December 2009

12/19 Ice skating at Wrigley

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Ryan Dempster and son Brady on Saturday at the ice rink at Wrigley Field.

12/19 Spring update – Mesa

Mesa city manager Chris Brady said a meeting Friday with Cubs officials went well and the team assured him that the Arizona city is still a serious candidate for its Spring Training site. The discussion went well enough that Mesa will likely spend $684,000 on improvements to Fitch Park, where the Cubs currently have their Spring Training headquarters.

The Cubs told Brady they will likely make a decision on whether they’re going to move to Florida or stay in Arizona by mid January. On Monday this past week, the Naples, Fla., group got the Collier County community involved and launched their campaign, “Project Home Run.”

— Carrie Muskat

12/18 Milton on Milton

Milton Bradley didn’t want to talk about the Cubs or the past during a 10-minute conference call with the media Friday. Bradley was dealt to the Mariners for pitcher Carlos Silva and said he’s always enjoyed the city of Seattle.

Asked how important it was to get a fresh start, Bradley said he just looked forward to playing baseball again “in a positive environment, good atmosphere, good group of guys. It should be fun.”

What went wrong with the Cubs?

“You know, I’ve already moved forward,” he said. “I made a statement about Chicago. I’m a Seattle Mariner. Chicago’s a thing of the past. I’m not interested in rehashing old news.”

He is looking forward to playing with Ken Griffey Jr., who, Bradley said, was one of two players he ever wanted an autograph from. The other was Barry Bonds.

Bradley didn’t have a list of teams he wanted to be traded to.

“I didn’t request anything,” he said. “It became apparent to me that I was going to be traded to someone at some point. I didn’t really keep track of anything. I knew there were some teams out there. Seattle had been mentioned at some point. It kind of happened quickly.”

— Carrie Muskat

12/18 Bradley to M's for Silva

The Cubs apparently have pulled off a shocker, trading volatile outfielder Milton Bradley to the Mariners for pitcher Carlos Silva.

The deal will be made official once Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig approves the transaction because of the money involved. reported the two teams were talking, and the Seattle Times reported the deal on Friday. Silva has two years remaining on a four-year, $48 million contract which he got prior to the 2008 season from former Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi.

Bradley is owed $21 million over two years — $9 million in 2010 and $12 million in 2011. Silva has $25 million remaining — $11.5 million in both 2010 and ’11 and a $2 million buyout on a 2012 option.

According to the Seattle Times, Silva no longer has a role on the Mariners. He was 4-15 in 28 starts in 2008, and 1-3 with a 8.60 ERA in eight games (six starts) last season.

Bradley batted .257 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs for the Cubs this season, but was suspended for the final 15 games for detrimental conduct.

— Carrie Muskat

12/18 Milton Bradley & Matt Capps

Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in about two months, and Milton Bradley is still with the Cubs. FOX Sports reports the Rays, Rangers and Mariners are still interested in Bradley but no deal is close. The Cubs and Rays have been talking about swapping Bradley for Pat Burrell, but Tampa Bay wants GM Jim Hendry to agree to pick up a large part of the second year of Bradley’s contract. The Rangers are a longshot. Bradley’s time in Texas didn’t end on good terms. The M’s could be hesitant to take on a controversial player like Bradley. They recently added Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee.

The sticking point, as we’ve reported before, is the $21 million Bradley is owed over the next two years. The Cubs don’t want to pay any of that, and they don’t want to release the volatile outfielder.

Matt Capps could have a new team by Christmas. The free agent closer apparently plans on picking five or six teams as finalists by the weekend, then making a decision as to where he wants to pitch. Capps, who was not tendered arbitration by the Pirates, has been approached by several teams, including the Cubs. He’d like to close, but Capps’ agent Paul Kinzer told FOX Sports that he’d accept a set-up role with a contender. Besides the Cubs, the Diamondbacks, Orioles, Rangers, Rockes, Marlins, Nationals, Mets, Tigers and Yankees are interested in the right-hander.

Capps, 26, had 27 saves this season with the Pirates, appearing in 57 games. He walked 17 and struck out 46 over 54 1/3 innings.

— Carrie Muskat

12/17 Minor matters

The Cubs named their Minor League coaching staffs on Thursday. Ryne Sandberg was promoted to Triple-A Iowa, Bill Dancy takes over at Double-A Tennessee, and former big league catcher Jody Davis returns to managing in Boise where he’ll be joined by Jeff Fassero.

Sandberg, the Hall of Fame second baseman who led Tennessee to the Southern League championship in 2009, was moved up when Iowa manager Bobby Dickerson left to join the Baltimore Orioles’ organization. Sandberg will be joined at Iowa by pitching coach Mike Mason and hitting coach Von Joshua.

