5 Things to Watch: Cubs Game Preview and Thread 2/27

The Cubs face the Dodgers today at 2:05 CT.  Audio of the game can be heard at MLB.com.

Here's the lineup...

  1. Valbuena 3B
  2. Castro DH
  3. Rizzo 1B
  4. Soriano LF
  5. Schierholtz RF
  6. Hairston CF
  7. Castillo C
  8. Barney 2B
  9. Lillibridge SS

Starting pitcher: Brooks Raley

Brooks Raley is a long shot for a spot in the rotation but could line himself up well to be at the top of the depth chart in Iowa.  He also has an outside shot at a bullpen spot, as he is proficient at getting lefties out and the Cubs have only one other LHP, James Russell, who is a lock for the bullpen.

5 Things to Watch...

  • The Cubs will field a lineup that it's as close to an Opening Day preview as we've seen so far.  Every player in the lineup is expected to make the team as things stand today, 5 will be full-time starters and at least 2 more will be part-time starters.
  • Will the Cubs bullpen throw strikes?  They did a great job yesterday as they walked just one batter after filling in for Edwin Jackson.
  • Trey McNutt and Alberto Cabrera are the two guys to watch in that respect.  Both players have had outstanding stuff but both have struggled with command at times.  McNutt did not walk a batter in his only appearance so far this spring.  He threw 12 out of 18 pitches for strikes.
  • Hector Rondon will make an appearance as he tries to solidify a spot on the team.  He was reportedly at 95-96 mph in his first outing and he threw strikes.  If he continues to do that, he'll be going north with the team when the season starts.  LHP Hisanori Takahashi also is bidding for a spot in the bullpen.
  • Luis Valbuena is off to a good start while Ian Stewart has yet to do much except participate in the bunt tournament.  Gordon Wittenmeyer (h/t Sahadev Sharma) brought up an interesting point with Stewart when he asked him how he's been able to participate so far.  Stewart's response was that he didn't know because nobody had told him.  It may be a minor thing, but as Wittenmeyer asks -- shouldn't he be the one asking how he can participate?  I don't know about you but if it was my career and the backup (Valbuena) was playing well, I'd be chomping at the bit to try and get in some action some way, somehow.  We could say that maybe he's not allowed to do anything -- but Stewart didn't say this was the case.  He said he didn't know.  It couldn't hurt to at least ask, could it?  More continued solid play from Valbuena could spell trouble for Stewart, especially with that tiered non-guaranteed contract.  The longer the Cubs hold on to him, the more they have to pay out.




Leave a comment
  • I wouldn't be too hard on Stewart. He is probably frustrated as hell that he is injured again and his mind is most likely all over the place.

    My opinion as a coach would be to simply keep him focused on getting healed.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Maybe so but Sveum was a little frustrated last year with Stewart. And I'm sure there are concerns as to why he and Vitters sustained injuries early in camp. Both have had the reputation of being a bit laid back. Did they not prepare well enough this offseason? I think it's fair to ask if it was more than just bad luck.

    I can't judge Stewart because I don't know him at all, but there's enough smoke to at least raise some questions.

  • There is nothing unusual about Stewart's contract. Every Cub who has not reached free agency and is on a one-year deal is in the same boat. So while his contract can be bought out for 1/6th or 1/4th of face value during Spring Training, the same is true of Valbuena, Rizzo, Castillo, Sappelt, Barney,, Garza, Russell, Dolis and others.

  • In reply to cubsin:

    It's irrelevant until someone is in danger of not making the roster. Stewart is the only in that respect. So yes, his situation is not the usual one.

  • fb_avatar

    That lineup is starting to take the form that I imagine the regular season lineup will take. Put DDJ at 1, Castillo up a spot at 6, and Valbuena at 7, and that's pretty much it.

    On Stewart, while I've already written him off, Wittenmeyer did not sound like his biggest fan on the radio with Len yesterday, so I take that with a few grains of salt.

  • Yeah, I don't want to put too much into it. But lots of grains of salt lately with Stewart -- and the questions have dogged him since his days in Colorado.

  • I think that, barring an injury, Rondon is a lock to go north with the squad.

    And the Wittenmeyer comments yesterday sounded more like an assessment of his personal feelings about Stewart, rather than like a professional assessment of his abilities.

