Cubs Game Notes and Thread: Roster crunch coming; Shoulders, Jokisch win monthly minor league awards

After a tough loss yesterday in which the Cubs squandered a great performance by Travis Wood, the Cubs try to rebound today against the Reds, a team they recently lost 2 of 3 hard fought games to in late April.  All 3 games were decided by one run.

Starlin Castro finds himself back in the #2 spot, where Dale Sveum has maintained he belongs.  I like the idea of him batting 5th ideally, but as noted by many, you like to hit your best hitter in that 2nd spot.  Castro has struggled to adjust to the grind-it-out approach the Cubs prefer, but there's still no question he's the team's best hitter.

Also in the lineup is Wellington Castillo.  The Cubs catcher had a brain cramp yesterday and immediately held himself accountable -- which must have sat well with manager Dale Sveum because he's back in the lineup today.

In the News...

  • Congrats to Rock Shoulders who won the Cubs minor league player of the month award.  Shoulders hit .370/.457/.642 with 5 HRs for the month of April.  Eric Jokisch went 3-1 with a 1.84 ERA (3.37 FIP) and an excellent walk rate of 1.84/9 IP.   He struck out 6.64 batters 9 innings.
  • Baseball card fans, today the Cubs will start distributing cards from an exclusive 82 card Topps set.  Other dates are July 5th, August 2nd, and August 30th.

Roster Moves coming?

  • The Cubs are fast approaching some roster decisions.  The Cubs must decide what to do with the red-hot Ryan Sweeney before June 1st, when he can opt for free agency.  Sweeney really doesn't fit right now simply because he's a LH hitter and two of the Cubs best hitters this year, David DeJesus and Nate Scheirholtz, are also LH hitting OF'ers.  On the pitching side, Matt Garza feels great and is ready for his 2nd rehab start.  The Cubs two bottom of the rotation starters -- Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva (who pitches today) have been pitching well and neither deserve to be sent to the bullpen.  Coincidentally, yesterday we learned that the Cubs have been scouting the Royals farm system and we've had some unconfirmed reports that Royals scouts were seen at Matt Garza's rehab start in Tennessee.  Could there be a connection?
  • Speaking of Matt Garza.  He pitches for Iowa on Monday.
  • Oh, and I haven't even mentioned that the Cubs have to decide what to do with Ian Stewart, who is hitting .091/.255/.114 in Iowa right now.

Today's Lineup:

  1. DeJesus CF
  2. Castro SS
  3. Rizzo 1B
  4. Soriano LF
  5. Schierholtz RF
  6. Castillo C
  7. Valbuena 3B
  8. Barney 2B
  9. Villanueva P

What to Watch For:

  • John:  Carlos Villanueva.  The Cubs depth in their rotation is starting to pay off and could give them the flexibility to make some moves and improve the team down the road.  I'd like to see another strong start from Villanueva and get the jump on the Reds this series.
  • Felzz: The offense has to come from somewhere. And call me crazy.... but the Cleanup hitter is a good place to look. At least it should be.  Alfonso Soriano hasn't been awful, but, it's time to be great. It's warming up. the Competition is getting better. So should he.
  • Tom: Beef. Want to see what kind of game he has and if he can bounce back from yesterday's mental error.  Lucky he wasn't bench.


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  • Does Stewart have options left? Can they just put him in AAA until he can show he can at least hit pitching down there?

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    Time is up. Sad, but the wrist injury was career ending.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    I believe he has an out clause and can make himself a free agent after a certain period of time. Sorry I don't have specifics there. I do think the Cubs have to make a decision soon, though. I'll try and find out exact dates.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Is Ian Stewart's contract guaranteed yet? I remember it wasn't early in ST, but I wonder if that's changed.

    If it is guaranteed, and he opted to become FA, he would probably be doing Cubs a favor

    If he doesn't opt-out (and I wouldn't if I were him; $2 mil is still good money), Cubs could probably DFA him to the minors. I don't think anyone will pick him up.

    THEN, it's a decision of whether we even want him taking a AAA roster spot with Lake coming back.....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Good points, Zonk.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    Yes, he can be optioned to Iowa.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    According to ArizonaPhil, Stewart can be optioned to Iowa, but only after he clears waivers.

  • With Royals scouts watching Garza pretty easy to connect the dots. I wouldnt trade him for less than Venture and the 34th pick . Royals are in it to win now and no way i sell low , wait em out and hope Garza returns and has a few healthy productive starts. I also float a rumor out there about contract extention talks with Garza to stimulate the buyers market .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Agreed Bryan, on all counts.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    What do you think is a realistic return for Garza and Dejesus to Kansas City?

