Results tagged ‘ Kevin Millar ’

3/23 Decisions, decisions

The Cubs will trim the spring roster to 30 on Friday. Right now, it’s at 40, but that includes pitchers Ted Lilly and Angel Guzman, who will both open the season on the disabled list. After Monday’s game, Lou Piniella met with GM Jim Hendry, the coaches and front office staff to discuss the final roster decisions.

The staff is weighing how it wants to handle the bench makeup. For example, they’d be more inclined to keep outfielder Tyler Colvin if he was going to get at least three starts a week to stay sharp rather than just come off the bench in a double switch.

So far, Mike Fontenot has looked fine at shortstop. If he can handle that, the team might be more inclined to keep someone like Chad Tracy or Kevin Millar, who are both non-roster invitees and both can contribute offensively.

“I think he’s done fine,” Hendry said of Millar. “He brings a lot to the table. We knew that when we signed him. It wasn’t just show up ‘cuz we like you. We have to balance how much does he have left, can he hit off the bench, the intangibles he brings.”

* Xavier Nady will begin playing in the outfield in the next 10 days, including some games at Fitch Park with the Minor League teams. There has been no talk about having Nady open the season on the DL. He’s coming back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. If Nady is in the outfield in a regular season game, the Cubs will take precautions to protect his elbow. This is his second Tommy John procedure.

— Carrie Muskat

3/21 Cubs Sunday notebook

Mike Fontenot started the second straight game at shortstop on Sunday. If he can play there, the Cubs may be more inclined to keep Kevin Millar or Chad Tracy on the bench than a defensive player like Andres Blanco. Millar started in left and had no problems. Expect to see Xavier Nady in the outfield and first base in the final two weeks of Cactus League play.

“You have to get a little game ready, get some balls off the bat, get your legs in shape, get out there running around,” Lou Piniella said. “It’s a lot different than just DH-ing. We have to give him some time.”

* Aramis Ramirez stayed at HoHoKam on Sunday to hit with coach Rudy Jaramillo and the regulars. There’s no time line for when Ramirez, nursing a sore tricep, will get in a game.

* Blanco, who has been out since March 6 with a strained right knee, played shortstop in the Minor League camp on Sunday.

* Pitcher Brian Schlitter survived a liner off his right calf by Ryan Hanigan in the fifth inning Sunday.

* In the 10th inning Sunday, the Cubs had players from Korea (Hak-Ju Lee), Italy (Alex Maestri), Canada (Chris Robinson), the Dominican Republic (Jose Valdez) and the U.S. on the field.

* Angel Guzman will undergo surgery on Tuesday in Birmingham, Ala. Dr. James Andrews will do the procedure.

— Carrie Muskat

3/20 Down to the wire

Justin Berg not only won the Cubs Idol competition on Saturday but also appears to have locked up a spot in the bullpen. Lou Piniella said there are four pitchers competing for one spot and that group includes John Gaub, James Russell, Marcus Mateo and Mike Parisi. When asked about Berg, Piniella said: “Berg is in. Berg has done a nice job.”

That means the ‘pen now consists of closer Carlos Marmol, John Grabow, Esmailin Caridad, Berg, and two of the four pitchers who don’t make the rotation. That list includes Carlos Silva, Jeff Samardzija, Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Marshall.

“I like the arms we have and I like the mix we have,” Piniella said.

Piniella said they have an idea as to which way they’re leaning but won’t announce anything yet. The staff will sit down after Monday’s game to discuss the roster.

As for the bench, that’s still to be decided. Andres Blanco has been out with an injury, which hasn’t helped his chances. “I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen there,” Piniella said.

They’d like to keep an outfielder who can play all three spots, especially because Xavier Nady is limited. And they like both Chad Tracy and Kevin Millar.

“There’s a lot to say about a veteran’s contribution and leadership from your bench players,” Piniella said. “There’s some nice subtle important decisions to make here over the next four, five days.”

— Carrie Muskat

3/20 And the winner of Cubs Idol is …

Pitcher Justin Berg, who performed his own song, and infielder Darwin Barney, who played Coldplay’s “Nobody Said It Was Easy” on the piano, were named co-winners of the first Cubs Idol on Saturday.

