Cubs Preview and Game Thread: Almora, Vogelbach to play? Garza out until May?

Cubs Preview and Game Thread:  Almora, Vogelbach to play? Garza out until May?

After a one day hiatus, the preview and game thread is back. We start with some news on the medical front.

Injury status

  • The MRI on Starlin Castro showed some inflammation so the Cubs will rest him a little longer.  It's the right move.  It's early in the spring and if you don't rest it and let it heal, it can keep flaring up all season.
  • Ian Stewart says he's satisfied with his progress and expects to  make the team. According to Carrie Muskat, Stewart is playing catch, doing dry swings, and making progress.

Opening Day Starter and Rotation

In non-injury news, Jeff Samardzija has been named the Opening Day starter. That likely sets the rotation to open the season like this...

  1. Jeff Samardzija
  2. Edwin Jackson
  3. Scott Feldman
  4. Travis Wood
  5. Carlos Villanueva

Looks like the depth is already paying off as the Cubs will be going down to the "7th starter" to open the season.  It also means an open spot in the bullpen.  We thought their might be two to open the season and it appears Hector Rondon has earned a job.  Despite a poor outing in his last appearance, Michael Bowden has the inside track for another spot.

That leaves at least one spot open.  It could go to a lefty such as Chris Rusin or Brooks Raley.  Both pitchers have an additional advantage in that they are already on the 40 man roster, though Raley has really struggled.  Non-roster lefty Hisnori Takahashi is having a solid spring and is in the mix.

From the right side, non-roster RHPs Cory Wade, Zach Putnam, Casey Coleman, and Blake Parker are off to good starts.

Prospect Watching

  • Dan Vogelbach has stayed in Mesa with the team where one Cubs squad will play the Brewers
  • Albert Almora will be traveling with the team to Tempe to play the Angels.  Neither are starting but both could see action.
  • Javier Baez starts at SS vs. the Brewers
  • Brett Jackson also gets the starting nod against the Brewers.  He'll be in LF today.

Starting Lineups:

Vs. Brewers

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

Vs. Angels

  1. DeJesus CF
  2. Sappelt RF
  3. Bogusevic DH
  4. Nelson 1B
  5. Navarro C
  6. Villanueva 3B
  7. Chavez LF
  8. Maysonet 2B
  9. Gonzalez SS

5 Things to Watch

  • The bullpen battle.  Whereas it once looked pretty solid at least one spot remains open.  Lefties have an advantage but performance matters too.  What Sveum likely is looking for is a guy who can throw strikes consistently.
  • Albert Almora may sub DeJesus in CF.  He is the best CF defender in camp so that alone would be worth monitoring.
  • Dan Vogelbach may get in a couple of ABs at either DH or 1B.  Hoping he plays 1B to see how the weight he lost affects his mobility.
  • Except for one game, Brett Jackson has had a great spring.  Dale Sveum has said he will start in Iowa but Jackson isn't making it easy.  He's hitting .375 with a 1.364 OPS.  He has struck out 3 times in 11 PAs, which is a 27% rate.  Short sample size but I can live with that.  Remember that two strikeouts came in the one game that Jackson struggled.
  • The Cubs appear to like what Johermyn Chavez has shown in limited play.  He gets a start and we should see extended play from him today.  He won't make the MLB roster but could play his way on to Tennessee or even Iowa.





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  • "Javier Baez starts at SS vs. the Angels..."

    Baez is listed on your lineup vs. theBrewers.

  • In reply to Eldrad:

    It's the Brewers. Thanks for catching that.

  • And the hits just keep on coming with Garza. At this point I question if his stock has fallen to the point that we could sign him to a team friendly extension? But then I question if that a good idea or if we should get what we can at the deadline and move on? It really puts into perspective the value of a pitcher who can stay healthy.

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    I think it might be a good idea on both sides to consider an extension. It's frustrating but I don't like the idea of selling low on him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I tend to agree with you. But still I question who is the more valuable pitcher? A 200+ inning workhorse like Edwin Jackson that just hasn't been able to reach his potential or Garza who has shown to be the better pitcher, but recently can't seem to get on the field.

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    Even if you think Jackson is the more valuable pitcher, I don't see that as a reason to sell low on Garza.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I understand that. I guess my point is would you sign Garza to a 4 year extension similar to the deal we signed Jackson to? I feel like that's what Garza is going to get these days. Rather than taking the chance on pitchers who tend to get hurt for a bit of a discount, I'd rather sign a pitcher who has a track record for being durable and paying market value. I don't care what kind of "deal" you get. If he spends half the season on the DL, it's a bad deal.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I've jumped off the extension bandwagon recently. (As in, when I saw the above headline recently.) Given how much trouble he's having getting on the field, I don't feel like committing to him for another 2-3 years.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Well said Mike. Sometimes I feel like the best move can be to just cut your losses and move on. I don't like the idea of selling low on Garza, but who's to say this is low? I don't know what the best move is at this point, but and I genuinely like Garza, but this is getting old and he's starting to label himself, "Injury prone".

