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February 14, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Bruce Levine, Doug Padilla

Bruce Levine
  (1:06 PM)

Spring training is just a few days away. Cubs pitchers and catchers report Saturday. And for you Sox fans it will only be another week. I'm covering both teams this year so I will take on all questions Cubs and Sox.

Lewie (Midway, Chjcago)

Hey Bruce....so what's the news on Soler, i've heard he's close to signing with the Cubs? any truth to that? I was more for signing him than cespedes, because he's younger and has more upside...what is your take on that? Thanks

Bruce Levine
  (1:07 PM)

I don't know if he has more upside but he's younger. At 19 most people think he would have been a top-five draft pick last year. He still has a ways to go. The Cubs appear to be the frontrunners for him but then again didn't everyone say Cespedes was going to Miami.

David (Va Beach)

Any chance of a Garza deal before the season at this point? Or is an extension becoming much more likely at this point?

Bruce Levine
  (1:09 PM)

I know they have been working on an extension. It depends how reasonable both sides are going to be. But Epstein doesn't give no-trade clauses in his long-term deals which would mean a sign and trade could still be a possibility.

JIMBO (Lemont.IL)

Does the Fukudome signing mean the end for Lillibridge or does that mean he will have more of a utility infielder role?

Bruce Levine
  (1:10 PM)

I think it just frees up Lillibridge to play all over the place. The Sox only have four outfielders on their 25-man roster which means they are down at least two outfielders. Fukudome gives them a veteran backup for all three spots and gives them another left-handed bat off the bench.

Jimmy (Phoenix, AZ)

Bruce-Theo has mentioned that he wants the rotation to go 10 deep. With that being said, they probably need to get one more guy. Is Soto for Davis dead? Or is that still being pondered? I know that would hurt our O, but Soto is hit and miss anyway and we could get another young LH arm for the future

Bruce Levine
  (1:11 PM)

I don't see that happening right now although I wouldn't say that Soto won't be traded this year. It's about time they go Castillo some seasoning in the major leagues.

Jeremy (Denver, CO)

How do you think Paul Maholm fits into Epstien/Hoyer's plans? Sure he's a great, underrated pitching talent, but signed for 1 year with a club option on a non-contending team, is the idea to trade him if he lights it up this year or will he actually be on the team whenever the Cubs are relevant again?

Bruce Levine
  (1:13 PM)

Flexibility is something the new Cubs brass wants to have with this makeshift group. They are building past 2012 and if they make five or six trades on July 31 that will just be a part of their process of building toward a championship team.

Jeremy (Denver, CO)

Who is more likely to come up first, Rizzo or Jackson?

Bruce Levine
  (1:14 PM)

I think it depends on the production they get from those positions. I think LaHair is going to do an OK job offensively. Not sure about his defense. Jackson's role might be more clear if and when the Cubs trade Byrd. He has been the subject of trade talks since November.

Bill (Hanover park)

How much of a chance do you think Lahair will get? Will he be benched or sent down in May when Rizzo is ready reguardless off how well or not well he's playing?

Bruce Levine
  (1:15 PM)

LaHair is the obvious only first baseman on the team. Jeff Baker is his backup and he's really not a first baseman. If LaHair doesn't make it or gets injured it's likely Rizzo will be recalled.

Dave (Chicago)

If Randy Wells doesnt make the rotation whats the next option? Bullpen or traded?

Bruce Levine
  (1:16 PM)

Traded bullpen and I believe he still has a minor league option left. I see him competing for the No. 5 spot along with 3-4 others.

ESPNChicago.com
  (1:20 PM)

Bruce had to take a call. Back soon ...

Adam (Dirks)

Any truth to the reports that the Cubs may call U.S. Cellular in 2013?

Bruce Levine
  (1:25 PM)

The Cell would be an option for some games. But no baseball field would hold up to 162 games played on it in 180 days. So the Cell would be an option, as would Miller Park. but more likely the Cubs would have to do the renovation over 3-4 years and stay at Wrigley.

KD (Valparaiso)

I know that the team is building around Castro. His defense lost a handfull of games for the Cubs in 2011. Do you see his defense improving from last year? I am trying to feel good about this guy, but the defense has to improve.

Bruce Levine
  (1:27 PM)

I think being the type of athlete that he is, Castro will continue to improve his footwork. Most of his errors come on easy ground balls when he has trouble getting his feet under him. I think that improvement will come over time. Keep in mind that number may be up without Pena or Lee picking balls out of the dirt at 1B.

Jake (DSM)

Who do you think is the favorite to win the back-up catcher job? If it is Jaramillo do Clevenger and Castillo both go to Triple A?

Bruce Levine
  (1:28 PM)

Jaramillo is the one with big-league experience. If it was my team I would have Clevenger back up and let Castillo have another full year at Triple-A. Castillo has the better offensive tools.

Ross Wahoo NE [via mobile]

Is Dale Svem an aggresive coach? We should have a little more team speed this year with Castro, DeJesus, Stewert and possibly Jackson. More stolen bases and hit and runs?

Bruce Levine
  (1:30 PM)

It depends on the makeup of the rest of the team. Somebody has got to get on base first before you can hit and run. And then someone has to drive him in so we're talking about DeJesus who hit .240 and Stewart who hit .156. Those are not ideal numbers for hit and run guys. Still, moving runners would be a nice thing to see for the Cubs.

