Chat with Bruce Levine
Welcome to ESPNChicago.com! Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox reporter Bruce Levine stops by Tuesday to chat.
Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.
Send your questions now and join the chat Tuesday at noon CT/1 p.m. ET!
Bruce Levine (1:02 PM)
Welcome to marginally better baseball on the North Side, and marginally mediocre baseball on the South Side. I guess right now the result is the same. Welcome to the jungle!
Are people around the league convinved that the Shark is a legit #2 starter, or are everyone besides cubs fans waiting for him to fall off?
Bruce Levine (1:04 PM)
First of all I think he looks more like Capt. Morgan in those commercials. Secondly, every scout I talk to believes that Samardzija is the most-improved pitcher in baseball since last June. Part of his success is his ability to repeat his delivery -- finding the same arm slot for all of his pitches. Couple that the fact that he is a world-class athlete and now you're seeing a dynamic result.
Bill (N Side)
The Chris Sale situation baffles me. Why wouldn't they simply let his arm get back to 100% and continue on as a dominating starter?
Bruce Levine (1:05 PM)
Maybe that's what they're going to do. For now, the doctor's opinions were probably for rest, but not for total deactivation. They also want to be mentally and emotionally supportive of a young pitcher who doesn't want to be shut down. I don't know how soon we'll see him pitch but the Sox may have a different plan after a week or so.
Nick K. (Sebastian, FL)
You would have to put Bryan LaHair in the All-Star conversation...wouldn't you?
Bruce Levine (1:07 PM)
Why not? One of the more dominant players in the NL right now. More importantly, the Cubs are starting to believe he can be a consistent performer all season long. It's a really nice story for a guy that has worked so hard to get there.
Matty Ice (Chicago)
With Dunn hitting bombs and Peavy pitching so well, are you surprised that the Sox are only 13-17?
Bruce Levine (1:09 PM)
You have to analyze the rest of the team. You have 5 hitters that have averages of .200 or less. Run production is still the biggest problem for this team. The revolving bullpen is another problem area. The biggest concern has been who is going to close for this team. Regardless of how Ventura and the front office downplay it, it's a situation that has to be solved.
John Pikes (Justice, Il)
Bruce,Please tell me the Cubs won't trade Lahair when they bring up Rizzo? Do you think they will try and trade Soriano or release him to make room for lahair in left field?
Bruce Levine (1:10 PM)
I don't know if Soriano has any trade value. On top of that, you're going to end up paying his entire contract like they had to with Byrd and Zambrano. The question is are you a more productive team with someone other than Soriano in that spot. If the answer is yes, you have to make the move at some point.
Bruce- I've really enjoyed watching the Cubs' improved play over this last stretch. The downside is Darwin Barney. There is just no room for light hitting guys who don't take walks (his OPB is under .290). Any chance we see more of Cardenas moving forward?
Bruce Levine (1:12 PM)
I think the answer to that is yes. Although Barney is a very dependable 2nd baseman at this point, and he has improved dramatically on his defense. In the NL you need to have good defenders because you're going to have a lot of low-scoring, close games. Cardenas can hit, but he has to show he can defend too.
Bruce do you think Marmol will regain closer role? Thanks
Bruce Levine (1:15 PM)
If Marmol can throw like he did last night against the last 2 hitters he faced, he can be effective again. They don't want him to be a dominant strikeout pitcher. Pitching Coach Chris Bosio's plan is for Marmol and the other pitchers is to get people out within three pitches. That's Bosio's mantra, and what he wants his pitchers to live by. But to answer, Marmol is best suited to close. I think they would like to see him get that role back and have Dolis come along in a slower fashion.
Africa (San Diego)
Do you see Castro putting more pressure on himself to be the man for the Cubs this year?
Bruce Levine (1:17 PM)
Not really. His offensive game continues to evolve. If you watch him in batting practice, he hits the ball out as much as anybody. I believe he will be a Robin Yount-type player, with a little bit more speed. So the numbers I project for Castro during his peak are 25 homers, 45 doubles and 30-40 steals. Basically, one of the next superstars in the National League.
Joey/San Jose Ca [via mobile]
Do u think Danks can turn it around? The pitching has got 2 b a let down 2 the offense. Every year it seems so. GO WHITESOX!
Bruce Levine (1:18 PM)
He's got to be able to command his fastball and not tip his change up. The ability is there. He just hasn't put together a complete game this season. And by complete game I mean a balanced attack of pitches. Tonight would be a good time to start against one of the hottest teams in baseball.
Ship (Charlotte, NC)
Any chance DeJesus can be moved this month, which would allow LaHair to move to RF to make room for Rizzo's power bat at 1st?
