October 2012

10/26 Roster moves

The Cubs tweaked the 40-man roster on Friday when they outrighted four players to Triple-A Iowa, including outfielder Joe Mather. Right-handed pitchers Manuel Corpas, Justin Germano and Blake Parker also were outrighted to Triple-A Iowa. Mather, who started in all three outfield spots and third base, batted .209 in 103 games with the Cubs.

Corpas, coming back from Tommy John surgery, which he had in September 2010, was 0-2 with a 5.01 ERA in 48 games. Corpas has elected free agency.

Germano, acquired from the Red Sox July 19 for cash considerations, went 2-10 with a 6.75 ERA in 13 games (12 starts). Parker spent most of the season on the disabled list with an elbow injury, appearing in just seven games. On Thursday, the Cubs outrighted infielder Adrian Cardenas and right-handed pitchers Miguel Socolovich, Jason Berken and Marcos Mateo were assigned outright to Iowa. Catcher Anthony Recker also was claimed off waivers by the Mets. With the addition of pitcher Carlos Gutierrez, the Cubs’ 40-man roster is now at 33.

— Carrie Muskat

10/26 Royals claim Volstad

The Royals have claimed right-handed pitcher Chris Volstad off waivers from the Cubs. Acquired from the Marlins for Carlos Zambrano, Volstad was 3-12 with a 6.31 ERA in 21 starts for the Cubs, and 3-5 with a 5.17 ERA in 12 starts at Triple-A Iowa. He opened the season in the Cubs rotation but went 0-6 in eight starts before he was optioned to Iowa on May 18. He rejoined the Cubs Aug. 1, and went 3-5 with a 5.18 ERA in his final 12 starts. He snapped a 24-start winless streak with a win Aug. 26 against the Rockies. It was his first win since July 10, 2011, against the Astros.

The Cubs front office had hinted that Volstad would not be a part of the 2013 rotation. They are expected to add two more starters for next season.

— Carrie Muskat

10/25 Fielding Bible names Barney top 2B

Darwin Barney was named the top defensive second baseman in the Major Leagues , according to the 2012 Fielding Bible Awards. He’s one of six first-time winners, who were determined by 10 experts of The Fielding Bible awards panel. The 2012 Fielding Bible Award winners are:

First Base—Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees (first-time winner)
Second Base—Darwin Barney, Chicago Cubs (first-time winner)
Third Base—Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers (fourth-time winner)
Shortstop—Brendan Ryan, Seattle Mariners (first-time winner)
Left Field—Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals (first-time winner)
Center Field—Michael Trout, Los Angeles Angels (first-time winner)
Right Field—Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves (first-time winner)
Catcher—Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals (fifth-time winner)
Pitcher—Mark Buehrle, Miami Marlins (fourth-time winner)

Here are comments on Barney, as noted by John Dewan, co-author of The Fielding Bible:

“Darwin Barney’s defense is a shining star in an otherwise cloudy season for the 2012 Chicago Cubs. After a nondescript debut at second base in 2011, when he saved only one run defensively, Barney led all second basemen in 2012 with 28 runs saved. This total led by a wide margin. He had a lot more runs saved than defending Fielding Bible Award winner Dustin Pedroia’s total of 11, a lot more than Robinson Cano’s 15, and a lot more than Brandon Phillips’ 11. Those three came in second, third and fourth in a vote that wasn’t close; Barney received eight of ten first-place votes. Barney’s vote tabulation of 96 points was only four short of perfection.”

Previous second base winners:
2011 Dustin Pedroia
2010 Chase Utley
2009 Aaron Hill
2008 Brandon Phillips
2007 Aaron Hill
2006 Orlando Hudson

10/25 Roster moves

Infielder Adrian Cardenas and right-handed pitchers Miguel Socolovich, Jason Berken and Marcos Mateo were assigned outright to Triple-A Iowa and are no longer on the Cubs’ 40-man roster. The team also announced that catcher Anthony Recker, designated for assignment on Wednesday, was claimed off waivers by the Mets. Recker, acquired from the Athletics on Aug. 27 for Blake Lalli, went 3-for-18 in nine games with the Cubs, including a home run Sept. 9 against the Pirates.

Cardenas spent most of the 2012 season with Iowa, where he batted .300 in 65 games. He batted .183 in 45 games with the Cubs. Socolovich, who was claimed off waivers from the Orioles on Aug. 23, posted a 4.50 ERA in six games with the Cubs. Berken, also claimed off waivers from the Orioles on Sept. 7, was 0-3 with a 4.82 ERA in four starts with Chicago. Mateo had been on the 60-day disabled list with ulnar neuritis, and was activated and then outrighted to Iowa.

— Carrie Muskat

10/25 AFL update

Cubs prospect Kevin Rhoderick served up a three-run home run with one out in the ninth as Scottsdale rallied to beat the Mesa Solar Sox, 4-3, in Arizona Fall League play Wednesday. Matt Szczur and Rubi Silva both started, and each had one hit for Mesa. On Thursday, Mesa plays host to Peoria at HoHoKam Park, first pitch 12:35 p.m. MT.

