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WGN’s TV Promo for Cubs 2013 Season | Video

By bullpenbrian - March 12, 2013 - 4:00 pm Leave a comment.

Wrigley Field

Ernie Banks narrates the 30-second spot reminding us “it’s time to get young again.” No doubt the Cubs have a youthful roster, the fifth youngest in the bigs to be exact.

But I’m already looking forward to next year’s “it’s time to get good again” campaign. Is that jumping the gun? Either way, this spot gets the juices flowing.

We’re now just 20 days out from opening day (April 1), and 27 days away from the home opener against Milwaukee (April 8). Can’t wait.


Cubs’ 1st Rd pick Ryan Harvey & the 2003 MLB Draft

By bullpenbrian - March 12, 2013 - 9:15 am 2 comments.

Ryan Harvey

Who can forget the Cubs’ first round draft pick in 2003–Ryan Harvey.

Jim Hendry used the 6th overall pick to draft the Florida high school outfielder with a shotgun arm and raw plate power. Unfortunately, Harvey wasn’t able to showcase those talents in the big leagues. He never made it past Double-A with Chicago.

His best minor league season came in 2005 with low-level Single-A Peoria where he hit 24 HRs, 30 doubles and drove in 100 runs in 117 games.

Harvey spent the following season at high-level Single-A Daytona hitting 20 HRs, 25 doubles and driving in 84 runs in 122 games.

But despite Harvey’s ever present power, improving his batting average and on-base percentage proved to be a continuous struggle.

Strikeouts, in particular, plagued Harvey throughout his minor league journey–most notably 137 Ks in 2005 and 125 Ks in 2006.

His on-base percentage, not surprisingly, hovered around .300, and eventually slipped into the low 200s at Double-A.

By 2009 Harvey was out of the Cubs’ system, leaving another black eye on Hendry’s draft selections. Granted, the former GM did select Tim Lincecum in 2003, but more on that choice and the rest of the Cubs’ picks later.

Hind sight being 20-20, Hendry missed big-time on some awfully good players who came out of the 2003 draft.

{1st Overall: Delmon Young (Tampa Bay), 2nd Overall: Rickie Weeks (Milwaukee), 3rd Overall: Kyle Seeth (Detroit), 4th Overall: Tim Stauffer (San Diego) and 5th Overall: Chris Lubanski (Kansas City) were taken prior to Harvey.}

Below lists first round picks taken after Harvey, which is comprised mostly of players who have gone on to have quality big league careers, or at the very least, reached the major leagues.

-7th Overall: Nick Markakis (Baltimore)
-8th Overall: Paul Maholm (Pittsburgh)
*Went (9-6, 3.74) in 21 stats with the Cubs last year.

-9th Overall: John Danks (Texas)
-10th Overall: Ian Stewart (Colorado)
*I’m including Stewart because he’s a current Cub.

-13th Overall: Aaron Hill (Toronto)
-17th Overall: David Murphy (Boston)
-18th Overall: Brad Snyder (Cleveland)
*The Cubs later claimed him on waivers in 2009 where he hit .308, 25 HRs and drove in 106 runs with Triple-A Iowa. He played sparingly for Chicago the following two seasons appearing in 20 games total.

-20th Overall: Chad Cordero (Montreal)
-22nd Overall: David Aardsma (San Francisco)
*The Cubs traded for Aardsma (and Jerome Williams) in 2005 sending the Giants in return LaTroy Hawkins and cash. Aardsma went (3-0, 4.08) in 45 games for Chicago in 2006 before he was flipped to the White Sox for Neal Cotts.

-24th Overall: Chad Billingsley (Los Angeles)
-29th Overall: Carlos Quentin (Arizona)

Now a look at some of the more notable Supplemental draft picks in 2003.

-31st pick: Matt Murton (Boston)
*The Cubs would acquire Murton the following season as part of the Nomar Garciaparra trade. Big Red played in parts of four seasons with the Cubs before being packaged with Josh Donaldson, Sean Gallagher and Eric Patterson in a trade to Oakland for Chad Gaudin and Rich Harden in July of 2008.

-36th pick: Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Atlanta)
-37th pick: Adam Jones (Seattle)

Other notable selections from the 2003 draft.