The two were among the seven finalists, who sang for judges Ryan Dempster, Derrek “Dog” Lee, Kevin Millar, and Aramis Ramirez on a stage beyond right field at HoHoKam Park. NFL quarterback Steve Young was a celebrity judge and took part in the evaluation — and comments.

There were some interesting final performances. Outfielder Jim Adduci wore white wings decorated with white feathers, which were also stuck randomly all over his body, and sang “I Believe I Can Fly.” He should stick to baseball. Said Young: “We wouldn’t allow this in my sport.”

Reliever James Russell showed quite a bit of range singing Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Reasons.” Lee said the left-hander was one of the most improved competitors and showed he could “hit the high notes like Whitney Houston.” Young, however, thought Russell sounded more like the singer, Charo.

Starlin Castro sang in both English and Spanish, doing a song by 50 Cent. Said Ramirez: “They didn’t understand what you said but I did.” Outfielder Brad Snyder died his hair purple and did Steel Dragon’s “Stand Up and Shout.” Dempster thought it was a bad song selection and that Snyder “took a step back.” Said Millar: “You’re here on your looks only.”

Tyler Colvin played guitar and had one of the best vocals of the day. Said Young: “I didn’t thikn I’d see something like that today.”

But Berg and Barney wowed the crowd of players and team personnel. Berg performed his own song, “As the Days Go By,” which he wrote while playing rookie ball with the Yankees. The right-hander received a standing ovation fro the crowd and the judges and said performing the song was more nerve-wracking than when he made his Major League debut. Barney followed on the piano. Dempster said everyone who can only play chopsticks was jealous.

Berg and Barney were declared co-winners, and will each receive a check for $10,000 to be given to the charity of their choice. The competition began with 28 contestants.

“That was awesome,” Dempster said. “Some of these guys, like Russell, they came a long way. Doing stuff like this is fun. You get to know everybody in camp, it brings everybody together, you laugh and have a good time. Some of these guys can really sing — ‘Bergy’ and Barney, I didn’t think it would be that tough [to decide a winner]. They both did such a great job.”

— Carrie Muskat

3/19 Outfield & bench options

Expect to see Kevin Millar in left field on Saturday in one of the Cubs’ split squad games. Millar and Jeff Baker worked with outfield coach Mike Quade for about 25 minutes early Friday. Said Quade: “The best part is they’ll do anything you ask.”

Xavier Nady also has been working at first base. Lou Piniella said they need to get his legs in better playing shape before the season starts. Nady, coming back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, should get some time in the outfield and at first before Spring Training ends.

Also, Mike Fontenot will start at shortstop in one of the Cubs’ split squad games Saturday.

“We’re basically now starting to put our final thoughts together as to the makeup of the team,” Piniella said Friday. “I would think a week from now we’ll have definite ideas.”

— Carrie Muskat

3/16 What to watch for …

Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez are both expected back in the Cubs’ lineup on Thursday when they return from an off day. Lee has played five games but has been sidelined with a bruised left foot. Ramirez has appeared in seven games so far, and was rested after feeling some soreness in his right tricep.

Lou Piniella hinted there will be some experimenting when the team returns from Wednesday’s off day. Kevin Millar, who left Monday’s game because of a mild thigh strain, will get some outfield work. So will Jeff Baker, who can expect some tutoring from outfield coach Mike Quade. Piniella wants to see how versatile his bench players can be.

Fontenot is key. If he can handle shortstop, then the Cubs feel they have enough support on the bench to carry someone like Millar or Chad Tracy.

“We want [Fontenot] to be able to finish a game out [at shortstop],” Piniella said. “If there’s a double switch we have to do for any reason — I don’t see us doing it too often with our shortstop — but if there’s a little injury or something, we want to make sure [Fontenot] can do the job. We’ll find that out in short order.”

Tuesday’s game against the Rangers was played in a brisk 2 hours 8 minutes.

“It’s a good way to enjoy St. Paddy’s Day tomorrow,” Piniella said.

