The Cubs are playing four games in two days, with split-squad games today and tomorrow. They lost the first of those games this afternoon to the Brewers 12-3 in Phoenix, Jeff Samardzija started and was hit pretty hard. In his quest for one of the starting spots Samardzija allowed 4 runs on 5 hits in 2 innings, two of those hits allowed were Milwaukee HR’s. Tom Gorzelanny, Samardzija’s chief competitor for the open starting pitching slot toes the hill tonight in Vegas.
I would have loved to do the Vegas getaway and see the Cubs in Sin City but since we have a game at Hohokam tomorrow that was logistically impossible. As it stands, tomorrows game at Hohokam has a bit of historical significance…The first ever Cactus League meeting between the Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds. The Cactus League isn’t alone with rain issues, 10 games in the Grapefruit League have been canceled the past two days.
Derrek Lee was scratched from the line-up today because of a bruised foot after fouling one off his foot against SF on Wednesday.
Some of you have written and asked a few questions about the Cubs, I will answer those now.
1) Is Castro the real deal, and could he make the team?
After seeing him in action now for roughly three weeks and in the Fall League I can tell you, he’s the “real deal”. What I mean by that is, he’s not awed playing with proven MLB stars like D-Lee and A-Ram. The 19 year old acts like he belongs but isn’t cocky, more business like in his training and willing to work. Much different than say Bobby Hill, a highly drafted and regarded prospect for the Cubs a few years back out of the University of Miami. Hill’s attitude in his first spring camps in Mesa was as if he were already a MLB star, a certain smugness that he was the next big thing.
In the Majors you have to earn it on the field and Hill had not…Perhaps that’s why Bobby Hill has been playing for Newark, an independent minor league team the past two years when he should be at the height of his MLB career. Of course Hill was the “player to be named later” in one of Jim Hendry’s best deals sending a used up Jose Hernandez, minor league Matt Bruback, and Hill (the star that never was) to Pittsburgh for Kenny Lofton, Aramis Ramirez and cash. Sorry for the digression but Castro is the anti Bobby Hill.
Aside from Castro’s work ethic he has very good speed, great range at shortstop and a cannon arm. He’s still going to make mistakes like the throwing error in today’s game but D-Lee covers a lot of those up with his vacuum glove. Castro can hit and was outstanding in the AZ Fall League batting .376 but he hasn’t played above AA yet and the Cubs of late have been very cognizant of bringing players up to soon.
Could he make the roster out of AZ camp, the feeling I get right now is, no. The brass wants to give him everyday playing opportunities and if Ryan Theriot is the ss, that won’t happen. I also get the feeling that Lou is going to give Castro a very long look this spring, just in case the kid is one of those rare players who rises to the highest level and never looks back. I’ve heard many a fan express how they would like to see Castro at short and Theriot at 2nd base. Probably not going to happen this season but it’ll be fun watching kid Castro here in AZ.
2) Is Angel Guzman’s injury career ending?
First off, I’m no doctor but at 28 years old it’s not age that would keep Guzman from coming back after surgery if he elects to have it…It would be the condition of the shoulder and the damage that has occured. Guzman is one of those unlucky players who just can’t stay healthy for any length of time, so that looms over his comeback chances. The other issue right now is his mind set. This injury is a big blow to his baseball career but after his brother was killed during the off season in Venezuela it’s hard to tell what kind of passion he has towards baseball and a potential long rehab. Last year the Cubs were finally starting to see the realization of Guzman’s potential with a career season high of innings pitched and a 2.95 ERA. I hope he’s able to come back from this injury and continue his career, if he does though I’m not sure if it will be with the Cubs.
3) What about Samardzija, Gorzelanny, Marshall and the 4th and 5th starting spots in the rotation?
Well, Samardzija didn’t help his cause today and Gorzy goes tonight so we’ll see what that brings. Its really to early to get any real gauge on the pitchers and how they will fair in the regular season at this stage of spring camp. Marshall has been, well Marshall and looked good in his limited innings. The Cubs know what they have in him and he’s a versatile pitcher, out of the pen or spot starter he’s been consistent.
Gorzelanny had a very productive year in 2007 winning 14 games with the Pirates but since then his ERA has been hovering between 5.19 and 6.66. If he can get back to his 07 form he could be a real addition to the Cubs staff as a starter or out of the pen. We know how bad Samardzija wants to start and it’s about time he shows the Cubs why they signed him to a $10 million contract out of Notre Dame. Piniella has said don’t forget about Carlos Silva being in the mix as well. Silva hasn’t been a decent pitcher since he left the Twins, and that was three years ago. We’ll see if he can put himself in position to compete for a starting spot as spring games progress.
Right now it’s wait and see with all these pitchers as they build up their arms past more than a couple innings a game. It’ll be interesting to revisit this question in 2 to 3 weeks.