February 2010

2/20 Cubs win arb case vs. Theriot

The Cubs won their arbitration case with shortstop Ryan Theriot, and will pay him $2.6 million this season.

Theriot was seeking $3.4 million. The two sides had a hearing Friday in Tampa, Fla. This was the first time Theriot, 30, was arbitration eligible and the first time the Cubs had a hearing since 1993. 

Theriot’s case was the last to be heard in Major League Baseball. The teams won the arbitration cases this year, 5-3.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry had settled 36 straight arbitration cases since taking over, including seven this year. Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, Jeff Baker, Mike Fontenot, Koyie Hill, Angel Guzman and Tom Gorzelanny all reached agreements and avoided arbitration.

The Cubs now have a 4-2 record in arbitration cases. The team’s last hearing was in 1993 when Mark Grace filed for $4.1 million and the Cubs offered $3.1 million. The Cubs won that case.

— Carrie Muskat

2/19 Santo ready for new season

WGN Radio’s first spring broadcast will be March 4, and Ron Santo can’t wait. The former Cubs third baseman and current radio analyst stopped by the Cubs’ Fitch Park facility on Friday to show off his new prosthetics. He has had both legs amputated below the knee because of complications from diabetes and says his new devices have a motor. He’s been doing 70 situps every other day and riding an exercise bike. He’s very excited about the 2010 Cubs.

“I’m just hoping we stay healthy,” Santo said. “If we stay healthy, we should be real good, I think.”

He skipped the Cubs Convention because he was worried about getting sick and catching what he called “slime flu.” Santo expects to make most of the road trips but could take time off if needed because of his health.

“I’ll do as many as I can,” Santo said. “It’s hard for me not to go because I go crazy at home. I’ve got to also realize I want to be there the whole season. I’ll take three, four days off once in a while, maybe.”

He signed a new three-year deal recently. That’s pretty long term.

“I’m looking [to broadcast] until I die, how’s that?” Santo said. “That’s long term.”

He is happy to have some new faces in the clubhouse and to see Milton Bradley gone.

“I’m a very strong believer in good chemistry and there’s nobody better than Lou Piniella when it comes to good chemistry,” Santo said. “But this was a tough situation [last year] when you bring a man in who hopefully was going to change. I couldn’t understand it, the way [Bradley] is. He’s just not a happy man. He loved the game of baseball but when you start talking about the fans and Wrigley Field and that you can’t wait to get off [the field], that’s not good. It wasn’t like he’d get on anybody in the clubhouse. He was always kind of mad. He wasn’t a happy man.”

Santo didn’t talk much to Bradley.

“He’d walk right by you and not even look at you,” Santo said. “Several times, he’d walk by Lou — Lou would say something and he didn’t say anything. But that’s over with.”

It’s time to move on.

— Carrie Muskat

2/19 Spring camp news & notes

Only six position players are missing from Cubs camp. They include Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Theriot, Kosuke Fukudome and Starlin Castro.

“[The other players are] getting a big head start on the rest of them,” Lou Piniella said.

Both Theriot and GM Jim Hendry were expected in Arizona on Saturday. They were in Tampa Friday for Theriot’s arbitration hearing, the last case to be heard in Major League Baseball. So far, the teams have the edge, 4-3.

Some notes:

* Xavier Nady worked with pitching coach Larry Rothschild on his throwing mechanics. Nady is coming back from two Tommy John surgeries. “I was an infielder until 2001 and then I moved to the outfield and it’s a completely different throw,” Nady said. “It’s a matter of finding a different arm slot.”

* The White Sox front office will be featured in a reality show on MLB Network. Would Lou Piniella consider doing something like that? “No,” he said. “I’ve got enough reality in the job I have. I don’t need to find anymore.”

* Piniella missed Tiger Woods’ news conference on Friday because he was meeting with former umpire Steve Palermo to discuss possible rule changes this season. Any feeling on whether Woods can repair his image?

