Chicago Cubs: Marlon Byrd
The Cubs had the potential tying run on second base with one out in the eighth inning when David DeJesus hit a line drive single to former Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd in right. Darwin Barney hesitated a bit and then took off around third base with Bell's blessings toward home plate. Byrd's throw was a perfect strike to catcher John Buck, who tagged Barney out three feet from the plate.
”Obviously it is disappointing. It turned out it wasn't a very close play," Bell said. "I just watched the replay again and it wasn't close. As a third base coach you always want to make the right decision. and that clearly wasn't the right decision."
Bell is in his first year of coaching third base for the Cubs after an 12-year major league career and four years as a coach and manager in the minor leagues.
”Obviously he would be the first one to tell you he would like to have that back," manager Dale Sveum said. "I have been in that situation before and sometimes you push the envelope to on a guy who doesn't have that good of arm. We know (Byrd's track record), so those things happen."
Byrd had gone in as a pinch-hitter in the top of the inning and stayed on in right field. The scouting report has Byrd with a strong but erratic arm from mid- range, according to a baseball scout.
"When you are scouting and doing all that (preparation) coming into a series, you know what arms to push and what arms you can't push," Sveum said.
"With all the day games it is hard to get in any extra work," said Byrd, whose New York Mets opened a series at Wrigley Field on Friday. "The only way to hit is walking across the field into the right field cage and hit before BP or on a rainy day. In every other ballpark you can hit in a cage by your own dugout before during and after games."
The 22-year-old Cervenka is 0-3 with an 8.04 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings in nine relief appearances for Single-A Greenville this season. He was a 27th-round draft pick of the Red Sox in the 2008 draft out of Baytown, Texas.
The Cubs also acquired reliever Michael Bowden in the deal for Byrd.
CHICAGO -- After being traded to the Boston Red Sox last weekend, former Chicago Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd returned to Chicago to start a four-game series with the White Sox.
“I knew I was going to be traded,” said Byrd, whose $6.5 million contract will be paid almost entirely by the Cubs, according to a major league source. “Brett Jackson is the future there, but I didn’t know when. I didn’t think it would be in April, but there was a need for me over here. I almost had to apologize to them for starting so slow. They should have been able to get more for me.”
Byrd, who was hitting just .070 for the Cubs, has had a good start with Boston, batting .308 in his first three games. The Red Sox are 3-0 with Byrd.
Though he is happy to be with a team that likely will be a contender this season, Byrd will miss being a Cub.
As of Saturday the team had moved Marlon Byrd's contract ($6.5 million ) to the Boston Red Sox and have $17 million worth of players on the disabled list with Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood both rehabbing injuries.
Dempster, who is in the last year of a long-term contract, hopes to be back on the mound the first week of May after rehabbing a strained right quad muscle.
“We have a little bit of a road ahead of us so we need to worry about winning some series,” Dempster said when asked about the obvious transition from old to young. “The best thing you can do is do your job the best you can and if everybody does that collectively as a group, you get better results as a team.”
Dempster and Wood, along with other veteran Cub players, can be sure that at some point during the 2012 season the front office will be fielding calls about their availability. Dempster will miss Byrd, who had joined the Cubs as a free agent before the 2010 season.
“Marlon was a pro’s pro,” Dempster said. “He came every day and played as hard as he could. He was as prepared as anybody and we will miss that around here.”
For now Dempster will get treatment and he hopes to get back to throwing next weekend. On Sunday he said that he incurred the injury in his bullpen session two days after his last start.
“When it happened I thought it would be a few days,” Dempster said. “But now I can have the assurance of not having to rush back and doing something where I miss more time.”
The Cubs recalled pitcher Randy Wells from Iowa to start in Dempster’s place on Sunday. Dempster was placed on the DL retroactive to April 18.
The deal that sent Marlon Byrd to the Red Sox for Michael Bowden and a player to be named later on Saturday is first stage of the Cubs’ overall plan to get younger -- and more athletic -- moving forward.
General manager Jed Hoyer said Saturday that the discussions about dealing Byrd had been on-going for months. Numerous clubs -- including the Nationals, Braves and Red Sox -- had inquired about the veteran outfielder. Boston hopped into the talks at the end of spring training. Conversations became more intense when Boston lost Carl Crawford and later Jacoby Ellsbury to injuries.
The Cubs, according to a major league source, will pay off a significant amount of Byrd’s $6.5 million 2012 salary.
Bowden a native of Aurora, Ill., was drafted by the current Cub front office when president Theo Epstein and Hoyer worked as a unit in Boston in 2005. Bowden will work out of the bullpen when he joins the team on Monday. The Cubs have also been given a list of young pitchers by the Red Sox that they will scout. At some point in May, they will choose one pitcher to complete the trade.
Although this move, in essence, starts the process of moving out a veteran to make room for the star players in the organization’s minor league system, don’t look for Brett Jackson to be on the North Side too soon. (I touched on this topic earlier on Saturday.)
“He is playing hard in the minor leagues,” Hoyer said of Jackson. “This is still early in his Triple-A career, and he still has work to do.”