    Wittenmeyer was the one that kept harping last year about how upset the front office was about the fact that Stewart did not travel with the team, completely ignoring the fact that the front office gave the OK for doing so, and then went on to offer him a new contract (and a slot on an extremely tight 40 man roster), when all they had to do was release him if they had problems with his attitude.

    Wittenmeyer has always taken the same tactic as the SCR guys, that have found that you get more readers.listeners by being negative than you do by being impartial, and by blowing insignificant comments way out of proportion.

    I would think that someone hurt as often as Stewart would have learned by now that the worst thing he can do is rush his recovery, and that the best thing he can do is follow the instructions of the training staff.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Sveum said he didn't like Stewart not being around either. He even talked to him about it. It's not just Wittenmyer.

    It's not about rushing his recovery. It's about wanting to know what he can do, how he can participate. If he asks and they say no, it's one thing. He didn't even ask. He doesn't even know what he's able to do. That's not following instructions -- that's not having a full understanding of what they are in the first place.

    This isn't about being negative. It's raising a concern here and it's not completely unwarranted.

    I'd like nothing more than to be wrong here, but how can you know you're wrong unless you ask the question?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree... I had some faith in Stewart coming into this season, when I heard he was working with Rod Carew, but things like these are discouraging... I still hope he bounces back and becomes the guy he was in 2009/2010... That would be for the best.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I'd like him to be that guy more than anything...just can't help those doubts creeping in. I'd like for him to prove those doubts were completely off base.

  • I 'm starting to think Mr. Stewart is a lazy --- riding the great MLB life! Wish I'd have had is chances!

  • Is Peralta for Rondon a decent trade? Cause that's essentially what we did by not putting Peralta on the 40 man, right?

  • In reply to TheFiveYearPlan:

    I'd probably make that deal. You probably hope that Peralta can be as good as Rondon was before the injury -- and Rondon seems to be all the way back right now.

  • fb_avatar

    Rondon vs. Peralta certainly points out a difference in Rule 5 philosophy

    Peralta clearly is not ML-Ready, but he's an early get for a club to stash for the future, like the Twins did with Johann Santana. But it's very risky, for the club and the player.

    Rondon, however, is much closer to ML-ready. He's 25, at this point, he's either going to be a major league pitcher or he isn't. It's not a developmental factor.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I agree with that general philosophy but I'd still make that hypothetical deal. From what I understand, scouts thought Peralta's command issues and lack of consistent secondaries projected him as a reliever in the bigs. Stuff is similar to Rondon's, command is less. To me, the Cubs got themselves some guaranteed development there. If Peralta becomes a starter, that changes the equation but didn't get the feel there was a lot of optimism on that front.

    I'd rather have both, of course, but if it turns out to be a straight up deal, then I think the Cubs are likely to come out ahead.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    At the time of the pick, I'd heard speculation they might try to move Rondon to the rotation in the future. Have you heard anything for or against that?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    It's possible. Needs a more consistent breaking pitch and the Cubs will have to be confident his arm will help.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    BTW, a competing blog had a little piece on D-Backs roster projection. Cliff Notes: They don't have the room, unless someone gets hurt. Rule-5 picks don't seem to be returned that often (Randy Wells was, though), but it's no slam-dunk he makes it, even if he pitches well.

    Rondon, on the other hand, is a lock if he pitches well.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I think we talked about that here too -- the part about not havng the room, anyway. AZ does like to make deals for their Rule 5 guys so maybe Towers sends us an equivalent arm in return. Or at least equivalent value.

  • I hope this offense carries over lol... Good to hear Barney hitting the ball with authority and Castillo grinding out ab's... I'll wait until June/July before I celebrate Barney's offensive improvements since he had a great spring in 2011 and 2012 too.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I'm really impressed the way Castillo grinds it out there. He's that rare case that went from a hacktastic minor leaguer to a major leaguer with a solid approach.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    ...especially since that doesn't happen often. Usually, once a hacker, always a hacker.

    As you and others point out, he doesn't have to hit a ton to start, but if he can just hit .250 legitimately, without BABIP help, he has enough power and defense to be a plus ML catcher. I think he would easily hit 20 HRs if he can earn 450+ ABs.

