Cubs Game Thread and Preview: 5 things to watch for

Cubs Game Thread and Preview: 5 things to watch for

The game threads have been pretty fun so far so we'll keep them going.  I'm going to keep these pieces short.  We'll present the lineups and I'll give my opinions on what to watch (or listen) for in each game.

Today's game is at 2:05 CT and available through radio only on WGN and


  1. Logan Watkins, 2B
  2. Dave Sappelt, CF
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Scott Hairston, RF
  5. Luis Valbuena, 3B
  6. Welington Castillo, C
  7. Brett Jackson, LF
  8. Brent Lillibridge, SS
  9. Darnell McDonald, DH

The Starting Pitcher: Travis Wood, LHP

If Matt Garza is healthy, there will only be one available spot left in the rotation and Travis Wood goes into this spring as the favorite for that job.  He had a similar opportunity last year but had a poor spring, got sent down to AAA, got called up mid-season and then had an up and down season overall.  Manager Dale Sveum has said he's throwing the ball very well this spring and today he gets his first chance to stake a claim for that last spot.

5 (other) things to "watch" for...

  1. We've talked about Logan Watkins, his good speed and his OBP skills.  He'll get to test them out in the leadoff spot today.  I think he's the type of player who will really impress Sveum with his versatility, energy, and ability to grind out ABs.
  2. Eager to see how Dave Sappelt does defensvely in CF.  It seems right now the Cubs may be planning on doing what I'd hoped they'd do -- give him a shot to use his solid speed and athleticism to play CF and spell David DeJesus vs. LHP.
  3. Luis Valbuena has an opportunity to show manager Dale Sveum he can be their 3B in 2013.  Ian Stewart was the heavy favorite coming in to the spring but his injury have cast some doubt on his reliability. If Stewart is going to win the job, he has to prove the last 2 years were a result of injury, not regression. He can't do that if he's not playing.  Nobody expects Valbuena to be a star. He just needs to be steady and reliable -- and help hold the fort until the kids are ready to take over.
  4. Can Brett Jackson keep hitting?  And if so, can he make it increasingly difficult for the team to send him down to AAA?
  5. Brent Lillibridge's chances of making the team rest squarely on his ability to handle multiple positions on defense.  He gets a tough test at SS today -- an important position because the Cubs don't really have a true backup for Starlin Castro.


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  • Sappelt in CF and Hairston in RF... That says a lot there.

  • In reply to Caps:

    It does...and I'm really happy about it. It's how I was hoping they'd look at the OF situation vs. LHP.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    So far these Spring lineups pretty much show the Cubs are thinking exactly like you, John!

  • I am hoping Wood sets the foundation today for a strong spring. I am rooting for him to get a nod in the SR.

  • In reply to Wild Bill:

    Me too. I just like athletic pitchers and sometimes lefties take a while to hit their stride.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And the boy can hit:) I wonder if this is true. I have always heard and thought that LP come into their own when they hit the ages of 28 or 29. With all the stats out there, has anyone ever done a study on this?

  • In reply to Wild Bill:

    It'd be interesting to find out. If it's true, I think part of the reason is that there aren't a whole lot of power LHP who are starters. Small margin for error and you need time to refine your craft.

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    Nothing wrong with Castro, right?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    No need to play him early. He can roll out of bed at 3 am and hit. As for defense he can work on a lot of stuff with coaches.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Has a nice consecutive games played streak going, too. In just 15 seasons and change he'll tie Ripken.

    Buy tickets now.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Haha! I'll wait on that one. 15 years is a long, long time. Really puts into perspective what Ripken was able to do.

  • "can roll out of bed at 3 am and hit"...can we just say again how nice that is to have in a SS?

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    In reply to TheFiveYearPlan:

    Extremely nice. Especially when that guy has GG potential at the position.

  • In reply to TheFiveYearPlan:

    Very nice indeed!

  • Rizzo really showing a good eye so far this spring. Another walk.

  • Travis Wood with the leadoff work. That's not going to make Sveum happy. Having trouble finding plate right now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That's leadoff *walk*, went to 3-1 on next hitter before giving up RBI double.

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    So, all things considered, Carlos Villanueva is having a pretty good afternoon.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    For the first inning...Wood rebounded in the 2nd. Not sure if he's pitching a 3rd yet.

  • Another HR for Valbuena.

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    Good Lord. Jackson must really, really hate Des Moines.

  • BJaxx keeps on hitting. Bomb to center for a triple...

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    Won't really look too much into the pitchers for a week or two. Right now hitters are much further along and most pitchers usually get roughed up pretty early because they're working on things. Wood could be throwing 100% cutters or curveballs for all we know.

  • Brett Jackson tripled.

    Lillibridge has handled both chances at SS and Sappelt handled his in CF.

    Wood shaky early but 1-2-3 inning in 2nd with 2 Ks.

  • This from Gordon Wittenmyer's latest piece.

    ‘‘It’s a big confidence boost,’’ Jackson said. ‘‘I worked really hard this offseason. To make a muscle-memory type of adjustment is a pain in the butt, so to see results is good. But I’m going to keep pounding on that to keep reinforcing that it’s second nature.’’

    What kind of muscle memory adjustment did BJ make?

    Good 2nd inning for TW.

  • In reply to jaykaysr:

    He changed his swing. Still not natural to him but he's doing well so far.

  • In reply to jaykaysr:

    It's just his new swing, so, in my opinion, Jackson is using different muscles, so that is the reason for the muscle-memory comment. He has to get used to an entirely different swing than the one he'd been using for years.

  • In reply to MikeWadle:

    Thanks for the replies.

