Ted Lilly Could Return By April 19th

Posted by Matt Clapp | 3/29/2010 12:10:00 PM |

We finally have a pretty good idea of when Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly will make his first start of the season after rehabbing from shoulder and knee injuries. According to Cubs beat writer Paul Sullivan, Lilly could be back on April 19th when the Cubs are in New York to face the Mets:

Ted Lilly is on track to return to the Cubs as early as April 19 in New York.

Manager Lou Piniella said Lilly will throw three innings on Tuesday in minor league camp and make one more start on Sunday before heading to a "warm" weather site for his rehab stint. From there he'll make two more starts, getting up to 90 pitches.

Piniella wouldn't give a date for Lilly's return, but the schedule points to the start of the road trip at Citi Field.

Link(Chicago Breaking Sports)

If it is April 19th, it will be the Cubs' 13th game of the season, so Lilly would just be missing two turns in the rotation. Nothing is concrete and it simply appears to be a target date that could easily change, but it's very encouraging, especially after recent talk had him returning by the end of April at the earliest.

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Today the Cubs finally figured out who will be on their pitching staff, and I have to say I'm not all that impressed with the choices:

With a large round of cuts this morning, the Cubs set their 12-man pitching staff, with left-handed prospect James Russell earning the final bullpen spot.

Russell, who hasn't allowed a run in seven spring outings (9 IP), won the final spot over lefty John Gaub and right-hander Marcos Mateo -- both of whom were optioned to AAA Iowa.

He joins a seven-man bullpen that also includes closer Carlos Marmol, along with lefty John Grabow, right-handers Esmailin Caridad and Justin Berg and two pitchers from the battle for the rotation -- likely left-hander Sean Marshall and right-hander Jeff Samardzija.

Manager Lou Piniella is expected to officially announce the winners of that four-man battle for two starting jobs, one of whom is Carlos Silva (already scheduled to start next on Saturday). Tom Gorzelanny, who pitched a team-high six innings on Thursday, is expected to get the other job.
Link(Chicago Sun-Times)

Really, it was going to be difficult to be happy with the choices regardless, especially after setup man Angel Guzman was lost for the season. It was expected that the Cubs would acquire a veteran arm for the bullpen before the season starts(and that could still happen I suppose), but it appears they will instead have four guys that spent at least most of their 2009 seasons in the minor leagues.

So, here's your apparent Cubs' Opening Day rotation and bullpen(with 2009 stats):

1. Carlos Zambrano(RHP): 9-7, 3.77 ERA, 169.1 IP, 155 H, 78 BB, 152 K, 1.376 WHIP.
2. Ryan Dempster(RHP): 11-9, 3.64 ERA, 200 IP, 196 H, 65 BB, 172 K, 1.305 WHIP.
3. Randy Wells(RHP): 12-10, 3.05 ERA, 165.1 IP, 165 H, 46 BB, 104 K, 1.276 WHIP.
4. Carlos Silva(RHP): 1-3, 8.60 ERA, 30.1 IP, 41 H, 11 B, 10 K, 1.714 WHIP.
5. Tom Gorzelanny(LHP): 4-2, 5.63 ERA, 38.1 IP, 13 BB, 40 K, 1.357 WHIP.

Sean Marshall(LHP) As reliever: 3.23 ERA, 39 IP, 38 H, 18 BB, 34 K, 1.436 WHIP.
Jeff Samardzija(RHP) As reliever: 6.49 ERA, 26.1 IP, 33 H, 14 BB, 14 K, 1.785 WHIP.
James Russell(LHP) AA/AAA stats: 4.03 ERA, 102.2 IP, 116 H, 28 BB, 72 K, 1.403 WHIP.
Justin Berg(RHP): 0.75 ERA, 12 IP, 10 H, 1 BB, 7 K, 0.917 WHIP.
Esmailin Caridad(RHP): 1.40 ERA, 19.1 IP, 15 H, 3 BB, 17 K, 0.931 WHIP.
John Grabow(LHP): 3.36 ERA, 72.1 IP, 62 H, 40 BB, 57 K, 1.410 WHIP.
Carlos Marmol(RHP): 3.41 ERA, 74 IP, 43 H, 65 BB, 93 K, 1.459 WHIP.