  • In reply to Holy Cattle:

    if the comp pick is involved, and I hope that it would be, the trade would probably need to be done before the end of the month. With the finances of the draft now, knowing how many picks and your budget becomes more important. If Garza is part of the deal to get it, he may not be back in full force by the time the deal needs to go down. I may be wrong, but I would expect any deal involving a pick would need some advance work done before the draft, unlike NFL and NBA draft day deals...but then again it is new concept for MLB so who knows.

  • In reply to Holy Cattle:

    I think they can get a good, near MLB ready arm, and a second good prospect. I think they need to at least get one impact prospect.

  • There was a Jerko (with a G) last week, but the Cubs really have a player named Jock Itch?

    Does Villanueva's 1920s style mustache give him an advantage over the hitters?

  • In reply to jack:

    Yes, I believe the mustache does have hypnotic effects on hitters.

    No luck on Jokisch for any jokes. It's pronounced Yoke-ish. And Cubs fans may start hearing it first hand by next season if he continues to pitch as well as he has the past two years.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Then he better not have egg on his face.

    He doesn't escape either way.

  • In reply to jack:

    LOL! I guess he doesn't.

  • I like the fact we have had only five starters used so far this year. That is telling in that (outside Jackson) they all have thrown pretty good.

  • In reply to Wild Bill:

    It is a good sign and hopefully one that continues (barring trades, of course)

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    I predict a big game from Castro which will further confuse us as to where he should hit in the lineup...

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    haha! Hope you're right. Would be a nice problem to have.

  • Stewart also deleted/hid his twitter account earlier today/late last night. Whether it has to do with a seemingly inevitable release, or the comments he made about Chris Nelson getting DFA'd remains unknown.

    I miss LeMaheiu.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    Also, upon looking it up, LeMaheiu's RF/G down at AAA Colorado Springs this year is about .5 better than the MLB average so far.

    Guess his defense has started to come around.

    Ah well. Live and learn.

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    In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    no, can't let themselves off the hook that easy. That was a dumb, poorly scouted trade from the get-go.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Not really. LeMaheiu's a borderline starter (more a short side of a platoon) guy, but a good one at that. Colvin was coming off a season that I'm fairly confident I could top, and I haven't actually swung a bat properly in about five years. Not to mention only starting half the games in 2010, yet still managing to be 3rd in the NL in OF errors.

    It was a gamble trade, and it didn't really pay off. It was still worth the shot. Let's face it, Theo and Jed's initial plan probably got rocked when Aramis declined his half of the mutual option, and the Hendry regime leaving no viable successor.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    I'm guessing it's the latter. He didn't do himself many favors with that account anyway.

    Of course, that's not to say, his roster spot is in jeopardy right now. He's just really struggling right now. Hard to see the Cubs playing him over Valbuena/Ransom.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Meant that for your first comment on Stewart!

    As for LeMahieu, I wouldnt' mind having him back to play against LHP right now. I think Theo misread that one -- but still think he's a role player and the Stewart trade was worth the gamble. It just seems to have come up snake eyes so far.

  • Would the Royals (or TOR) trade for Garza based on rehab starts? I would think he has to make at least a handful of MLB starts before anyone pulls the trigger. Can't we just make up some injury for Jackson and send him to the DL for a few weeks? Garza gets 3-4 starts and enough time to work a deal to send him out of town.

    Dejesus makes sense for KC too. He can backup fragile Francouer in right and unproven Cain in CF. Dejesus would probably also be a welcomed veteran presence on a fairly young, or at least untested, KC team.

    Time to cut bait on Stewart. Sorry Ian. Things didn't work out here. We both need to move on.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    I would think the Royals or Blue Jays would be more interested in his stuff, velo, and durability than performance. But agreed I'd like to see him pitch under MLB conditions, see how he bounces back after a few starts, etc.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    In regards to Stewart, directionally I'm w/ you. The Cubs have played this out and Stewart's continued presence adds, seemingly daily, to feelings of buyers remorse. To Zonk's point earlier, if the Cubs can cut him still and save some $, I think they should do it. If they're still on the hook, they should DFA him and free up a 40 man slot and hope someone signs him. When that likely fails to occur, I'm still in favor of giving him an opportunity to see if he can defy all indications and create a compelling case for returning him to the 40 man roster.

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    For those of us who don't twitter, what did he say about Nelson?

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Said this,

    "They (the Rockies) screwed me over and (I) know they're doing the same to my boy Chris Nelson,"

    "He didn't deserve that. (He's) a good player and even better person and clubhouse guy."

    "(I'm) not sure the guy coming for (his) job is much of an upgrade -- no knock on Arenado,"

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    Wow. Yes, it's terrible how the Rockies smashed his wrist, refused to have it fixed for two years, traded him to a big market team where he had a wide open chance to be the starting 3b for a decade under one of the most respected front office team in the majors, then yanked his quad and made sure he didn't hit his weight in AAA. Bastards, those Rockies.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Haha! Nicely played.