Dancy joins the Cubs after spending the past 30 years within the Philadelphia Phillies (1978-2009) and Kansas City Royals (2009) organizations. In 2005-06, he was the Phillies’ third base coach. Dennis Lewallyn will join Dancy as the Smokies pitching coach and Tom Beyers as the hitting coach.

Davis, who managed Peoria and Daytona, spent the 2009 season as the Cubs’ Minor League catching instructor and returns to the dugout for Class A Boise. Ricardo Medina, who previously coached with the Dominican Summer League, will serve as Boise’s hitting coach.

Davis, who was the Cubs catcher from 1981-1988, will be joined by former big league pitcher Fassero, who helped with the Cubs this summer in Mesa. Being retired was nice but the left-hander wanted to do more.

“I played golf,” Fassero told me in October, “but you can only do that for so long.”

Dave Bialas and Mark Riggins both return to the Cubs in 2010 as the Minor League field coordinator and pitching coordinator, respectively. So does ex-Cub Bobby Dernier, back as the outfield and baserunning coordinator. Infield coordinator Franklin Font and hitting coordinator Dave Keller also return. Carmelo Martinez enters his 13th season with the Cubs, and third as Latin American field coordinator, and Marty Pevey takes over as catching coordinator.

Buddy Bailey, who has been with the Cubs since 2006, will return to Class A Daytona and be joined by pitching coach Tom Pratt and former big league outfielder Richie Zisk. Casey Kopitzke, who managed at Class A Boise in 2009, will move up to Peoria in 2010. David Rosario and Barbaro Garbey will join Kopitzke as the pitching and hitting coaches, respectively.

Juan Cabreja will be the Rookie League Mesa manager for the second straight year and Rick Tronerud returns to handle pitching coach duties for the 10th consecutive season. Desi Wilson joins the staff as the hitting coach after handling those duties for Peoria last year.

— Carrie Muskat

12/17 Hee-Seop Choi's tough climb

Here’s a link to a story about how climbing a mountain in Korea helped former Cubs first baseman Hee-Seop Choi turn around his career. It’s a nice read.

— Carrie Muskat

12/17 Spring training update

A delegation intent on keeping the Cubs’ Spring Training site in Mesa, Ariz., was headed to Chicago Thursday to meet with the team’s management. The East Valley (Ariz.) Tribune reported that the Arizona contingent needs the Cubs to identify one or two potential sites so Mesa officials can work with landowners and develop a more specific financial plan.

The delegation was to include Mesa city manager Chris Brady, deputy city manager Bryan Raines and economic development director Bill Jabjiniak. They were expected to meet on Friday in Chicago.

“We’ve traded ideas and some details and hope that by going to Chicago we can tie down some of those details,” Mesa mayor Scott Smith told the Tribune.

— Carrie Muskat

12/16 Cubs keep eye on Escobar

The Cubs sent a scout to watch Kelvim Escobar throw in Venezuela. The right-hander had surgery in 2008 to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. He won 18 games in 2007 but has been limited to one game over the last two in the big leagues because of shoulder problems. Other teams watching Escobar throw included the Rays, Brewers, Giants, Pirates, Tigers, Mariners and A’s.

The Cubs are looking for some experience in the bullpen, and also were talking to the agent for Matt Capps, the Pirates closer who was not tendered a contract on Saturday.

— Carrie Muskat 

12/16 Great pizza. Greater cause.

On Thursday night, Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster and D’Agostino’s restaurant in Wrigleyville will throw a pizza party to benefit the Ryan and Jenny Dempster Family Foundation to help children with DiGeorge syndrome. Ryan and Jenny know the problems associated with the rare genetic disorder too well because their daughter, Riley, born in April, was diagnosed with DiGeorge syndrome.

“If some pizza will help raise awareness than we are going to throw the ultimate pizza party,” restaurant manager Scott D’Agostino said.

Tickets are $100 per person (kids get in for half price and children under 2 are free) and includes an open bar, trivia games, raffles, giveaways, and all the pizza you can eat.

All proceeds will be donated to the Ryan and Jenny Dempster Family Foundation, a non-profit organization created to support families affected by DiGeorge Syndrome. DiGeorge can cause over 180 symptoms, including difficulty swallowing, heart failure, speech impairments, learning disabilities and immune deficiencies. Recent studies suggest that as many as one in every 2,000 births is affected by this disorder.

“I’ll do whatever I have to do for Riley,” Dempster said. “Not just for Riley, but other kids, too. Whatever we can do to create awareness, raise money and get people in-the-know, that’s what we want to do.”

Tickets are limited and can be purchased in advance at The website also lists the raffle items, which include four suite tickets to a Chicago Blackhawks game, four tickets to a Chicago Bulls game, a Murphy’s Bleachers gift pack, a 50-minute massage, and Cubs tickets. There also are silent auction items, including a Dempster-signed jersey and a 42-inch plasma TV.

— Carrie Muskat