Remember of course that Ted Lilly will be back, likely around the end of April. So the rotation still could be very good, especially if Wells proves that his terrific '09 rookie season wasn't a complete fluke. Either Silva or Gorzelanny will be bumped from the rotation then, and whoever that is could be headed to the bullpen.

In the bullpen, really the only "knowns" are Marmol, Grabow, and Marshall. We know they're going to at least be solid in their roles, with Marmol capable of being absolutely spectacular if he can find the strike zone. However, that doesn't matter if the pitchers before him blow the game before he gets the chance to come in for a save opportunity.

Samardzija making the bullpen has many groaning, and Russell has yet to pitch a game in the majors. Caridad and Berg were extremely impressive in their short time with the Cubs last year, and many believe Caridad could immediately dominate. He's the best bet to replace Angel Guzman's seventh/eighth inning role, and if he could perform anything like we expected Guzman to, that would be a major boost to the bullpen.

Still, there's just so many question marks with this pitching staff that make it tough to get excited at all just yet. All of these young arms are talented, but the majors are an entirely different animal, and we have no idea how well they will perform until they are called upon. I guess we'll see for ourselves very soon.

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Carlos Silva apparently will make the team(to the delight of Chicagoland area doughnut shops) and even be a part of the starting rotation.

Cubs' Rotation And Bench Rumors (Bleacher Nation)

Samardzija To Destroy Games Out Of Bullpen Instead Of Rotation
(Tales From Aisle 424)

2010 Player Preview: Micah Hoffpauir (GoatRiders Of The Apocalypse)

The Top 79 Cub Killers Of My Time #49: Luis "Long" Gonzalez
(Hire Jim Essian)

Organizational Rankings: #18- Chicago Cubs (Fangraphs)

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Aramis Ramirez Leaves Game With Sore Right Triceps

Posted by Matt Clapp | 3/13/2010 03:42:00 PM | ,

Aramis Ramirez left in the third inning of Saturday's Spring Training game against the Reds with sore right triceps:

#cubs 3B Aramis Ramirez left Saturday's game after two innings with a sore right tricep. His status was day to day

Link(Carrie Muskat's Twitter)

Odds are it's nothing serious, but you always get worried when there's soreness in the throwing arm of a player, especially when he's the clean-up hitter and biggest run producer in the lineup. We saw how much it hurt the Cubs when Aramis missed two months of the 2009 season with a dislocated left shoulder.

Also, Derrek Lee is day-to-day with a bruise on his left foot, but he's expected back on Tuesday. Still, it's not good seeing the Cubs' two best hitters dealing with injuries already.

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Lilly's Recovery Ahead Of Schedule, Could Be Ready By Mid-April

Posted by Matt Clapp | 3/13/2010 01:00:00 PM |

The projected timetable for Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly's first start of the 2010 season continues to change. Lilly is rehabbing from left shoulder surgery and a sore right knee, and last month it sounded like he could be back by mid-April, but recent talk from manager Lou Piniella made it sound like we shouldn't expect to see the left-hander before May 1st.

Well, now it sounds like mid-April is indeed a possibility, as Lilly had a bullpen session go well today and is ahead of schedule with his recovery:

The rehabbing left-hander threw off a mound again on Saturday. "We want to keep him under the radar gun and not talk about it much," Piniella said.

Presumably Piniella meant "under the radar," not "under the radar gun," since Lilly's velocity is not a problem. Anyway, Lilly is ahead of schedule. He could return by mid-April at his current pace, though the Cubs haven't given a timetable.

Link(Chicago Breaking Sports)

These things rarely go better than anticipated for the Cubs, so I'll still be surprised if we see him before May. It's certainly encouraging news though, and the Cubs need their most consistent starting pitcher over the last two years to make more than 25 starts in the 2010 campaign.

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You don't like seeing anybody get hurt, but when injuries were the main(one of many, but the main) reason your team sat home last October, I can't say I shed a tear when I see a star player on another National League Central team will miss time due to injury. The player I'm referring to is Houston Astros first baseman Lance Berkman. Berkman, a five-time All-Star, will have arthroscopic knee surgery Saturday and is likely to miss two to four weeks:

Lance Berkman will have arthroscopic surgery tmrw to clear debris out of left knee. He'll be out 2-4 weeks, Opening Day in jeopardy.

