Opening Day Notes: Barney to DL, Gonzalez takes spot; Whitenack off 40 man; Cubs, city try to hammer out last minute deal

Happy Opening Day! For me this is New Year’s Day.  While our predictions and those of the local media aren’t all that optimistic for the season, were all really excited to see some real baseball.  It’s going to be a cold day in Pittsburgh, a high of 45 degrees, and it’s probably not going to be a lot of fun hitting against two hard throwers in Jeff Samardzija and A.J. Burnett today.

The game is on WGN at 12:35 CT

News and Notes:

  • UPDATE (12:20): Stephen Bruno, Ben Carhart, Dustin Geiger, and Tim Saunders have made the Daytona announcer.  Congrats to Bruno for making the leap and keep your eye on Carhart.  The guy is the least known on this list but he can hit — in fact, all of these guys can hit.  Earlier, Zeke DeVoss announced he would also be playing in Daytona.  Looks like it’s going to be a fun team to follow.  Here is the tentative Daytona roster, which includes a couple of surprises.
  • Update (11:30): Cubs released some minor league players today.  They are: RHP Jason Berken, RHP Ty’Relle Harris, RHP Scott   Weismann, LHP Matt Spencer, 1B Paul Hoilman, 3B Dustin Harrington, OF Elieser Bonne, OF Nelson Perez.  None were considered big tme prospects although Hoilman, Weismann, and Perez have had productive seasons.
  • David Kaplan writes that the Cubs and the city of Chicago are trying to hammer out a last minute deal before Opening Day.
  • Carrie Muskat tweets that the team expects to put Darwin Barney on the DL and Alberto Gonzalez will take his roster spot.  Robert Whitenack has been removed from the 40 man roster.  Whitenack was considered a top prospect but an 87-88 mph fastball with no command means he almost certainly won’t be chosen by another team.
  • Paul Sullivan writes that Dale Sveum and Theo Epstein are much more comfortable as they begin their 2nd year.
  • Gordon Wittenmeyer talks about the Cubs rebuilding and high profitability right now.  I think that’s just part of the plan as the Cubs go young, but I expect them to have the highest payroll in the NL Central by about 2015.
  • No surprise seeing Starlin Castro in the Opening Day lineup.  It’s his 196th consecutive game played, second longest current streak in the majors next to Prince Fielder (343 games).
  • Still waiting on official minor league rosters but Rock Shoulders (1B-OF) tweeted that he and a few others will be at Kane County to start the year.  The others are Trey Martin (CF), Dan Vogelbach (1B), Pierce Johnson (RHP), Ian Dickson (RHP), Tayler Scott (RHP), and relievers Brian Smith (L) and probable closer Eddie Orozco (R).  I thought Johnson might have had a shot at high Class A Daytona but I’m more than excited to see him pitch at Kane County, where I presume either he or Jose Arias will be the Opening Day starter.
  • I’ll be writing a weekly column for the Ivy Drip, brought to you from Sam Fels and the folks who bring you the great hockey newsletter, The Committed Indian.  First issue is free!

Today’s Lineup:

1. CF: David DeJesus
2. SS: Starlin Castro
3. 1B: Anthony Rizzo
4. LF: Alfonso Soriano
5. RF: Nate Schierholtz
6. C: Welington Castillo
7. 3B: Luis Valbuena
8. 2B: Brent Lillibridge
9. SP: Jeff Samardzija

What to Watch For:

Felzz: The DP combo. Brent Lillibridge has played second before. So it shouldn’t be total clown shoes today. But Opening day adrenaline, an familiarity between 2B and SS, and an over eager Starlin Castro trying to prove he’s a gold glover….worth watching.

John: A.J. Burnett is tough on the Cubs, even the new ones they’ve picked up this year, holding the current players to a career line of .233/.269/.272. Last year Burnett went to two outs in the 8th with a no-hitter before Adrian Cardenas broke up the no-no — and even that almost never happened as Burnett may have been robbed of a called 3rd strike in that same at-bat.   In my lifetime, that’s about as close as the Cubs have gotten to being no-hit.  The last time the Cubs were no-hit was September 9th, 1965 by the great Sandy Koufax. It was also a perfect game.  So with all that, I say the guy to watch today is Starlin Castro, who has hit .462 against Burnett, although all of them have been singles.