    Seems to be working so far.

  • Watkins with a spring training triple. Probably gets called an error during the regular season. Bourjos misread and then dropped deep flyball.

  • Hairston with a 2 out single to bail out Sappelt and Rizzo, both of whom struck out with a man on 3rd and less than two outs.

    2-2 game.

  • Welington Castillo line drive RBI single gives Cubs the lead 3-2!

  • Jackson with another triple!

  • Lillibridge doubles in Jackson and then steals 3rd. Got the inside track for 25th man.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    right now...Stewart is the 25th man.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Right now he's the nowhere man. He needs to play. He'll either start or he'll be cut.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I hope Lillibridge works out. He can play everywhere, and we can use a guy who can spell Castro and Rizzo occasionally. I think he will have a good year. :)

  • In reply to MikeWadle:

    I hope so. Hope he's the 2011 version and not the 2010 or 2012 version.

  • Ian Stewart out for three weeks.........he will be waived....enough is enough with these "soft" players.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Respectfully, I'm not sure what you mean by "soft" regarding Stewart. But, I just don't understand why he was away from the team so much after his injury in 2012, or why he showed up to Spring Training only a day early. Maybe it's just me, but I'd think that, if he has so much to prove, why wouldn't he show up very early for spring training puzzles me. I'm sure there is something that I am missing, as I obviously don't know the guy. But, if I had to make a decision today as to whether Stewart makes the team, with the info. that is in front of me at this moment, I would say, no. I'd platoon Valbuena and Lillibridge at 3rd, or some other combination.

  • In reply to MikeWadle:

    I agree Mike. Clearly it would be awesome if the guy could finally produce but it gets more and more difficult for me to be optimistic.

  • I know it's very, very early in spring training, and Jackson's swing is new, but I'm really rooting for him. I really like his determination. I know it's been said that he doesn't necessarily stand out in one particular tool, but that he has several tools that he is good, if not great, at. I think he could be a very well rounded player for the Cubs. Just my two cents.

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    McNutt with a scoreless inning.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Rizzo with a double

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Nice to see and, most importantly, no walks.

    18 pitches, 12 strikes

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Saw that as well. Looking for him to put together a nice spring.

  • Soler and Lake whiffed.

  • Changes for Cubs

    LF Soler
    CF Szczur
    RF Bogusevic
    3B Lake
    SS Baez
    2B Gonzalez
    1B Nelson
    C Clevenger

  • Why Soler in left? Seems odd they are getting him time over there. Did so in the scrimmages as well.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Not sure. Seems to have prototypical RF skills.

  • Takahashi with 2 scoreless IP in bid to make team.

  • Soler doubled and Baez had a hard hit single.

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    Welcome to the game, Junior.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    John: what do you think the odds are Junior Lake is our third baseman come September?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Whoa....that would be something!!!!

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    Lake with a HR in the bot 9th.

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    The trade that the Sox made for Conor Gillaspie would have been perfect for the Cubs. What do you think John?

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    In reply to Jim Pedigo:

    I'd never even heard of him prior to that deal. What kind of player was he?

  • In reply to Jim Pedigo:

    He's a good contact hitter but really doesn't have the power you like from a 3B. Defense isn't very good either. He's a role player and I think if he hit RH he might be a fit as a platoon guy, but tough to carry a guy with limited all around skills like that. Might work for the Sox as a LH complement to Keppinger.

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    I know it's early, but that's a good way to start. A couple of observations (causes for concern?) from reading the box score: Cubs only took 3 BB's and had 14 K's. Still an area for improvement. Of course, if they can always score 11 runs while doing that, I guess it won't matter too much...

    Gotta love the P's only allowing 1 BB today, but only 3 K's? I guess the defense was pretty busy, then.

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    In reply to brober34:

    But to be fair, only 4 of those strikeouts came from guys likely to be on the team (Hairston 2, Rizzo, and Sappelt). 2 of the 3 walks came from guys likely to be on the team (Rizzo and Valbuena). So, while not great, definitely a step in the right direction.

  • There are four phases to learning in sports skills.
    1) Unconscious incompetence
    2) Conscious incompetence
    3) Conscious competence (where Jackson is now)
    4) To: Unconscious competence (2nd nature, just react to the pitch. Where he wants to be)

  • Whut!?! (to the four phases to learing in sports skills). I don't think I follow, yet, I think you are on to something. Would you give a detailed description and explanation of the theory or viewpoint or an explanation of the meaning of what you just said? In a word-expound?

  • @rickmonday.

    Someone asked about muscle memory? Muscle memory is the fourth phase of skill learning, "unconscious competence". Your skill is complete and you don't think about what to do, your muscles just do it!
    3) Conscious competence is when you can do it, repeat it, but only by thinking about the process.
    2) Conscious incompetence is when you are told and accept that you don't know how to do it right.
    1) Unconscious incompetence is when you suck, but don't know it!

    Brett Jackson was never taught a reasonable swing. His holes in his swing were exposed in MLB and he was told he was flawed. He had to know it and accept it, then repeat his swing with a conscious effort, and soon it will be just a reflex, repeated by muscle memory. I go through the process every day with athletes.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Thank you!

  • @rickmonday

    I might add that since I teach all phases of the game, I can say that baseball and fastpitch softball are very complete skills. There are nine things going on at one time in bunting. Any one of them is wrong, and you might reduce your success rate. Hitting is a complex and timed movement. Certain physical elements must align at certain phases of the swing. Because of this it is a long process. That is why football players can go straight to the pros, basketball players hone their skills in college, and baseball players develop theirs in a long process during years in the minor leagues. Those phases are a long process.

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