February 2009

Start me up

Jeff Samardzija, Sean Marshall and Ted Lilly will start the first three Cactus League games for the Cubs. Each will likely go two innings. Chicago opens play on Wednesday, playing host to the Los Angeles Dodgers at HoHoKam Park. The team will relocate to the stadium after Monday’s workout at Fitch Park.

— Carrie Muskat

Sunday in the park

As of early Sunday, Carlos Marmol had yet to make contact with Felipe Alou, manager of the Dominican Republic, regarding the World Baseball Classic. Marmol is reconsidering whether he will play for the team.

In other Cubs-related World Baseball Classic news, the word out of Japan is that Kosuke Fukudome hit a grand slam in an exhibition game against the Tokyo Giants. The Cubs won’t see Fukudome until Team Japan is finished in the event.

— Carrie Muskat

Saturday at Fitch Park

Brian Schlitter was eating breakfast in his Park Ridge, Ill., home when he got a phone call from the Cubs. There was an opening and the team wanted to know if he was ready to report to spring camp early. Are you kidding? “I didn’t know why they were calling but I’m glad I answered,” he said. It took the right-handed pitcher about two hours to pack, and he was on his way. He lives three blocks from Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, but that had nothing to do with the call. In fact, Schlitter said he didn’t even know there was a “Jim Hendry Way” in Park Ridge, designated late last year, until a couple weeks ago.

Other news on Saturday:

  • Jeff Samardzija will start Wednesday’s Cactus League opener against the Dodgers.
  • International scouts Steve Wilson, a former Cubs pitcher, was in camp with scouts from South Korea and the Czech Republic to look at the way spring camp is run. Wilson used to coach Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster in the basement of a sporting goods store in Vancouver, B.C.
  •  Condolences to Cubs hitting coach Gerald Perry, whose father passed away on Friday. Perry will be absent to tend to his family.

— Carrie Muskat

Early bird Cubs news

If you were an early arrival at Fitch Park Saturday morning, you could watch Carlos Zambrano against hitters for the first time this spring. Big Z threw 25 pitches, facing five hitters. Not many made contact. Brad Snyder was one of the hitters. “I was just trying to not blow out an oblique,” Snyder said. “It was more for him than for me.”

Also, as of early Saturday, Carlos Marmol had not talked to officials with the Dominican Republic team regarding the World Baseball Classic. Marmol is not sure he wants to pitch, especially after Lou Piniella told him that Kevin Gregg, who is competing for the closer job, will be in camp throwing 98 mph. Piniella was joking but Marmol said, “That scared me.”

— Carrie Muskat

Old days

It was great to see Rick Sutcliffe in uniform and on the field Friday. He’s approaching the one-year anniversary of when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. The former Cubs pitcher has beaten it, and encouraged people to get tested. “Early detection saved my life,” Sutcliffe said. Check out the story to be posted on the Cubs site.

— Carrie Muskat

Carlos the closer

Carlos Marmol said Friday he may not pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, saying he wants to focus on getting ready for the upcoming season with the Cubs. “I want to be the closer here,” Marmol said. He was to speak with Dominican manager Felipe Alou and expected to announce a decision on Saturday.

— Carrie Muskat

Non-roster roster moves

Left-handed pitcher Bill White, who had signed with the Cubs as a Minor League free agent, was released because he failed to pass the physical. White was in the Rangers system. The Cubs have added right-handed pitcher Brian Schlitter to the list of non-roster invitees. Schlitter, a native of Park Ridge, Ill., was acquired from the Phillies in the Scott Eyre trade last August. He was expected to join the Cubs on Friday.

— Carrie Muskat

Thursday extra bases

Former Cubs pitcher Rick Sutcliffe will be back in uniform with the team on Friday. Sutcliffe will share his expertise and a few jokes with the coaches and players until he has to report to the broadcast booth for the World Baseball Classic. He was teasing one of the veteran groundskeepers on Thursday about how they would rake the warning track but not the infield when he was pitching.

  • Just so there’s no confusion, Lou Piniella says he’s sticking with Alfonso Soriano as his leadoff man. That’s for the regular season. You may see Soriano hitting elsewhere in the order in Cactus League games so others can try out for the No. 1 spot.
  • Single game tickets go on sale Friday.
  • The Cubs will workout at Fitch Park until Monday, and then move down the street to HoHoKam Park.
  • Piniella on Ken Griffey Jr. rejoining the Seattle Mariners: “That’s wonderful. He’s going back to Seattle and he’s going to the Hall of Fame in a Seattle uniform. He started his career there and had 10 great years there. It’s good for the city and good for Junior to go back to his roots. I’m happy for both of them.”
  • Piniella hasn’t talked to Tom Ricketts, who has exclusive negotiating rights to buy the Cubs. Said Piniella: “We look forward to seeing him and meeting him and talking baseball with him — and maybe even [talking about] some stocks.”

— Carrie Muskat

Tidbits from Wednesday workout

Hitters will face live pitchers, as opposed to coaches throwing batting practice, on Friday at Fitch Park. The Cubs begin Cactus League play on Feb. 25, so there are plenty of games, but not as much time to get ready for them.

Lou Piniella said he’s not worried about Kosuke Fukudome missing time in Cubs camp. Fukudome is training with the Japan team for the World Baseball Classic, and Piniella reported that he played in an intrasquad game Tuesday and apparently played all three outfield positions. Fukudome will be moving from right to center with the Cubs.

— Carrie Muskat

President's day

President Barack Obama was to speak Wednesday at a Mesa high school about five miles from the Cubs training camp at Fitch Park but was not expected to stop by. Both Derrek Lee and Lou Piniella signed a baseball to be given to Obama from the Mesa mayor. The president will need a showcase in the White House. He received an autographed pair of shoes from Phoenix Suns center Shaquille O’Neal on Tuesday.

Extra bases:

  • Rich Harden threw off the mound on Tuesday, the second time for him since camp started. He’s progressing well.
  • Mike Stanton arrived much earlier Wednesday. On Tuesday, he couldn’t find a place to park in the Cubs’ lot, so he ended up across the street in one of the spaces used by the media and fans.
  • Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot are very good friends, but maybe not as much after Christmas. Fontenot gave Theriot’s kids a trampoline. They had to build it in the garage because it was raining at the time and the parents were a little concerned about the kids falling off onto the cement floor. Theriot said when Fontenot has kids, he’ll give them a set of steak knives.
  • One of the new faces in camp is Keith Stohr, the new advance scout for the Cubs. His job this spring is to find out what Lou Piniella, pitching coach Larry Rothschild and hitting coach Gerald Perry need to know about other teams.  

 — Carrie Muskat