The Cubs position players officially report today, though that's mostly been a formality the past two seasons since most players have arrived early.
Here's a few notes I rounded up yesterday ...
- In the "In Case You Missed It" category: This article got lost in the shuffle a bit with the minor league previews, but yesterday we had video and analysis on Brett Jackson's new swing. We also rolled on with our minor league preview, covering Kane County outfielders (including Albert Almora and Jorge Soler) after kicking it off with catcher and infield early yesterday.
- Patrick Mooney of CSN writes that Ian Stewart had other offers but chose to re-sign with the Cubs because he feels he owes them something. There was some concern about Stewart not spending time with the club after his injury. Sveum acknowledged much but says it wasn't a "major issue". Said Sveum, "I think he could have been around team a little bit more, yeah. And I told him that. It’s nothing he doesn’t know." Stewart is grateful because the front office did grant him permission to go home. “It was just a trying time,” Stewart said. “I talked it over with management. It wasn’t something where I was like: ‘Yeah, I want to go home. I want to get away from here.’ I explained to them the situation our family was in (and) I had their backing 100 percent. It was basically directly between me and Theo. I really wanted to give the Cubs a chance. I feel like I owe the organization something for the way they stuck with me and they allowed me to do these great things, by supporting me and my family, supporting me through the injury, sticking with me through the surgery and providing the rehab for me.” That is encouraging because we had some concerns about Stewart ourselves and for awhile it seemed like he wouldn't be back. But if he truly wants to pay the Cubs back, then nothing would do that more than a healthy, productive season at 3B.
- Carlos Villanueva spoke with Meghan Montemurro of the Northwest Herald (who, by the way, did a great job yesterday reporting and conveying Cubs info on Twitter). He said he thinks he can pitch 200 innings as a starter despite a career high in IP of 125. If he's in relief he believes he can pitch 100. His preference, though, is to be a starter. "In my mind, I feel if I’m out there every 5 days we have good chance of winning & that’s how I see it.” Manager Dale Sveum said he's in much better shape and much more prepared than he was when they were together in Milwaukee. That's been the knock on Villanueva, some think he lacks stamina because a lack of conditioning and preparation. It sounds like this year he's on a mission. I don't know about 200 innings, but I like the confidence. It sounds like he has something to prove this year.
- Montemurro also reports that Matt Garza's arm strength really stood out in a bullpen session, according to Sveum, who added "Ball came out of his hands even better than the other day. His changeup was really good." This is encouraging news whether you are in the keep Garza camp or the trade Garza camp.
- Much buzz about Jorge Soler yesterday. You can see his batting practice session here and here. I talked about him in the earlier piece on Kane County today, so I won't rehash too much here, but it seems to me he looks like he's grown into his frame a little, though it's hard to tell with that loose jacket he has on. Also something of interest, Sveum said that Soler and Javier Baez, who will both be at MLB camp will probably get in the same lineup on occasion. We can only hope those will be televised! You can get more info on Soler in this article by Carrie Muskat.
- The Tribune has more on Soler and also a fun story on Dale Sveum setting up a play-in match between competitive front office members Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein for the last spot in the bunting tournament. Hoyer is the favorite as he was the better athlete, having been a SS and closer in Division III ball. He actually set a team record for saves at Wesleyen (CT). Theo, meanwhile, was "not a natural born athlete" and described as a "gangly sports geek" who wore sports goggles for years after a soccer injury left a gash over his eye. I'd pay to see those pictures but something tells me Theo has them well stashed away somewhere.
- Noted a small mistake by MLBTradeRumors on their Out of Options piece. Rafael Dolis is not out of options. According to AZ Phil, who is the go-to guy in such matters, Dolis actually has a 4th option year. Per AZ Phil, "Rafael Dolis has used three minor league options through the 2012 season, but because he has accrued only four “full seasons” through the 2012 season he will be eligible for a 4th minor league option in 2013. And as things stand right now, Jorge Soler and Matt Szczur will be eligible for a 4th minor league option in 2015." That's good news because Dolis is going to need that option this year. It should also buy time with Soler and Szczur, if needed.
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