Monday, March 19, 2007

guzman slotted for long relief

says the trib:

With the ability of Angel Guzman and the versatility of Ryan Theriot in mind, manager Lou Piniella is inching closer to finalizing his 25-man squad.

On Sunday, he virtually named Guzman the team's long reliever, a spot he believes is vitally important in case one of his starters struggles early. That leaves Wade Miller as the fifth starter and Prior in limbo.

Piniella has professed his love of Guzman all spring, despite mixed results. And now he said he believes he has found Guzman's problem.

"We moved him over to the right side of the rubber," Piniella said after watching a Sunday morning throwing session. "It creates a different angle to the hitter. He felt comfortable with it. I feel that it will help him, especially to right-handed hitters."

Bringing Guzman along as a long man, Piniella said, will finally make the one-time hot prospect into a legitimate big-league pitcher.

"Quite frankly, that's the way you should bring up a young pitcher," he said. "Put him in long relief and let him get some experience there. … He can be protected, but at the same time he'll get his work and watch other major-league pitchers the way they go about their pitches."

it's a fitting result for guzman, who pitched well in his latest trial and measurably better than miller all spring.

confirming what was previously expected, kerry wood's performance this week will sway the fate of rocky cherry:

Piniella said Wood threw on flat ground Sunday, and he is expected to throw a side session Tuesday.

"If he can do that, then we can get him pitching by Thursday or Friday," Piniella said. "If not … time is running out on him. He's only pitched three innings all spring, so we'll see.

"I like Guzman and I like Cherry. I would feel very comfortable with either kid in our mix. Whether that happens or not, I don't know, but I like both pitchers."

it's difficult for this page to comprehend why the contest would be between wood, michael wuertz and cherry while neal cotts is somehow not mentioned. cotts has been one of the worst pitchers in camp coming off a disaster year in 2006. this could well be a case of the general manager's ego driving a roster decision -- jim hendry traded david aardsma for cotts this offseason, and certainly doesn't want to be seen to take the short end of the stick though aardsma has not been impressive thusfar this spring either -- but the injuries to wood and wuertz tend to cloud the situation from such a judgment. more will be known if or when a healthy wuertz and cherry remain in iowa while cotts stays in the majors.

but it does look as though ronny cedeno is still alive, at the expense of angel pagan.

With 12 pitchers, the Cubs have room for only five extra players, four not counting backup catcher Henry Blanco.

The favorites are Theriot, Daryle Ward, the winner of the Ronny Cedeno/Tomas Perez infield battle and the left fielder who doesn't start, either Matt Murton or Cliff Floyd.

Though that would seem to leave the Cubs an outfielder short—if injury-slowed Angel Pagan indeed doesn't make it—the hole would be covered by Theriot or Mark DeRosa, infielders who have been used in right field.

"I could put one of those two kids in right field … when I rest Jacque Jones [against left-handers]," Piniella said. "Theriot grows on you. He's a sparkplug-type of little player. He's got a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of energy."

theriot will do little, however, to shore up a poor defensive outfield. the concerns that have lingered about cesar izturis' hamstring have cast a long shadow over pagan, it seems -- izturis has, after all, taken only 22 at-bats this spring in 11 games. the team apparently (and perhaps rightfully) doesn't consider mark derosa or theriot to be sufficient cover for shortstop, putting cedeno or (though a much longer shot as a non-roster invitee) tomas perez in a position to make the club. this writer would dourly submit that it says something ghastly about the team that cedeno may make the cut; one has to hope that he doesn't much see the field.

the updated chart:

1Carlos ZambranoRyan DempsterScott Eyre*Michael BarrettDerrek LeeMatt Murton
2Ted Lilly*Bob HowryWill Ohman*Henry BlancoMark DerosaAlfonso Soriano
3Jason MarquisKerry WoodNeal Cotts*Cesar Izturis**Jacque Jones*
4Rich Hill*Rocky CherryAramis RamirezCliff Floyd*
5Wade MillerRoberto NovoaRyan TheriotDaryle Ward*
6Angel GuzmanMichael WuertzRonny CedenoAngel Pagan**
7Mark PriorTomas Perez**Buck Coats*

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