Hoyer didn’t say that Jackson would spend the entire season at Iowa. Baring injuries on the major league roster, however, it’s safe to assume the 23-year-old outfielder will stay in the minors until the All-Star Break.
Look for the new front office to keep moving veterans throughout the 2012 campaign as the names and numbers continue to change at Clark and Addison.
The fact that the team was willing to move Byrd had more to do with his contract status and Boston’s needs rather than getting Jackson a spot on the Cubs’ 25-man roster.
Give the 34-year-old Byrd credit for being a great teammate and mentor to Jackson. It was the elder statesman who took Jackson under his wing and tutored him on the nuances of the game on and off of the field this spring. When Jackson was sent to minor league camp in late March he exchanged cell numbers with the veteran and thanked Byrd for all of his help.
Byrd believes Jackson is ready to play in the major leagues from what he saw of him for six weeks this spring. Which leads us back to the fact that the Cubs will not be ready to promote Jackson until he has had a sufficient number of at-bats in Iowa.
At age 23 the rule of thumb for the young outfielder should be to get 500 at-bats at Triple A in order to round out a minor league career that started in 2009 after Jackson was the 31st player chosen in the June draft.
The Cubs want to put their best players on the field, and will not be afraid to start the arbitration and free-agent clock for Jackson, however that rule only applies when it makes good baseball sense.
Regardless of what veterans get moved, it appears the Cubs brass will stick to their guns and make sure proper player development has already taken place before moving Jackson -- or first baseman Anthony Rizzo -- into the big time.
Byrd entered Wednesday’s game batting just .059 and has been hitting down in the No. 8 spot pretty much since the end of the opening series of the season.
It’s not just his inability to get hits -- he had just two heading into Wednesday’s game -- he is having a hard time simply hitting balls out of the infield, if he hits them at all (he has eight strikeouts).
Since Byrd isn’t going to break out of his funk by sitting on the bench, Sveum is willing to be patient, but only to a point.
“He will go out there, and [we will] see what happens after 100 or so at-bats,” Sveum said.
Byrd had 34 at-bats after 11 games and doesn’t figure to hit the 100 at-bat mark until the start of May. Even then it doesn’t mean Byrd will be benched, just that the club will have a better sample size to judge his production or lack thereof.
“We have to get him going; we have to get him swinging the bat,” Sveum said. “That’s a big part of our lineup. He’s been playing a nice center field, making some good catches and doing a good job out there. It’s nice to see he’s playing hard, he’s battling and he’s working his butt off to get out of it.”
1. Starlin Castro, SS: He has picked up where he left off in 2011 when he led the National League in hits with 207. The emerging superstar is 8-for-16 in his past four games with 5 RBIs and is batting .359 along with six stolen bases in the first 10 games of the season. Castro still has some work to do on defense without the Gold Glove ability of Carlos Pena to save him errors this season (he already has four). Expect better power numbers from Castro this season as the home run will soon be a part of the 22-year-old’s game.
2. David DeJesus, RF: Right field should be in good hands as DeJesus makes his way around the National League for the first time in his career. After a slow start, he is beginning to have an impact on the offense, going 4-for-10 in his past three starts with five runs scored. The Cubs wanted to get more balance in the lineup, and DeJesus was their first major signing (two years, $9 million). He also has been a big plus as a teammate and clubhouse presence.
1. Marlon Byrd, CF: He has gotten off to a horrendous start, batting .065 (2-for-31) with 2 RBIs and has been dropped down to the eighth spot in the order. At some point Byrd will hit, but the truth is he never has gotten back to being the same kind of hitter he was before he was seriously hurt in a horrific beaning last May in Boston.
2. Geovany Soto, C: He looked like he was ready for a breakout 2012 campaign when he was hitting the ball with authority before the Cubs left Mesa in early April. Soto had a double in the Cubs’ loss on Sunday, but he is now 1-for-16 in his past four games and is batting .138 on the season. The hot-hitting Steve Clevenger might push Soto for playing time, especially against right-handed pitching. Soto told ESPNChicago.com in the spring he expects to equal or better his power numbers from his rookie season of 2008 (22 home runs and 85 RBIs).
ST LOUIS -- The Cardinals got the jump on the Cubs early and never relented in a 10-3 victory on Sunday.
How it happened: In line to win their first series of the season, the Cubs instead dropped their second consecutive game to the Cardinals after winning the opener. Paul Maholm was roughed up, giving up six runs on six hits in four innings for the second consecutive start. The Cubs got little from their offense as four regulars got the day off leading into Monday’s off day.
What it means: Every time the conversation starts to turn to the Cubs’ solid starting pitching, the back end of the rotation adds some perspective. Ryan Dempster has a 1.88 ERA while Matt Garza has a 1.23 mark. Then it gets to Jeff Samardzija, who is at 3.95, while Chris Volstad is at 4.91. Then comes Maholm’s 13.50 mark.
Outside the box: Steve Clevenger isn’t about to unseat Geovany Soto as the starting catcher just yet, but he keeps getting unique chances to play. Typically backup catchers are kept on the bench in case the starter goes down, but Clevenger has already been used as a late-inning pinch hitter and on Sunday he got a chance to play first base in the seventh inning.
