Welcome to spring training. Cubs and Sox are both in camp. Let's go.
Bruce how do you see the rotation coming out of Spring Training? Garza, Dempster, Maholm, Volstad, Wood ?
I wouldn't go as far as Volstad at this point. Sveum has said there will be a competition for a couple of spots. Let's take him for his word.
Any chance Brett Jackson is on the opening day roster and i dont mean Triple A roster lol?
I believe the plan is to have him start at Triple-A and work his way to the majors. It also depends on whether the team trades Byrd or Soriano before Opening Day.
Which Chicago Baseball Team do you think will be Better in 2012?
I really don't have a crystal ball for that. So many questions on both teams right now. I would say the White Sox. They probably have a better core of starting pitchers.
Do you think Viciedo in left, De Aza in center, and Rios in right is the best defensive outfield we can have? I worry about bouncing Viciedo around again but this seems to make the most sense.
The best defensive outfield would have Fukudome in it. Don't be shocked if he earns more playing time as the season progresses.
Will the Cubs manager let the guys battling for that fifth spot in the rotation have more innings than those whose place in the rotation is more set in stone?
Great question. So many pitchers vying for the same spots that they'll have to use B-games and minor league games to get the innings in for all the pitchers.
Do you like what you've seen from svuem so far?
I do. He's all business. Not that Quade and Piniella weren't, but his camp and organization skills are very impressive at this point.
Who do you think it's more important to keep in some sort of comfort zone in RF? Rios in his attempt to regain his '06 & '07 form or Viciedo in his first full major league season?
It depends on what type of outfielder Rios is this season. People talk about his offense lacking, but his defense was poor last year as well. Before last season, his defense was pretty solid. We're going to have to find out his commitment before the Sox decide where to put him.
Bruce....is there really a better atmosphere around the Cubs spring training this year or is it the usual We're all excited to be here mumbo jumbo?? it seems like every year you hear the same thing, this is the best spring training i've ever had and so on...what's your take since your an outsider?? and where's Soler??
Another good question, because we're only media people so we're not experts on how good a camp is. We go by what the players tell us. And the players tell me it's more exact for a longer period of time this spring. But these are players who have had two managers replaced becuase of their ineptness over the last two years so you have to question their expertise as well.
Any clue as to who the Cubs are leaning toward as the heir to Geo Soto at catcher?
Right now I don't see that guy in camp. They have some good prospects. However Clevenger is just an average defender and Castillo's game calling comes into question. Both have talent and could make it, but it's hard to project either one catching 120 games.
The rumors about the Cubs playing in Milwaukee or the Cell were amusing, but did I miss the rumor about how the Cubs are planning to pay for the Wrigley renovation?
The money is going to come from a combination of Ricketts family and what they're hoping are retired amusement taxes. Which is the taxation system on ticket prices. In other words, the Ricketts wants that money put in a reserve fund to be used to refurbish the park.
Why does Kenny Williams always target guys he tried to get in the past but failed (i.e. Peavy, Griffey, Fukudome) when those guys are past their prime?
He did a pretty good job of identifying Gavin Floyd, John Danks and Carlos Quentin. Guys who failed where they were at, so I don't know if that directly answers your question, but Fukudome should be a very good backup.
Do you buy that the Cubs will be better on the field simply by removing Zambrano? They said the same thing about Milton Bradley (who was waaaaay more destructive) after he left. The Cubs still stunk once he left.
No, I don't buy that theory. Zambrano pitched every five days, and most of the time he gave the team as good a chance to win as the other pichers.
Will this be the worst offensive team the Cubs have had since you began covering them? I don't know if there is a 20 HR hitter on the squad.
You have to go back before the Sosa era to remember a team that may not have a 25+ HR hitter. On the other hand, Epstein and Hoyer are looking for on-base percentage people and people who hit from the left side, so maybe they'll be better in that area this season.
What do you think the White Sox are planning to do at Left Field? That seems like an extreme question mark along with can Brent Morel improve the way he needs to.
I think it will be a combination of different outfielders, maybe De Aza, maybe Lillibridge, maybe Danks wins a spot in spring training. That would go along with the youth movement the Sox are trying to infuse. Outfields on both sides of town are up for grabs.
Is Theo Epstein going to be the face of the franchise moving forward? I just don't see any Cubs player being able to fill that void. And is that a problem if there is no one player who really represents the Cubs and Chicago to the national public?