  • fb_avatar

    Who are these guys and what have they done to the Cubs?

    I think Trey McNutt's future is very much in doubt at this point. If he doesn't show something this year, I can't see them keeping him on the 40-man with the talent coming up behind him.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    This is a big spring for McNutt and I have hopes for him. I don't think he's on the brink right now and next year there aren't a whole lot of guys they'll need to protect.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    I've got Golden, Wells, Jokisch, and Alcantara all needing spots.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Only Alcantara a lock for me there. If Wells is still throwing high 80s this year, no need to protect him. Golden is still a big question in terms of if he stays healthy and performs.

    Jokisch...maybe. He's a lot like Rusin and Raley and his left-handedness helps. Has to have a big year and McNutt a bad one for it to happen. Generally finesse guys don't get taken that often because every team has them.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    It sounds like Wells has to be added, but I may be misreading this. I'm not sure anyone outside of the Cubs office is sure what it means -- there was pretty significant debate going into the Rule 5 this year. (Unless you want to claim it means Jim Hendry threw bizarre clauses into contracts just because he could.)


  • In reply to Mike Moody:


  • There really isn't much more to be said regarding Stewart. We just have to see how it plays out. I like pleasant surprises.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    As do I!! I agree we'll have to wait it out and while there are questions, no need to rush to judgment.

  • Raley, McNutt and Chapman are having problems locating pitches... That will not help any of them to make the club... That said, I have been expecting all 3 of them to start the season in AAA anyway.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Caps:

    Yeah, they were all extreme long shots anyway. McNutt is still disappointing, though.

  • fb_avatar

    Has Michael Bowden made an appearance yet this spring?

    I am watching him, because he is kind of a bubble guy, but is out of options. He ceratinly pitched well at the end of last year, and I would think is favored to make the team, but you never know.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Yeah, he did pitch, I think it was against the Dodgers and pitch over an inning and did not allow a run.

  • fb_avatar

    Any word on Garza?

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Supposedly will throw some on the side tomorrow.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    That's good. I hope it goes extraordinarily well. He needs to be pitching, and pitching well, if he's going to be traded for max value.

  • fb_avatar

    Cabrera got out of a jam. TOP OF THE ROTATION HERE WE COME!

  • I understand the frustration with Stewart's injury, but its not like we have a legitimate 3B person waiting for the position. Valbuena seems at best to be a short term fix. Stewart (at least before the wrist injury) was considered a starting 3B. Based on their past actions, it would be surprising if the FO pulled the plug on Stewart before they had a good look at how well his wrist has healed. Actually, it is what I like the most about the Cubs FO. They make decisions based on their belief in the player's ability and the team's needs.

  • In reply to les561:

    I think that's why Stewart will be given every opportunity. Valbuena is ideally a backup, but can at least play defense and will likely hit better than last year. And he's been pretty durable.

    Stewart will get a chance to come back from his injury, but he's really going to need to take advantage of it.

  • Good ab's by Castillo and Barney, grinding out those ab's... Good to see that from both.

  • A pinch runner for Barney?, could he be hurt?

  • In reply to Caps:

    I was assuming it's just sub time.

  • Real impressive outing so far for Cabrera.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    No kidding. I'd like to know when all is said and done how many of each pitch he threw.

  • Oh man, now Starlin Castro...

  • Uh oh. Castro pulled up lame on running to first.

    Walked off under his own power though and announcer said doesn't look scenario.

    Holding my breath!

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    So, about the Carlos Rodon competition...

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    If he were out for the year then maybe we think about it! Looks okay though, more precautionary.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Tightness in Hammy, according to Cubs announce team. Guess we will be seeing a lot of Lillibridge at SS for the next week.

  • When Cabrera is on, his fastball and slider are devastating. Then again most pitchers are when they're on of course.

  • In reply to robertxyz:

    Consistency and the ability to repeat your delivery. Cabrera has great stuff when he has his release point. The key is keeping his release point.

  • Starlin Peralta outing today

    6 batters faced, 4 hits, 2 walks...nobody retired.

    Maybe we wont have to worry after all.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah, with their roster situation, he could even find himself back with the Cubs.

  • Update on Castro... Left hammy tightness, doesn't appear to be serious, according to Len.