— Carrie Muskat

10/24 Cubs claim Gutierrez

The Cubs claimed right-handed pitcher Carlos Gutierrez off waivers from the Twins. Catcher Anthony Recker was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. Gutierrez, 26, was originally selected by the Twins in the first round of the 2008 Draft. He has gone 15-20 with a 4.11 ERA in 136 appearances (32 starts) over the last five seasons in the Twins’ Minor League system.  Last season, he was 2-2 with a 5.06 ERA in 10 relief appearances with Triple-A Rochester, striking out 20 and walking three batters over 16 innings. His season ended in mid June because of a right shoulder injury that required surgery in July. Gutierrez resumed throwing earlier this month. Recker was acquired by the Cubs from the Orioles on Aug. 27, and batted .167 in nine games.

— Carrie Muskat


10/24 AFL update

Javier Baez was 1-for-5 with one RBI in Mesa’s 7-7 tie with Phoenix in Arizona Fall League play on Tuesday. Baez now has driven in 13 runs, tops in the AFL. Cubs prospect Dae-Eun Rhee started for Mesa, and gave up two runs on six hits over 3 2/3 innings. Tony Zych also pitched and gave up three hits over 1 2/3 scoreless innings. The game was called after 10 innings. Mesa plays host to Scottsdale on Wednesday at HoHoKam Park.

— Carrie Muskat

10/23 Happy anniversary

Over the weekend, Theo Epstein and his young son Jack walked around Wrigley Field, and saw how the ivy on the outfield wall had changed colors from deep summer green to autumn’s reds and golds.

“It just flashed to how great it would be to be playing baseball at this time of year at Wrigley,” Epstein said Tuesday. “That’s the goal to get there and to get there in a way that allows us to do it year in and year out.”

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of when Epstein took over as the Cubs’ president of baseball operations. He didn’t plan on celebrating — the Cubs did lose 101 games in his first year at the helm — and said he was enthused by what’s transpired so far.

“I have a lot more gray hair now than I did a year ago — my wife reminds me of that all the time,” Epstein said. “I do feel really energized by a lot of the things that are going on here.”

One year ago, Epstein felt the Cubs had one player who projected as part of the core they’re trying to develop and that was shortstop Starlin Castro. Today, he feels there are at least half a dozen in the organization, including pitcher Jeff Samardzija, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and prospects Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler.

What also was encouraging was watching future Cubs players in Instructional League in Arizona.

“That was a really nice feeling to be down there and see a lot of dedicated Cubs baseball [operations] personnel, some new, some old, all buying into the collective ‘Cubs way’ of doing things that they helped define, impacting a really talented group of young players,” Epstein said.

“I also wake up every day and recognize we lost 101 games and understand how painful that was for everybody, including me, and that provides further motivation to get out of this position that we’re in,” he said. “I think there were a lot of positives. That core, at least in my mind, went from one player to half a dozen, and if we can do that again in 2013, and we look up and we have close to a dozen players in our core, I’ll feel great about the overall health of the organization. I also want to make the playoffs and I understand that’s a big challenge, so I hope we hit on a few guys this winter and get off to a good start and we have one of those unexpected seasons.”

— Carrie Muskat

10/23 Bush gets extension & more

Cubs assistant GM Randy Bush received a three-year contract extension, one of several front office changes announced Tuesday. Bush, 54, was assistant general manager to Jim Hendry, and served as interim GM when Hendry was dismissed in August 2011. Bush, who played on the Twins’ two World Championship teams, helped Theo Epstein in his transition as president of baseball operations one year ago.

The Cubs also announced Louis Eljaua has been promoted to special assistant to the general manager and director of international scouting. Paul Weaver, who was the director, will now be an international crosschecker and coordinator for the Pacific Rim. Alex Suarez was promoted to assistant director of player development.

The team also said Mark O’Neal, the Cubs’ athletic trainer since 2004, will stay with the organization but in a different role.

The Cubs named Tim Cossins as the Minor League field coordinator, and were in the process of hiring new Minor League hitting and pitching coordinators. Jose Serra, who had been coordinator of Latin American scouting, was promoted to director of Dominican operations.

— Carrie Muskat

10/23 Coaching changes

The Cubs named David Bell as the third base coach and removed the interim tag from hitting coach James Rowson. This completes Dale Sveum’s coaching staff for 2013. Bell replaces Pat Listach, whose contract was not renewed. Bell, 40, joins the Cubs after managing and coaching third base in the Reds’ Minor League system the last four seasons, most recently guiding the Triple-A Louisville club in 2012.  Prior to Louisville, Bell was the manager for Double-A Carolina from 2009-11. The ’09 season was his first as a manager or coach at the professional level after a 12-year Major League career, which ended in 2006.

A former infielder, Bell batted .257 in 1,403 Major League games for six different teams – the Indians (1995, 1998), Cardinals (1995-98), Mariners (1998-2001), Giants (2002), Phillies (2003-06) and Brewers (2006). He’s a member of one of Major League Baseball’s three-generation families, as he is the son of Buddy Bell and the grandson of Gus Bell.  When David hit for the cycle on June 28, 2004, with the Phillies, he joined Gus as the first grandfather-grandson tandem in Major League history to hit for the cycle.  Bell is a native of Cincinnati, OH.

Rowson was named the Cubs’ interim hitting coach June 13, replacing Rudy Jaramillo, who was dismissed.

— Carrie Muskat