Bruce Levine (1:20 PM)
No and you're missing the point. The point is DeJesus gets on-base, plays an above-average right field, and gives Castro and LaHair a chance to drive him in. If he hits .280 and gets on-base 35% of the time, he will be the catalyst to the Cubs offense during a season where runs will be difficult to come by.
Bruce, assuming Soto puts together a decent first half of the month (hes been a little better lately), what type of trade value does he have?
Bruce Levine (1:22 PM)
If you look at the quality of catchers out there, Soto's skills are not far behind the best. He may have more power than any catcher outside of Brian McCann and his pitch calling ability has improved dramatically over the years. So right now he's more valuable to the Cubs than he is as far as bringing back prospects. For now he stays, at the trade deadline that may be revisited.
with the recent wins, do you think coach sveum is finally getting across to his team or do U think this is all hot streakiness and coincidence?
Bruce Levine (1:24 PM)
I think the Cubs coaching staff prepares their team as well as any in baseball. I'm tremendously impressed Sveum and his coaches and how they transfer information to their players and teach at this level. Also, the information that the front office provides to the coaching staff and players on a daily basis is impressive. After each game there is a printout waiting for each player on the next day's pitcher and potential starting lineup that the Cubs players can get a head start on before they come to the park.
If you are KW, do you send down Morel and Beckham to get their hitting mechanics in order? Maybe bring up Dan Johnson and Tyler Saladino? Can we expect Thornton to be traded shortly?
Bruce Levine (1:27 PM)
I think if you take Williams for his word, for the first time the Sox are in a rebuilding plan. I would think he's okay with players struggling and developing at the major league level. That's a bit difficult for fans to swallow but it is a reality of a team trying to get experience for its young players while they struggle to develop.
Bill (N Side)
Does Santiago have enough quality pitches to be a starter? I thought he needed another pitch just to stay a closer.
Bruce Levine (1:29 PM)
Santiago's problem is not his pitches, it's the command of his pitches. Most important thing for a young pitcher is command and movement. As of late, Santiago has had too little of each.
Keep Campana in the 2 hole compared to leadoff?
Bruce Levine (1:31 PM)
Absolutely. Sveum has has stumbled on an excellent place for Campana to bat, creating havoc on the defense when they are unsure if he is going to bunt or swing away. There's no question that he is a weapon that produces runs for the Cubs. Trading Byrd has had the residual effect of more at-bats for Campana and Mather. That has helped the Cubs win games.
Anything on the Garza extension front? I am really hoping they keep him as opposed to a trade
Bruce Levine (1:32 PM)
Everytime I try to ask a Cubs official about Garza I get the same answer. He's the type of pitcher they want to build around. That doesn't mean they won't trade him. It takes two to tango and Garza's agents will be asking between $15-$20 million a year. Don't know if the Cubs are ready for that type of pitcher right now.
What is your thoughts on Harper getting hit "as a welcome to the big leagues"?
Bruce Levine (1:34 PM)
I saw the Sox and other teams try to do the same thing to Ichiro in 2000. You see how well that worked out. When you have talented young players they will find a way to be successful. Throwing at them sometimes only makes the player better.
What has been going on with Thorton lately? It has just been painful watching him lately, you know something bad is going to happen. Great chats by the way, keep up the good work.
Bruce Levine (1:35 PM)
He's trying to get people out with the fastball. Not using a secondary pitch has hurt him. Thornton has a 96-98 mph fastball but unless it's perfectly located you're going to have trouble finishing off innings with that alone.
Is Jordan Danks getting any closer to being a major league player?
Bruce Levine (1:36 PM)
Haven't looked at his numbers lately but the OF is not the major problem for the Sox right now. Although you have to get Viciedo, Morel and Beckham swinging the bat. To Beckham's credit he has been much better over the last 10 games. If the Sox are going to win someone has to drive in a run besides Konerko, Dunn and Pierzynski.
I've been very pleased with Stewart at 3B this season. I feel like he has hit the ball a lot better than what his numbers show. Your thoughts?
Bruce Levine (1:37 PM)
The Cubs will be happy if he continues to drive the ball like he has over the past week or so. His defense is solid and if he can hit .250 he will hit 25 home runs. That's the goal for him at this point.
Scott (Iowa City)
If the White Sox fall into a rut and struggle, who do you see as potential pieces that could be moved.
Bruce Levine (1:39 PM)
The Sox under Williams have shown they will trade anyone at any time. Just look at some of the pitchers out there who started with the Sox: Gio Gonzalez, Daniel Hudson, Brandon McCarthy. Is there an untouchable on the Sox? I highly doubt it. Not as long as Williams is around.
If Stewart does that, do you think the Cubs will sell high or keep him?
Bruce Levine (1:40 PM)
That's the nice option that the Cubs have. I think Theo and Hoyer will continue to try to get younger and better but Stewart is not an old player. And finding a power-hitting third baseman is not all that easy to do. the thing I like most about what the Cubs have done is they have given themselves flexibility to trade anyone even at the cost of paying the entire contract of Zambrano and Byrd.The next step is solving the Soriano issue.