Anthony DiComo's Twitter

Yes, this likely won't cause Berkman to miss much, if any regular season time, but his lack of playing time in Spring Training could lead to a slow start to the season. Berkman is the best hitter in the Astros' lineup, a lineup which looks weak on paper. So they desperately need Berkman to be healthy and put up big numbers if they wish to contend in 2010.

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The Friendly Linkfines 3/12/10

Posted by Matt Clapp | 3/12/2010 11:23:00 AM

Not So Breaking News: Milton Bradley Is A Psycho.

Milton Bradley Insanity Timeline (Sports Untapped)

Lou Piniella Considering Going With 11 Pitchers In April
(Bleacher Nation)

We Love Derrek Lee Even If He Isn't Go Great (Tales From Aisle 424)

Interview With Tom Ricketts And Crane Kenney
(Bleed Cubbie Blue)

BP's Organizational Rankings And Links (Wrigley Bound)

Starlin Castro And Tyler Colvin Highlight Cubs' 1st Week In Cactus League (WaxPaperBeerCup)

Ramirez On Castro: "If You're Ready, You're Ready" (Chicago Breaking Sports)

Now We Become Typically Irrational
(Cubbie Doctor's Examiner)

2010 Player Preview: Jeff Gray
(GoatRiders Of The Apocalypse)

The Kids Star-lin Another Win
(Chicago Cubs Online)

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Xavier Nady Could Start Thursday

Posted by Matt Clapp | 3/08/2010 01:41:00 PM | ,

New Cubs outfielder Xavier Nady could see his first playing time of Spring Training on Thursday according to manager Lou Piniella:

"The only problem [with Wednesday] is the 'Big Z' is pitching," Piniella said. "Thursday might be a good day to start [Nady]. Give Big Z an at-bat or two and he'll be very happy."
Link(Muskat Ramblings- MLB.Com)

The 31-year-old Nady signed a one-year, $3.3 million contract with the Cubs in January. He is coming off Tommy John surgery(his second) and only played seven games due to the injury for the Yankees in 2009. In 2008 with the Yankees, he put up an impressive batting line of .305/.357/.510, with 25 homers, and 97 RBI.

When/if he's back to full health, he will have a great shot at becoming the primary right fielder for the Cubs, and at least see a very good amount of at bats regardless. If he can be anything like the hitter he was in 2008, it would be a major boost to the Cubs offense.

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The Friendly Linkfines 3/8/10

Posted by Matt Clapp | 3/08/2010 11:28:00 AM

Top Prospect Starlin Castro Will Start The 2010 Season In Triple-A Iowa.

Starlin Castro's 2010 (Wrigley Bound)

Xavier Nady Still Not Ready To, You Know, Play (Bleacher Nation)

There's A Thought: Kerry Wood Back To The Cubs? (Cubbies Crib)

Helluva Battle Brewing For Second Base (Tales From Aisle 424)

Bradley Defines Cubs' 2010- For The Tribune
(Wrigleyville 23)

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First, let's start off with some terrible news, which isn't a surprise as it's Cubs baseball we're talking about: Angel Guzman is likely done for awhile... maybe for his entire career. Sigh. I think it's time to go out and get not just one proven veteran reliever, but two now. There's way too much youth to rely on in this bullpen, and Guzman was going to be the #1 setup man. As it stands right now, this is far from a championship-contending bullpen.

But let's move along to some better news: The first televised game of Chicago Cubs baseball in 2010. I figured I might as well live blog it, even though live-blogging exhibition baseball is sure to get boring fast. Additionally, I assume it will be even more boring for you to read, but let's do this anyway...

Game: Chicago White Sox(0-1) vs. Chicago Cubs(2-0)
Game Time: 2:05 PM CT

Cubs Lineup:
1. Ryan Theriot, SS
2. Kosuke Fukudome, RF
3. Derrek Lee, 1B
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
5. Marlon Byrd, CF
6. Alfonso Soriano, LF
7. Micah Hoffpauir, DH
8. Geovany Soto, C
9. Bobby Scales, 2B

We'll get our first look at pitcher Carlos Silva in a Cubs uniform today, unless he already ate it. Other pitchers scheduled to take the mound include closer Carlos Marmol and hard-throwing prospect Andrew Cashner.