  • I spoke too soon on Cabrera. Oh well, at least he didn't walk anyone :P

  • Javier Baez had a 7 pitch AB, worked the count full, then fouled off a pitch but then struck out.

  • Maybe Javier Baez saw some our comments last night, he had a great ab, battled from 1-2 to full count, fouling off some pitches, well done... Even if it ended up in a strikeout.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Agreed. Result not great but liked the way he changed his approach and battled back.

  • It's also possible that Stewart knows exactly what he can and can't do but he just didn't want to give Wittenmeyer anything. I can't imagine Stewart being crazy about him. Personally I'm hoping Valbuena keeps hitting line drives.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Whatever the case, I hope it turns out to be nothing and that he plays well when he gets healthy.

  • Michael Bowden is off to a good start, he already had leverage with his strong finish last year.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Strong outing for Bowden. Cabrera pitched well for first 6 batters before getting knocked around a bit.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah, but I think it's all part of grooming him as a starter and going deeper and deeper, I'm hoping to see some improvement as he goes deeper into games.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Me too. Nobody has gone 3 innings yet,, have they?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Not that I know of.

  • Cubs pitching just SUCKS today.......good thing none of thees guys are heading North......

    Is it me or does the new Cubs announcer , Deshales, sounds so much like Tommy Paciorek ?...

    Guido, the Brewers Italian Sausage is missing....he stands about 7 feet tall, wears a white chefs hat, black mustache, typical large Italian nose, wears #3 on the front...... if found, local mustard company willing to give a reward of one year supply of free mustard.......Police have a "person of interest"....ex Cub Randall Simon who once assaulted Guido during a game......Guido's friends, Brett Wurst, Stosh, Frankie Furter and Cinco hope to see Guido by Opening Day.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Bowden is going north.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Ya know, I really enjoy reading the comments of almost all the folks on here......almost all.

  • In reply to Hubbs16:

    I'm with ya, friend. I think we have similar reading tastes along with our handles.
    But "almost all" is much better than "hardly any", which I got on other sites.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    You and Hubbs16 need to get a cheap Motel room.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Tsk tsk...that's one of the wurst comments ever. Doesn't cut the mustard. I never sausage a thing in my life.

  • I think that Bowden will have to pitch himself off the roster.

    Of course, that is probably not difficult to do.

  • fb_avatar

    Anyone heard any reports on how Wellington Castillo is doing defensively?

    Can't say enough good about his walk at-bat today. Or the Baez strikeout at-bat, for that matter. That was a nice adjustment on his part -- apparently he got sick of Soler being called the top prospect! (I do wonder what Albert Almora is making of all of this.)

  • I saw the earlier remarks about the 40 man next year and whether to protect a guy like Jokisch. I agree, John, that they probably won't protect all three of Rusin, Raley and Jokisch--but I would think that's kind of what guys like Rusin and Raley are playing for this spring: keeping their spot on the 40-man.

    The Cubs are going to have to clear at least one spot as it is this Spring, plus they may add someone who gets cut by another team at the end of ST, like they did with Camp last year. Having both Rusin and Raley on the 40-man, with similar guys like Jokisch and Kirk coming up right behind them, seems a bit superfluous. My guess is that Raley won't survive on the 40-man until April, unless he has a great spring.

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    Seems to me they really like Raley. I don't think he has any more to prove than Jokisch or Kirk. Kirk has yet to have success in AA. I don't know that Jokisch has ever been more highly regarded than Raley or Rusin in this organization. If anything, I think the margin for error for the guys in AA is smaller.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to SVAZCUB:

    There is no reason to dump Raley for Jokisch or Kirk; there is no imperative to add them to 40-man right now.

    Raley has marginal stuff, but he is athletic, has good command, and a repeatable delivery....if everthing goes right he is 5th starter material. Cubs I think want to keep him as starter to find out if he can make it, and he probably has a better chance than Rusin.

    Rusin to me is either a LOOGY, or waiver-wire material

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to SVAZCUB:

    PS: Cubs have told Arodys Vicaino that he will start the year in Ex ST. He'll likely go on the 60-day DL, which will clear a 40-man spot (probably to be taken by Lillibridge, would be my guess)

    That will clear one spot

Leave a comment