-Rd 2: Andre Ethier (Oakland)
-Rd 4: Jonathan Papelbon (Boston)
-Rd 4: Michael Bourn (Philadelphia)
-Rd 6: Matt Kemp (Los Angeles)
-Rd 7: Ian Kinsler (Texas)
-Rd 24: Brian Wilson (San Francisco)
-Rd 30: Jonny Venters (Atlanta)

Notable Cubs selections in the 2003 draft.

-Rd 2: Jake Fox
-Rd 6: Sean Marshall
-Rd 10: Casey McGehee
-Rd 14: Matt LaPorta
-Rd 24: Sam Fuld
-Rd 48: Tim Lincecum
*Yes, the Freak was drafted by Hendry but didn’t sign. Two years later Cleveland selected Lincecum in the 42nd round, but did not sign. The Giants won the lottery in 2006 taking Lincecum 10th overall.


Name That Cub!

By bullpenbrian - March 11, 2013 - 12:45 am Leave a comment.

Name That Cub

From Oak Lawn, Illinois.
Played college ball at Tulane.
A 1st Rd Draft pick with Houston.
Converted from pitcher to outfielder in 2008.
Hit a pinch-hit, walkoff grand slam vs. Carlos Marmol on Aug. 16, 2011.
Signed minor league contract with Cubs this winter.
This spring: 12 Games, hitting .455/.520/.864.
Name That Cub! (Answer after the jump)


Cubs General Soreness Report

By bullpenbrian - March 10, 2013 - 5:00 am Leave a comment.


I’ve never been one to get head-over-heels about spring training, other than it signaling the near-end of a long offseason.

Granted there are some interesting position battles each spring, which I understand the spring statistics can play a part in determining final roster cuts, but mostly I keep my fingers crossed the Cubs’ regulars make it to opening day healthy.

Injuries, however, have been mounting for the Cubs since Matt Garza went down with a sore left lat muscle on Feb. 7. Early indications suggested the injury was not serious and would only sideline Garza one week.

Garza, however, didn’t return until two weeks later, when he again felt discomfort throwing. Although the organization, manager Dale Sveum and Garza insist the Cubs are only playing it cautious with the right-hander, he’s not expected to be available through the first month of the regular season.

Dontrelle Willis pulled up lame with shoulder soreness after throwing his first seven pitches this spring. He immediately left the game and has yet to return.

Ian Stewart, who was expected to platoon with Luis Valbuena as the starting third basemen, has been battling a left-quad strain, which has limited him to light jogging and fielding practice.

There’s no question the untimely injury is putting Stewart, who’s playing on a non-guaranteed contract, in jeopardy of not making the team out of spring camp. He’s yet to appear in a Cactus League game.

Third base prospect Josh Vitters is also suffering from a quad strain and has not appeared in game action.

Super utility man Brent Lillibridge entered camp as a favorite to win an opening day roster spot. But he only saw action in five games before suffering a groin strain in early March. He’s still a candidate to make the team if he’s able to return relatively soon.

Aside from Garza, the most concerning setback is with Starlin Castro.
He suffered a tight left hamstring while running out an infield hit on Feb. 27. The Cubs, not surprisingly, have been extra cautious with two-time All-Star’s return.

Castro played in all 162 games last season becoming the first Cubs shortstop ever to do so.

“It was more tight than a pull or anything like that, so he’s just day to day. Thank God, nothing real major at all,” said Sveum.


Tony Campana slices left hand, gets eight stitches

By bullpenbrian - March 8, 2013 - 12:15 pm Leave a comment.

Tony Campana Chicago Cubs

The scrappy former Cubs outfielder sliced his left hand while attempting to steal second base in a Cactus League game yesterday. The laceration required eight stitches.

Campana (.222/.263/.389) has 4 hits in 19 plate appearances this spring, including 2 runs batted in and a run scored. He’s drawn 1 walk vs. 5 strikeouts and is 1-for-2 in stolen bases. 

Per Hardball Talk:

“Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that Diamondbacks outfielder Tony Campana suffered a lacerated left hand Thursday while trying to steal second base during a Cactus League game against the Brewers and wound up needing eight stitches.

Campana will likely be held out of baseball activities for the next several days while the laceration heals.

