February 2011

2/28 Welcome home

Kerry Wood received a standing ovation from the fans at HoHoKam Park on Monday as he entered for his first spring appearance with the Cubs. He was more concerned about his fastball. Wood, back with the Cubs after pitching two seasons in the American League with the Indians and the Yankees, decided being home was most important and signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract in December.

“It was nice to get out there and get the first one out of the way,” Wood said. “The fan response was great.”

The Brewers weren’t as receptive. Luis Cruz singled to lead off the sixth and moved up on a wild pitch. Two outs later, he scored on a triple by Caleb Gindl, who tallied on Zelous Wheeler’s double.

Wood was happy with his breaking pitches, and acknowledged he threw a lot of fastballs, and the Brewers didn’t miss. The ovation was sweet.

“[Coming back] never was about trying to get a reception, it was more about being home,” said Wood, who has made Chicago his offseason home. “It’s better than getting booed off the field when you come off.”

He’s been staying under the radar this spring. That’s a veteran move.

“I know when they let [the media] in [to the clubhouse] and I know when you go out,” he said, laughing.

— Carrie Muskat

2/28 Looking ahead

Here’s the early lineup for the Cubs’ game Wednesday vs. the Brewers. It will be Carlos Silva’s first spring start:

RF Fukudome
SS Castro
CF Byrd
3B Ramirez
1B Pena
LF Soriano
2B DeWitt
C Hill
P Silva

— Carrie Muskat

2/28 Cubs early notes

Here’s the lineup for Monday’s game vs. a split-squad Brewers team at HoHoKam Park:

CF Reed Johnson
SS Darwin Barney
RF Tyler Colvin
LF Alfonso Soriano
1B Carlos Pena
2B Jeff Baker
3B Marquez Smith
C Koyie Hill
P Randy Wells

Also slated to pitch are Andrew Cashner, Sean Marshall and Kerry Wood.

* If manager Mike Quade has his way, the Cubs won’t make any roster cuts until the off day, March 16. The team has four split squad days coming up, including March 6, March 12-13, and March 15. The first full squad workout for the Cubs’ Minor Leaguers will be March 10, with the first games there March 19.

* Asked if he would ever consider inserting his pitcher into a spot in the lineup other than ninth, Quade said no, although added, “you never say never.” He feels the worst hitter bats ninth. Just don’t tell Carlos Zambrano he said that.

* Colvin will also get a start in left field this week as well as first base. Colvin made two errors in Sunday’s game. Quade talked to outfield coach Bob Dernier about the miscues.

“Mistakes happen,” Quade said. “What concerns me are patterns. You make a mistake, address it and move on. If you make the same mistake over and over, then we’ll have an issue. It’s OK to make a mistake, but if it becomes repeated mistakes, I’m concerned. It was Game One yesterday, did we get sloppy? Absolutely. Did it make me mad? Yeah, it did. In a few weeks, I would probably have a different approach. Colvin established himself enough to me last year to deserve a little time.”

* Angel Guzman threw 30 pitches in a side session Sunday and is on schedule to face hitters in a live BP session Wednesday. Guzman is coming back from right shoulder surgery one year ago.

— Carrie Muskat

2/28 Cashner – UPDATED

Andrew Cashner pitched two innings in relief on Monday for the Cubs. The team wants to see if he’s could make the transition to the rotation. Expect him to get a start later this spring.

“We’re going to find out,” Quade said Monday. “I was thrilled to death to see him in the bullpen [last year]. From the standpoint of the future of this organization, if he can be a high end starter, if he can be a top line starter, and we don’t find that out, it would probably be a mistake. Maybe he could be a top end closer but we just signed a top end closer [Carlos Marmol] for three years and, knock on wood, that’s going to be a great three years.

“The time seems right,” Quade said. “[Cashner] got his feet wet last year and he had some success on the role we asked. Let’s see if he can expand on that. There’s no guarantees but we think he has the stuff, the makeup and the willingness.”

Cashner did start in the Minor Leagues before his call-up last season. Both he and James Russell have said they want to start, and are working with pitching coach Mark Riggins on developing command of their pitches. The Cubs do have four days of split squad games coming up and Cashner and Russell could get starts then.

On Monday, Cashner gave up two runs on three hits in two innings against the Brewers. Kerry Wood has been impressed.

“He’s a young strong kid and more than anything, he has the desire to learn,” Wood said. “He wants to learn how to pitch and wants to ask questions and he’s asking the right questions. He’s got to be patient with himself. He’s got all this power and he’s such a strong kid that he has to be patient with this stuff. He wants it to happen right away. He’s got the desire to be great.”

— Carrie Muskat

2/27 Garza gets 1st hit

Matt Garza wasn’t too bothered by his pitching line from his first game with the Cubs. He had a ball in his locker from his first hit — ever.

