December 2010

12/7 Can Colvin play 1B?

Can Tyler Colvin handle first base? Mike Quade thinks so.

“I know [the front office] is trying to be creative and keeping an open mind on all of these things,” Quade said of the Cubs’ pursuit of a first baseman this offseason. “Who knows? Fooling around with [Colvin] out there last year may come in handy. He’s a good athlete and he’s got good hands. We said it last year, even though we didn’t play him in a game [at first], the fact he spent time around there and looked comfortable doing it, yeah, he would lack experience and he’d have a lot to learn still but you’d feel like the fundamentals of catching and doing some things, he’d be fine.”

— Carrie Muskat

12/7 Cubs reportedly shopping Gorzelanny

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Cubs are “aggressively” shopping lefty Tom Gorzelanny. That won’t give GM Jim Hendry much extra room payroll wise. Gorzelanny is arbitration eligible after earning $800,000 in 2010. The Cubs do have options in the rotation.

— Carrie Muskat

12/7 1B options

The problem with Carlos Pena, besides his .196 average last season, could be money. Pena’s agent, Scott Boras, is reportedly seeking a deal that will pay the free agent first baseman $8 million. He did hit 28 homers and 18 doubles for the Rays and battled a foot injury part of the season. There are other options but the Cubs aren’t the only team looking for a first baseman. The Nationals are, too, especially after Adam Dunn’s departure.

The Cubs also are looking at free agent Adam LaRoche, who told he is interested in playing for the Nationals. He’s coming off his best season in which he hit .261 with 25 home runs and 100 RBIs for the Diamondbacks. The free agent first baseman was impressed by the Nationals’ signing of Jayson Werth to a long-term contract. “I think it shows how serious the Nationals are about getting the organization back on track and becoming a contender in the National League East,” LaRoche told The left-handed hitter has a .271 career average. LaRoche was paid $4.5 million last season and the D-backs opted to not pick up his $7.5 million option for 2011, so he also received a $1.5 million buyout.

— Carrie Muskat

12/6 Cubs notebook

Hayden Simpson, the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in last June’s First-Year Player Draft, was expected to begin workouts in Mesa, Ariz., later this month if he passes all medical checkups. Simpson did not report to a Minor League team after the Draft because he was sidelined with a severe case of mononucleosis. The right-handed pitcher from Southern Arkansas University, who was the 16th overall selection. Simpson was to get a head start on his workouts before Christmas, take time off for the holidays, and then return to Mesa.

* Camp Colvin has begun in Mesa. The workout program, which helped outfielder Tyler Colvin gain 25 pounds last season, is run by strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss. Colvin is among the participants and reports are that he’s doing well after having his season cut short prematurely when he was hit in the chest by a broken bat.

— Carrie Muskat

12/6 Cubs to name Riggins pitching coach

The Cubs were expected to name Mark Riggins as their pitching coach on Monday. The 2010 season was Riggins’ second as the Minor League pitching coordinator. He handled the same duties with the Cardinals for 12 seasons from 1996-2007, spending a total of 29 seasons in the St. Louis organization.

Riggins does have some big league time, having served as the Cardinals’ pitching coach under Joe Torre and Mike Jorgensen in 1995. He began his playing career in 1979 in the Cardinals organization after signing out of Murray State. Riggins, 53, pitched five Minor League seasons.

He will replace Larry Rothschild, who signed a three-year contract with the Yankees. Rothschild was the longest tenured coach on the staff, having handled the pitchers for nine seasons.

— Carrie Muskat

12/6 Cubs checking on Loney – UPDATE reports the Cubs have inquired about Dodgers first baseman James Loney. However, a source says Loney’s name hasn’t come up in discussions on who will take over at first. The left-handed hitter batted .267 with 10
home runs and 41 doubles last season. The Cubs appear to be focused on free agent Carlos Pena.

— Carrie Muskat

12/6 Ryno on Ron Santo

Ryne Sandberg was at baseball’s Winter Meetings Monday to not only meet with his staff members with his new team, the Phillies, but also attend a Hall of Fame news conference. He was part of the Hall’s Expansion Era committee, which elected Pat Gillick into Cooperstown on Monday. Who knows? Maybe they’ll consider Ron Santo next year.

“He was a fixture at Wrigley Field during my whole career and a fixture in my life as far as being there in Spring Training and being there every season I played,” Sandberg said of Santo, who passed away last Thursday. “It was a very sad day for myself just thinking about what he meant not only to the organization but myself and my family.”

Sandberg said he’ll miss having Santo to talk to.