The 26-year-old speedster was acquired from the Cubs this offseason in exchange for minor league right-handers Erick Leal and Jesus Castillo. He boasts 54 stolen bases in 59 career attempts and is currently in the running for a spot on Arizona’s bench.”


Cubs single game tickets go on sale today at 10 a.m.

By bullpenbrian - March 8, 2013 - 8:05 am Leave a comment.

Chicago Cubs tickets
Happy Friday. Cubs single game tickets go on sale today at 10 a.m. CST.

We’re basically a month out from the Cubs’ home opener vs. Milwaukee on Monday, April 8. Details for purchasing tickets are listed below, per the Cubs website. See you in the virtual waiting room…

Your options to purchase tickets:
-Visit www.cubs.com
-Call 1-800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827)
Via the Internet:
-Visitors to cubs.com can purchase tickets beginning at 10 a.m.
-A virtual waiting room will be used for all Internet orders.
*The virtual waiting room will begin accepting customers at 9:30 a.m.
-At 10 a.m., customers will be selected from the virtual waiting room.
*All Internet customers will need a valid Cubs.com account.

By Telephone:
Tickets can be purchased by telephone beginning at 10 a.m.
Call 1-800-THE-CUBS (800-843-2827)

*Customers will be limited to eight tickets per Marquee game.
*For updated ticket pricing, please visit www.cubs.com.

Chicago Cubs Ticket Office at 773-404-4242


Cubs Round-Up: Rizzo, Zambrano, Cashner & Kazmir

By bullpenbrian - March 7, 2013 - 10:00 am Leave a comment.

Anthony Rizzo

Anthony Rizzo should be in the starting lineup for team Italy’s first game in the World Baseball Classic this afternoon (2pm CST) against Mexico at Salt River Fields in Arizona. Italy next plays Canada tomorrow (3:30pm CST).

On Saturday team Italy, as part of Pool D (Italy, Mexico, Canada & United States), moves to Chase Field in Arizona where the Italians square off against the U.S. at 10pm CST.

Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk spoke with Rizzo following Italy’s 4-3 exhibition loss against the A’s on Tuesday and asked him his thoughts on being introduced as “Anthony RIT-tso” by the P.A. announcer.

“I think I’ll enjoy that this week,” said Rizzo.

The man Rizzo was traded for, Andrew Cashner, is listed as the Padres’ bellwether player for 2013 by Grant Brisbee of SB Nation.

“Just about the best-looking pitcher this side of Strasburg. But it’s almost certainly preferable to be the best-pitching pitcher. To do that, you have to pitch. The same caveat applies to a lot of Padres, but none more than Cashner.”

Carlos Zambrano is still searching for a big-league contract this spring while pitching for Venezuela in the WBC according to Hardball Talk. Meanwhile, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports Big Z could pitch in Japan or Taiwan if he doesn’t catch on with an MLB team by the end of spring camp.

Zambrano pitched so poorly for the Marlins through 20 starts last season (5-9, 4.54) he was demoted to the bullpen in late June, finishing the season
(7-10, 4.49) with an 88 ERA+.

Barring injury, however, I think Zambrano lands an MLB offer soon enough– even if he’s so-so in the WBC. With so many teams starved for starting pitching, the 31-year-old should become an attractive arm at an affordable price.

Cubs scouts were on hand to watch left-hander Scott Kazmir throw in a B Game with the Indians this week. As Matt Snyder of CBS Sports points out, Kazmir is only 29-years-old.

“Remember, this is a two-time All-Star who led the American League in strikeouts in 2007 when he was only 23. He appeared to have long-lasting ace potential until he fell apart from 2009-11, culminating with a 17.02 ERA in five starts for Triple-A Salt Lake in 2011. His major issue was control, as Kazmir walked 20 hitters in 15 1/3 innings during that short Triple-A stint. The four spring innings this year are far too small a sample to reach any firm conclusion, but the zero walks so far are a great sign.”

I thought the Cubs would give Kazmir a stronger look last offseason considering they had Randy Wells, Andy Sonnastine and Chris Volstad as rotation possibilities. But if Kazmir shows signs of becoming his old self again, there’s certain to be plenty of competition to land his services.


