February 2009

Seeing is believing

Derrek Lee not only showed his support for President Obama and his disdain for steroid use on Tuesday but also talked about how well his daughter, Jada, is doing. She was misdiagnosed with Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, and has nearly recovered her vision. Lee, who found out late last year about Jada’s improved eyesight, said they are still trying to figure out what’s is wrong with her eyes. The family is still very involved in Project 3000, which Lee helped create to find people with LCA and encourage them to get tested in hopes of finding a cure.

– Carrie Muskat

Let's get started

All position players reported to Cubs camp Tuesday — with the exception of Kosuke Fukudome, who is training with the Japan team for the World Baseball Classic. Some news: Aramis Ramirez says he will skip the World Baseball Classic and stay in the Cubs camp. That means the Cubs expected to play in the event now include Geovany Soto (Puerto Rico), and Derrek Lee and Ted Lilly (U.S. team).

Also, Alfonso Soriano says he’s OK with Lou Piniella’s suggestion that he will move the left fielder from the leadoff spot in the order. More on that later.

– Carrie Muskat

Monday's spring things

The Cubs aren’t recession proof but they are one of the few Cactus League teams that is doing well selling Spring Training game tickets. So far, they’ve topped 150,000 for the games to be played at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.

Other notes from Monday’s workout: Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano are the only position players who have not reported. They’re all due at Fitch Park on Tuesday. Pitcher Luis Vizcaino is still a no show because of visa problems.

Mike Fontenot, Aaron Miles, and Jake Fox all took grounders at third base Monday. Fox, a former catcher, says third is the only position he doesn’t know, so he’s trying to learn.

WGN Radio broadcaster Ron Santo stopped by camp to say hello. Another broadcast-related note: Cubs fans interested in the 2009 TV schedule should know it has been posted under the official releases, and the schedule will be updated.

– Carrie Muskat

Leadoff man

Cubs manager Lou Piniella has stuck by Alfonso Soriano as his leadoff man the last two seasons but on Monday said he may drop the left fielder down in the order. Piniella said he talked to Soriano at the Cubs Convention about it. One reason for the switch is that Soriano doesn’t run as much as he used to. More later.

– Carrie Muskat

Harden update, Big Z's new look and a quiz

Rich Harden threw about 20 pitches off the mound on Sunday at Fitch Park and all reports were good. Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild and athletic trainer Mark O’Neal watched Harden’s workout. The right-hander is being closely monitored this spring to avoid aggravating his shoulder.

Also, Carlos Zambrano has shaved his mustache. He won’t be confused with a Pirate anymore.

And, Lou Piniella now knows who was the president when the Cubs last won the World Series. Do you know? An ESPN crew was asking some of the Cubs, and Piniella was stumped. Asked for a hint, he was told the name was the same as one of his pitchers.

“Well, it’s not Zambrano, I know that,” Piniella said.

Told it was one of the lefties, Piniella quipped: “The Marshall plan.” Well, neither Sean Marshall nor anyone else named Marshall has been president.

The correct answer is Theodore Roosevelt, which is Ted Lilly’s first and middle names. Lilly is not related to Roosevelt; his grandfather just liked the president. Piniella didn’t know Lilly’s full name but is now up to date on U.S. history. And now you know.

– Carrie Muskat

New faces

Among the early arrivals on Sunday in Cubs camp was Milton Bradley, who was eager to get started and take batting practice. Position players don’t have to report until Tuesday. Also in camp is outfielder Reed Johnson, who dropped 14 pounds this offseason by changing his diet. The only pitcher missing is Luis Vizcaino, acquired in the Jason Marquis deal with Colorado. Vizcaino is having visa problems.

– Carrie Muskat

Rich Harden update

Cubs pitcher Rich Harden said Saturday he is coming off his best offseason ever. The right-hander says he hopes to make 30 starts this year, which is a good sign. Harden spent most of the offseason in Arizona to work with Cubs strength coach Tim Buss. More later.

– Carrie Muskat

Carlos vs. Carlos

Carlos Zambrano may not be playing in the World Baseball Classic, but Carlos Marmol will. Marmol was expected to be the Dominican Republic team’s closer. He’s not worried about being overused. “The innings I don’t pitch in Spring Training are innings I will pitch there,” Marmol said.

Besides Zambrano, Angel Guzman also will not pitch for the Venezuelan team. Cubs coach Ivan DeJesus will be on the Puerto Rican team’s staff and can keep an eye on catcher Geovany Soto, who was on that team’s provisional roster.

– Carrie Muskat

Eyeballing Big Z

Carlos Zambrano will not be pitching for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. Zambrano said Friday he will not compete to protect his right shoulder and also because he may undergo Lasik surgery on his right eye. He has not had the procedure done because of an infection in his eye, which he is treating with eye drops.

Zambrano is looking forward to the new season.

“The goals are the same,” Zambrano said. “We have to keep winning and keep going to the playoffs. We have a bad taste from the last two [years in the] playoffs and we look forward to doing a better job in the playoffs. We need to do a better job in the playoffs and that’s our goal — to go to the World Series and win it all. That’s the main concern right now.”

– Carrie Muskat

Countdown

Think the Cubs are eager to get going? Neal Cotts, Jeff Samardzija, Chad Gaudin, Angel Guzman, Geovany Soto, Koyie Hill, Kevin Hart, Jason Dubois, Randy Wells, Jake Fox, Rocky Roquet and others were among the early birds working out at Fitch Park on Thursday. Also throwing off a mound was right-handed pitcher Ken Kadokura, a 13-year veteran of the Nippon Professional League who signed a Minor League contract with the Cubs. Even manager Lou Piniella stopped by. Pitchers and catchers officially report Friday, and the first workout will be Saturday.

One bit of news — Guzman will not compete for the Venezuelan team in the World Baseball Classic. The right-hander wants to get ready for the regular season.

It was sunny but cool in Mesa, which was a welcome relief for guys like Cotts and Samardzija, who spent the offseason in the Chicago area. Anyone who endured this past winter knows how tough it was.

– Carrie Muskat

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