The last batch of significant questions asked to the powers that be involved health: the status of Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, and Wade Miller, and why so many players suffered injuries last season.
When a fan asked Jim Hendry Saturday morning about the club's efforts to keep Prior healthy, specifically Lou Piniella's involvement and plans for the coming season, Hendry demonstrated some sound judgment in not counting on Prior to help anchor the rotation.
"There is nothing Lou can do about Prior's health," Hendry said. "Prior is throwing well, but we're covered depth-wise. We think [Rich] Hill is here to stay. [Sean] Marshall had a fine season before he was sidetracked by a non-pitching injury. We've got Wade Miller as well."
Hendry also talked about the large number of young pitchers Juan Mateo, Carlos Marmol and company who saw major league action last year, and, of course, Carlos Zambrano, the team's Opening Day starter. As for Prior's early season prospects, Hendry said, "Lou and Larry [Rothschild] will get him ready. Right now we're cautiously-optimistic about him."
Piniella made mention of the abundance of pitchers, saying that he's in an ideal situation with eight potential starters for five spots.
Kerry Wood's health was also addressed. Rothschild said Wood is in great shape and threw 50 pitches at Northwestern University just a few days ago. He will also definitely be pitching from the bullpen this year, and Larry, as well as Ryan Dempster at another session, made clear that Wood has a very bright future as a reliever, possibly even as a closer.
As for Miller, Hendry said, "We feel good about him. He's a very tough guy, a gamer and a winner. ... We think he's well worth the gamble, especially if he can pitch like he did for Houston. It's a low-risk and high-reward situation."
The abundance of Cub injuries last season, particularly those of Prior and Wood, was not caused by poor training, said Hendry. "Prior is excellent with conditioning," the GM continued. "Sometimes things just happen. Prior and Wood have never showed up to camp out of shape. Prior is always in the weight room. ... And his arm is feeling better."
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Remember those crazy collectors I mentioned earlier? Well, boy do I have some stories to tell.
As I have already recounted, I spent some time during the Convention at the Cubs' Locker Room Sale, where game-used memorabilia is sold for charity. The majority of the items are sold for a set price, but the high-demand items from popular players are held aside for auction. I spent a grand total of $30 on three items, and, as you will see, avoided the auction for good reason.
I walked into the Sale room Saturday in the midst of the bidding for a "mystery" equipment bag filled with items unknown. The bids exceeded $600, then $700 and $800. The crowd cheered, hoping to see the bid exceed that magical number, $1000. The auctioneers did their jobs well, and, indeed, managed to coax such a bid from a gentleman. People, myself included, shook their heads in disbelief.
Not to be outdone, it seems, another bidding war soon erupted for an autographed, game-worn Greg Maddux jersey. Thought $1000 was a ridiculous amount to spend on dirty sports gear? According to the security guard next to me, we witnessed a historic event, as no other item had ever been sold through the Locker Room Sale for as much as that Maddux jersey $4000.
It seems the former Cub has truly earned himself a spot among the most beloved Cubs of all time. I just sure hope that winning bidder wasn't a die-hard Chicago Bears fan. For $4000, he could have bought himself a trip to the Super Bowl.