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Only one injury to his arm, though. And that seems like it's good and ready to go. Still, it would have to be shorter term at a lower base with some incentives.

  • Question on BB %. Is it taken in regards to AB's or PA's?

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:


  • In reply to John Arguello:


  • Levine says that Garza felt a twinge on his side when throwing. Not a set back, but certainly a concern if true.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Really tough to recover from a side injury when you throw. Always using those muscles.

  • I never liked the Garza trade. I thought it was a knee jerk move then and I still think it. The only way I would be OK if they got back 2 good prospects for Garza, but I don't see that happening.

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    Just watch: we are going to get a sandwich pick for Garza.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That's my guess right now.

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    In reply to KGallo:

    Well, I guess seeing as how our last Sandwich pick was Pierce Johnson, we could do worse.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That's their fallback option. Team will have to offer the Cubs value superior to comp pick to get Garza.

  • There's some punch in that line-up vs the Brewers... Not a fan of Barney in the 2-hole, but it's just ST.

    Garza is killing me... Maybe we trade away Feldman & Wood, etc... at the deadline and keep Garza, Shark, E-Jax, Baker, etc.... extend Garza for one-year, if he proves he can stay healthy - trade him or re-sign long term. Right now, his injury concerns are the type of guy the Cubs take a chance on, not trade/give-away....

    If Hairston, Schierholtz, Dejesus, etc are maxed out value wise with the proposed platoons, maybe we could package a #4 or #5 guy like Feldman or Wood and one of them for a decent high-A type of prospect?...

    John, o/t... but some of our recent comments to each other recently have got me intrigued by a potential article for you (as if you don't have enough to do)... but I would suggest an article that explores what/where/how do we find a true Ace. I realize Shark is one by default and he has the potential to be that guy... but he hasn't really earned it yet and ideally if we are to go deep into the playoffs consistently, we need two #1's and two #2's or two #3's. I'm giddy at the idea of a 2016 rotation of: D. Price, Shark, Vizcaino, Manaea, E-Jax.... That has a ring or two in the makings.....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think Manaea will need at least 2 full years in the Minors. So 2017 and looks good.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Thanks Hoosier Daddy. I'll look into some options when I have the time and see if I can draw something up.

  • im not gonna lie, i think its a good thing for the future of the cubs that garza and baker will be starting the season on the DL. this probably means that the cubs will be getting off to a slower start and will eventually lead to them trading a ton of guys at the deadline. this also is good because it gives feldman/wood/villanueva a chance to show which one actually most belongs in the rotation for a few weeks.

    i also like that they are taking zero chances with garza's health. in my opinion, they shouldnt sign him to an extension, because we have yet to see him throw the ball since he got hurt last year. unless it is super team friendly, (im talkin single digits team friendly). i think the best thing for the cubs and garza is to let him get healthy and if were out of contention to trade him at the deadline. he loves it in chicago and the cubs should let him know when they trade him that they plan on bringing him back. at this point hes gonna have to come out blazing and stay hot the entire year to get that 5yr/100mil deal that hes been seeking.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Sounds like a good plan but some of it is outside Cubs control. I'd trade him only if they get value in the trade because you can't count on him coming back. He could love his new city and they'd have exclusive negotiation rights until the free agent date. He might take the security of a long term deal even if he has to move away from Chicago.

  • Do you know if Soler is going to Tempe or staying in Mesa? I just wish Voggy, Soler, Almora and Baez were on their way to Tempe lol.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I don't know that at this point. Would be fun to have all those guys in one place. Would make it easier to choose a game to listen to!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly... And I'm saying that because the game in Tempe will be televised today.

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    Garza is bound and determined to erase any and all value he has.
    Its so frustrating.

    Last year he got hurt a WEEK before the deadline and now this.

    I don't want to extend him, and its getting tougher to trade him.

    At this point, I'd take Olt straight up for Garza.

    Its going to be really bad if we end up needing to package another player with Garza just to make a trade happen.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    I think I'd take Olt straight up as well right now. It's better than a comp pick.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I would have taken Olt straight up for Garza before.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Apart from hindsight, why would you settle for less than the value he had at the time?

    I'd never trade an established pitcher in his prime whose numbers were in the top 20-25 game for one good, not great prospect.

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    In reply to KGallo:

    Are you talking about when he was coming off the good 2011 season, was 27 at the time, had 2 full years of control left, and the comp pick? They were going to get Olt and Perez at the deadline so before the season. Olt alone wouldn't have gotten Hoyer out of bed back then.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Agreed. We don't need to settle and take less than value in any deal -- especially not one that had great value before the injury.

