December 2010

12/31 Winter ball update

Cubs prospect Brad Snyder had one of five hits by Escogido in a 2-1 loss to the Toros, who got five hitless innings by Miguel de los Santos. Starlin Castro was 0-for-3 in the game. The Dominican League will take Friday and Saturday off. On Sunday, Escogido (3-2) will play Estrellas (2-3), and the Toros (3-2) will play the Gigantes (2-3) as they try to determine who will represent the Dominican in the Caribbean series.

— Carrie Muskat

12/30 Winter ball update

Cubs prospect Aaron Shafer gave up one run on four hits over six innings for his first win in Caguas’ 8-2 victory over Mayaguez in Venezuela on Wednesday. The right-hander struck out two. A second-round pick in 2008, Shafer had a 0.96 ERA in 24 relief appearances at Class A Daytona and a 5.03 ERA in 25 games at Double-A Tennessee.

Jeff Gray picked up his fourth save and second in as many outings for Zulia to preserve a 5-3 win over La Guaira. Gray gave up one run over two innings.

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro went 1-for-3 with a third-inning sacrifice
fly in Escogido’s 4-2 win over Gigantes Wednesday in the Dominican
Winter League. Escogido improved to 3-1 in its bid for a berth in the
Caribbean Series and faces Los Toros Thursday.

— Carrie Muskat

12/29 Looking ahead

Will the Cubs be quiet on New Year’s Eve? Or will it be like last year when they signed outfielder Marlon Byrd to a three-year deal on Dec. 31, 2009? Remember New Year’s Eve 2008? On that date, the Cubs signed infielder Aaron Miles and traded Mark DeRosa to the Indians for Chris Archer, John Gaub and Jeff Stevens. Archer was named the organization’s Minor League pitcher of the year in 2010.

Heading into 2011, the Cubs’ only major piece of unfinished business is to sign arbitration eligible players Carlos Marmol, Tom Gorzelanny, Sean Marshall, Geovany Soto, and Koyie Hill. Jeff Baker also was arb eligible but he signed on Dec. 2 for $1.18 million. The arbitration filing period is Jan. 5-15, and figures are Jan. 18 if a resolution is not reached. Hearings take place in February.

Other dates to remember: The Cubs Convention will be Jan. 14-16 at the Hilton Chicago.

— Carrie Muskat

12/29 Winter ball update

Cubs prospect Marwin Gonzalez went 3-for-5 with five RBIs in Caracas’ 18-5 win over Magallanes on Tuesday in Venezuela. Gonzalez, a switch-hitting infielder whom the Cubs signed out of Venezuela in 2005, batted .271 in 23 games with Class A Daytona and .246 in 86 games with Double-A Tennessee.

In the Dominican Republic, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro went 1-for-4, hitting an RBI single in the fifth, in Escogido’s 6-4 win over Gigantes. Former Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon started for Escogido and gave up three earned runs on 12 hits over 5 2/3 innings. Escogido and Gigantes play again Wednesday.

— Carrie Muskat

12/28 Winter ball roundup

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro went 2-for-4, hitting a two-run double in the fourth, in Escogido’s 5-4 loss to los Toros on Monday in the Dominican Winter League. Castro also tried to score with one out in the ninth but was thrown out at home. On Tuesday, Escogido (1-1) plays host to los Gigantes, who are 2-0 so far in the playoffs.

In Venezuela, Cubs prospect Marwin Gonzalez had a hit, three walks and scored twice in Caracas’ 6-5 win over Lara. Also, Cubs pitcher Jeff Gray threw 1 1/3 innings for his third save in Zulia’s 6-3 win over Magallanes.

New Cubs bench coach Pat Listach guided Ponce to a doubleheader sweep of Caguas on Monday. Listach is managing in Puerto Rico this winter.

— Carrie Muskat

12/27 Winter ball update

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in Escogido’s 6-0 win over Estrellas on Sunday. He hit a RBI single in the first and added another in the eighth. Cubs prospect Bryan LaHair was 1-for-4 for Estrellas. On Monday, Escogido plays host to Los Toros. Escogido, Estrellas, los Toros and los Gigantes are vying to represent the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Series.

— Carrie Muskat

12/27 Mark Prior update

Former Cubs pitcher Mark Prior tells the New York Daily News that after all the rehab, he’s ready to try again. Prior, 30, signed a Minor League contract with the Yankees that will pay him $750,000
if he makes the team. He will be reunited with Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who caught Prior in his debut game May 22, 2002, vs. the Pirates (a 7-4 Chicago win), and pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

“I think a lot of people wonder if I’m bitter,” Prior told the New York Daily News. “But I’m not. I’m blessed to have three healthy kids, a loving family and friends. When I was a rookie, did I have a vision of what my career would be? Absolutely. Has it gone that way? Absolutely not. But that’s life.

