February 2011

2/20 Traveling man Coello happy with Cubs

Robert Coello had a busy offseason. He pitched for Licey in the Dominican Republic, and was headed home but the Guasave team in Mexico called, so he joined them for a nine-game stretch. His last appearance was on Christmas Day.

Last week, the pitcher packed up his family and arrived in Florida to get ready for the Red Sox spring camp and then got a phone call from Cubs GM Jim Hendry. Coello was now with the Cubs after being traded for Minor League infielder Tony Thomas.

“It was a little bit surprising,” Coello said. “When the phone rang, Jim Hendry called me and told me about the trade and I was really happy to be with the Chicago Cubs.”

Last year, he totaled 145 innings in 49 games for four different teams, starting in April with Double-A Portland, where he was 4-1 with one save with a 3.32 ERA in 14 games. At Triple-A Pawtucket, he was 3-5 with a 4.22 ERA in 18 games, including nine starts. Then he went to the Dominican, and in his first start Oct. 22, he gave up one hit and two walks over five innings and fanned four.

When Coello pitched for Licey, his catcher was Welington Castillo of the Cubs.

“He said, ‘When I got the news I was coming here, I thought about you,'” said Castillo, who likes the right-hander’s fastball.

Coello must be good at packing a suitcase. He’s traveled quite a bit.

“[The trade] was a little difficult because you already know the organization,” he said, “but it is a business so from a business standpoint, you have to be open minded and hope you can be lucky to get into a good organization like this. I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about the Cubs.”

— Carrie Muskat

2/20 Live BP on tap

Carlos Zambrano, Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Marmol are among the pitchers scheduled to throw live batting practice on Sunday at Fitch Park. The pitchers definitely have the advantage. They’ve been throwing for one week. Also slated to pitch are John Grabow, Jeff Samardzija, Scott Maine, Jeff Stevens, James Russell, Sean Marshall, Kyle Smit and Scott Rice.

— Carrie Muskat

2/19 Off and running

Cubs manager Mike Quade put the team right to work on Saturday, the first full squad workout day at Fitch Park. One of the items on the agenda was bunt drills, and Quade was acting as the base runner, breaking from second base, as the infielders worked on positioning and signals. It also was good to see Carlos Pena tutoring Tyler Colvin at first. Colvin isn’t afraid to ask questions, and Pena, who won a Gold Glove in 2008, is offering advice. High winds made it a little tricky, creating mini dust storms on the infields.

— Carrie Muskat

2/19 The Q era has begun

Cubs manager Mike Quade addresses the team on first day of full squad workout at Fitch Park.
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2/19 Ricketts meets with Cubs

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said the team will have some financial flexibility and could add a player during the season but wouldn’t comment on whether adding Albert Pujols is a possibility. Since Pujols rejected the Cardinals’ latest offer, the Cubs have been rumored to be a possible bidder if the first baseman becomes a free agent.

“I don’t have any insights or thoughts on any of that situation,” Ricketts said when asked about Pujols. “All I know is what I read in the paper. I guess it just has to sit until the end of the season.”

He said Major League owners are more concerned about the length of some of the mega deals than the money involved.

“If you’re going to sign someone for seven, eight years, you better make sure that’s the guy you want,” he said.

Ricketts said any additions made in-season would be up to GM Jim Hendry, whom the owners have had more involved in terms of budget decisions so he understands the team’s finances.

“All of that stuff is in Jim’s court,” Ricketts said. “There will be a little more financial flexibility at the end of the season than there has been in years past.”

And Ricketts’ message to the team?

“I think the message for the team this year and the theme for the team this year is the fact that through the last six weeks of 2010 we were one of the best teams in baseball,” Ricketts said of the 24-13 finish under manager Mike Quade. “We have that team back and that manager back and we’ve added to it. I think we build on that momentum and use the next 40 days to get ready for the season and come into the season with a sense of purpose and a sense of pride and get off to a quick start and have a great year.”