The one thing I like that Epstein has done is creative flexibility to move any player. Outside of Soriano's contract, and Dempster's no-trade with one year remaining on his deal, Epstein and Hoyer have the flexibility to trade anyone. I like that for this year and beyond.
Is there a reason Castro has gone from a starter in the Futures Game to being viewed as a marginal prospect? I think Kenny did great in this deal.
Any trade bringing back a prospect for a marginal major leaguer is a good trade for either team right now.
A lineup of dejesus, barney, castro, lahair, byrd, stewart, soriano, and soto. how does that sound for opening day?
Sounds like 72 wins.
Now that the Cubs have paid for Theo, what is the cost for Jed?
That was agreed on before and we should know somehting here in the next week or two. There's great communication between the Padres and Cubs. Tom Rickets and Jeff Moorad are good friends.
What's it going to take for Rizzo to be in Chicago opening day?
About two months. Give Lehair a chance to establish himself or not and give Rizzo another 150 minor league at-bats.
Early prediction on the 2B job? Is it Barney's job to lose or could Cardenas easily be the opening day starter?
I confirmed it's Barney's job to lose, although it appears he'll be backup shortstop again this year. Quite unconventional to have your 2b as the backup SS.
Hi Bruce-Who's in the mix for the 5th outfielder spot besides Campana?
Dave Sappelt, an OF acquired from the Reds, very good defender with some speed.
Bruce have you heard anything on Soler? It would be nice to sign him and get him in camp. And how many years away is Junior Lake from making the Big Leagues?
Talked to Soler's agent four days ago, still has not been approved by MLB to become a free agent. Lake needs a good solid year in the minors. Maybe a Sept. call-up.
I am a die hard Cubs fan in Mid Missouri. Am I better off spending my "watching baseball money" on the Iowa Cubs or the big club. I am guessing seeing B Jackson and Rizzo might be more exciting this year
You wouldn't be wasting your time if you watched a lot of Rizzo and Jackson. They appear to be the near future at Clark and Addison. Also either Castill or Clevenger will be the catcher and either one could be in the majors for the next 5-10 years.
Was Sutcliffe just grooving BP fastballs for Rizzo and Jackson?
That's what you're supposed to do in early spring training. You're not trying to get them out, so I would ignore media reports about how many home runs guys hit off guys throwing 50 MPH. Means nothing other than hitters getting their hands ready.
It's easy for fans to insert a closer's name for the Sox but who really wants the role? Is it destined to be Reed's position regardless?
I think the Sox love the idea of Reed winning the job. Cooper is someone who really can put a young player in a positive mode.
Hey Bruce, we all know Garza is the ace this year, but who do you think will suprise us this year from the pitching staff?
Maholm pitched very well, although he had a very poor record last season. He had a 3.55 ERA and he doesn't give up home runs. So they're all signs for a surprise season as long as they can pick up the ball up on defense.
Which Chicago baseball team wins a World Series next in your opinion?
Can't project either one right now. I hope I live long enough to see one or the other.
Hey Bruce, Great Cubbie coverage of Spring Training so far! Is it fair to say that even if Jackson tears the cover off the ball that its a guarantee he starts in AAA 1. becuase of the extra yr of control and 2. we need to showcase Byrd?
They could start him in June and still have extra year of control. They just have to be more conscious about the change of Super 2 status, meaning now the top 30 percent of the second year class gets arbitration a year earlier. Used to be 17 percent service time. I don't think they'll concern themselves that much with service time issues as much as when they feel they're ready. Rizzo's clock already has started.
convince me, as a pirates fan, that a.j. burnett isn't the second coming of matt morris
I think there's something to the notion that some guys just don't perform well in New York. And maybe Burnett if healthy will relax in better envronment and pitching friendly park.
Keep following me on ESPNBruceLevine as I travel between the Cubs and Sox camps every other day and sometimes both on same day when the Cactus League season begins. Now here's my buddy Doug Padilla on the Cubs.
Hello all. Let's get to it.
How's the atmosphere over at Cubs camp this Spring Training after so much change? Do the players have a sense of renewed hope?
Outside of this camp there isn't a whole lot of expectation they are more than a .500 team. But Sveum has done a great job selling fundamentals to the squad and they are getting after it despite the reduced expectations. With new management there is a renewed sense of hope that they are heading in the right direction.
who is gonna bat leadoff for the cubs
Well we know it won't be Soriano. That job will go to David DeJesus, who was a fixture there over in KC. He was all over the lineup with the A's last year and is excited to be in his new/old role.