“I think I’ve proved, at least to myself, that I’ve been able to overcome a lot. I’m looking forward to this next chapter in my career. I knew back then that I was getting to the big leagues, but there are no guarantees at this phase … Now I’m hoping to turn the page and reclaim my baseball career.”

Prior, whom the Cubs selected in the first round of the 2001 Draft with the second pick overall, was sidelined because of bizarre injuries. He collided with Marcus Giles while running the bases in 2003, and took a line drive off his elbow in ’05. His failure to live up to the hype was often blamed on high pitch counts.

“Did I have a high workload? Yes,” Prior told the Daily News. “But did I have freak injuries? Yes. Did those have a role? Probably. Maybe not. I got out of the business of asking … I don’t think anyone has the answer. I was arguing to stay in those games. If I knew then what I know now, would I have argued? Maybe. What competitor says, ‘Take me out.’ People get hurt. It’s part of the game.”

After another shoulder injury in ’09, he decided to try rest rather than undergo surgery. He has not pitched in the big leagues since 2006 and now is projected as a reliever, not a starter.

“It hasn’t been easy,” Prior said. “I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times I said, ‘Enough is enough.’ In 2009, I thought long and hard about it. I had done everything I could for two years and it wasn’t working. But I didn’t want to be 35 and say, ‘Man, if I had given myself extra time, I could’ve gotten healthy.’ It’s worth being patient now rather than having regrets.”

— Carrie Muskat

12/26 Happy holidays

Best wishes to everyone, and thanks for following the Cubs here. Here’s to a healthy and winning 2011!

— Carrie Muskat

12/23 Cubs Caravan

Cleveland Elementary School of Chicago was the winner in the first “Visit My School” Contest, held in conjunction with the annual Cubs Caravan. The caravan will include the school as one of its stops, Jan. 12-13.

The winter caravan features two tours of players, coaches and front office personnel visiting six cities, five elementary schools and two high schools. The caravan also will make stops at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital; Boys and Girls Club of Rockford; Lincoln Library in Springfield; and the USO of Illinois at the Great Lakes Naval Academy.

The “Visit My School” contest was new. The Cleveland Elementary School was selected from more than 75 contest entries for its enthusiasm and knowledge of the Cubs. Each year, the school hosts a rally on Opening Day to support its favorite team in the new season. Teachers host a door decorating contest where classrooms compete for the best Cubs design. On game days, Cleveland School students are encouraged to wear their Cubs jerseys in place of their standard school uniform. Cubs scores are included in the school’s morning announcements following each game day.  

To promote literacy, education and fitness, the two-day Cubs Caravan also will appear at six different schools. There will be two groups. On Jan. 12, tour group No. 1 will visit Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago; Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse, Chicago; Cleveland Elementary School, Chicago.

On Jan. 13, tour group No. 1 will go to the Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill.; and the O’Brien Field/River Plex in Peoria, Ill.

On Jan. 12, the second tour group will make stops at Lake View High School, Chicago; Mt. Carmel Academy, Chicago; Harry Caray’s Steakhouse, Chicago; Prospect High School, Mt. Prospect, Ill.; and the Boys & Girls Club of Rockford, Ill. The next day, the tour will include stops at Augustus H. Burley School, Chicago; St. Luke Academy, Chicago; Harriet Beecher Stowe School, Chicago; and the USO of Illinois, Great Lakes, Ill.

The caravan is the kickoff event for the Cubs Convention, to be held Jan. 14-16 at the Hilton Chicago.

— Carrie Muskat

12/23 Cubs search for Santo replacement

The Cubs and WGN Radio have begun their search to find a new analyst to partner with  play-by-play man Pat Hughes and fill Ron Santo’s seat in the booth. Santo died Dec. 3. He was 70.

“We wanted to do this as respectfully as we could,” WGN-AM 720 sports director Dave Eanet told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s not something we wanted to plunge right into. But we’re not too far from Spring Training and there is a vacant seat in the booth. Having said that, we know we’re not going to replace Ron Santo.”

The Cubs and WGN will work together in the search. Hughes, who received a five-year extension through the 2015 season on Monday, has been consulted. Eanet said they hope to have a decision in time for the Cubs Convention, Jan. 14-16 at the Hilton Chicago.

The job description on the Tribune Co.’s website says the preferred candidate will have played with the Cubs or have played Major League baseball with previous broadcast experience as a game analyst. Eanet said it’s not a prerequisite that Santo’s replacement be a former Cubs player.

Who would you like to hear on the radio?

— Carrie Muskat