— Carrie Muskat

2/18 Mesa crew honors Lubie

The grounds crew in Mesa, Ariz., has planted a plum tree and will add a plaque at HoHoKam Park in honor of Lubie Veal, the former head groundskeeper for the Cubs, who died last August. Veal was 86. The Murray, Ky., native also worked for the Reds, Expos, Red Sox, and Braves.

— Carrie Muskat

2/18 Full squad to workout Saturday

Manager Mike Quade will meet with the full squad on Saturday for his first official pep talk of the 2011 season. The session, scheduled for everyone in the weight room at Fitch Park before the workout, will give Quade the chance to “lay down a little bit of the direction I’d like to see us going, some things I’d like to do, both philosophically and technically.”

Quade, who replaced Lou Piniella last August as the Cubs manager, said he needs to set the tone from the start.

“I’m not allowed to say, ‘I’d like this and this’ from my club this year, and ‘I’d like this and this’ coming out of Spring Training if I don’t stress that with them,” Quade said. “They’re not going to get that by osmosis.”

Alfonso Soriano stopped by the Cubs facility Thursday, and the only position players who have not shown up at Fitch Park were third baseman Aramis Ramirez and shortstop Starlin Castro. Quade wasn’t worried about Castro since he played Winter Ball in the Dominican Republic and also had two weeks of instruction by Cubs coaches Ivan DeJesus and Franklin Font.

— Carrie Muskat

2/18 Mesa, Spring Training update

The Cubs have not picked an architect yet to build their new Spring Training complex but do expect to break ground in the fall and hope to have it completely ready by February 2014. Todd Ricketts, one of the team’s owners who is coordinating the Cubs’ Spring Training efforts, stopped by the team’s current facility on Friday for an update. Last November, Mesa voters overwhelmingly approved plans for an $84 million complex in the Riverview Park area.

Ricketts has met with the Cubs athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, and Minor League coordinators to get their wish list for the 50,000-square foot facility. The team is still deciding whether to combine the Minor League and Major League complex, or have them separate. A 15,000-seat stadium also will be built on the site. The Cubs’ current ballpark, HoHoKam Park, seats 12,500.

Ricketts has toured all of the Cactus League facilities and taken notes. This spring, the Rockies and Diamondbacks will open their new complex.

“There has been a ‘Keep up with the Joneses’ mentality with all these Spring Training facilities,” Ricketts said. “We’re less about the glitz and we’re more about the business.

“We want a facility that will be able to help us win,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking for. I don’t know if that means having a state of the art hydrotherapy table or not. We’ll have some of those things but at the end of the day, it’s simple — getting your body in shape and getting the players ready to play. It’s a simple thing — you just need a little space to do it.”

— Carrie Muskat

2/18 Fukudome arrives

Kosuke Fukudome entered the Cubs’ clubhouse around 9 a.m. MT Friday. The only position players who have not been seen in camp are Aramis Ramirez, Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano and Lou Montanez. The first full squad workout is scheduled for Saturday. Manager Mike Quade will have a team meeting at 9:30 a.m. MT with the players.

— Carrie Muskat

2/18 Cubs to salute Santo, Mesa

The Cubs will pay tribute to late broadcaster Ron Santo and host a pair of special days at Spring Training games to thank Mesa voters for their support last fall of Proposition 420 to keep the Cubs in the city.

It will be “Ron Santo Day” on March 10 when the Cubs play host to the Indians at HoHoKam Park. Santo passed away Dec. 2, and this will be one of many tributes to the former Cubs third baseman and broadcaster.

Mesa Little Leaguers, campaign supporters and volunteers will receive special pre-game recognition at a pair of games this spring as thanks for their help passing the measure to authorize financing for a new Cubs Spring Training facility in the city. On Feb. 27, the Cubs’ Cactus League opener against the Athletics, it will be “Mesa Little League Day.” The team will host 400 Little Leaguers and their parents, and include young ballplayers in on-field activities prior to the game.

The Cubs also will recognize supporters and volunteers at “Thank You Mesa Day” on March 7 when the Cubs face the Angels.

— Carrie Muskat