March 2012

3/31 Cubs 3, Angels 3, 10 innings

What went right:

Paul Maholm gave up two runs on three hits over 4 2/3 innings. Joe Mather doubled and scored on an error in the fifth and Tony Campana reached on a bunt single, stole second and eventually scored on a ground out in the sixth. Reed Johnson stole home during a double steal. The bullpen did well as Carlos Marmol, Rafael Dolis and James Russell each threw a hitless inning. Dolis has not given up a run over nine innings this spring.

What went wrong:

Howie Kendrick doubled with one out in the Angels first and Albert Pujols launched the first pitch from Maholm to left to go ahead, 2-0. It’s a good thing Pujols is now in the American League. In the regular season, he has a career .564 (22-for-39) batting average against Maholm, including two home runs.

“There’s a reason I made sure no [American League] West team was on my wish list,” said Maholm, who was a free agent this offseason.

Maholm’s next outing will be Wednesday in a Minor League game at Fitch Park and then he’ll join the big league team in Chicago for Opening Day festivities on Thursday.

Quotable:

“I’ve got all the time in the world. The game’s three hours and I meet with [the media] for 10, 15 minutes a day and the rest of my job is when I see things or teaching factors of the game. That’s just the way I am. I’m more hands on, whether it’s hitting fungoes, throwing batting practice. It’s just something I do and have always done.” — Cubs manager Dale Sveum on how he’ll work with the players during the regular season, the way he has this spring.

Injury report:

Marcos Mateo continues to rehab from right elbow soreness. He will not be ready for Opening Day.

This and that:

Looking ahead, Jay Jackson will start Monday against the Diamondbacks in Scottsdale and Travis Wood will close the Cactus League season on Tuesday against the Brewers. Tuesday’s game will start one hour earlier at 12:05 p.m. Arizona time and be broadcast on WGN Radio.

Up next:

Lefty Chris Rusin will start on Sunday when the Cubs travel to Tempe to face the Angels for the second straight day. The fourth round pick in 2009, Rusin was 3-2 with a 3.91 ERA at Double-A Tennessee last year and 5-2 with a 4.02 ERA at Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs lineup will be David DeJesus in right, Darwin Barney at second, Starlin Castro at short, Alfonso Soriano in left, Bryan LaHair at first, Ian Stewart at third, Marlon Byrd in center, Geovany Soto as the designated hitter, and Steve Clevenger catching. The game will be broadcast on Cubs.com.

– Carrie Muskat

3/31 Maholm happy to say bye to Pujols

Paul Maholm admitted he felt a little “off” with his mechanics on Saturday.

“They had a pretty decent lineup,” the lefty said of the Angels.

Maholm gave up two runs on three hits, including a two-run homer by Albert Pujols in the first, over 4 2/3 innings. He struck out six.

“The first pitch to Pujols wasn’t supposed to be right down the middle and it was,” Maholm said. “He’s paid pretty well to do that.”

Maholm won’t have to face Pujols again until an Interleague matchup.

“There’s a reason I made sure no [American League] West team was on my wish list,” said Maholm, a free agent this offseason.

Maholm will pitch at Fitch Park on Wednesday, then join the Cubs in Chicago for Opening Day at Wrigley Field on Thursday. How good is the Cubs rotation?

“We’ll have to see,” Maholm said. “With [Ryan Dempster], he’s got a good track record. [Matt Garza] has the stuff and everything to be an ace, and the rest of us have to do our job. It’ll be on us. We’ll learn from each other, push each other and have fun and try to out pitch each other.”

Maholm has spent his entire career with the Pirates. How does he compare this spring with other camps?

“I thought everything was perfect,” he said. “Guys, on a consistent basis, were here early every morning, getting extra work in, making sure they were prepared to go on the field and when games start, guys were busting it. You don’t see a lot of guys taking it like, oh, it’s just Spring Training. We have to get ready and push ourselves to get ready for the season. I think that’s kind of [Dale Sveum's] personality. You work hard, play hard and have fun later.”

Clint Hurdle set the tone with the Pirates last season. Maholm said Sveum isn’t as loud as Hurdle.

“You respect the guy for coming in, laying it down and saying this is how we’re going to play and this is what I expect, and guys are taking a hold of it,” Maholm said.

– Carrie Muskat

3/31 Sveum hopes to find niche in Chicago

When Dale Sveum was named manager, one of the first things he did was tour Wrigley Field to get a feel for the facilities. What he discovered is there isn’t much room.  For example, when the Cubs want to hit during the game, there is no batting cage near the clubhouse as there is at Miller Park or most of the modern facilities. The Cubs have a net in the clubhouse that they use, hitting into it off a batting tee.

“We searched a lot of little places and there was just nothing where you could get a full swing unless you went out on the concourse,” Sveum said.