Tom: Jeff Samardzija is a type of competitor that relishes the chance to pitch on opening day. Lets see if he can step up and pitch like an opening-day starter.


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  • Looking forward to getting out to the ballpark in Geneva to see the Cougars "new" roster on Saturday!

  • In reply to historyrat:

    Me too. Not sure about Saturday, but will be there Opening Day on Thursday.

  • Whitenack's post-TJ results make him highly expendable. Now, granted, if both play up to their potential, I take Whitenack any day, as 200 innings is better than 70 (as I've never thought McNutt could be an actual starter).

    That said, McNutt could reach the bigs once the Cubs offload Marmol and Camp at the deadline. While Whitenack will probably still be at the lower levels trying to find his fastball again.

  • In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    McNutt should be in the bigs this year if he pitches with decent control. I'm not ready to rule him out as a SP. Whitenack though, doesn't look like a MLB pitcher if he's at 87-88 and can't command offspeed stuff. He's going to get lit up even at AA if that doesn't improve.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It's by no means that I doubt McNutt's stuff, I just see him winding up as a Rich Harden type starter. Yeah, he's got 12 strikeouts after 5 innings, but he's thrown 113 pitches to get through those 5. Never shown great durability in the minors.

    Could he make a Samardzija type turnaround and wind up as a front end starter? Sure. Does it seem likely? To me, no.

    Whitenack, I'd like to see him do well. Only player drafted out of SUNY Old Westbury, and does seem to have nice potential. Question is if he'll ever come close to tapping into it.

  • Briefly channeling good old Harry,...

    "Take me out to the ball game,
    Take me out with the crowd.
    Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
    I don't care if I never get back,
    Let me root, root, root for the Cubbies,
    If they don't win it's a shame.
    For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
    At the old ball game."

    Let's Play Ball folks!

  • In reply to drkazmd65:


  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I just hope we don't have to yell "Let's get some runs!!!" too often.

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    I'm looking forward to finding out what the minor-league rosters are.

    Not to sound negative about the big league club but this season will be whatever it'll be, I'm more interested in Baez/ Almora/ Soler/ Vogel / Szczur and to a slightly lesser extent Candelario /Bruno/ Amayama /Hernandez/ Alcantara/ Martin / Rademacher etc.

    In a rebuilding year, it just makes sense to watch the "building".

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Me too. That will probably be the more exciting news to follow this year.

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    Best. Day. Of. The. Year.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:


  • In reply to Mike Moody:


  • What's your handicap of Whitenack making it through waivers?

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    I think he gets through. I'll give it 2-1 odds.

  • Opening day for me , is the real start of spring so I love it as well. With Kane County close by even better.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    I'll have to go & see when it is that the local Minor League team starts its schedule,... AA Orioles affiliate,... it ain't the Cubs,... but there is almost nothing better than an afternoon/evening at the a live game.

    Could generally care less about the Orioles,... but it just isn't a complete Summer/Spring without a trip or two to a live game. Will have to go & see if the Cubs are playing any interleague games in Baltimore this summer,...

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Just looked,... no luck RE; Baltimore this summer.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Can't wait to check out them out. Going to freeze Thursday, though.

  • man that suntimes article is really trying to take ricketts down. I am still with ricketts and his plan, he has done a lot more for the cubs than the tribune has done. Under the tribune they had out dated facilities in the major league levels and and the minor league levels. He is paying theo and company a lot of money to build the team.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Not worried about it. I think they'll spend it and have the biggest payroll in NL Central and top 5-6 in all of baseball when the time comes.

  • Anybody know the best, free website to catch today's Cubs game...while I'm at work? ;)

  • In reply to apalifer:

    Wish I did. If I find out I'll pass it on.

    We'll follow it here, of course.

