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by Derek Smart
We've only got two more weeks left of exhibition games, so it seems like a good time to run through who's been doing what out in Arizona. This stuff may not mean a lot, but at least it's distracting.
Looks like Aramis is ready to go, and since he's simply picked up where he left off after returning from his finger issues, I think it's safe to put any concerns about lingering problems stemming from the infection to rest. Now, if he can just keep his legs.....
It's nice to see Murton getting it done early, if only to give him something of a cushion if he slips a bit upon traveling to cooler climes. Of course, drawing any conclusions this early is folly, as Jacque Jones' obviously made-up line proves with ease.
One of the fun things about Barrett and Blanco being off at the WBC for most of the Spring has been the opportunity to get a couple other guys some time in camp, and both Soto and Fox have responded nicely. Of the two of them, I think Fox has the better chance to eventually be something useful, so hopefully this will serve as a catalyst for greater things.
On the pitching side, I know we're dealing with even smaller sample sizes, but the expensive newbies, Mssrs. Eyre and Howry, are looking pretty good. Eyre in particular is impressing with 6 strikeouts and only 3 hits allowed. Also, while I doubt he'll get the job, Sean Marshall is making it difficult for the Cubs to write him off in the hunt for Mark Prior's early season proxy. In other news, Zambrano's still pretty good, and Greg Maddux ain't so bad himself.
The race for second base looks pretty tight, but my gut is if both Walker and Hairston are hitting decently and their batting average is within about 15 points of each other, Hairston will get the job. Again, it's not what I want, it's just what I think will happen.
The issue that will keep Restovich from breaking with the team (beyond, perhaps, his lack of a good body and clean living) is his strikeouts. In those 27 at bats he's struck out 9 times, which works out to be nearly 167 Ks over the course of 500 at bats. I just don't see the club looking past that issue and seeing the potential positives, so he'll start in Iowa.
I struggled with where to put Pie, or whether I should include him at all. His average isn't horrible, but his OBP is, yet when he's hitting the ball his power and speed have combined to give him three triples thus far. Still, despite the horrible on-base work, an ISO of .304 is pretty darn impressive, so here he stays.
Brandon Sing can hit the ball very, very hard.
There's not much to see here, since I'm trying to show what's going on that's demonstratively good or bad and most Cub hurlers are either on one of the two extremes or squarely mediocre. The thing of note here is that Ryu's doing quite nicely, and as a result, is one of the guys being looked at for duty come mid-April.
The only thing likely saving Cedeno from a pine-bejeweled fate is the craptacular performance the Human Exclamation Point is turning in. Of course, Cedeno needs to use the Spring to prove himself, while Neifi! is merely using this time to get his timing together. In other words, Spring Training means both everything and nothing, depending on who's being measured, and if that doesn't make your head spin and stomach churn you're made of tougher stuff than me.
Say, how's that trade for a leadoff guy working out? Again, for Juan it's only Spring, but if nothing else the above line further illustrates how badly he needs to hit over .300 to be of use at the top of the order. I think he can, and I even believe he will, but it still gives me the yips.
You may have noticed that rumors are starting to surface about the Cubs looking to acquire another starter now that Prior may be out for an extended period. However, while I have no doubt the club is trying to play the market, my guess would be that only some of the desire to deal comes from the injury to The Franchise.
One look at the work turned in thus far by nominal starters Jerome Williams and Glendon Rusch makes me think Jim Hendry would be on his phone whether Prior was hurt or not. There's not a thing encouraging about any of it, especially from Williams, so one has to believe, Spring or not, that this early lack of effectiveness is a factor.
I normally wouldn't have even mentioned Guzman's two innings, but since his start today might go a long way toward earning him a mid-April call-up, I thought it merited some notice. That and the fact that Rich Hill has done nothing to make himself useful as either a pitcher or trade-bait.
I have no idea how a pitcher gives up nearly two hits per inning, while striking out 3 per 9, and only comes out of it with a 7.00 ERA. Yet, there's Todd Wellemeyer doing it just the same, while Wuertz, who hasn't been much worse, has an ERA that can best be described as cata-freakin-clysmic.
Wellemeyer hasn't given up a dinger, so that's part of the formula (although Wuertz has only coughed up one himself), but beyond that I haven't a clue, unless other pitchers are coming in to consistently save his bacon.
Now if only someone would do the same for the Cubs as a whole.