Alright, it's about to get started. Keep an eye out for how Alfonso Soriano and his surgically repaired knee look today. This is his first Spring Training game of 2010.

Top of the 1st

Carlos Silva taking the mound. That's something that always gives you confidence... if you're the other team. Omar Vizquel leading off, takes a first pitch strike from Silva, and another. And that was strike three but the umpire has C.B. Bucknor disease. Silva's sinker moving well, not so much his body though. Vizquel flies out to Fukudome in right.

Single drilled into right-center by some guy whose name I didn't catch.

Carlos Quentin up, and swings through a sinking fastball. Len and Bob say it's supposed to rain tomorrow, when these teams are again on WGN against each other. That guy who I still don't recognize just stole second base. Quentin hits one to Mexico, 2-0 White Sox. So much for that sinker moving well.

Andruw Jones batting. This at bat is the battle of two overpaid fatties well past their prime. It's also a battle of who will resist the urge to leave the field to grab that jelly doughnut. Jones hits a grounder into the hole between third base and shortstop, Theriot gets there, but throws high, infield single. Still, it's a play Theriot should make.

Stolen base from Andruw Jones. That's all you need to know about how long it takes Silva to throw the ball. Now another ball crushed, courtesy of Mark Kotsay. No, this isn't 2004. Off the wall in left-center for an RBI double, 3-0 White Sox. I think it's fair to say Silva's not exactly making his case for the fifth spot in the rotation.

And Brenly with a nice jab at Silva's conditioning. Silva somehow strikes out Mark Teahen.

And another strikeout from Silva. Inning over.

Bottom of the 1st

Interested to see how Theriot looks at the plate. Smaller front leg kick than last year, that's a good sign. Nice compact swing and laces a single into left field.

Fukudome hits into a 4-6-3 double play on the next pitch. This is a fun year already!

D-Lee up. Len mentioned how Derrek came into camp in great shape, and certainly looks that way. Grounds out to short here though.

Top of the 2nd

Rocket right up the middle immediately from the White Sox. Silva isn't fooling anybody.

Perfect bunt single by Lillibridge.

Holy what the hell? Soriano with a diving catch on a low liner in left field. Cannot believe I just saw that. One out, runners on first and second.

Silva with his best pitch of the game, a nasty changeup that gets a swing and a miss on a 2-0 count. 2-2 now. Groundout to Scales.

Quentin destroys one down the left field line... fair ball. Quentin's second homer of the game, five RBI already... 6-0 White Sox.

Bottom of the 2nd

Aramis using an ash bat for the first time that I've seen anyway. Missed what exactly happened, but he's out.

New Cub Marlon Byrd at the plate. Swings through a slider Soriano style. 1-2 count. Rolls a slider to Vizquel, two outs.

Soriano up, takes a fastball, now flies out to left. Looked comfortable at the plate though. Healthy hack.

Top of the 3rd

Lou on the air. Even he's laughing at how bad Silva was.

Carlos Marmol in. Hide the children in rows 1-35. 2-1 slider grounded to Lee at first, one out.

Lou said, "Lilly's going to be out until about the first of May."

Filthy slider from Marmol strikes some dude out. Two outs.

Marmol's fastball actually within a mile of the plate today, and hitting 95 mph on the gun. Another nasty slider for a swinging strikeout. That's the Marmol I want.

Bottom of the 3rd

Micah Hoffpauir cranks one deep to right, but caught at the warning track.

Geovany Soto with a groundball single into left.

Bobby Scales has a 1-2 count. Wild pitch, Soto to second base. Ouch, Scales drilled with a fastball on the arm. He's okay though.

Ryan Theriot doing what I want to see him do: Shoot singles through the right side. Bases loaded.

First pitch to Fukudome, rips it up the middle for a two-run single. 6-2 now.

D-Lee looking fastball on 1-0, swings through a slider. Absolutely ropes one to left but well foul. Lines one hard to fairly deep right, Theriot scores. Lee's sacrifice fly cuts the White Sox lead to 6-3.

Aramis pops out and it isn't happy about it. Inning over.

Top of the 4th

Left-hander James Russell in for the Cubs. I've never seen him pitch. And a walk. I already hate him.

