Tuesday, March 20, 2007

the last spots

further roster clarity has arrived via cubs.com and the sun-times. the team trumpet:

Michael Wuertz has made the Opening Day 25-man roster.

"He competes well, he throws strikes, he's done a nice job," Piniella said of the right-hander, who compiled a 2.66 ERA in 41 games last season for the Cubs. "As long as he stays healthy the rest of the spring and gets his work in, he'll be on the team."

That leaves one bullpen spot open, and youngsters Angel Guzman and Rocky Cherry are battling for that vacancy. Both have impressed Piniella this spring.

it's excellent news that the cubs think wuertz -- one of their most effective relievers of 2006 -- will be ready, though it's somewhat worse news for cherry. moreover, the bright one thinks that battle isn't a fair one at this point.

Manager Lou Piniella said after Monday's split-squad sweep of Seattle and Milwaukee that two jobs remained open, including one in the bullpen, but barring an injury or unforeseen meltdown by Angel Guzman today, the 12-man pitching staff appears sewn up.

cherry seems set for iowa. but the bad news is clearly that kerry wood's triceps tear isn't responding as well as anyone would like, and that he will join mark prior in extended spring training.

Neither Wood nor Prior has had enough innings this spring to be ready, and only two weeks remain before the start of the regular season. Wood has pitched in three games and gone one inning in each. Prior has totaled 3 1/3 innings in two games, and he also threw four innings in a Minor League intrasquad game.

The 30-year-old Wood, who is switching from the rotation to the bullpen, could make four more spring outings before the Cubs head to Cincinnati for their regular-season opener. Since this is a new role for Wood, the Cubs would prefer to ease him into it.

"That's not a lot [of innings]," Piniella said. "In fairness to the pitcher, give him 10, 12, 13, 14 innings of work, and back-to-back days, and maybe a two-inning stint at one time, and that's part of a bullpen regimen.

"We're running out of time, as far as that's concerned," Piniella said.

Both pitchers could remain in Arizona when the team breaks camp. Prior has opened the season on the disabled list the last three years, while Wood began last year on the DL. The two have been one of the pregame topics Piniella has had to address nearly every day this spring.

which leaves the last roster battle still to be decided:

That leaves a potentially critical spot on what already will be a thin bench, and Piniella said he's not sure whether it'll go to an infielder (Tomas Perez, Ronny Cedeno?) or an outfielder (Angel Pagan?).

Pinch-hitter Daryle Ward, who's defensively limited to left field and first base, has one of the five bench spots, along with backup catcher Henry Blanco and versatile utility man Ryan Theriot (four hits Monday and four positions played this spring). Another is taken by the Cliff Floyd/Matt Murton half of the left-field pseudo-platoon that isn't playing on a particular day.

The Cubs are looking at the possibility of trading for an infielder to fill that spot, but the trade winds have moved slowly this year for all teams, and it seems more likely that job will be filled from within.
Either way, Piniella said he's seeking versatility from that last bench player to help overcome the limitations he already faces on the bench.

''That's why once we cut down here, we'll start moving people around even a little more, just to try to take care of that,'' said Piniella, who plans to make a second round of substantial cuts after today's trip to Tucson.

this page is glad to see someone in a major publication call the bench what it is -- "thin". considering how little cesar izturis has seen the field, as previously mentioned, it would sadly be no surprise to see the cubs take cedeno and relegate pagan to the minors. perez, as a non-roster invitee without a spot on the 40-man, seems much less likely a choice.

ryan theriot, though he did play shortstop as high as double-a, may not be the kind of defensive player that can handle the position in the majors. his minor league fielding record, which indicates 40 errors in 817 chances over 189 games at the position -- a .951 fielding percentage, well under izturis' .961, and indicative perhaps of a lack of range in managing just 4.3 chances a game. if izturis is going to play only two of every three days, the cubs may want someone who can field the position better than that regardless of his offense.

of course, cedeno is no answer to that problem. theriot's fielding percentage as a shortstop rather shames cedeno's egregious .936 at all levels, and anyone who watched cedeno in 2006 saw clearly that he is not a major league player. but this is the cubs, after all, and that cedeno has been tagged by the general manager as a "shortstop prospect" is traditionally ninety percent of what matters.

1Carlos ZambranoRyan DempsterScott Eyre*Michael BarrettDerrek LeeMatt Murton
2Ted Lilly*Bob HowryWill Ohman*Henry BlancoMark DerosaAlfonso Soriano
3Jason MarquisMichael WuertzNeal Cotts*Cesar Izturis**Jacque Jones*
4Rich Hill*Kerry WoodAramis RamirezCliff Floyd*
5Wade MillerRoberto NovoaRyan TheriotDaryle Ward*
6Angel GuzmanRocky CherryRonny CedenoAngel Pagan**
7Mark PriorTomas PerezBuck Coats*

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