Cubs Game Preview and Thread 3/4: Cabrera returns to a starting role, Castro is "fine"

Cubs Game Preview and Thread 3/4: Cabrera returns to a starting role, Castro is "fine"

After a fun day yesterday where we saw Javier Baez HR and top propsects Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, Brett Jackson, and Dan Vogelbach all get some action, it's back to business as usual again today.

In the news...

  • The Cubs completed a formality when they inked all 21 unsigned players, including Anthony Rizzo, to 2013 contracts.
  • Dale Sveum said that Starlin Castro is okay to play but is being held out for precautionary reasons.  “He’s fine,” Sveum said. “He did everything [Sunday] and there’s nothing going on. He took full [batting practice]. Today, he’ll be out here on the field taking a round of [batting practice], same as yesterday. We can’t even simulate any kind of discomfort or feeling in the hamstring.”  Castro will likely return to action next Monday or the weekend at the earliest.  There's no reason to rush him back in spring training.
  • As expected after Matt Garza's injury and news that he'll miss the first month of the season, Carlos Villanueva has been named the 5th starter.  That will open up a spot in the bullpen for Opening Day.

Today's lineup...

  1. Valbuena SS
  2. McDonald CF
  3. Hairston RF
  4. Soriano LF
  5. Clevenger C
  6. Lake 3B
  7. Nelson 1B
  8. Soler DH
  9. Watkins, 2B

Starting Pitcher: Alberto Cabrera gets his first start of the spring today.  The Cubs are trying to convert the big, hard-throwing RHP into a starter, a role he had for most of his minor league career.  Cabrera will start the year in Iowa and his performance there will dictate where he falls on the depth chart.  As far as long term potential, Cabrera has 2 plus pitches (95-96 two seam fastball, slider) but lack of consistent command may limit his ceiling to mid-rotation starter.

5 things to watch...

  • Darnell McDonald has lost a step or two since his days as a top prospect but he'll get a shot to show he can still cover ground in CF.  Dave Sappelt is the heavy favorite for the 5th outfielder's job, but McDonald has played well and the Cubs like what he brings to the team off the field.
  • One of the Cubs pleasant surprises this spring has been catcher Steve Clevenger, who has hit the ball extremely well this spring.  Some dismissed him because of his poor second half, but it's easy to forget that Clevenger has been a good hitter throughout his minor league career -- and also in the majors until his injury.  He's at catcher today but the Cubs plan to move him around a bit to increase his value on a 25 man roster.  He has a shot to overtake Brent Lillibridge for the 25th man spot.  Part of that may depend on whether Luis Valbuena can help fill the void at backup SS.
  • Jorge Soler. Just because.
  • Junior Lake has had a good spring (.571 slugging pct., .905 OPS) and with 3B in flux, he figures to get a long look -- even if his ultimate destination is Iowa.  Lake's versatility, speed, and RH bat at 3B and CF make him a mid-season candidate to join the roster.
  • Scott Hairston's spring has been a nightmare so far.  He's just 2 for 13 with 9 strikeouts.  He'll be looking to turn that around today.



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  • John, I'm not hearing much concern over Soler striking out in 50% of his plate appearances. Doesn't the hype machine need to be reigned in a little?

  • In reply to CubsML:

    I am not saying he isn't a great prospect, but maybe he's further away than we'd hope.

  • In reply to CubsML:

    Well, we have to keep in mind that he has only had a few ABs at the low Class A level. He also hadn't played competitivey for over 1 year before that. It's fun to watch his natural talent shine through on occasion but he's going to be overmatched sometimes.

  • fb_avatar

    After the Mike Trout unpleasantness this weekend, I was curious: do we know if the Cubs gave Rizzo a slight raise to reflect his performance last year?

    On the subject of Trout: just how stupid are the Angels? What part of alienating possibly the best player of all time seems like a good plan?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    He got the standard raise. He'll make $498,000. Another good year and the Cubs will probably talk about a long term extension.

