Ronny Cedeno struggled last year after being handed the starting shortstop job in the off-season and was considered a long shot to make the team when camp opened in mid-February.
But after working with former shortstop Alan Trammell, Cedeno's fielding has improved this spring and he's considered a cinch to make the final roster next week.
"I've been very comfortable with seeing the progress Cedeno has made in camp," manager Lou Piniella said. "We've asked him to do a few things both defensively and offensively, and he has responded.
"I told [general manager Jim Hendry] this morning, I don't think we need to go out and do anything, unless he really thinks we're going to improve our team. I'm comfortable with all the pieces we have here. We can make it work with what we have here."
it seems to this writer that one or more of a few things can be learned here.
perhaps captain lou isn't quite the judge of talent we'd all like him to be, especially now in the honeymoon (which is shortly enough to end).
perhaps general manager jim hendry has forced his idiot will upon piniella, refusing to find him the proper middle infielder that jacque jones could almost certainly bring in trade.
but the most likely thing to be learned, one suspects, is that cesar izturis is not going to play anything like a full season at shortstop. if izturis were healthy, there's simply little reason to keep cedeno on the roster. this team is short both an outfielder who can hit righthanded pitching and a competent defensive outfielder -- a role that angel pagan could fill. not one of the cub outfielders at present is an even average defender. moreover, cedeno can't hit -- and only the slight improvement of his range over ryan theriot's or mark derosa's recommends him to shortstop, for his fielding overall is catastrophic and frankly as far beyond the means of new coach alan trammel to fix this spring as it was for cub coaching to fix all last year (as was repeatedly promised to the gullible in the midst of cedeno's travails).
instead, it seems that izturis' problematic hamstring -- which has limited him to just 28 at-bats this spring -- will force cedeno into the lineup with disgusting regularity until or unless an actually-competent backup shortstop can be found. despite what piniella is saying to the press, the club clearly needs one desperately.
as spring training enters the final week, hendry stands a good chance at finding just such a player among the late cuts of the other clubs in baseball. time will tell who hits the wire, but this page is here pleading -- cruller jim, find us someone. anyone. anyone but cedeno. giving this player 200 at-bats spelling izturis is not something a winning club can do.
the updated chart:
|1||Carlos Zambrano||Ryan Dempster||Scott Eyre*||Michael Barrett||Derrek Lee||Matt Murton|
|2||Ted Lilly*||Bob Howry||Will Ohman*||Henry Blanco||Mark Derosa||Alfonso Soriano|
|3||Jason Marquis||Michael Wuertz||Neal Cotts*||Cesar Izturis**||Jacque Jones*|
|4||Rich Hill*||Kerry Wood||Aramis Ramirez||Cliff Floyd*|
|5||Wade Miller||Roberto Novoa||Ryan Theriot||Daryle Ward*|
|6||Angel Guzman||Rocky Cherry||Ronny Cedeno||Angel Pagan**|
|7||Mark Prior||Tomas Perez||Buck Coats*|