Browsing posts from February, 2012
At the start of Jerome Walton’s 30-game hitting streak on July 21, 1989, the Cubs trailed Montreal by 3.0 games and the Mets by a half game in the NL East Division.
Chicago went (8-2) over its next 10 games jumping New York in the standings and trimming Montreal’s lead to 2.0 games with Walton setting the pace from the leadoff position hitting .318 (14-for-44) over the stretch.
Although Jerome was hitting the ball to all fields, he was also showing a knack for beating out infield grounders, including a bunt single and two infield hits.
Walton finished the regular season reaching 18 times on bunt attempts and 30 times on infield hits, a huge contributing factor to his season ending .293 batting average–good for 7th best in the NL.
Here’s a handful of non-roster invites who could surprise in spring camp to make the Cubs Opening Day roster.
Jason Jaramillo: A solid spring would position the Racine, Wisc. native for the No.2 role behind Geovany Soto. Couple that with a poor spring from Soto, and the 29-year-old could open the season as the No.1 catcher. His left-handed bat, good defense and experience the past three seasons in Pittsburgh (119 games) makes him worth keeping an eye on.
Here’s a look at four non-roster invitees who could surprise in spring camp to make the Cubs Opening Day roster.
The young right-hander, 28, enters his prime years having spent the past few seasons in Chicago’s minor league system. His quite confidence and three quality pitches earned him a cup of coffee with the Cubs in 2009 & 2010. But he’s seen limited action since suffering an elbow ailment in May of 2010–46 total innings pitched since.
The trade of OF Dave Martinez to Montreal the previous July left the Cubs without a true center fielder heading into spring training in 1989.
It didn’t take long for the dynamic speed of young prospect Jerome Walton to emerge from the competition. Walton’s terrific outfield range quickly caught the eye of Cubs manager, Don Zimmer, who settled on Walton as his Opening Day center fielder.
Despite committing an error on the first ball hit to him on Opening Day, Walton proved Zimmer’s decision wise over the long haul.
It was 46 games later before Walton made his second defensive miscue, and he booted just one more throughout his final 69 regular season games played.
The regularity at which Walton showed flashes of brilliance in center field made him of Gold Glove consideration.
Had it not been for a mid season injury that limited his season to 116 games, Walton may have earned more hardware than his Rookie of the Year Award.
Starting pitchers Javier Vazquez, Brandon Webb and Scott Kazmir all remain unsigned this offseason.
Any one could be a nice addition to the Cubs rotation, which to this point, is only three deep in certainty–Dempster, Garza & Moholm.
With the Cubs keeping a heavy focus on signing starting pitching depth this offseason, there’s little reason to believe Vazquez, Webb or Kazmir wouldn’t be any less capable of winning one of the final two rotation spots than Randy Wells, Travis Wood, Andy Sonnastine, Chris Volstad or Jeff Samardzija.
The greater risk, however, is money. The collection of new Cubs arms this winter was done on the cheap.
Vazquez, Webb & Kazmir are hardly penny-wise investments, but presumably have an equal, if not greater chance of not only making the rotation, but of also making a difference once there.
Here’s why it may not be as dollar-foolish as you think for the Cubs to sign one of these three free agents:
I’m wondering what the Cubs’ New Way has in store for Jeff Samardzija?
Starter, reliever, go-between?
The indecision of the Cubs’ old regime damn near wasted five years of this kid’s career piddling around with the idea of making him a starter or reliever. That’s simply ridiculous for a power-arm the Cubs paid a precious $10M dollars for over 5-years ago.
And over those five seasons, thanks to the Cubs’ flip-flop mentality, it’s become rather tough as what to make of Samardzija’s progress, if there’s been any at all.
When his first option year was due following his best season to date in 2011: 75 relief appearances, (8-4) record, 2.97 ERA, it still wasn’t clear if the Cubs were better off with him or without him?
The decision was ultimately to decline his option, but only so the Cubs could resign him at a more reasonable price, which they did.
It’s bought Samardzija not only more time to establish his path in the major leagues, but to do it with the team that drafted him, the team that paid him a small fortune to choose professional baseball over the National Football League.
Yet regardless of what Samardzija is, or is to become, he at least deserved this opportunity to rightfully prove himself at the big league level under the Cubs direction as either a full-time starter or reliever.
The Cubs have two spots open in the starting rotation this spring; Samardzija would like to have one of them. Let his spring outings decide his fate–if the rotation isn’t meant to be, the bullpen should suffice. The outcome, whatever that might be, should end this discussion once and for all.
And if avoiding cases such as Samardzija’s isn’t in Theo’s new organizational manual, it most certainly ought to be. I’d call it Timely and Decisive Decision Making—a guide on how not to groom your top prospects.
The Cubs open its spring schedule on March 4 against Oakland, and it’s the first of several exhibition games of interest.
Yoenis Cespedes, one of the most highly coveted free agents this winter, will presumably make his first start in a big league uniform with the A’s.
Five days later the Cubs face the cross town rival White Sox, with perhaps, our first chance to see ‘The Fuk’ suited up with the South Siders?
San Diego is the opponent on March 24th, which could lead to a showdown of former-Cub Andrew Cashner facing former-Padre Anthony Rizzo.
And then there’s the return of Phat Albert in back-to-back games against the Angels on March 31st and April 1st–three days before Opening Day.
What a pleasure knowing the Cubs won’t face Pujols again this season, baring a World Series meeting in October. (ha!)
However, Dale Sveum choosing to pitch to Pujols with the game on the line is yet to be determined. Unfortunately we know if Mike Quade could, he would. (sigh).
I’m often asked this time of year why pitchers and catchers report early to spring training?
Pitchers typically need about 45 days to properly stretch out their arms before the start of the regular season.
This includes roughly five starts for solidified veteran starters and a few more for players jockeying for a big league roster spot in the rotation or bullpen.
Position players, however, simply don’t need as much time to prepare, especially considering the emphasis on offseason conditioning, which has seemingly improved with each passing decade.
This is why the pitchers show up early, and why catchers are on hand to catch them!
Cubs pitchers and catchers report on Saturday. Spring is near!