  • UPDATE: Cubs released 8 minor league players today including OF Nelson Perez and 1B Paul Hoilman, who have had productive seasons. Not surprised though, both old for their level and talked to non-Cubs scout who ripped Hoilman and his defensive effort.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I like that they're cleaning out the system. Ged rid of stagnant non-prospects, make room for better performers to have some upward mobility.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Looks like they made some room for Carhart, who's a sleeper. Big jump from rookie ball.

  • Castro singles and Rizzo goes deep!!

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    That'll show up as a regular single for Castro, but that was a seriously nice piece of hitting on a 2-strike count. I'm trying very hard not to take him for granted this season.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Especially with that ump having a pretty big zone early on. Couldn't take that chance.

  • 438 ft. on that Rizzo HR.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It was an absolute no doubter.

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    If the Cubs win the World Series, it's going to seriously hurt our draft pick. :-(

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Can't have that ;)

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    Pretty prophetic call on the middle infield Felzz

  • Lillibridge not having a good day so far.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Surprise :)

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Who'd have thunk?

  • Cubs like playing hit and run with Castilllo and Schierholtz.

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    I'm thinking Valbuena and Lillibridge might miss the all star team this year.

  • Not a good sign,... 4 full innings completed for the Cubs,.... 9 Ks for Burnett so far.

    Samardzija is looking good though.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Real generous strike zone for Burnett today.

  • Is there anyone less grateful in having a job than Cubs beat writer Paul Sullivan? When asked today what he was looking forward to this season with the Cubs he said, "October". He can't wait for the season to be over.

  • In reply to Saluki:

    I'm sure there are a lot of people who would love to trade places with him.

  • In reply to Saluki:

    Come on, that's hilarious.

  • In reply to Saluki:

    Sulky Sully obviously was referring to the Cubs hosting the playoffs in October.

  • Need to see more of the Cubs getting pitch count up early. Burnett to about 100 pitches after 5 2/3. Get to middle relief early and often.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yep and his velocity was down already by the 6th... Good job grinding out those ab's... I guess the price to pay was the 10 K's, but it is worth it when you knock a guy like Burnett before he completes 6 innings.

    Great approach by Castillo today just going with the pitch.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Noticed that too. Velo was 91-92 that inning.

  • Hey John, here's the D-Cubs roster that was released today

  • In reply to Caps:

    Actually put that up in the article too!

  • How about that D last inning. Great play by Rizzo and then Castro makes a tough play in the hole look routine -- that to me is a mark of a good defender.

  • Shark looking awesome, dominant, ready to be The Man!

    Now let's see if our upgraded bullpen can close it out?

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    He was great. 3 plus pitches with command and the stamina to take 96 mph into the 8th. He's a front-line guy.

  • Wait a minute! Shark's back out there!

  • Another great play by Castro.

  • I was a little nervous when Samardzija went out for the 8th but he looked strong. Still hitting 96.

  • In reply to mcneilscot:

    Exactly. It was still easy heat. But I do understand not wanting to keep running him out there.

  • Shark still throwing 96 after 107+ pitches. Given the temp and the fact that it is opening day, couldn't have hoped for better.

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    Is anyone else concerned that Shark threw 110 pitches? That's an awful lot for the first start of the season. Granted he's dominant today, but still.......we have to think long-term.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I am. I think I remember Quade allowing Dempster to throw something like 139 pitches in a couple years ago.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Not me. 100 pitches is the norm and it was pretty effortless for him today.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    This early? In that weather?

  • That didn't take long. The look on Marmol's face as he was waiting for Sveum to walk out was one of a lost soul.

  • In reply to Steve4cash:

    So today it looks like we got 'Bad Carlos',....

    Never let it be said that the man makes closing out a game boring,...


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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    Hey, he got credited for a HOLD though!

    .......Which goes to show how much that statistic is worth........

  • MARRRRRRRMOLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    And that's why we couldn't trade Marmol this offseason.......he was OK last year actually, but you never know when his control will completely fall apart. This is why other GMs don't trust him.

    We probably need to keep pitching him and hope he straightens out like he did last year, but I have a feeling Fujikawa is closing games sooner rather than later this year

  • In reply to Zonk:

    And Fujikawa gets his first ML save.