    As for Trout, it's unusual to give a player a big salary boost or extension after one year. Granted, Trout is an unusually good player.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    It seems like just a little extra money could have bought them a lot of good will, especially since they're also asking him to move to left field.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    It's probably worth it to me for an extra few hundred thou or so -- just as a way of rewarding him, but for some reason it's not commonly done. I don't know what it's like to play around with that kind of money, though!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    As Trout said himself, John, if he continues on his MVP-caliber pace, he will get well-compensated, and Moreno does have deep pockets and is not afraid to spend. Trout will be a 10M/Yr player in 3 years with another year like last year.

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    In reply to mutant beast:

    Saw this article earlier today comparing RoY winners and 2nd year salaries...agree it's not a big deal in the long run, but Angels probably could have been a bit more generous given the "historic" season Trout had...

  • @mike, what the Angels did is totally standard operating procedure, now Trout is by far the best rookie to come along in a long time, nevertheless, the Angels did this by the book. I do wonder how much Trout is worth, how high do you think his contract can get? and I wonder if he will hit his unrestricted year, I think its the 2017 off-season without first signing an extension. What do you think Mike?

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    In reply to Josh Sims:

    The Angels can't lose him, so they'll have to pay up. But not bumping his salary has clearly upset him, so no hometown discount. Finding money to pay Hamilton, Pujols, and Trout could get interesting, big TV deal or no. I'll give my final answer when I see how the Cano situation shakes out.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    99.9% of second year players get the same deal Trout got and Rizzo got, for that matter. One notable exception: the Brewers paid Braun about a mil after his rookie season (basically a free extra 500K).

    That said, the Angels just guaranteed themselves more difficult arbitration negotiations.

    I agree they should have shown a little love, if for no other reason than to generate some goodwill heading into his Arb years, which will be relatively expensive.

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    In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    It's hard to see how they win an arbitration hearing. Any figure Trout might name is a bargain given what they're paying Hamilton. I suspect that's the part that really has Trout upset.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I agree, I think the best approach would have been an evan longoria type deal, but that ship has sailed and it seems the Rays management have that foresight that is not shared by other front offices. That would have been idea, Trout came in more ballyhooed than Longoria and I have to believe he would have accepted an 8yr 110m type of contract. Easy to say in hindsight, but still I like to think if he came through the Rays system this would have been a non-issue.

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    In reply to Josh Sims:

    Longoria is a great comparison -- smart organization, the Rays. What I keep coming down to is, throw the guy a bone. If you're going to stiff him on the paycheck then at least let him play center field. It's not like Peter Bourjos is *that* much better than Trout.

    Every move they've made have been to treat him like an asset instead of a human being, and that's going to bite them. The extension the Cubs got from Castro and the deal the Rays got from Longoria should teach every team in baseball the benefits of maintaining good relations with your young stars.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Trout would be nuts to turn down 8yr, $110M. But Longoria initially signed a six year, $17.5M deal his rookie year in 2008, with team options for the next three (2014-16) for a total value of $44M. I doubt Trout would take that. Last year, after 5 years of MLB performance, Longoria got a six-year extension through 2013 for $100M.

    I don't blame the Angels for playing by the book -- especially after only one year. I suspect if Trout has another similar year and they'll show him the money. But I wouldn't have given him the HUGE deal after only one year.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    The arb panel rarely hears cases, but when they do, its a very numbers-driven exercise. But if Trout is as good as he looks, he figures to get a buyout of his arb years anyway.

    Either way, the Angels should be more willing to create a little goodwill now, to grease the skids for later. With this little dust-up, I doubt he settles for a the type of buyout that the Cards gave Pujols way back when, which was very team-friendly. An extra $500,000 would have gone a long way, IMO.

  • Two HRs by Cabrera, wonder if he's leaving balls up in the zone.

    Also, seems like Lake has some pretty good hops.

    Soriano HRs!