Bruce Levine
  (1:31 PM)

We'll be talking Sox and Cubs from Mesa beginning Wednesday. Follow me on Twitter at ESPNChiCubs.

Doug Padilla
  (1:33 PM)

OK, let's begin with some White Sox talk.

Rob (Chicago)

Any word on the White Sox interest in Soler or is he for sure going to the Cubs? Are there any other international players on Kenny's radar?

Doug Padilla
  (1:35 PM)

The White Sox did have interest in Soler they just didn't have the cash to grab him. The White Sox are making a huge effort to once again find talent in the Latin America market and it will be interesting to see how much progress they can make in the upcoming year.

skip (aurora)

With Cora now gone, who's running spring training and how does parent's attitude about pitchers protecting the hitters more mesh with coop's atittude on this?

Doug Padilla
  (1:37 PM)

The coaches all had a get-together this winter to hash out their spring plan. Ventura and Parent would seem to be the two guys taking charge in that area. Parent seems pretty no-nonsense so it will be interesting to see how the White Sox handle their own batters getting hit. But those numbers should be down this year with Quentin now in SD.

Ken (Tinley Park)

Doug, the reaction I'm seeing so far from Sox fans is they aren't to thrilled about the Fukudome signing. I actually think it's a smart move, more outfielder depth, veteran player, etc.? What do you think and why?

Doug Padilla
  (1:39 PM)

Yeah, much of the reaction has been pretty harsh. But it adds a veteran and a left-handed bat off the bench for a very low price (500K and a 500K buyout). I'll be honest, it sounded like they didn't even have this much cash to spend so being able to add a low price veteran for the bench isn't a horroble move. Fukudome will have to dictate hoe much playing time he is worthy of getting.

John (Chicago)

The Sox play down good players they get rid of (see Daniel Hudson, Chris Young) even though they are productive players. Can we trust them on the flip side? i.e. are Nestor Molina and Addison Reed the real deal or over-hyped?

Doug Padilla
  (1:42 PM)

I think we all saw that Reed is the real deal. He should be a good one. We will all see what Molina gives them this spring and in the minors when the season starts. The White Sox knew the type of talent they were giving away in Hudson and Young, they just thought the players they got in return would help them get to where they wanted to go. Doesn't look good in hindsight sometimes, especially with Hudson.

Lane (Kukuihaele, HI)

How will spring training be different this year without Ozzie???

Doug Padilla
  (1:44 PM)

I honestly don't think it will be that much different. The biggest move Ozzie made last year was to play his regulars nearly 9 innings during the last week of the Cactus League schedule. Pretty sure Ventura won't do that this year. As for how they do their work, Ozzie and Joey Cora ran a fairly typical schedule.

Bill Wiggins (Rockville, VA)

Surely the Sox attendance will go down for 6th straight year and go under 2 million fans, won't this put an end to the Kennie Williams era?

Doug Padilla
  (1:46 PM)

I think we all know that Kenny is on the spot this season. And the fans can tell the club how they feel by deciding to show up or not. There is a vision for the future, believe it or not, and if some of those young players that have promise start to emerge then we could be singing a whole different tune. If not then big changes could be coming.

Andy (Knoxville, IA)

Doug! Do you think every time the White Sox play the Rangers Ventura will be embarrassed about the beat down Nolan Ryan gave him in their playing days?

Doug Padilla
  (1:48 PM)

Robin has been a good sport about it. Since the two teams meet on Opening Day (and I believe they play in the first Sunday night ESPN game) it should get a lot of attention early. As the season gets closer we should probably start seeing a lot of Ventura-Ryan stories.

kaufmak (Chicago)

Is the Fukadome signing along the lines of Griffey and Ramirez or is there more to get hopeful about?

Doug Padilla
  (1:50 PM)

I think the idea with Griffey and Ramirez was different. They were trying to catch lightning in a bottle, in a sense. With Fukudome, there really isn't a glory day to harken back to. They went out and got a veteran presence for the bench. That seems to be all it was. And you can't beat the price, which is barely over what a first year player would make (not counting the buyout).

Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)

Will the White Sox be a Great Team this season?

Doug Padilla
  (1:53 PM)

This seems to be dripping in sarcasm a bit. Look, the White Sox can do some damage if everybody plays to their career norms. The issue is that so many players have to improve to get to their career norms that it is a huge challenge for them. Only Konerko and Humber, and maybe Crain (am I missing anybody else?), would be fine repeating what they did in 2011.

Chester (Chicago)

what is the organization doing about Rios, if not for Dunn he'd be taking a lot more heat?

Doug Padilla
  (1:55 PM)

They are going to have to let him play to see if he can return to being the player he once was. Perhaps the new coaching staff will help. It's not like they will have a completely new approach for him to follow, but as they always say, sometimes hearing the same things from a different voice will help.

Doug Padilla
  (1:56 PM)

On another Rios note, he was very close with Ozzie. The question remains: If Ozzie couldn't get production out of him, how will Robin do it?

Doug Padilla
  (1:58 PM)

Thanks for the questions. Leaving for the West Coast tomorrow and will arrive in AZ later in the week. Talk to you all next from spring training.