2/22 Cubs 1st bunt tourney starts Thursday
The bracket is up and there’s been plenty of trash talking. It’s time for the Cubs’ first annual match play bunting tournament to begin.
First round action with the pitchers will get underway Thursday at Fitch Park on a half field, marked with a grid that gives points from 10 to 40, depending on the bunt’s location. There are 64 entries, including Cubs manager Dale Sveum and strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss.
“We had to get it to 64 — we had 63 guys in camp, so I said, ‘Just throw myself in,’” Sveum said Wednesday. “Losing [Chris] Carpenter yesterday to the Red Sox, we put ‘Bussy’ in his spot.”
Carpenter was dealt to the Red Sox as part of the compensation package for Cubs president Theo Epstein, so the right-hander loses his chance at the prize. Sveum will face pitcher Kerry Wood, who says he took four or five swings last year.
“It’s a layup,” Wood said. “I should get right through that one, no problem.”
What Wood may not know is Sveum and Buss have been practicing on the half field.
Sveum started the tourney when he managed in the Minor Leagues with the Pirates.
“I always remembered it and always wanted to do something like that if I took over as manager,” Sveum said. “I thought it would be fun for the team and break things up a little bit and have a little fun with it. It’ll be fun as we go along, especially when we get to the sweet 16.”
Sveum had nothing to do with the seedings.
“I’m a 16 [seed],” he said of the bracket, “and I’m not a 16 seed.”
Wood picked Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells as early favorites since they’ve had more at-bats as starters. There will be a bracket for pitchers and another for position players. The top pitcher and position player will then square off in the final.
“It’s a good way to keep it lively,” Wood said. “Bunting gets very monotonous and covering first and all that stuff, so it’s nice to throw us a little bone and make it a competition and get the work done at the same time.”
Speedy outfielder Tony Campana has been boasting about his bunting skills, and will face catcher Steve Clevenger in the first round. Both infielder Jeff Baker and outfielder Reed Johnson have tired of the talk. They predict Campana will be eliminated in the first round because it’s not a bunt-and-run event, just straight bunting.
“You can’t run,” Johnson said.
“I know,” Campana said. “I think I’ll be OK. Clevenger, I’m not worried about him that much. I’m not worried until the third round. I think that’s when the challenges start coming. If somebody wants to beat me, that’s good. That means I have to worry and they’re going to try really hard. <p> “I’m kind of putting a bullseye on my back by talking so much trash,” Campana said. “If everybody’s talking about me, they know I’m dangerous.”
Pitcher Chris Rusin was a little nervous. His first-round opponent is Buss. He can’t lose to the strength coach.
“The pressure’s on me,” Rusin said.
– Carrie Muskat