That would be something to see during games. But Sveum said the players should be able to adjust.

“I think most of that stuff is a little over-rated, too,” he said. “This game went on a long time without batting cages and flip screens and all that. Sometimes when you get ready, you dry swing and you’re doing it visually. It’s nice to have, don’t get me wrong. We will here in a couple of years.”

There are plans to improve the facilities at Wrigley Field and hopefully add areas for the players to swing without having to worry about balls bouncing off walls or breaking the clubhouse TV.

When Sveum does get to Chicago, he’ll have to deal with a lot more media attention than the five writers who have followed him all spring.

“I understand there’s going to be tougher questions on a daily basis and after tough losses or on things I screwed up in the game or people think I screwed up,” he said. “When you have more people, you’re going to have more frustrating questions and questions that second guess you on a daily basis. That’s the nature of the business. I can sit here and say everything I want about it but I haven’t been in that hot seat yet.”

Sveum doesn’t like talking about himself but understands he has a commitment to talk to the media.

“It is what it is, it’s part of our jobs,” he said.

– Carrie Muskat

3/31 Video games

The Cubs are hoping the advanced video system will help prepare players better for situations when there are runners on base.

“It was a problem last year with the Cubs and so far, it’s been a problem this spring, too,” Dale Sveum said about hitting with runners in scoring position.

What he and the other coaches have tried to do is show the players what a pitcher’s tendency is using data from video.

“They’re not going to pitch you the same when you came up in the second inning leading off with nobody on base,” Sveum said. “That’s the mindset you have to make younger hitters and people who may struggle in those situations understand what pitchers are doing.”

For example, if history shows that a pitcher doesn’t throw inside when runners are on base, don’t look for a pitch inside.

“A lot of guys who hit with guys in scoring position, it’s because they’re able to relax more and their anxiety level doesn’t get up,” Sveum said. “That’s why some guys hit well with two strikes because the anxiety level isn’t as high as other guys and they don’t feel like they have to do it. “

He said players are often unaware of the tendencies until they’re shown the information.

“May of the guys are like, ‘Wow, I had no idea it was that blatant of a stat’ or data when you can look at a grid and Joe Blow, 90 percent of every ball he throws is away,” Sveum said. “You put that into play in your head when you walk up to the box and you say, ‘I just saw this so I don’t have to worry about anything inside.”

The Cubs hit .232 with runners in scoring position last year.

– Carrie Muskat

3/31 Final Cactus probables

The Cubs regulars will be tuning up for the season with outings in Minor League camp and the starters have been named for the final three Cactus League games. It’ll be lefty Chris Rusin on Sunday in Tempe against the Angels, Jay Jackson on Monday in Scottsdale against the Diamondbacks, and Travis Wood on Tuesday in Mesa against the Brewers.

– Carrie Muskat

3/31 Cubs lineup vs Angels, Pujols

Darwin Barney is back at shortstop and Joe Mather in right field on Saturday when the Cubs face the Angels at HoHoKam Park. The game will be televised on Comcast Sports Net. Barney is the only backup shortstop on the team, which is why they want him to get some playing time there. Obviously, Starlin Castro will get the most starts. Maybe today is the day Bryan LaHair hits that first spring homer. Paul Maholm will start and he’ll be facing Albert Pujols, who is batting third. Game time temp expected to be close to 90 degrees. Bring your sunscreen:

RF DeJesus

SS Barney

3B Stewart

2B Baker

1B LaHair

LF Johnson

C Clevenger

RF Mather

P Maholm

– Carrie Muskat

3/30 Dodgers 6, Cubs 3

What went right:

Ryan Dempster tuned up for Opening Day with 4 2/3 innings, giving up one run on four hits and three walks. His next start will be April 5 at Wrigley Field against the Nationals. Ian Stewart hit his second spring homer with two outs in the fourth. Alfonso Soriano added a RBI double.

All the grounders bench coach Jamie Quirk has been hitting to Darwin Barney paid off in the second when the second baseman made a nifty move to his right to rob Juan Uribe of a potential hit.

What went wrong:

With the game tied at 1 in the seventh, the Dodgers had two on and one out against Manuel Corpas. Dee Gordon lined the ball to right and one out later, Corpas departed. James Loney then smacked a single off Lendy Castillo, a Rule 5 pickup whom the Cubs are trying to decide whether to keep this season, to go ahead, 4-1.

The Cubs may want to keep Joe Mather at first, third or in the outfield. He subbed at second base for the first time and booted a ball for an error in the ninth. On the next play, though, he did turn a double play.

Quotable:

“If someone would’ve told me I would have this well of a camp, I’d be jumping up and down. It’s been awesome. They gave me quite a bit of an opportunity and it feels good to take advantage of that.” — Joe Mather, who was told Thursday he’d made the Opening Day roster.