I'm kind of worried about Castro in the wake of this sexual assault scandal - mentally, legal trouble wise, etc. Are you?
We asked that of Sveum specifically and while admitting that he is just getting to know his young shortstop, he said that Castro has an impressive ability to focus for a young player.
How much will the Cubs miss Aramis Ramirez?
On defense they won't miss him one bit with Ian Stewart. The new Cubs third baseman has never been one to hit for average but drives in his fair share of runs when he gets consistent at-bats. The question is whether he's completely back form last season's wrist issue.
Doug, do the Cubs do any type of training/advising regarding playing in so many day games? I honestly believe that it has to have at least SOME effect on the team.
The talk around the league has always been that it's tough on opponents who like to enjoy Chicago nightlife and then struggle during day games the next afternoon. What's the old Mark Grace line: "A day game after a night game isn't the problem, it's the day game after a day game."
If Dempster has a horrible spring, could there be a chance he would lose his spot in the rotation based on the Wells, Volstad or d'Artagnan pitches well? Accountability is the Cubs key word.
No, as a veteran Depmster has earned the right to prove himself when the season begins, even if spring doesn't go his way. Dempster and Garza will be fixtures atop the rotation and spring won't do much to change that.
Are the Cubs just STUCK with Soriano? Is there NO CHANCE of getting rid of him?
Maybe as his contract winds down a little more there would be a chance to move him, but it's that old story of not wanting to eat all that money and have him drive in 80 runs for somebody else.
Call me crazy, and I don't know why, but I like Dale Sveum as Manager. He looks like a guy who will change the playing mentality of this club. They may not be good, but he'll have them playing hard.
He has a easy going yet stern way about him. I keep thinking of Kirk Gibson every time I see him. And we all know what Gibson has done for the D-backs. He's approachable but is all business and it seems like the Cubs needed to go in that direction with this hire.
Something doesn't add up...is Barney going to be our opening day 2nd baseman and we have no backup ss or is Barney going to be our backup shortstop and we have no 2nd baseman?
As Bruce said earlier, Barney is probably the backup SS, but a bunch of guys in camp have at least a little experience there. There is a ton of 2B experience in camp. None plays SS and hits like Castro though, which is why it was such a concern when he was hit by a pitch yesterday.
How is Castro feeling today?
Check the Cubs blog post earlier today. He said he was a little sore but wasn't held out of any workouts. Says he will be able to throw just fine. The pitch got him on the meat of the arm just inside his right forearm.
Doug- I really hope Byrd gets off to a great start and they can move him. Any thoughts on if/when this can happen?
It might not be so much how Byrd plays, but how the team plays. That goes for everybody. If the team is struggling but guys like Byrd or Garza are doing well, there should be a chance to move those guys for young pieces. Look for Theo and Jed to target pitching at the trade deadline if he has a chance.
Any separation in the battle to be the Cubs fifth starter? Or will that process only begin when spring training games start.
Nobody is doing anything more than throwing high speed batting practice right now so the real battle starts when games begin. Rodrigo Lopez gets the first crack at it Sunday vs. the A's but look for some of those starting candidates to pitch in relief during some of those early games next week.
I was thinking I would go and check out this new look Cubs team. Do the Cubs have any scheduled practices that are open to the public?
They are still at Fitch Park for the next few days (you can watch for free) and then they head up to HoHoKam later in the week. There are a pair of intrasquad games this weekend but we're still trying to find out if they are open to the public.
How much patience do you think the fans will have before they turn on Theo?
It's a legitimate question. He did leave the Red Sox with some pretty awful contracts on the books, but he has the track record of success. If things look to be headed in the right direction things should be fine. No matter what happens this year it wouldn't be fair to call him a bust.
Do you think Stewart is Just a one year plan at third ??? When do you think Vitters will be ready ?
It certainly is a big year for Vitters to show he deserves a shot. Stewart is only signed through 2012 so there is the opportunity available for Vitters.
I like the way the Cubs are shaping up. I think almost everyone is under-rating Brian LaHair. I think he is going to produce and won't be kept out of the lineup. Maybe a .280/.350/520 clip. And I think by the end of the year, he is the starter in LF, with Rizzo at 1st. What do you think?
That is a possible scenario for sure, but a lot of things would have to happen for that to be the reality. It's going to be tough for LaHair at times being a slugger with a big swing. But Sveum has said he will be patient so that should help him on the mental side. He has the ability, but often you need more.
Thanks for the questions. Talk to you next week when the Cactus League schedule has already started.