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Posts Tagged ‘Rich Hill’

Chicago Cubs 5th Starter Competition A Disaster

Posted by sportsmaven on March 10, 2007

The hot competition for the Chicago Cubs 5th starter job has officially hit the level of disaster. LHP Neal Cotts was the leader for that spot, going into this afternoon, but Cotts got pounded again today against the Texas Rangers, giving up 4 unearned runs and 7 hits in 2 innings of work. That is a completely abysmal line, to the point that there is no longer a front runner for the 5th starter role. Mark Prior is scheduled to pitch in a relief role tomorrow and Wade Miller pitched 3 innings yesterday, giving up 6 hits and 1 earned run. Miller may have moved back into being the favorite for the 5th starter job, his fastball topping out at 88 mph, which is a bit scary to me.

Neal Cotts Pitches Against the Texas Rangers in Spring Training
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Wade Miller Competes For Cubs Fifth Starter Job In Spring Training
(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

On a more positive note, although Kerry Wood gave up 4 runs on a grand slam to Padres OF Terrmel Sledge, he struck out 3 in his one inning of work, feeling no pain at all in his right shoulder. The Cubs have a few positions open for competition this spring, and none more highly visible than the 5th starter in the rotation. I believe that 1-4 should be solid, with Rich Hill turning in another solid outing today against the San Diego Padres. It will be safe to say that one of the three of Prior, Cotts, and Miller will be the 5th starter. Right now, my money is on Wade Miller, with Cotts going to the pen and Prior not being ready to go when the season opens. Overall, through the first 3 weeks of spring training, I have been impressed with the Cubs pitching to date, minus the 5th starter competition. Guys who have no chance of making the big league roster are pitching well, guys like Jeff Samardzjia, Sean Gallagher, Angel Guzman, and even minor league veteran Les Walrond. Surprises so far on the pitching staff: Jason Marquis, 5 IP, 6 SO, 1.80 ERA, Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly giving up no earned runs so far this spring (Carlos Zambrano has also not given up an earned run this spring) and no pitchers injured or on the DL. Now, if we can only get the 5th starter resolved…….who wants it?

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Early Thoughts From Chicago Cubs Camp

Posted by sportsmaven on March 4, 2007

The spring games have started and it seems like developments are becoming more apparent as the early games begin. Some of my thoughts on the Chicago Cubs in the early going are:

1. Looks like the Cubs are going to hit and score runs this season. The batting order looks solid with some questions around who will hit in the #2 hole (early leader appears to be Matt Murton when he’s playing, although Murton is getting some time hitting lower in the order.) With Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Murton, Michael Barrett, and Jacque Jones, there aren’t a lot of spots in the Cub order to pitch around. If Mark DeRosa hits like he did last year, sprinkle in a healthy Cliff Floyd, this lineup of hitters are the best in the National League Central Division.

2. On the other hand, defense may be an issue. Cesar Izturis is a Gold Glove caliber player. So is Derrek Lee. After that, it gets quite sketchy. Mark DeRosa appears to be solid and if he indeed is the starting second baseman, playing one position will help him, defensively. Soriano in CF is an unknown at this point. Ramirez can play defense if he wants, and Pinella will demand that he does. Barrett needs work, especially with baserunners and limiting his passed balls. Jones and Murton are ordinary. Most of the defensive lapses from the Cubs through the first three games of Cactus League play are from guys that are probably not going to make the team (like Scott Moore, Ronny Cedeno, and Mike Kinkade) but clearly, Lou Piniella is not pleased.

3. Speaking of Lou Piniella, looks like he will be more demanding from the players both publicly and privately, than Dusty Baker ever was with the Cubs. I like that. Lou calls it like he sees it. He’s not blunt, he’s honest. I look forward to more of that in the upcoming season. This will be refreshing, informative, and certainly entertaining.

Tomorrow is Cubs-White Sox in Mesa, Rich Hill vs. Jon Garland. Monday, is Mark Prior’s scheduled debut in Cactus League play and Kerry Wood is also scheduled to pich. It’s starting to get more interesting……

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Mark Prior Is Key To The Chicago Cubs Season

Posted by sportsmaven on February 27, 2007

I’ve been holding off on writing posts on spring training baseball, mainly because I believe the early part of spring training is mostly eventless and I don’t want to write on eventless matters just to fill space (of course Kerry Wood changed that a bit for the Chicago Cubs this spring) and that everyone is an eternal optimist (especially Cubs fans) when it comes to the first week of spring training, so I didn’t want to take that approach either. After careful and plentiful reading about the Chicago Cubs chances in 2007, my thought is that the success of this season comes down to the effectiveness of the Cubs starting pitching, and the effectiveness of Cubs starting rotation is dependent on essentially one person, RHP Mark Prior. Given that it is difficult to put the burden of team success on any one individual, if every other player on the Cubs performs in the manner in which he is capable of performing, success is really dependent on the wildest of all wildcards, the most unknown of the unknowns, Mark Prior.

Mark Prior in Spring Training
(AP photo by Morry Gash)

Mark Prior can be anywhere from the #2 starter to the #5 starter, to no place on the team, that’s how wide a gap his potential has for this coming season. If Prior pitches closer to his 2003 form, where he went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA, the Cubs would have a very solid top of the rotation in RHP Carlos Zambrano who is a leading Cy Young Award candidate and a good bet to post his first 20 win season of his career. Oh, by the way, he is in a contract year, if he needs any extra motivation. Slide in a continually improving LHP Rich Hill, who I think is the sleeper of this staff and LHP Ted Lilly, the top 4 starters look very solid. Mix in a rehabilitated RHP Jason Marquis and this appears to be a rotation that has great potential. The Cubs have improved the offensive production of their everyday lineup and their bench looks deep and strong, the Cubs bullpen looks outstanding with the addition of LHP Neal Cotts, and RHP Kerry Wood (who could be the best 50 pitch pitcher in MLB this season) and a rejuvinated and motivated closer Ryan Dempster, so we’re back to where we started….the potential of the starting pitching lies with the right arm (or the right shoulder) of Mark Prior. Prior is scheduled to pitch the second or third Cactus League outing of his entire life on March 5th, so for me, that is when this Cubs season starts.

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