A look at Cubs’ potential trade partners for Carlos Marmol

By bullpenbrian - March 6, 2013 - 2:30 am Leave a comment.

Carlos Marmol Cubs

It’s been a wild ride for Carlos Marmol with the Cubs. He’s gone from minor-league catcher, to reliever, to the best setup man in the National League, to closer and finally, expendable.

After another Jekyll and Hyde year in 2012, the Cubs made no secret they would try and move the closer this winter. He was nearly dealt to the Angels in Nov. for starting pitcher Dan Haren, but the deal fell through with the Cubs concerned over Haren’s medicals.

Then, the Winter Meetings came and went with Marmol’s name barely making a blip on the trade radar. And when Marmol was accused of domestic violence in the Dominican Republic last month, there was another scare the trade window had shut for the spring, if not longer.

But with spring training at full throttle and Marmol cleared of any wrongdoings in the Dominican, the trade rumors have picked back up according to Bruce Levine of ESPN1000 Chicago.

Levine reports ‘several teams’ are interested in trading for the 30-year-old, namely the Detroit Tigers who have penciled in Bruce Rondon, a 22-year-old rookie, for their closer’s role.

Levine also details Marmol can veto trades to four unspecified West Coast teams, one of which we know is the Angels from the broken Haren deal (Marmol reportedly waived his no-trade right to accept the trade before the Cubs declined the deal). Marmol, however, is said to be willing to waive his no-trade rights to join a contender.

So what can the Cubs expect in return for Marmol? It’s generally accepted the Cubs will ask for a younger pitching prospect in return–an attempt to add another cost-controlled piece to the longer-term rebuilding plans.

However, aside from Marmol’s 1.52 ERA following the All-Star break last season, the Cubs wouldn’t appear to have a ton of leverage. His first half ERA was 5.61 and we also know how wildly inconsistent he’s been throwing strikes the past several years.

Even worse, in three of the past five seasons Marmol’s save percentage has been below 80-percent–and he led the league in blown saves (10) as recently as 2011. For his career Marmol is 115/140 (82-percent) in save opportunities.

So for all intents and purposes, trading Marmol is more a cost-cutting move by the Cubs with Marmol still owed $9.8 million through 2013.

Meanwhile, the Cubs essentially replaced Marmol with the surprise signing of Japanese pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa, 32, to a 2-year, $9.5 million deal in Dec. In six seasons with the Hanshin Tigers Fujikawa has recorded 202 career saves, including a 1.32 ERA in 2012.

Having roughly $20 million tied up in two closers doesn’t make much sense for a rebuilding franchise. And although neither Marmol or Fujikawa are in the Cubs’ long-term plans, having Fujikawa for two years gives the organization not only a more reliable closer than Marmol, but also time to find the team’s closer of the future.

With all that said, here are my best guesses at where Marmol could land before opening day.

For the reasons listed above, and the possibility starter Rick Porcello is available. Jim Leyland has implied 
Jose Valverde is not an option and there’s potentially an outside shot at packaging Alfonso Soriano with Marmol in a trade. That one’s a stretch, but Marmol alone would appear a good fit.

They have the young pitching prospects the Cubs want. It’s also another outside shot at dealing Soriano with Marmol considering t
he O’s have been searching for a right-handed slugger all offseason.

They’re moving fast to compete and haven’t been afraid to add payroll this offseason. Closer Chris Perez has declined over the past three seasons and Marmol could be the player to push him for the ninth inning role.

The Rockies are all-around bad, and closer Rafael Betancourt will turn 38-years-old at the end of April. He went 31/38 in save
chances last season, but how much is left in the tank?

Los Angeles Angels
We know Marmol already accepted to waive his no-trade right to join the Halos. Maybe they’d think of adding him
again in what’s shaping up as a very tough American League West division.

Closer John Axford, 30, fell of the wagon badly last season after going 46/48 in saves in 2011. He temporarily lost
his job in 2012 while finishing the season
(5-8, 4.67) with nine blown saves in 44 chances (80-percent).

New York (NL)
The Mets don’t have much of a bullpen to begin with and they also appear to have lost confidence in closer Frank Francisco. That leaves Bobby Parnell, a reliever with more career blown saves (17) than he has
successful saves (14) during his five big-league seasons, to close the door in the ninth inning. 