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    In reply to SKMD:

    That's funny! Don't forget how they obviously hacked his Twitter account to make him look like an idiot

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I'm sure Stewart is beyond frustrated, but he may as well start getting over it. It will take a while for to come to terms with his lost drream if he is done.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    --Terrible how Stewart decided to hurt his wrist.
    --Terrible how he pushed the FO to get rid of Ramirez.
    --Terrible how he decided to be traded for future HOFer Tyler Colvin and the irreplaceable LeMahieu.
    --Terrible that he rehabbed at home to be near his pregnant wife. With the permission of the Cubs (but not of some fans).
    --Terrible that he is just now in his Spring Training and is still getting his timing down. Gosh, our regulars are having no problem there !
    --Terrible how badly our 3b guys are doing (leading the league in HRs from that position, among other things).

    If the worst REAL thing that Stewart has done is some ill-thought social messages, then I'll still take him. If that's a crime, then 99 percent of blogs and many of our own posts would draw similar scorn.

    I don't understand the vilification of guys who are doing their best but can't live up to others' unreasonable expectations, e.g., Prior--Kerry Wood--Castro--lately Randy Wells, and Stewart.
    Such negativity isn't clever nor insightful, it's just kicking a guy when he's down. When most people need some support, instead of scorn.

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    In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    None of which addresses the point of how the Rockies screwed him over.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    The question seems to be: Do you want the guy to succeed as a Cub, or would you rather mock him?
    I'd rather see him succeed. I'd rather see all the Cubs succeed. Isn't that why we're Cubs fans?

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    In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    No, my post was specifically directed at his tweet. Of course I want him to succeed as a cub and I have no personal animosity about his career. I'd say your defense of him - none of which I disagree with - was irrelevant

  • In reply to SKMD:

    "A dumb, poorly scouted trade"?
    Must disagree; it hasn't played out yet. Not like we lost any difference-makers in Colvin and LeMahieu.
    I could care less what Stewart tweets in defense of a former teammate or in regard to a former team. What matters here is him getting healthy after unfortunate injuries, and seeing if he can fulfill his talents with the Cubs.

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    Here is a question on Sweeney; can you trade him right from AAA to another team's roster? Not sure how that works on veteran minor-league FAs like that. Not that we would get much, but something is better than nothing..........

    Reds for one team could use him while Ludwick is out, to platoon with Heisey and offer another option out there

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Probably more likely DeJesus goes in any trade, yeah?

    Then replace him with Sweeney.

  • Non thread related but Stanford is playing on espn u tonight. I know Appel usually pitches on Fridays but am having a hard time confirming if he is tonight. Anybody else know?

  • In reply to Nick Nesler:

    Probable Pitching Matchups
    Friday • RHP Mark Appel (7-3, 1.49) vs. RHP Trevor Williams (5-3, 3.30)

  • Going back to the trade speculation a little bit. Which teams have the competitive balance picks that can be traded? Is it possible that we could aquire a couple extra picks?

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    I'm increasingly intrigued by the possibly of putting Valbuena at second. Barney's offense, if anything, is worse.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Darwin's first five games saw him hit .059/.158/.059, the 10 six then: .265/.405/.471. I'm not upset over one of the best defensive second basemen in the game having an .875 OPS.

    Of course, neither of them can touch how red-hot Cody Ransom is since coming to the Cubs, with his 1.533 OPS.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Barney's BABIP is now .182. Small sample size. He'll hit more; he's only struck out 6 times.

    The last couple years are pretty much what you can expect from him offensively, which is better than where he is right now

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    Anyone else not okay with Castillo starting today? I think a message needed to be sent.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I do. Besides, Dioner seems to come up aces on the reg.

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    Are Villianueva's peripheries starting to catch up with him? If so, that might make the Cubs roster decisions a little easier, especially in regards to the rotation.

    Julian Tavarez anyone?

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I'm totally with you on the Tavarez comp. But it might be worth riding him as long as we can and seeing if someone falls in love with a strong first half. Unlikely, but possible. Of course, someone still needs to come out of the starting rotation whenever it is that Garza is ready. Hopefully it's still a tough decision to make.

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Villanueva is regressing to the mean; his hot start was fueled by an unsustainable BABIP of .181 before today.

    Carlos has made 61 career starts, to a 4.55 ERA, with 350 innings. He has a WHIP of 1.310, and 6.9 Ks per 9. And a .285 BABIP, which is consistent with being a ground-ball pitcher. THIS is the real Carlos.

    That's better, actually, than Julian Taverez was, so Carlos to me is a legit 4/5 starter. But that's it.

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