March 2010

3/25 Baker making adjustments

Jeff Baker doesn’t look at his spring stats. He entered Thursday’s game batting .156 but he’s been working a lot with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo and making changes.

“We’re trying to do some things to be more consistent,” Baker said Thursday. “It’s obviously taken longer than I would’ve liked but it is what it is.”

One of the things Jaramillo has suggested is for Baker to close his stance a little.

“I’ve been really wide and we’re trying to stay more upright,” Baker said. “It’s a big adjustment for me, to be honest. I’ve always been really, really spread out. That’s been my comfort zone and my feel. Now I’m trying to get more narrow. It’s taken a little while to get going with that. It’s one of those things that are good and will help me in the long run.”

He is allowed to say no but right now, he’s processing all of the information.

“Sometimes it might not work for you,” he said. “You try it and go with it. After that, you go with what’s comfortable and feels good. I just want to get my swing mechanics to where they need to be so once we get going, all I’m thinking about is seeing a baseball and hitting a baseball.”

— Carrie Muskat

3/25 Colvin will wait and see

Clemson and Georgia are squaring off in a college baseball game on April 6, and Jeff Baker suggested Thursday that he and Tyler Colvin go to see it. Both went to Clemson and the Cubs will be in Atlanta that week to face the Braves.

“I said, ‘Whoa, hold off on that,'” Colvin said Thursday. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and we’ll see what happens.”

Colvin entered Thursday’s game against the Diamondbacks ranked third in the Cactus League with a .440 batting average and Lou Piniella has said he likes the outfielder. But until Colvin is on the plane with the big league team headed to the first series in Atlanta, he isn’t taking anything for granted.

“I’ve been talking to a few of my buddies on the team and they said, ‘Hey, you still have a chance,'” Colvin said. “It’s like I’ve said all along, there’s some great outfielders and we’ll see what happens.”

The Cubs’ 2006 No. 1 Draft pick, Colvin arrived 25 pounds heavier after a serious offseason exercise program which has helped him at the plate. Piniella has said he doesn’t want to keep Colvin on the team unless the outfielder can start a few games a week.

“My thoughts are I want to help this team any way I can,” Colvin said. “If it’s coming off the bench and getting a hit there or starting periodically throughout the week, that’s great. Whatever I can do to give some of these guys rest, I’ll do what I can.”

Colvin isn’t about to go into Piniella’s office and ask for more playing time.

“I couldn’t do that,” he said, smiling.

He leads the team in at-bats, average, and hits. What’s good about the extra weight he’s added is that he doesn’t look 25 pounds heavier, just more muscular.

“In the past, I could hit home runs but I would have to really muscle up,” Colvin said. “Now I don’t have to do as much. Now I hit line drives and ‘oh, it got over his head.’ If I was trying to hit a home run, I probably could. Now, I don’t have to try.”

— Carrie Muskat

3/25 Lee, Ramirez, Nady & more

Both Lou Piniella and Derrek Lee were nursing sore backs on Thursday. Piniella skipped the trip to Tucson. Lee was injured in Surprise on Wednesday. He was apparently eating in the clubhouse and the chair he was sitting in collapsed. Lee was slow running to first on a play and was pulled after three innings. The first baseman was expected back in the Cubs’ lineup on Friday.

* Third baseman Aramis Ramirez should be back Friday as well. He was able to play catch on Thursday at HoHoKam and was tentatively scheduled to start at third Friday when the Cubs play host to the Athletics. He got some at-bats in a Minor League game Wednesday.

* Xavier Nady started in right field in a Minor League game Wednesday but never had a ball hit to him. He was hit on the right hand by a pitch and had X-rays, but they were negative. Expect to see Nady in a Cactus League game soon.

“He didn’t get any balls hit his way but just the preparation, getting set and running out, it’s good for him,” Piniella said. “It’s part of the regimen of being an outfielder.”

The Cubs have one more game in an American League park this spring and Piniella also doesn’t want to use the designated hitter at HoHoKam so his pitchers can get used to hitting in a game and bunting. That also means Nady will have to play the outfield to get at-bats.

* Jeff Gray is unlikely to make the Opening Day roster. The right-hander been slowed because of a strained groin.

“He’s got a nice arm,” Piniella said. “But if you’re rushing to get him ready, you’re looking at something (bad) that could really happen. But we’ll see. We’re going to sit down with [athletic trainer Mark O’Neal] and [pitching coach Larry Rothschild] and see. But I like what I see. But if you get him on a fast track, then you’ve got a little problem.”
* Expect some roster moves on Friday. The Cubs will get down to either 12 or 13 pitchers, and 16 or 17 position players.
* Chad Tracy did as ordered on Wednesday, hitting two doubles against the Rangers.

“I said I wanted to see him smack it, and he hit a couple balls well, in the right-centerfield gap and the left-center field gap,” Piniella said. “That last spot, it’s not an easy decision. We’ve got a lot of things to consider. We’re not set one way or another. Things will go on for a little bit. And [Micah] Hoffpauir is swinging the bat a little better here at the end of camp.”

The Cubs are trying to decide whether to keep Tracy, Hoffpauir, Kevin Millar, Andres Blanco, or Bobby Scales.