5-4-3 double play. I love you, Russell.

Wow, you can really notice the 40 pounds Soto lost. Moved pretty well on a foul ball pop up. Full count to the 93-year-old Omar Vizquel. Flies out to Byrd in center, inning over.

And the most boring interview in the history of interviews just ended. Thanks Culver's guy.

Bottom of the 4th

Byrd strikes out looking.

Soriano actually takes a slider. More of that please. Takes a fastball high, 2-0. Swings at a slider, pops out to shallow right.

Full count on Hollywood Hoffpauir. Something happened, my friend distracted me. But the inning's over.

Top of the 5th

Russell strikes some guy out.

And another out, followed by an Andruw Jones single.

Jones almost ran again. What year does he think this is? Len says Jim Hendry is coming on the broadcast soon.

Kotsay pokes a single into left, goes through Soriano's legs as usual, Jones scores from first. 7-3 White Sox.

Inning ended somehow. Like you care.

Bottom of the 5th

Soto's stance is more upright as well. Drills one off the pitcher, ball goes flying over the shortstop's head for a single.

Andres Blanco pinch-running for Soto. Bobby Duck Scales walks. Two on, no outs.

Theriot hits into a double play... and of course they immediately start talking about Starlin Castro and show him in the dugout.

Fukudome strikes out swinging. Gotta love a nice Cubs tease rally.

Top of the 6th

Andrew Cashner in to pitch. Jim Hendry in the booth.

Cashner all over the place, as we've heard can be the case with him. Ball four. Ball eight. Two on, no outs. Another ball... but new catcher Welington Castillo picks off the baserunner at second with an incredible throw. However, Andres Blanco spiked badly on the play and has to leave the game.

Starlin Castro in at shortstop!

Hendry talking about how Xavier Nady will start out on the bench, at least until his arm gets better. Hendry talking up the hell out of Castro. Also saying how well Rudy Jaramillo's done as the new hitting coach.

RBI single for the White Sox from somebody, 8-3. I've quit trying to figure out who these no-names on the White Sox are.

Hendry said about Cashner, "He's going to be an outstanding pitcher for us." Line drive run down by Soriano in left, inning over.

Bottom of the 6th

2-1 pitch to Lee that should be a ball is called a strike. Bounces out to Dayan Viciedo at third.

Aramis grounds out the first pitch to shortstop.

Byrd does something bad. Inning over.

Top of the 7th

Ozzie Guillen's having sex with a folding chair.

Cashner with a better inning, including a strikeout to close it out.

Bottom of the 7th

Tyler Colvin at the plate, strikes out. He was drilling the ball the previous two games.

Two down and Starlin Castro up... strikes out.

Top of the 8th

Ah, this is fun. Some little kid hits a homer for the White Sox, 9-3.

Chad Tracy in at third base for the Cubs. Another homer by some guy, 10-3.

A couple more hits. Breaking: This Jeff Kennard fellow is not good.

And a walk. Bases loaded. Blah blah blah blah.

Somehow Kennard gets a couple outs, but then there's a two-run single. 12-3 White Sox.

I don't think I'll be live-blogging tomorrow's game...

Bottom of the 8th

A couple of weak groundouts, the last of which from Welington Castillo. Two down.

James Adduci with a nice piece of hitting and lines a single into left.

Len and Bob are talking about how Ron Santo chipped a tooth last week while eating pizza. Apparently they serve rock pizza in the suburbs of Phoenix.

Top of the 9th

John Grabow getting hit hard. If that continues, there's no hope for this bullpen.

Three-run homer by Jayson Nix, 15-3.

I'm gonna be honest with you... I stopped watching after that. This looks like another fun year in Cubdom!

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So it begins...

Cubs Begin Cactus League Play Today (WaxPaperBeerCup)

Alfonso Soriano's Knee Is Going To Be An Issue All Year (Bleacher Nation)

It's D-Lee Vs. X-Man In Steel Cage Showdown! (The Cub Reporter)

Media Casting Kevin Millar As Tinkerbell (Tales From Aisle 424)

2010 Player Preview: Randy Wells
(GoatRiders Of The Apocalypse)

Is Andrew Cashner A Groundball Pitcher? (Cubs f/x)

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