Garza, who has spent his entire career in the American League, led off the fourth with a single down the first base line. Someone from the A’s threw the ball into the Cubs dugout so Garza would have the souvenir.

“That’s exciting,” Garza said. “I’ve been working with [hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo] and a bunch of the other coaches and before the game I was out there swinging with ‘Z’ and Rudy was watching and said, ‘Hey, get ready earlier and try to put the bat on the ball.’ That’s what I was trying to do is not strike out and look foolish.”

When he got to first, Oakland’s Daric Barton told him not to smile but Garza couldn’t help it.

“I said, ‘Dude, it’s my first hit,'” Garza said. “He said, ‘Just turn around and smile.’ It’s a good jumping off point.”

The Cubs were laughing about it.

“Today my job was to get outs and I got six of them,” Garza said, “but not the way I wanted to go about it. It’s spring, I wasn’t throwing any breaking balls today, just fastballs and changeups. My location was off. It’s spring. At least the ball felt good coming out of my hand, it felt very explosive towards home plate. Everything that needs to be there is there.”

— Carrie Muskat

2/27 Toast Harry & Ron on Tuesday

The 13th annual worldwide toast to Harry Caray will be Tuesday at 5:55 p.m. CT with a special tribute to Ron Santo. Leading the toasts at Harry Caray’s restaurant on Kinzie Street in downtown Chicago will be Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, Ron Santo Jr., former Bears player Richard Dent and Dutchie Caray.

— Carrie Muskat

2/27 Colvin to start at 1B this week

Tyler Colvin will start at first base later this week, either Thursday or Friday, manager Mike Quade said Sunday. Quade talked to Colvin about getting him a start. “It’ll happen this week for sure,” Quade said. And Colvin’s response? “He [says], ‘Great — yeah, let’s go,'” Quade said. The Cubs want to see if Colvin can play first as well as the outfield to give them a backup for Carlos Pena.

— Carrie Muskat

2/27 Winning is everything

Cactus League games don’t count in the regular season standings, obviously, but Lou Piniella didn’t like to lose in Spring Training. How does Mike Quade feel about wins and losses in spring?

“I care a little bit,” Quade said Sunday. “I’m more interested in performance, in progress and in the process, which I talked about a lot when I first took over last year. You want to win ballgames, you want to compete well and you feel like if you do, you will. Unlike the regular season where you might take a sub-par performance and get a win, if we come out of here and execute the play well and somebody beats us in the ninth, that’s OK. Lou didn’t like to lose at anything and he was incredibly competitive and you pick up on that very quickly as does the club.”

— Carrie Muskat

2/27 Bob Howry retires

When reliever Andrew Cashner was first called up to the Cubs on May 31 in Pittsburgh, his locker was next to veteran Bob Howry.

“I was real quiet when I first came up,” Cashner said Sunday, “and [Howry] was talking to me and the first thing he said was that he liked my boots and it kind of went from there.”

On Saturday night, Cashner was among several players who went to a surprise party for Howry, 37, who has retired after 13 seasons in the big leagues. The right-hander started in 1998 with the White Sox, and pitched for the Red Sox, Indians, Cubs, Giants, and Diamondbacks.

“He worked hard and I just tried to listen and watch and see what he does,” Cashner said. “He’s been in the game long enough to stay in it. He had a lot of advice and a lot of wise words and he was a good friend.”

Howry’s last game was July 28 at Houston with the Cubs. He finishes with a career 3.84 ERA, 66 saves and 787 2/3 innings over 769 games. Cashner and Cubs reliever James Russell bought a pair of boots as a present for Howry.

“He was nothing but nice to all of us,” Cashner said.

— Carrie Muskat

2/27 Play ball

They pulled the tarp off the field at 9:30 a.m. MT Sunday at HoHoKam Park and there should be no problem getting the Cubs’ first Cactus League game in vs. the Athletics. First pitch 1:05 p.m. Mountain Time/2:05 p.m. Central Time. You can listen on WGN Radio as Pat Hughes & Keith Moreland begin their first season together. The first TV broadcast will be in one week when the Cubs play host to the Dodgers. This is the Cubs’ 33rd consecutive spring in Mesa, the longest active streak in the Cactus League.

Manager Mike Quade said he’ll take a moment before the game starts, just as he did before his first game in the big leagues as a coach and first game as the Cubs manager back on Aug. 23. He’s done his part to improve communications, and posted not just the starting lineup but also the backups at each position. He’s also posting lineups three days in advance.

“No one can say they weren’t ready if they see three days of lineups,” he said.

Here’s Sunday’s lineup in case you missed it:

RF Fukudome
SS Castro
CF Byrd
3B Ramirez
1B Pena
LF Soriano
C Soto
2B DeWitt
P Zambrano

Also slated to pitch are Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Marmol, John Grabow, Marcos Mateo and Justin Berg. Expect Zambrano and Garza to go two innings each.

— Carrie Muskat