“There’s no question that he can,” Piniella said. “He’s an intelligent guy. There’s no reason to assume with the help he’s gotten that he can’t repair the damage and continue as an ambassador for the game of golf and the competitor that he is. I think it all starts with feeling bad about the situation and feeling sorry and he feels contrite about it.”

* Ron Santo stopped by the Cubs’ workout at Fitch Park and says he’s feeling great. Santo said he has “new legs,” which, in his case, means new prosthetics. He’s had both legs amputated below the knee because of complications with diabetes.

— Carrie Muskat

2/19 Lilly update

Ted Lilly got good news. The MRI on his right knee showed normal wear and tear, and he was able to continue his rehab work Friday and throw. Assistant GM Randy Bush said the test result had nothing but good news. “There’s nothing to worry about,” Bush said.

— Carrie Muskat

2/19 Theriot has hearing in Florida

The Cubs and shortstop Ryan Theriot had their arbitration hearing on Friday in Tampa, Fla. A decision was not expected to be announced until Saturday. GM Jim Hendry attended the hearing, his first. Hendry had settled the previous 36 cases. Theriot was asking for $3.4 million while the Cubs had countered at $2.6 million. It’s the Cubs’ first hearing since Mark Grace in 1993.

— Carrie Muskat

2/19 Cubs add an "idiot" in Millar

Kevin Millar is the first to admit he’s not a five-tool player.

“I don’t think I have a tool box,” Millar said Friday. “That’s not what made me. What made me is I’ve always loved it more than anybody else and that’s always the big thing.”

Millar, 38, signed a Minor League contract with the Cubs and is battling for a spot on the bench. He’s excited about being in Arizona — it’s his first Spring Training in the state. He’s also reunited with former Florida teammates Ryan Dempster and Derrek Lee.

“We lost a lot of games together,” Millar siad. “I think we lost 100-something games a year. But you learn from those times and now you look at the success these guys have had and just to be back is awesome.”

Millar isn’t really what the Cubs are looking for. They’re already overloaded with right-handed bats.

“When you sit back as a player and look at the numbers and right-handed, left-handed, obviously it’s it’s not a great fit on paper,” Millar said. “My role is to come in here and have a good camp and hopefully win a spot on the bench. That’s the main thing is just to be a veteran and have some leadership qualities and do the best you can. You get caught up in numbers and stuff as a player and it’s tough and it doesn’t make sense at times. It always works out so we’ll see what happens.”

He does have a reputation as being a great clubhouse guy. The Cubs had some discord last season, primarily created by Milton Bradley, now with the Mariners. Millar talked to Dempster before signing with the Cubs.

“[Dempster] feels this is a good spot, being that I’ve played in a place like Boston and went through a lot of the same things — there was a huge curse there and it was a huge thing and 86 years [without winning a World Series] and it was almost like ‘This is this year’ — every year is the year,” Millar said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Millar batted .297 in 2004 when the Red Sox ended their so-called curse and won the World Series. The main thing, Millar said, is to have fun.

“You go out there and you compete for three hours and play the game hard, play the game right, but you can have fun,” he said. “I think guys forget that sometimes. I think there’s such a pressure and you have to act like somebody you’re not. Be yourself. It’s a game.”

He joked that he begged GM Jim Hendry on his hands and knees to let him play for the Cubs. This is the second straight year Millar has signed a Minor League contract. He made the Blue Jays last year and batted .223.

“Last year was the first time I had to be a role player and it was a learning experience,” Millar said. “The American League is tough. Once you accept it, it’s a lot easier. In the National League, I think have a chance to be involved a lot more than in an American League game. We’ll see what happens.”

Somewhere deep in his locker were six or seven gloves. He couldn’t find any of them Friday.

“But I’m 50 years old,” he said. “I might only be able to pinch hit. Shortstop is out, center field is out but I can catch. I can play the corners and catch.”

Geovany Soto shouldn’t worry about his job. Millar is well known for his clever ability to come up with nicknames — he labeled the Red Sox “idiots.”