  • Getting tired of Garza on the DL every season as a Cub.

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    I'd go to Garza with a 4 yr. 25 mill. deal.

  • In reply to freeagent24:

    So would I. But it would take a lot more than that.

    A lot more.

  • I have never liked Garza and I don't see it changing.

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    I'm a little more optimistic than most of you lol We got Villanueva and Hendricks for 2 months of Dempster (not to mention we were set to acquire Delgado). A similar or better package for Garza already trumps the value of the comp pick by a wide margin so i'm fine with that.

    The ship has sailed on getting a substantial package for Garza so the next step is extend him for a bargain price or get acquire value higher than the comp pick. The key is he has to pitch well when he does get healthy.

    There's still some light at the end of the tunnel guys.

  • With Garza's injury history, the light at the end of the tunnel could be a train.

  • One major injury. And only one injury to his arm. If that's your criteria, there are tons of pitchers in baseball with "an injury history".

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    2011, bone bruise in throwing elbow. 2012, stress reaction in throwing elbow. 2013, lat injury caused by throwing. You are right though, there are tons of pitchers in baseball in baseball with injury histories. I've seen many with the Cubs. If I'm the FO, the injuries concern me more than Garza's next contract.

  • fb_avatar

    HA! That's possible too but at the very least we come out with a comp pick or Garza on a WAY below market-value contract. Either is acceptable for me.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I don't see Garza with the Cubs in 2014 unless they make him the QO and he accepts.

  • fb_avatar

    It occurs to me, there's a worse case than sandwich pick. Garza's injury is more serious than originally diagnosed (I know, that *never* happens with Cubs players) and he doesn't pitch this year. If that's the case, do you even make the QO?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think at that point, you have to bring him back. Incentive laden deal only. Otherwise you lose him for nothing.

  • What can the Cubs do with Garza?.....

    Trade him in July for what value he has......who knows, he might have ten wins by then.....and there is always some dumb GM who might offer a nice deal for Garza....

    Sign him to a two year deal........his agent will want five years based on Garza's health......Theo will say "No"...

    Offer him a contract after the him walk and we get a pick or Garza signs for that one year deal to get a bigger payday after 2014.......

    I knew Garza could not be at the starting line when April came around.....another "soft" player like Stewart......"soft" players do not win championships.....


  • Bogusevic HRs.

    He's having a nice spring.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That was a simple quick swing.

  • Struck faces Trout, Bourgos, and Hamilton and retires them on 7 pitches.

    Wouldn't have bet money on that, even in the spring.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    He got a little lucky. Hamilton hit the ball hard, but Sappelt was right there.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Just got squeezed on Iannetta. Should have been a 1-2 count but instead was 2-1. Big difference for Struck, who is not overpowering.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    He is pitching really well. Like you, I would have expected the Angels starters to show him the difference between AA and one of the best offenses in baseball.

  • fb_avatar

    john, also off topic but - again, I know this blog can be a full time job - a topic I'd like to see in the future: it seems like most of the cubs teams that made the playoffs since the end of the wrigley ownership were surpise teams, that weren't expected go anywhere coming out of ST. Is there any way to compare the current club head to head with say '84, '89, '98, (I don't remember the expectations for '03)? Or even with other surprises like last year's A's?

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I would have never picked those teams in the spring. Very surprising. We can write a best case scenario type article where everything breaks the Cubs way.

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    I really hope Edwin Jackson is working on something today. Yuck.

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    I think we might be seeing a spot start or two by Mr. Struck this year. Really, really impressive.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    He was awful today.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm assuming that was linked to the wrong comment... :P

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Ha! Yeah, that was suppose to be for EJax. Watching Angels game mostly but those numbers look awful.

  • Nick Struck looked very good today... He was a little figured out the second time around, but that's not bad for a guy who has never pitched above AA yet.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Really liked him those first two innings. Knows how to pitch, has a good aggressive approach on the mound. Looks like he had a bit more trouble locating in the 3rd but got away with it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree 100%

  • fb_avatar

    The streak lives. Nice win by the Blackhawks.

    The news on Garza sucks. Might this open the way for a team friendly extension? Who knows? It might be better to just cut the losses. Trading for Garza was something that should never have happened in the first place. So the whole thing kind of has a Greek tragedy sort of feel to it. However, there is no point in trading him for less value than a comp pick just to be rid of him. It's a lot like Soriano to me. Garza isn't blocking anyone right now, and he's not a bad apple.