Injury report:

Marcos Mateo continues to rehab from right elbow soreness. He will not be ready for Opening Day.

This and that:

* There are technically 11 relievers still on the spring roster, and the Cubs will head north with seven. Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood and James Russell are set. Casey Coleman is on the list of 11 but has been told he’s going to Triple-A Iowa. Frankie De La Cruz also was in the Minor League camp and not expected to make the Opening Day roster. That leaves Manuel Corpas, Alberto Cabrera, Shawn Camp, Lendy Castillo, Rodrigo Lopez, and Rafael Dolis. Dale Sveum said the final decision may not be made until Wednesday, the workout day at Wrigley Field.

* Sveum did reveal his Opening Day lineup against the Dodgers. When they open the season against the Nationals at Wrigley Field next Thursday, it’ll most likely be: RF David DeJesus, 2B Darwin Barney, SS Starlin Castro, 1B Bryan LaHair, LF Alfonso Soriano, 3B Ian Stewart, CF Marlon Byrd, C Geovany Soto and P Ryan Dempster.

Up next:

Paul Maholm will make his fourth Cactus League start on Saturday when the Cubs play host to the Angels at HoHoKam Park. Maholm, who will be the fifth starter in the rotation, has struck out 10 over 10 innings this spring. He’s given up one earned run on eight hits. The game will be broadcast on Comcast Sports Net and also WGN Radio.

– Carrie Muskat

3/30 Demp on Sveum: “He’s got more tattoos”

Ryan Dempster tuned up for Opening Day with 4 2/3 innings on Friday against the Dodgers. The right-hander gave up four hits and walked three.

“I’m looking forward to getting up to Chicago and getting this underway,” Dempster said.

The Cubs are not preseason favorites in the National League Central. That’s OK, Dempster said.

“We have a plan of what we want to do,” Dempster said. “We’ll go out and play the game the right way and play hard and let our talent take over. We’ve put in all this hard work the past six weeks and hopefully it turns into results on the field.

“Hard work and playing the game at a high intensity can make up for lack of talent a lot of times,” he said. “I know it has for me. I don’t have much talent but I try to work hard and play the game the right way. Sometimes it becomes contagious and a way to get the best out of each other.”

Dale Sveum has set the tone, Dempster said.

“He’s a great communicator,” Dempster said of Sveum. “He’s kept camp very loose but at the same time, asked us to work hard and I think we’ve done that. He’s given us respect and treated us like men and we’ve respected him back and put a lot of hard work in. He’s been a lot of fun to be around and you learn a lot. He’s always talking the game, always trying to figure out scenarios and what he can do best to help us win and we’re looking forward to the start of the regular season and go out there and win some games.”

How does Sveum compare to some of the other managers Dempster has played with?

“He’s got more tattoos than most of the managers I know,” Dempster said. “I can’t see Lou [Piniella] riding onto the field on a Harley.”

– Carrie Muskat

3/30 Campy: “I’ll get back up there”

Tony Campana became a fan favorite last season because of his speed but that wasn’t enough to get him on the final 25 man roster. Campana got the news on Thursday that he is opening at Triple-A Iowa. The outfielder was bumped by Joe Mather, who can play first, third and the outfield.

“You’re disappointed but the way Joe played this spring, you can’t ignore that,” Campana said Friday. “He had an unbelievable spring.”

Campana was bothered by a sore right wrist he injured making a diving catch.

“[The wrist] connects to the bat,” Campana said, who batted .222 in 17 Cactus League games. “You’ve got to have those tools.”

He wasn’t discouraged.

“They said I’d be up [to the big leagues],” Campana said of his meeting with manager Dale Sveum and GM Jed Hoyer. “They said I’m a weapon that a manager likes to have. I’ll get back up there.”

– Carrie Muskat

3/30 Cubs prep for opener

Cubs manager Dale Sveum revealed his Opening Day lineup on Friday against the Dodgers with David DeJesus leading off and Alfonso Soriano batting fifth. The Cubs open the season next Thursday at Wrigley Field against the Nationals and the lineup will likely be DeJesus batting first followed by Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, Bryan LaHair, Soriano, Ian Stewart, Marlon Byrd, Geovany Soto and Ryan Dempster. Sveum said he will probably tweak the lineup against left-handers and Barney could slide into the leadoff spot.

“We have a pretty nice right-handed hitting lineup, as we saw [Thursday],” Sveum said, hinting at the Cubs’ 12-11 loss to the Padres on Thursday. “You’ve got to get those guys in against lefties as much as you can.”

Those guys include Jeff Baker, who was batting .333 against lefties this spring. Barney had four hits on Thursday. Soriano has had his best spring, batting .341 with six homers and 15 RBIs.

– Carrie Muskat

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