  • Cabrera got pounded today. Not so good.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Threw batting practice today. Can only guess that he's leaving pitches up or the slider isn't sliding -- or both.

  • I would not mind Clevenger as the 25th man. He is already on the 40 man roster. As for backup 5th OF I am not sure Sappelt is the guy. Bogusevic is doing very well right now.

  • In reply to John57:

    Problem is Bogusevic is lefty and Cubs need someone to sub for DeJesus - who can't hit lefties. He's also not really a CF'er. Nice start for Bogusevic but we have to remember it's just spring training. That said, I think he's played his way on to the team's radar. Could see him being first called up if there's an injury in the OF to Soriano or Schierholtz.

  • Clevenger was hitting very well until he got hurt. I also believe the team had a winning W/L record in the first month when he was catching. If he can play more than one position, why not keep him?

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I think it's between him and Lillibridge right now. But if they cut or trade Stewart, maybe they both make it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'd much rather have Lillibridge.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    If its the 2011 Lillibridge I'll take him, but not if it's the 2008, 2009, 2010 or 2012 Lillibridge.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    odds are he will not make this team.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    magic 8-ball says it will definitely be 2013 Lillibridge... no clue if that is a good thing or not.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Projections for 2013 Lillibridge give a clue. And it's not good.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I like Clev and I like what they're doing with him, giving him time at multiple positions. The fact is, he doesn't have the arm you want in a starting catcher and his career is probably going to be as a bench/utility guy.

    The fact that he hits lefty and makes good contact is a point in his favor for his future as a utility guy. But, I think he might benefit from having one more year of regular playing time in Iowa as a starter--which would also give him a chance to work on his fielding at various positions a bit. Clev really struggled with the bat playing off the bench last year.

    I say go with Lillibridge this year and Clev next year, or bring up Clev in the second half if they need to.

    John--any idea why they didn't bring Rohan as an NRI this year? It seems like he would be a good candidate for what they need--a RH platoon guy at 1B who can also spell Rizzo and play the OF corners a bit. You'd think they'd want to have a look at him, unless his 3B defense is just utterly atrocious.

    Also, do you think Vitters might have a future as a platoon guy in the corners (3B/1B/LF/RF)? What are his LHP/RHP splits like?

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    He's not a terrible fielder, they just don't consider Rohan a prospect in any way. He was in A ball until his 25, 26 age year and that doesn't bode well. Even late bloomers are guys who usually stall after they get to AA, like Johermyn Chavez, for example -- not before it. Still, I was curious to see how he'd do.

    As for Vitters I do think his best chance is to make it is as a platoon guy who can play the 4 corner positions. He was a much better hitter against lefties last year.

  • Our pitching really SUCKS today.

    Thank God these guys are not heading North.

    If your ERA right now is over 10.00.....start packing your bags.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Hope Raley likes Des Moines.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    .......selling used farm tractors I hope!

  • i tell you a player who better start hitting soon.....DeJesus.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Or else what?

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    why don't you take some flying lessons!

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    "why don't you take some flying lessons!"

    --Because I'm not operating on the same "plane" as you.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Or else Kim has to go on a date with Felzz?

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    Felzz would just hate that ;)

  • When are the first cuts?

    Some of these minor league guys are wasting time for other players......seen enough of this same old neighborhood park pitching....

    24.00 ERA.......I had ERA under 2.00 against AA players 25 years ago.......24.00 ERA is just sad.......and to pay money to watch this kind of pitching.

  • 10 Run rule...lets call it a day and let the players get 9 holes in before the sun sets.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    10 Post Rule...let's call it a day.

  • There is only one person on this blog that needs to fly away, and that's you Mr. Cubs Talk!!!! Start showing some respect to others

  • In reply to Cubs26:

    Two words for you Cubs26.....

    Anger Management

  • You know a kid who is going to be a really solid big league player in a year or two, is Logan Watkins. Does a lot of things very well, kind of all around player the Cubs system profiles now.

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