Off beat: Marlon Byrd reached base twice Sunday by errors on the Cardinals’ infield. That means his hit total on the season matches the times he reached base in the game by miscue. Byrd, who can use all the hits he can get right now, was first awarded a single on his third-inning roller to third base. But a few innings later the call was reviewed and changed to an error on Daniel Descalso.
Up next: After an off day on Monday, Cubs right-hander Dempster (0-1, 1.88 ERA) will pitch in the opener of a three-game road series against the Marlins. Florida will counter with right-hander Josh Johnson (0-2, 8.38) in the 6:10 p.m. CST start from the new Marlins Park.
“There’s no plan,” Sveum said in response to whether he had any notion to give Byrd an extended rest. “Give him a day, a little breather and hopefully get him on track. He’ll be back in there tomorrow.”
In a season in which the offense was expected to go through some growing pains, Byrd’s slow start was the last thing the Cubs needed. With a slash line of .048/.130/.048 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage), Byrd is struggling the most out of the Cubs regulars. Only six games into the young season, Byrd can only hope that he’ll get things turned around when the Cubs head to St. Louis to start a three-game set with the defending World Series champion Cardinals on Friday.
Here is the Cubs' lineup:
David DeJesus - RF
Darwin Barney 2B
Starlin Castro - SS
Alfonso Soriano - LF
Ian Stewart - 3B
Bryan LaHair - 1B
Steve Clevenger - C
Reed Johnson - CF
Matt Garza - P
“I think mechanically he’s got to be a little more linear to handle pitches,” Sveum said before Wednesday’s game. “But it’s still early yet. Guys get going a little bit later than other guys. We got to be a little bit better against right-hand pitching. That’s the bottom line. Our right-hand hitters, we have to take what the pitcher’s giving us. We got to be better at that on the outer part of a plate.”
Byrd has had varied success in the early goings of a season throughout his major league career, which began with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2003. He had just two hits in his first six games in 2010, but both of those were home runs. In 2009, he hit safely in his first six games, which included a five-hit performance.
Sveum hopes to see Byrd, who was hitting eighth in the order Wednesday, make adjustments to his hitting approach.
“When, what date or whatever, you don’t put a time limit on it,” Sveum said. “There’s a time where there’s got to be adjustments to be made. Whether that’s a week, two weeks, three weeks, four weeks into the season. The bottom line is production is what this job is all about. We got to make adjustments. That’s how people survive in the big leagues.”
Byrd hit .276 with nine home runs, 35 RBIs in 119 games in 2011. He had a career-high 16-game hitting streak last season from April 28-May 16.
The old veterans of the Chicago Cubs roster all reside in the outfield where Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd and David DeJesus patrol the expansive real estate.
Soriano will still be swinging the big piece of lumber he has always taken to the plate, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t making concessions to his advancing age (he turned 36 in January). He did manage to quiet the front leg kick he used as a trigger to his swing, and it seemed to help quicken his bat.
Soriano started fast and remained one of the Cactus League’s home run leaders all spring. Manager Dale Sveum backed off using Soriano in the leadoff spot, instead choosing to use him in the heart of the order this season.
With Brett Jackson looking like he’s about to burst upon the scene, Byrd’s days appear to be numbered. But ideally, the Cubs front office would like Jackson to play a full year at Triple-A before he is recalled, and he only has 48 games of experience there so far.
A realistic arrival time for Jackson will be around midseason. Everybody loves a dynamic young player, and Jackson was as good as anybody this spring, but the Cubs are in no hurry to rush him to the major leagues and damage his confidence in any way.
Byrd was the subject of trade rumors as the spring came to a close, with the Atlanta Braves being named predominately as a possible suitor.
After a disappointing 2011 season, due in large part to getting hit in the face with a pitch and missing a month and a half, Byrd dedicated himself to a fitness and diet program this offseason and lost an estimated 20 pounds. His goal is to avoid the late-season lull that affected him in each of his first two seasons with the Cubs.
DeJesus is embracing his return to the leadoff spot that he was so familiar with during his days with the Kansas City Royals. Last season at Oakland he was rarely used at the top of the order. DeJesus played a solid right field during the spring but never got on a run offensively.
Joe Mather and Reed Johnson will fight for playing time as backup outfielders. Mather had the best offensive performance of anybody in a Cubs uniform this spring, but maintaining that consistency while playing once or twice a week will be difficult.
3 KEYS TO SUCCESS
• Nobody expects Soriano to hit 40 home runs again and drive in 100 runs, but he showed last season that he does have some life in him. An 88-RBI season was his best in a Cubs uniform and his spring showed that he could be ready to do it again, if not add to that total.
• DeJesus is one of the few Cubs players who has the potential to offer a decent on-base percentage. The next best option for a leadoff hitter is possibly Darwin Barney and on-base percentage isn’t one of the strengths of his game. If he doesn’t get off to a hot start offensively, DeJesus must, at the very least, play solid defense and work counts.
• Byrd says that in the weight room he is lifting more than ever, a nice combination with the weight loss. The Cubs could use more than the 21 combined home runs he delivered in the last two seasons. He hit 20 home runs in his final season at Texas in 2009.