— Carrie Muskat

3/24 Marshall states his case

Sean Marshall made his final pitch to win a spot in the Cubs rotation on Wednesday. The lefty gave up one unearned run on three hits and one walk over four innings against the Rangers in Surprise. He struck out five.

Lefty Tom Gorzelanny starts on Thursday in Tucson and a decision was expected on Friday. It’s down to Marshall vs. Gorzelanny. Lou Piniella wants at least one lefty in the rotation.

“I don’t know,” Marshall said about whether he’ll be in the rotation or the ‘pen. “My attitude is always to keep a positive attitude whatever role I’m in and help the team win some ballgames.

“I pitched pretty well today,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I can be the perfect candidate to start but I love starting and I want to start because I like giving the team a chance to win. As long as I keep building and keep getting better and keep getting guys out, I’ll have no problems.”

Marshall mixed in some split-finger pitches on Wednesday, and felt they were effective. He dropped a few slow curves and some “sidearm drop down” curves to get some of the strikeouts.

“As long as [the curve] is working and I can continue to use that pitch and my slider, I can get guys out in relief or guys out starting,” Marshall said. “We’ll see.”

— Carrie Muskat

3/24 Wells, Ramy & Nady updates

Randy Wells struck out seven and gave up three hits over six innings in a Minor League game Wednesday at Fitch Park. At one point, the right-hander retired 13 in a row. He started there to get on schedule for the regular season. Aramis Ramirez, still nursing a sore right tricep, got five at-bats and hit a solo homer over the left center field fence. He was projected to start at third base on Friday when the Cubs are at HoHoKam. Xavier Nady played outfield for the first time this spring and hit a RBI double. He also was hit in the right hand but it was not serious, just a bruise.

The Cubs also got good news on Angel Guzman’s surgery, which was done Tuesday by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. Guzman underwent a shoulder stabilization procedure done arthroscopically. The right-hander will miss all of this season.

— Carrie Muskat

3/24 Tweet Lou

tweet.jpgHere I am trying to teach Lou how to use Twitter. “You have to type?” he said.

3/24 Colvin could be on team

Tyler Colvin could make the Cubs’ Opening Day roster but only if they feel they can give him enough at-bats.

“First of all, Colvin has had an outstanding spring,” Piniella said Wednesday. “Colvin has played well enough to make this team. The concern is we don’t want this young man to make this team and just sit. So, if he’s on our Opening Day roster, he’s going to get some playing time. He’s just not going to sit.”

Could Piniella give him a couple starts a week?

“I’m going to have to,” Piniella said. “We just don’t want a young player like Colvin to make the team and sit down and not play. If Colvin is with us, he’s going to get some playing time. To his credit, he can play all three outfield positions. We just don’t want him sitting. We’ll see how it works out.”

Colvin entered play on Wednesday ranked fourth in the Cactus League with a .438 average. His 21 hits lead the Majors while his 30 total bases tops the Cactus League and are tied for fifth most overall.

“He has played really well this spring,” Piniella said. “If I didn’t have Fukudome, Byrd or Soriano, he would be a regular at one of those positions this spring.”

There are two other outfield options still in camp in Jim Adduci and Sam Fuld. Fuld is a different type of player and looked at as more of a defensive sub.

“I know if Colvin is here, my job is to get him some playing time,” Piniella said.

— Carrie Muskat

3/24 Angel Guzman update

The Cubs got good news on Angel Guzman’s surgery, which was done Tuesday by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. Guzman underwent a shoulder stabilization procedure done arthroscopically. That’s good news for the right-hander, who will miss all of this season.

— Carrie Muskat

3/24 Lilly OK with Minor games

Ted Lilly has felt so good coming off arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder that he wanted to pitch in Cactus League games. But instead, he’ll make at least two starts for the Minor League team at Fitch Park, beginning Saturday.

“The reason is it’s our best option as a team,” Lilly said Wednesday. “At least I still get a chance to get some work in. I’ve got to be happy with where I’m at coming off surgery. I’m going to pitch to hitters and I’m getting out there and I’m on the field. I would’ve liked to have been able to pitch in a [Cactus League] game but this just makes more sense as a team that I go over to pitch at Fitch Park.”

The Cubs want to keep the other pitchers on their regular schedule heading into the season which is why Lilly is being slotted into Minor League games. Will the two starts be enough?

“I guess we’ll find out,” he said. “If I come out of the gate and I’m contributing and we’re winning when I’m pitching, then it’ll seem to be enough.”

So far, his arm feels great. Lilly is projected to return to the Cubs rotation sometime in the second half of April. On Saturday, the Cubs will be playing host to the Padres at HoHoKam Park down the road from the Minor League game at Fitch Park.

— Carrie Muskat

3/24 Nady to play OF in Minors game

Xavier Nady will play in the outfield for one of the Cubs’ Minor League teams at Fitch Park Wednesday. Nady, coming back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, most likely will be limited in throws. The rest of the team is headed to Surprise for the second straight day, this time facing the Rangers. The lineup is: RF Fukudome, 2B Fontenot, 1B Lee, DH Millar, CF Byrd, LF Soriano, 3B Tracy, C Soto, SS Blanco. Sean Marshall is starting.

— Carrie Muskat