Spring Training impatience thread
I really expected there to be more going on this week than what we've seen. So far the most exciting story of Spring has been that Carlos Zambrano grew a mustache. Apart from that, the Cubs do have a few roster issues to resolve in the next month and a half, and what better way to promote diablog (like dialog, but with a blog) than to open a thread about them?
So, in no certain order ...
Aaron Miles vs. Mike Fontenot
Will the crafty and versatile switch hitting Aaron Miles wind up as the primary starter at second base? Or will the young, left-handed, and extremely short Mike Fontenot get the chance to prove that his career splits were earned through ability rather than luck?
At this point, despite the rumblings of some journalists who are "in the know," this job has to be Fontenot's to lose. Even if you pretend that Miles is capable of putting up similar numbers to Fontenot - and he's not - the sheer positional versatility of the ex Cardinal makes him the defacto Top Defensive Sub at perhaps three of his five positions. Fontenot, meanwhile, has not displayed the ability to play anywhere but second base.
The Fate of Angel Guzman
He may be out of options. His arm might be healthy enough for the Cubs to finally rely on him. He was once seen as a prospect at the same level as Mark Prior - a player whose career path he has practically duplicated since then. But what used to be true about Angel Guzman was that he had ungodly stuff and was bound to set the league on fire with his talent.
We are Cub fans - ever-optimistic - but it's pretty hard to put faith in the resurrection of this guy's career. But from time to time every team has that one guy who pulls it together for a special season before burning out and fading back into obscurity. Just maybe this is Guzman's year. And let's hope that 2008 wasn't Dempster's.
Marshall vs. Heilman vs. Gaudin vs. Samardzija
Rob noted yesterday that the poor health of Rich Harden makes the winner of this battle the defacto #4 starter. Sean Marshall has to be the early favorite because he's been nothing but reliable the last three years. Then again, the Cubs bullpen appears short on lefties and he may wind up there again. Aaron Heilman has been a good middle reliever/set up man who had a bad year in '08. He wants to start and he'll now get his chance. Cub fans are hoping that he's the Next Ryan Dempster. Chad Gaudin is still a youngster. His nickname should be Insurance Policy because that's what he is for Rich Harden. He's had limited success as a starter in the past. Jeff Samardzija is the rawest, most gifted of this bunch. Chances are the Cubs won't waste him in the bullpen again, unless it is out of necessity.
I'm rooting for Samardzija. It would be terrific if he put it all together and served the Cubs as a steady young starter for the next 6 seasons. But probably the most likely of this bunch is Marshall or Heilman, with Gaudin and Samardzija serving to ensure that the Cubs have options to turn to when the inevitable injury occurs to one of the Starting Four.
Marmol vs. Gregg
Carlos Marmol is the most dominating reliever on the team. The argument - a correct one by my view - is that he should be used to get out the 3 deadliest hitters of the opposition, whether they are up to bat in the 7th, 8th, 9th, or 4th innings. It's not conventional baseball wisdom, which means that it makes sense. Besides, Kevin Gregg has effectively closed in the past.
The only problem is that baseball is played by people with egos and desires. Carlos Marmol has to know that 1) you don't get paid to set-up, no matter how well you do at it, and 2) the closer does get paid. If the Cubs want to keep Marmol, they're going to have to let him have the chance to earn the big bucks doing the Kerry Wood thing, even if the team is slightly worse for it.
Then again, closing is no easy gig. Just ask LaTroy Hawkins. Dude had a sub-2.00 ERA in 2004 when he assumed the closer's role from Joe Borowski. He was practically automatic. Only problem is that, for whatever reason, the final 3 outs of the game can often be the hardest even if the pitcher isn't facing the opposition's best hitters. Actually, I worry that Marmol might not have the mental fortitude for the job, but I cannot deny that he's earned it. Therefore, I believe he will be the closer on opening day, even if there are other jobs he could do better than anybody else.