays there long term is the question. I think Castro stays a cub unless some other team gives up a lot in return.

      • Jon

        If they are trading for Castro in can only be positive. Meaning he’s rebounded well and they can use their infield surplus for pitching or other needs.

        They aren’t going to sell Castro for nothing.

        Last year(before the season) I heard a rumor that Castro could have netted the Cubs Justin Upton(towers would have taken it in a heartbeat) a bit moot because Upton was on the Cubs No Trade list.

        • ssckelley

          I agree, I think the sell price on Castro will be fairly high if he rebounds at the plate. Good hitting shortstops with a decent glove are difficult to find. Although I would not be opposed to the Cubs keeping Castro for the long haul and moving Baez to 2nd.

          I think a safe bet is either Barney or Castro will be gone by the trade deadline, perhaps both depending on how Alcantara looks at Iowa.

    • David

      LUKE – I hate the stinky White Sox… but would Joe Crede be a good comparison for Villanueva at 3rd base? Wishful thinking… I’d be thrilled with that.

      • aaronb

        Don’t think Villanueva projects to have that much power.

        • ssckelley

          He improved his slugging percentage from high A to AA, last season he slugged .469 with 41 doubles, 2 triples, and 19 homers. I don’t think he will ever be a guy who hits 30 homers like Crede did one season but he could hit 15-25 per season. With his good glove at 3rd he could get away with being a +.750 OPS on a good team. There were reports that he showed up this spring stronger.

  • Dakota44

    I feel like $14 million with the braves is a lot better than $14 million with the royals, he actually has a chance to go to the playoffs and produce for a wayy better team.

    • aaronb

      Plus he should get a production boost from switching to the NL.

  • Soda Popinski

    Sveum’s overuse of Russell and not ever giving Castro a break when he was slumping drove me absolutely bananas last season.

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