“We might have to think of something around here,” he said. “I have to make the team first. [Idiot] is my nickname back at the house.”

If Millar didn’t make the big league club, would he accept a Minor League assignment? He didn’t want to consider that.

“When you look at your paperwork and it says ‘Iowa Cubs,’ you just have to close your eyes when you fill that stuff out,” he said. “I’m thinking ‘Chicago.'”

— Carrie Muskat

2/18 New, improved Geo

Thursday was not only the first day for pitchers and catchers to work out, but the first chance for Lou Piniella to see the slim, trim Geovany Soto hit. And it was impressive. The young catcher, who lost about 40 pounds this offseason, hit eight or nine batting practice home runs.

“The ball was jumping off his bat really well and he was getting through the ball really easy,” Piniella said. “When you lose weight, especially in the middle like he has, it’s much easier to get those hips through the ball.”

Cubs coach Matt Sinatro, who works with the catchers, also noticed that Soto seems to be quicker on his feet. That’s a good sign.

The Cubs talked to Soto at the end of last season about the need for him to get in shape, hire a personal trainer, change his diet.

“I was thinking [he’d lose] 10, 15 pounds,” Piniella said. “Whoever he used did such a good job, I feel like calling him myself.”

Said Carlos Marmol: “I said, ‘Are you crazy? How’d you do that?’ He looks like he’s 10 years old.”

— Carrie Muskat

2/18 Lilly to have his right knee checked

Ted Lilly is already rehabbing from arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder and now he’s feeling some soreness in his right knee. Lilly was headed to see a doctor on Thursday and may need an MRI as a precautionary measure.

“Hopefully, it’s just a minor little thing,” Lou Piniella said of Lilly’s knee. “As far as his shoulder is concerned, he’s gaining strength and feeling good. We’re just having to hold him back so he doesn’t take a step backwards.”

Lilly said his knee was “barking a little bit.”

“I ran on it yesterday and it’s not something I’m going to make a big deal out of,” he said. “I’m just going to have it looked at.”

Last July, Lilly needed arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and he joked Thursday that maybe he’s a little “fragile.” His shoulder, though, feels strong.

“My shoulder feels good and I’m real optimistic about that,” Lilly said. “I’m happy with the way it’s coming along. I have expectations to not be too far behind.”

— Carrie Muskat

2/18 Happy days for Marmol

Carlos Marmol was named the Cubs closer last year, then went 11-for-11 in save situations. The past two springs, Marmol has had to compete for the job. Now it’s his.

“I’m excited,” Marmol said Thursday. “I’m excited I don’t have to fight to be the closer this year.”

He says he didn’t do anything differently this offseason and trained the same way he has the last four winters. This was an exciting offseason for Marmol, who signed a one-year, $2.125 million contract earlier this month and avoided arbitration. He made $575,000 last year.

Does he feel like a millionaire?

“Not yet,” Marmol said, laughing. “It feels good for my family, for myself. I’m happy with what I’m doing right now. I think I’ll be good the rest of the season.”

— Carrie Muskat

2/18 Numbers game

There were some familiar Cubs’ numbers on the field Thursday — Nos. 31 and 34.

Greg Maddux, now a special assistant to the GM, was in uniform wearing No. 31. That number was retired last year in honor of both Maddux and Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins. Maddux spent most of the first workout at Fitch Park watching the pitchers throw light bullpen sessions.

New addition Jeff Gray was wearing No. 34, which hasn’t been worn by a Cubs player since Kerry Wood. Gray, acquired from the Athletics, said he asked for the number.

“After realizing it, it was like really incredible to follow in his footsteps,” Gray said Thursday. “Hopefully, I can live up to it. It’s big shoes to fill. It’s going to be some fun. I’m pretty excited about it.”

Mike Fontenot got some grief from fans by wearing No. 17, which was Mark Grace’s number. Gray was prepared for some razzing.

“I’m wondering what’s going to happen,” he said. “I’m excited.”

— Carrie Muskat