    One benefit to the comp pick is that, if the Cubs secure a protected pick in the first round, it will be easier to give up that second round pick to the right free agent, or the Cubs can forgo the free agent and have 3 top 50 picks. I trust this front office to do the right thing either way.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    That's a good point in that last paragraph.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Thank you John. It popped into my head right as I was typing it. The comp pick does certainly give them some flexibility that they would not otherwise have, and it might be the one good thing to come out of Garza's injury.

    That comp pick might actually end up leading back to a Garza extension as well. Lets say he comes back to pitch, but either doesn't pitch well or has more injury issues. He could find himself faced with a bare market because no one wants to give up a draft pick to get him.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Personally never liked the Garza pickup myself. Always figured he gave up too many HR to prosper playing half his games at Wrigley.

    Theat beind said - He has worked out better than I had figured. His record would be a lot better IF the teams he had played on had been much good.

  • DeJesus doesn't have a hit, but he's hit a couple of balls hard today, along with his good plate approach... I think he'll be OK... He had a bad spring last year too.

  • Rusin looked solid in his one inning.

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    Bogusevic with a pair of doubles and a HR. Nice. His swing looks compact and he stayed off of the offspeed stuff and took the outside pitches to the opposite field. Good approach. Let's hope it translates to the season. Oh yeah...Villanueva looks pretty bad swinging at everything. Not impressed.

  • In reply to Ryan Kalasz:

    Yeah, Villanueva has been overmatched today... Keep in mind he's never played above A ball and he's facing some major league pitching.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Ryan Kalasz:

    Villanueva has gone from A ball to spring training. He's completely overmatched -- this is just a taste for him.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yes, very overmatched but one of his strong points is his eye. Chasing balls still looks bad. Almora just put in center and Soler in right. Here's to the future!

  • Albert Almora playng CF, Jorge Soler playing RF right now... Doesn't that sound good? Hopefully we see a lot of this in the future.

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    In reply to Caps:

    Ha. Just beat me.

  • Cubs OF is Chavez in LF, Almora in CF, and Soler in RF.

    Real athletic OF with great arms all around.

  • Javier Baez just went deep!

  • In reply to Caps:

    To which field did he hit it?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to KGallo:

    The outfield. ;-)

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Left center field, according to Len.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Yes, it was left center. I've got iPhone video of it from behind home plate. No zoom so I don't know if it's any good. I'll email it to John as soon as I can. Lots of great stories today. I love spring training...

  • fb_avatar

    Almora popped out but looked good. Took the first 2 pitches for balls but just got under the third pitch. For what it's worth, it was a strike. I wouldn't mind seeing him lose the leg kick though.

    Great defensive play by Villanueva though! Bare handed throw on a bunt attempt.

  • In reply to Ryan Kalasz:

    Yeah, I don't like the leg kick, but he did get himself into a good hitter's count.

  • Javy Baez hits a bomb. 1st HR of spring.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I was wondering, who was gonna be first... Baez or Soler... I guess Baez won lol... We'll see Soler in the next inning, he's due!

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    In reply to Caps:

    Soler K'd but didn't look too bad. He worked the count well and I believe it was a full count. He was batting against a seasoned Japanese pitcher with a wicked forkball that got him but I think it would have gotten most people.

  • In reply to Ryan Kalasz:

    He put together a nice AB. Almora also got ahead in the count but made contact on his first swing

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Who was pitching?

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    In reply to KGallo:

    Brandon Kintzler.

  • Dan Vogelbach in at 1B!! How about a Vogelbomb??!!!

  • Dustin Geiger, didn't know he was there... Good surprise.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Games today are loaded with prospects. Fun to watch and listen.

  • Hector Rondon pitching.

  • How about Rondon... 1-2-3... It seems to be he has good mound presence and a good fastball that is not easy to lift.

  • Good ab by Baez!! worked a walk... Now Voggy!!

  • Struck me that Marmo is in mid-season form:
    "Cubs closer Carlos Marmol got into a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the fourth "

  • This Garza injury is just a catastrophe.

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    While I hated the Garza trade when it happened, I've been convincing myself that Olt, Perez, +more was better to have than the pieces we gave up to get Garza.

    But I'm missing Chris Archer quite a bit right now.

    And even Hak-ju Lee would be pretty valuable, especially with the SS depth we already have.

    Hell, Did I Gregorious managed to yeikd a top pitching prospect.

  • martin perez suffered a forearm injury and will be out for the next four weeks...

    i wonder if the rangers would consider olt and perez for garza at this point. its a risk for both teams, but the trade makes a lot of sense because at this point olt is really just depth for the rangers and garza fills a huge need. he also nets them that comp pick at the end of the year if they don't feel like retaining him. the cubs also get a very solid 3b prospect and a guy in perez who has frontline potential and happens to be in the upper levels of the minors, so he would join vizcaino as the only other serious upper level pitching prospect in the cubs system.

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