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Weekend Quick Hits
by Derek Smart
We're just a week away from starting this thing, and I can hardly wait. Sitting here speculating and gnashing my teeth is only giving me an ulcer and a potential heap of dental bills. I actually got to see some ball this weekend, along with many of you, and while I'm short on time today, I've got a couple quick points.
I took a couple of looks at Sean Marshall's work on Saturday, and both times I was duly impressed. Not so much with his stuff, although he has a dandy curveball, but more by his ability to locate his pitches and to keep hitters off balance.
True, Marshall walked four in the outing, but they were a different variety of free pass than that given out by someone like, say, Rich Hill. It would be a stretch to say Marshall's balls were by design, but even out of the zone they were in line with his intent - he may have missed his spot, but he knew where the ball was going the whole time - whereas with Hill there's a feeling of surprise when he's off target, like he can't believe that ball ended up there.
Bob Brenly noted that a big difference between the two pitchers was Hill's lack of a secondary fastball, but I think Marshall's control and ability to execute a sound game-plan against a hitter is what sets him apart.
I hadn't seen Angel Guzman all spring, so it was good to get a peek at him. He's got good stuff, but honestly, it's not nearly as electric as I remember from Spring 2003 when he was at the height of his powers. Some of that might be the camera angle at the ballpark (it's very difficult to get a read on a ball's movement with where the camera's placed at the Cubs' facility), but I'd imagine some of it is memory inflation.
In any case, he looked solid enough, although I don't think he looked quite as polished as Marshall does. My gut tells me he's likely to stay in the minors to both work on his approach and be in a situation where his outings can be more controlled, in light of his injury history.
According to the Sun-Times, the Cubs aren't going to put in a claim on Tony Graffanino, who was placed on conditional waivers by the Red Sox, the thought being that with so many second basemen in the fold, there's no room for his particular skill set. Alternate translation: any deals for Todd Walker are dead.
Then again, the Trib says the Cubs have interest in the A's Freddy Bynum, who is out of options and unlikely to win a roster spot, and whom the article likens to Chone Figgins (ie: he plays a bunch of positions, and he's super-fast). The Cubs are toying with including Ryan Theriot on the roster, so the acquisition of Bynum would put the kibosh on that.
Bynum has no power, but his on-base skills are passable, and he'd be yet another palpable speed threat on the club's bench. Whether they snag Bynum or not, it's become clear that one of the main thrusts of the team's offseason plans has been to get as much speed as possible. Of course, it's awfully hard to run your way to first base...