Never afraid to make a deal. Billy Beane is the king of spinning closers into trade deadline gold. His 35-year-old closer, Grant Balfour, has long battled arm troubles and is coming off knee surgery in Feb. However, the A’s could potentially be one team on Marmol’s no-trade list.

The Pirates need any edge they can get to stay in contention for a full season. Jason Grilli, 36, is taking over
the closer’s role with all of five career-saves under his belt in 10 seasons. 

The Rangers and Cubs hooked up at last year’s non-waiver trade deadline in the Ryan Demspter and Geovany Soto
trades. Closer Joe Nathan is still a stud at 38-years-old, and newly acquired reliever Joakim Soria saved 160 games in five seasons with Kansas City. But perhaps Marmol would welcome a setup role on a contender. Not to mention, Soriano would appear a good fit in the Lone Star state as well.


Cubs only need (40-0) record to match Blackhawks’ season-opening winning streak

By bullpenbrian - March 5, 2013 - 1:25 pm Leave a comment.

Chicago Blackhawks

Imagine if the Cubs, or any MLB team for that matter, could match the Chicago Blackhawks’ NHL-record season-opening winning streak of 22 games, and counting.

Of course there’s one very big difference, that being the Blackhawks (19-0-3) technically haven’t lost a game in regulation. Three times they’ve fallen in a shootout this season.

With it unlikely baseball ever decides extra inning games with a home run derby contest, the comparison doesn’t add up. But for the sake of having a little fun, let’s do it anyway…

The longest winning streak in NHL history belongs to the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers who won 35 consecutive games without suffering a regulation loss—a streak that began three-games into the season.

Until the Blackhawks’ magical run, the NHL’s previous longest season-opening winning streak was set by the Anaheim Might Ducks in 2006-07 with a run of 16 games without a regulation loss.

The longest winning streak in Major League Baseball still belongs to the New York Giants who won 26 consecutive games in 1916. Baseball’s longest season-opening winning streak, however, is 13-games, accomplished by the 1982 Atlanta Braves and later matched by the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers.

Another wrinkle with the Blackhawks’ streak is that it’s coming during a shortened regular season (48-games) due to the lengthy NHL lockout, which comes out to playing 58-percent of the league’s normal 82-game regular season schedule.

So percentage wise, the Hawks have completed roughly 45-percent of their shortened regular season without a regulation loss. If, however, we calculate this out to what would be a full-length regular season (82-games), the Blackhawks would be roughly 25-percent of the way through the campaign.

By baseball standards, a 162-game regular season schedule condensed to 58-percent would equal 94-games, thus meaning a baseball team would have to win its first 24-games to match the Blackhawks’ season-opening streak this year–which would basically double the longest season-opening winning streak ever to start a season (the Braves & Brewers, 13-games).

And when the numbers are punched out over an entire 162 game season, that season-opening winning streak, which would need to cover 25-percent of the season, would have to be roughly (40-0) to match the Blackhawks! Talk about incredible!

Professor of mathematical sciences at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass, Richard Cleary, suggests the probability of another NHL team matching the Blackhawks’ season-opening winning streak as once ever 700 years. The catch of course, is that every team only has one chance to start the season with a winning streak.

So what are the odds of a similar streak every happening in baseball? I have no idea, other than to guess it’s on the doorstep of impossible.

As a side note, the Cubs hold claim to the second-longest winning streak in baseball history (not to open a season) spanning 21-games, and, they’ve done it twice: June 5-July 8, 1880 & Sept. 4-Sept. 27, 1935.

As for the Cubs’ longest winning streak to open a season, that one I’m not sure of. But I’d be just fine settling for a win on opening day in 2013.


Name That Cub!

By bullpenbrian - March 4, 2013 - 12:00 pm 2 comments.

CT CityHall2.JPG
Born in Venezuela.
Entering his 16th season in MLB.
Spent only one season in American League.
Longest stay with one team is 4 seasons with Cubs.
Personal catcher for Greg Maddux in Atlanta.
.994 fielding % ranks 15th all-time among MLB backstops.
Name that Cub! (Answer after the jump)


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