November 2009

11/6 AFL update

Starlin Castro went 2-for-6 in the Mesa Solar Sox’s 11-1 romp over Surprise on Friday. Castro leads the Arizona Fall League with a .424 average, and he’ll play Saturday in the Rising Stars game at Surprise Stadium. The Cubs’ highly touted shortstop was to have been joined by third baseman Josh Vitters, but he was scratched because of a strained pectoral muscle, suffered Wednesday in batting practice. Vitters was day to day. Saturday’s game will be broadcast on the MLB Network.

— Carrie Muskat

11/5 AFL update – Thursday's game

Andrew Cashner threw four scoreless innings in the Mesa Solar Sox’s 8-1 win over the Peoria Javelinas in Arizona Fall League play Thursday. Cashner, the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in 2008, did not walk a batter and struck out four. Starlin Castro, who began the day leading the AFL in batting, and Michael Brenly each had two hits for Mesa.

Three Cubs pitching prospects all appeared in the game. James Russell, John Gaub and Blake Parker each threw one inning in relief. The Solar Sox play Friday at Surprise.

— Carrie Muskat

11/5 AFL & winter ball update

Michael Brenly smacked a two-run homer in the Mesa Solar Sox’s 8-5 win over the Peoria Javelinas in Arizona Fall League play Wednesday. Brenly is the son of Cubs television analyst Bob Brenly, and was a late add to the Mesa team, replacing catcher Welington Castillo. Mesa and Peoria meet again in Mesa on Thursday.

In Venezuela, Andres Blanco scored two runs and hit a double and Robinson Chirinos had one hit in Magallanes’ 6-3 win over Margarita. In Mexico, Brad Snyder hda two hits, including his fourth home run, in Mexicali’s 6-3 loss to Mazatlan. Matt Camp also had a hit, and was batting .351.

Nelson Perez, who batted .251 with 11 homers and 65 RBIs for Class A Peoria, was hitting .405 for Toros del Este in the Dominican Republic. He has primarily been used as the designated hitter, and has four multi-hit games out of 12.

— Carrie Muskat

11/4 Ted Lilly has arthroscopic surgery on shoulder

Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly underwent a left shoulder arthroscopy and debridement on Tuesday by noted orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles. During the surgery, Yocum found no major damage to Lilly’s shoulder and the procedure consisted of a washout and clean up of the shoulder. The procedure took approximately one hour to complete.

Lilly will immediately begin an aggressive range of motion and strengthening program. A timetable for a throwing program will be set when he’s re-examined after Jan. 1. Typically, recovery time for a procedure such as this would place Lilly’s return to the Cubs rotation within the month of April.

— Carrie Muskat 

11/4 Ricketts to tour Mesa sites

The Ricketts family was to tour Mesa, Ariz., on Wednesday by helicopter to look at potential sites along the Loop 202 freeway for the Cubs’ Spring Training home. Last month, new Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts was in Collier County, Fla., to do the same, looking at three sites near Naples.

The Cubs want 120 contiguous acres where they can build a 15,000-seat stadium, have at least six practice fields, and upgraded facilities for player development. The team has outgrown its current site in Mesa.

On Tuesday night, Arizona officials delivered their sales pitch to the Ricketts family at a dinner at the Red Mountain Ranch Country Club. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer attended, and the session included a video message from Sen. John McCain, who wished the Cubs a World Series victory, according to the East Valley Tribune.

“Please stay with us,” McCain said.

Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwill, who is president of the Phoenix Greater Economic Council, also made a presentation.

“We’re really committed to make sure we can address all your issues,” Bidwill said.

The Cubs’ contract with Mesa and HoHoKam Stadium allows the team to buy out of the deal after 2012. The team has practiced in Mesa since the 1950s, and called its current site home since 1979. The Cubs are the top draw in the Cactus League, and a recent survey showed they provide $52 million to the state’s economy.

— Carrie Muskat 

11/3 AFL update

Starlin Castro hit his first homer and added a triple in the Mesa Solar Sox’s 2-1 loss Tuesday to the Peoria Saguaros in Arizona Fall League play. It’s good timing for Castro to get hot. The Cubs brass is in Arizona for the organizational meetings. Castro is batting .429 so far. Third baseman Josh Vitters went 3-for-4, and is hitting .360 for the Mesa team. James Russell and Blake Parker each threw a scoreless inning in relief.

— Carrie Muskat

11/3 Marmol to save 34 games in 2010

Milton Bradley will hit 18 homers and drive in 64 runs next season, Alfonso Soriano will belt 30 homers, and Carlos Marmol will total 34 saves. Those are the predictions in the just-released Bill James Handbook 2010.

“In any season, the vast majority of players play in a manner that seems a natural extension of what they had done before,” James says in his new book. “When that happens, our projection should be reasonably accurate.”

James says Derrek Lee will bat .291, hit 30 homers and drive in 98 for the Cubs; and Aramis Ramirez will hit .292 with 26 homers and 97 RBIs. James says Geovany Soto will hit 20 homers and drive in 79, and that Bradley will rebound and hit .276.

As for the Cubs pitchers, James projected Carlos Zambrano will go 12-8 with a 3.60 ERA and Ted Lilly will finish 11-8 with a 3.76 ERA.

James has Bradley listed with the Cubs in 2010, but the outfielder most likely will be doing that somewhere else.

* Akinori Iwamura is about to be traded, but not to the Cubs. The Rays reportedly dealt the second baseman to the Pirates on Tuesday for reliever Jesse Chavez. Some reports had the Cubs interested in Iwamura, who batted .290 for Tampa Bay.

— Carrie Muskat

11/3 AFL Rising Stars game

Four Cubs prospects were named to the Arizona Fall League’s Rising Stars game, to be played Saturday night in Surprise. Starlin Castro, Josh Vitters, Andrew Cashner and Blake Parker, who are all playing for the Mesa Solar Sox, were tabbed to play for the East Division team in the game, which will be broadcast on the MLB Network. Cashner, however, was not expected to pitch.

— Carrie Muskat

11/2 Free agent discussions

Outfielder Reed Johnson and pitchers John Grabow, Rich Harden, Kevin Gregg, and Chad Fox are eligible to file for free agency as soon as the World Series ends. A player must file within 15 days after the World Series is over. The Cubs will retain exclusive negotiating rights during that 15-day period.

The Cubs began discussions with Grabow’s agent before the regular season ended. The team was expected to try and re-sign the left-handed reliever, acquired July 30 along with Tom Gorzelanny from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I want to come back,” Grabow said in early October. “[Cubs general manager Jim Hendry] knows that. It’s just a matter of getting it done.”

There were reports Monday that the two sides were discussing a two-year deal in the $6.5 million to $7.5 million range. Grabow, who turns 31 on Wednesday, appeared in a career-high 75 games this past season for the Pirates and Cubs combined. 

As long as we’re discussing who should play center field for the Cubs, who would you keep in this group?

— Carrie Muskat

11/2 AFL update

Starlin Castro hit a two-run single in the fifth inning to help the Mesa Solar Sox beat the Peoria Saguaros, 7-2, on Monday in Arizona Fall League action. Castro is batting .423 in the AFL. Josh Vitters hit a triple for Mesa, and John Gaub struck out two in one inning of relief.

Catcher Michael Brenly, son of Cubs television analyst Bob Brenly, has joined the Solar Sox and was inserted as a defensive replacement in the ninth. The younger Brenly batted .265 this season at Class A Peoria.

— Carrie Muskat