“We always had a lot to talk about,” Sandberg said. “He called me ‘big boy’ all the time because he didn’t remember my name. He called everybody that. He was one who could get away with that. I returned the favor and called him ‘big boy.'”

Will he be hard to replace?

“He’s really established himself as a fan favorite and the voice of the fans,” Sandberg said. “It’s similar to when Harry Caray left. It’ll be hard to replace Ron Santo — I don’t think you can replace him. He wasn’t your typical radio announcer but everybody knew what he meant and how he felt, even if he didn’t get the facts right or the names right, everyone knew what he meant and how emotional he was about the game. That came across loud and clear on the radio.”

— Carrie Muskat

12/5 The next 1B may be LaHair

The Cubs’ next first baseman may be playing right now in the Dominican Republic. Bryan LaHair has joined Estrellas, and was batting .273 in three games with four RBIs. LaHair batted .308 with 25 homers, 30 doubles and 81 RBIS in 125 games with Triple-A Iowa this year. He hit .337 against right-handers, .227 against lefties. LaHair did play with the Mariners in 2008,  and batted .250 in 45 games.

* Starlin Castro has gotten off to a slow start for Escogido in the Dominican. After six games, he’s batting .136 (3-for-22) with one double. He’s been batting fifth; expect him to hit higher in the order with the Cubs.

— Carrie Muskat

12/4 Tentative Spring Training schedule

Are you thinking about going to Arizona for Spring Training? The Cactus League has released a tentative schedule for 2011 and here are the Cubs’ home/away dates. Remember, these are subject to change, and the Cubs still may add a weekend trip to Las Vegas. All home games are at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, Ariz.:

Feb. 27: Athletics at Cubs
Feb. 28: Brewers at Cubs
March 1: Cubs at Giants, Scottsdale, AZ
March 2: Cubs at Brewers, Maryvale, AZ
March 3: Rangers at Cubs
March 4: Cubs at Royals, Surprise, AZ
March 5: Padres at Cubs
March 6: Cubs (ss) at Reds, Goodyear, AZ; and Dodgers at Cubs
March 7: Angels at Cubs
March 8: Cubs at Rockies, Salt River, AZ
March 9: Royals at Cubs
March 10: Indians at Cubs
March 11: Cubs at White Sox, Glendale, AZ
March 12: Reds at Cubs
March 13: Cubs at Diamondbacks, Salt River, AZ
March 14: Cubs at Mariners, Peoria, AZ
March 15: Rockies at Cubs
March 16: OFF
March 17: Cubs at Athletics, Phoenix
March 18: Reds at Cubs
March 19: Cubs at Padres, Peoria, AZ
March 20: Giants at Cubs
March 21: Cubs at Angels, Tempe, AZ
March 22: Cubs at Dodgers, Glendale, AZ
March 23: Athletics at Cubs
March 24: White Sox at Cubs
March 25: Mariners at Cubs
March 26: Cubs at Rangers, Surprise, AZ
March 27: Rockies at Cubs
March 28: Cubs at Indians, Goodyear, AZ
March 29: Diamondbacks at Cubs

The Cubs also may play at HoHoKam Park on March 30 in an exhibition game against their Minor League players. Details are still being worked out.

— Carrie Muskat

12/4 Riggleman on Santo

Nationals skipper Jim Riggleman once was the “fine manager of the Chicago Cubs.” At least, that’s what Ron Santo would call him at the end of his pregame radio interview.

“The thing you remember is this, he was such a fan — he loved the Cubs,” Riggleman said Sunday about Santo, who passed away Thursday. “That’s the great thing about Billy [Williams], Ernie [Banks] and Ronnie. Sometimes veteran players are bitter about today’s players contracts and this and that, but they were all about Cubs. ‘We’ve got to get it right here, we’ve got to win.’ Ronnie was really excited about the team. It was a shock to me that [he died]. I loved my time with him and feel fortunate that I got to know him. He was a legend. He treated me like a friend — there was no talking down to you or anything like that because you didn’t play in the big leagues. He treated you with great respect, and I really thought a lot about him.”

Riggleman was the Cubs manager in 1998 when the team was challenging for the Wild Card and outfielder Brant Brown dropped a fly ball with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth against the Brewers. Santo groaned “Oh, no” — an audio tape worth listening to.

“[Santo] was the first one to console Brant Brown on the [team] plane,” Riggleman said. “He said, ‘Sorry, kid.’ He understood the magnitude of that play. I think Ronnie was like all of us feeling for Brant. We didn’t want that to hang over us.

“[Santo] loves the Cubs, he was passionate about the Cubs. For him, the glass was always half full.”

— Carrie Muskat