— Carrie Muskat


3/16 Cubs Idol semifinals

Tuesday was semifinal day in camp for the Cubs Idol contestants.

“It was fun,” Lou Piniella said. “These guys perform well. There were five different groups. They spent some time preparing for today’s show. Saturday will be the finals.”

Tuesday was group day for the contestants, who performed in front of four judges.

“[Ryan] Dempster is Simon [Cowell],” Piniella said. “There’s a nice panel with Dempster and [Kevin] Millar and Derrek Lee. The ‘Simon’ from the Spanish side is [Aramis] Ramirez. He critiques the guys in Spanish a little bit. They put some work in it — this isn’t something they’ve done spur of the moment.”

The contestants were determined by service time. John Gaub and Mike Parisi are in; Sam Fuld and Micah Hoffpauir are not. Should they stick to baseball?

“Some of these guys worked hard,” Piniella said. “If they’d work as hard baseball-wise, they’d be in the big leagues.”

He was kidding. A little fun in Spring Training is good for a team.

“We like chemistry, we like for this team to be loosey goosey and have fun,” Piniella said. “We look for our veteran players to provide that.”

— Carrie Muskat

3/15 Long bus ride to Tucson

It’s a long drive to Tucson, and on Monday, it took the Cubs an extra hour when their bus broke down on I-10. Apparently a clamp came off the radiator line on the bus when it was about a half hour, 45 minutes out of Mesa.

Kevin Millar did a few impressions for his teammates and the bus driver was able to play a movie. They watched Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino.” Carlos Zambrano was on the bus but a friend was following in a car behind it, and pulled over to take the pitcher to Tucson. Athletic trainer Mark O’Neal was driving with his family, saw the bus and pulled over to pick up catcher Koyie Hill so he wouldn’t be late.

That left the Cubs with a pitcher, a catcher and utility player Jeff Baker, who drove himself from home.

“I can be ‘Bugs Bunny’ and play everywhere,” Baker said.

He didn’t have to do it all — Zambrano and Hill were there.

“And I’ve got everything else? Perfect,” Baker said.

The bus had been scheduled to arrive around 10 a.m. but pulled into the lot at Hi Corbett Field around 11:25 a.m.

“We’re fashionably late,” catcher Chris Robinson said.

It did get hot in the bus because the air conditioning was turned off. Millar kept it light.

“He made us laugh,” Robinson said. “But that can only go so far when you’re sitting in the middle of the desert.”

As soon as the mechanic was able to repair the bus, another one pulled up behind the Cubs. And where was Lou Piniella in all this? He was driving with pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

— Carrie Muskat

3/14 Millar spends little time with Rudy

Kevin Millar may want to meet Rudy Jaramillo for coffee every morning. Millar went 2-for-2 with a walk on Sunday, hitting a two-run homer and a double. He said he benefitted from an early session with the Cubs’ new hitting coach. A career .274 hitter, Millar worked on adding a little tap to help his timing.

“You see the ball a lot better, you’re able to lay off pitches and slow things down,” Millar said. “It was a big adjustment.

“[Jaramillo] is special,” Millar said. “It’s an honor to work with a guy who really knows the swing. I wasn’t tapping early and [he said], ‘Hey, get some rhythm back.'”

— Carrie Muskat

3/12 Vegas, baby

If you’re going to be in Las Vegas to see the Cubs vs. White Sox Friday night and Saturday, here’s a list of the players scheduled to be there:

Tom Gorzelanny, Ryan Dempster, Micah Hoffpauir, Kevin Millar, Mike Fontenot, Jeff Baker, Ryan Theriot, Matt Camp, Josh Vitters, Geovany Soto, Robinson Chirinos, Welington Castillo, Sam Fuld, Marlon Byrd, Brett Jackson, Kosuke Fukudome, Brad Snyder, Xavier Nady,
Thomas Diamond, Blake Parker, Justin Berg, Jeff Kennard, Mitch Atkins, John Gaub, and J.R. Mathes.

Alan Trammell will manage the Vegas squad. Lou Piniella is staying in Arizona for the split squad games Friday in Maryvale vs. the Brewers and Saturday in Mesa vs. the Reds.

— Carrie Muskat