JJ (carol stream Il)
If Brett Jackson is not hitting in AAA will the cubs keep him down there another yr after this yr to get his abats down there
Bruce Levine (1:42 PM)
I have confidence he will hit there. But he might be down there the whole season, at least until September. Getting him 500 Triple-A at-bats is looked upon as a key to his development. The only rush to bring him and Rizzo up is to placate the fans and the group is not going to do that.
I realize A.J. is one of the only hitters producing runs for the Sox, but I see him wanting a trade of of Chicago if the Sox continue their current trend. Why not give Flowers some at bats so he's not cold if A.J. is ever traded.
Bruce Levine (1:44 PM)
That's a dilemma for Ventura. He wants Flowers to get more at-bats and time behind the plate. But how do you sit a hot hitter against right-handed pitching? Again weigh your factors between winning games and player development. That is a very tough act to juggle.
Is Soriano really an issue? I know his contract is obscene, but he seems to be playing decent defense at the moment, and from everything I read about the guy, it seems like everyone on the team just loves him. Isn't it good to have an older guy around to mentor the younger ones?
Bruce Levine (1:45 PM)
That's what copaches and managers are for. Middle of the order hitters have to drive in runs. Soriano is not a problem. The question is, is he a square peg in a round hole.
Seems like Jesse Crain's oblique injury has lingered onward since spring training. Assuming he can get healthy, would Ventura like to throw him out there in the 9th inning?
Bruce Levine (1:46 PM)
I'm not so sure about that. It's a different side oblique so this shows that he is having difficulty staying healthy period. This time he will go out on a rehab before he returns then they will figure out what role they want him in. Right now the pen roles are a mess.
Chris (Bartlett, TN)
What kind of potential does Cardenas have?
Bruce Levine (1:47 PM)
He has really good offensive potential. They think he is going to hit. I'll be interested to see how good he is defensively. With Barney struggling he should get some opportunities to start.
Bruce, how far along must the shark be until the Cubs start talking about an extension for him? Is this way too early or are we five solid starts away? Thanks!
Bruce Levine (1:48 PM)
I think they will wait until the season is over. They are going to want to see a full body of work that goes through August or September. This is not a guy who has ever had 33 starts before.
How do you feel about Maine being reassigned? With the fact that he was the only other lefty and the pen and how well he was doing, why would we send him down instead of lendy?
Bruce Levine (1:50 PM)
Castillo can't be sent down without offering him back to Philly. He was a Rule 5 pick. They really like his arm and pitching coach Chris Bosio has been bringing him along with a lot of side work before games. They need another left-hander in the bullpen and Maine did a pretty good job.
Do you think Volstad could be more effective coming out of the bullpen than starting (not that that is saying a whole lot)?
Bruce Levine (1:51 PM)
It appears so but then again some of his bad innings have been at the beginning of games. I was a little surprised that they didn't keep Travis Wood up after he pitched well in place of Garza. But then again it's their plan, not mine.
Mike (North Side)
Bruce,Any possibility of reuniting Marmol with Rothschild in NY with Rivera going down?
Bruce Levine (1:52 PM)
Larry knows him better than anybody. But the Yankees are not interested in trading for an ineffective pitcher at this point. Rothschild would have to convince them that he could fix Marmol's arm slot trouble. That would be a $14 million gamble.
Why isn't Reed the Sox closer?
Bruce Levine (1:54 PM)
It looks like it's going to be his turn soon. Maybe as early as tonight. I don't think you are going to see Thornton back in that role. Santiago is certainly not the answer right now.
Isn't it a bad sign if the best Sox players this year are not the younger players? Peavy, Dunn and A.J. are not the future.
Bruce Levine (1:56 PM)
And there lies the problem that Williams must solve in moving forward. If Peavy is still pitching lights out in July you would think you would be able to deal him for a decent prospect. Same with AJ. The future is not with this entire 25-man roster.
Kevin (Fort Wayne, IN)
What do you think the chances are of Travis Wood getting called back up to take Volstad's place in the rotation if Chris continues his horrid pace. I was pleasantly surprised with Wood's spot start, and it seems like Volstad could benefit from some retooling in AAA.
Bruce Levine (1:57 PM)
I don't know about whether he would get better at Iowa but he might be a solid bullpen guy if they replace him with Wood. The rest of the rotation has been stellar of late. Even Maholm has had three quality starts in a row. The pen needs to be straightened out for them to be considered a good team.
Bruce Levine (1:58 PM)
Follow me on ESPNBrucelevine and my tag team partner Doug Padilla at ESPNChiCubs for all your baseball needs. And remember we are here to bridge the gap between Bulls and Bears. Talk to you next week.
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