  • so, is Fujikawa your closer? I'm afraid he's mine. The lost trade value of a Marmol who sets up and mops up is not worth all the wins he would piss away if left to his own devices.

  • In reply to Rob Letterly:

    I don't think they make the switch yet, but may happen before too long. If he's not producing, then salvaging trade value makes no difference.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I think you have to give Marmol a handful of chances. He was pretty awful for a month or two last year, before straightening out.....Marmol was pretty effective the last 3 months of the season

    But I think the hook will be shorter this year. We have a legit option B this year in Fujikawa, which we didn't last year (unless you really liked Rafael Dolis...)

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Agree completely.

  • Cubs win!!

    Had to survive Marmol there, got a little scary.

  • I'm not certain but I think I may have called Marmol every derogatory name noted in The Sailor's Guide to Cursing-third edition.

  • In reply to Hubbs16:


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    There is a forth edition out.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Dave Boer:


  • In reply to Dave Boer:

    I suspect I'd better invest in an update.

  • The difference this year is that Sveum had Russell and Fuji up early and ready to go. Pulling Marmol was the right thing to do instead of seeing if he could work through it.

    1-0 and first place. Who cares what the date is.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I think Cubs need to do this as much as possible.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yup. I can't lose my voice this early in the year!!!

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I think that is an excellent and encouraging point. As many did I am sure, I cringed as we entered the ninth at the thought of Marmol blowing the whole gig after such an excellent effort by Shark. I was relieved to see Sveum pull him when he did.

  • Positives...

    *The Cubs worked the count even though they didn't draw walks.
    *Jeff Samardzija
    *Starlin Castro, especially his defense. Have to say that on first play he made it look easy. On the 2nd play, he showed great awareness. Knew who was running and got rid of the ball quickly.
    *Nate Schierholtz getting on base
    * Welington Castillo showing he can provide some much needed pop.

    *Brent Lillibridge
    *Carlos Marmol

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And the positives outweigh the negatives, by a big margin. There were some runners stranded today, but mostly those missed opportunities were by players who are not part of the long-term plan. Marmol's shaky inning is a modest disappointment -- he's always too amped up for big occasions like opening day.

    Samardzija, Rizzo, Castro and Castillo all played well, and that bodes very well for the future.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    * Don't forget about '1-pitch Wonder' Anthony Rizzo ;-) And Samardzija deserves 2 stars, don't you think?

  • On a side note: I think all 3 of us did pretty well with our "Things to Watch For" :)

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    The young core coming through today. Dizziness with a bomb and great D, Castro 2 knocks and amazing D, Castillo called a great game and tacked on 2 opposite field doubles, Shark pitched like a #1. The kind of wins I like to see.

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    Meant Rizzo, damn autocorrect.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Haha! I thought you came up with a new nickname.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Dizzo Rizzo!

  • Was surprised Shark went out for the 8th sitting on 97 pitches. But glad he did, because it preserved Russel and/or Fuji to bail out Marmol.

    There have been plenty of times where Marmol has worked out of that type of jam, but I didn't want to see Dale risk it on Opening Day and after such a dominant outing by Shark.

    It's all good, baby!

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    Agreed. Shark deserved that win. If it was later in the year they probably try and let hm finish.

  • I don't want Dale to risk it anytime with any pitchers. Come in throwing strikes or open a new can when it is late in the game.

  • I wasn't thrilled with our 0-8 RISP today, but a great job by Shark. Good opener.

  • In reply to Denizen Kane:

    Bottom of the lineup really hurt the Cubs today.

  • In his last two spring appearances Marmol was completely awful. Even worse than today. I hope Sveum doesn't run him out there in a close game, until he has his confidence back. Hopefully we blow the pirates away the next couple of days, and let him throw an inning in a pressure-free situation.

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    One day in, I'm really liking my Jeff Samardzija with serious Cy Young consideration call. One of the best opening day pitching performances I can remember.

  • As Earl Weaver would say, "Pitching, defense, and 3-run homers" our case 2-run homers (yesterday), but still. Once we get everyone on the MLB roster and add a TOR pitcher, that's what we might just be seeing. I'll take that any day.

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