Spring Training Battles

Spring Training Battles: Closer

The Cubs are a little over two weeks into spring training with about three weeks before Opening Day. It's time to check in on the yearly ritual of spring training battles. What's the fun of spring training without a little competition? The Cubs have a few spots up for grabs and today I take a look at the competition for the fabled closer role between Bob Howry, Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood. It's the final piece in the series and I know you will all miss my Wrestlemania-inspired graphic.

The closer battle is probably the least crucial of the spring training battles this year, for two reasons. First, the closer role is generally overrated. The closer protects more three-run leads with nobody on than he does one-run leads with the go-ahead run coming up. Set-up men are often asked to wiggle out of more difficult jams than closers, who are usually brought in just to start the ninth inning with a clean slate. Second, all three candidates can do the job just fine, so Lou really can't lose on this one. Sure, you'd like to pick the best, but those outs in the seventh and eighth are just as crucial; and the two "losers" will slide into the set-up men roles. Plus, if the winner out of spring training can't hack it, the Cubs have two ready-made options ready to fill-in, possibly three if Ryan Dempster isn't cutting it as a a starter. As they say in the old country, it's a good problem to have.

Let's take a closer look after the jump....

Spring Training Battles: Starting Pitching

The Cubs are a little over two weeks into spring training with about three weeks before Opening Day. It's time to check in on the yearly ritual of spring training battles. What's the fun of spring training without a little competition? The Cubs have a few spots up for grabs and today I'll look at the starting rotation battle between Jon Lieber, Ryan Dempster, Jason Marquis and Sean Marshall. I won't pretend that Sean Gallagher has a legitimate chance, although I guess I am pretending that Sean Marshall does.

Unable or unwilling to trade for some of the top notch talent that was moved over the offseason, such as Johan Santana, Erik Bedard or Dan Haren; the Cubs head into 2008 with much of the same talent that was good for the second best ERA among NL starting staffs last year. Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly and Rich Hill
will anchor the staff, and if Marquis and Marshall win the jobs, you'll have the same starting five that took the mound for the bulk of last season.

That though, appears to be the least likely scenario, as Ryan Dempster is getting his wish to compete for a starting spot and the Cubs signed Lieber on a one year deal. It appears to be a bit of a logjam at the moment, but the bullpen or the trade market can alleviate that "problem" at the end of spring training.

Let's take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate after the jump...

Spring Training Battles: Center Field

The Cubs are a little over two weeks into spring training with about three weeks before Opening Day. It's time to check in on the yearly ritual of spring training battles. What's the fun of spring training without a little competition? The Cubs have a few spots up for grabs and today I'll take a look at the center field spot between Felix Pie and Sam Fuld.

The Cubs had the opportunity this offseason to shore up center field with a more reliable veteran, as a few stars hit the market including Torii Hunter and Andruw Jones
. The Cubs were obviously determined to give their youngsters a shot at the job, as they didn't even bother to call Hunter, which leads to the obvious conclusion that they probably didn't call any of the available center field free agents. We'll all soon find out if that confidence will be rewarded.

Felix Pie has been one of the Cubs top prospects and usually the Cubs top prospect ever since he joined the organization as a wide-eyed 17-year old out of the Dominican Republic. Pie has often been compared to the Cubs last great center field prospect, Corey Patterson, both being left-handed hitters with five-tool talent and questionable strike zone judgement. A tenous comparison, superficial at best, and, to be honest, a lazy comparison. While Corey Patterson struggled with each promotion in the minors and was truly rushed to the majors, Pie has taken each promotion in stride, often putting up better numbers than the previous stop.

Let's compare the two after the jump....

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  • Not watching -- how did Fowler not score from 2nd on a double?

    billybucks 1 min 50 sec ago view
  • uh, Fowler?

    Rob G. 22 min 10 sec ago view
  • Well I assume Ross is going to catch Lester in the playoffs, and it looks like Contreras is going to catch everyone else. I could see the Cubs keeping three catchers on the playoff roster as it would give them flexibility and Montero would have a left handed bat with some pop (at least historically) off the bench.

    Rob Richardson 1 hour 25 min ago view
  • Aren't Montero and Ross already in a tie for third catcher?

    Charlie 1 hour 32 min ago view
  • Higher than Chris Perez's mailbox.

    John Beasley 1 hour 40 min ago view
  • Contreras starting at catcher for a day game after he caught the night before. What do people think the odds are that Montero is left off the post-season roster, or is at best the third catcher?

    Rob Richardson 2 hours 7 min ago view
  • Does he project as a starter, a relief pitcher, or is it too soon to tell?

    Rob Richardson 2 hours 23 min ago view
  • Rizzo getting a well deserved breather today with Bryant at 1B. Soler back in lineup batting cleanup and playing LF, otherwise all of the all-stars batting 1-5 again (what a luxury)

    Eric S 2 hours 30 min ago view
  • in his last 11 innings, he has 21K, 6BB, 4 hits and one ER. Nice!

    billybucks 2 hours 56 min ago view
  • Yes!!!

    Thanks crunch!!

    It's mesmerizing

    jacos 7 hours 31 min ago view
  • 5 HR in his last 5 games (3, 1 run...1, 2 run)

    sure, 3 HR were in colorado, but 2 were in night games in SD. that evens out somehow.

    crunch 8 hours 19 min ago view
  • Good work!

    John Beasley 9 hours 53 min ago view
  • crunch 16 hours 30 min ago view
  • My guy Addy

    jacos 16 hours 31 min ago view
  • oh, another a.russell HR...whatever.

    crunch 16 hours 45 min ago view
  • Dylan Cease throwing gas tonight for the Emeralds. In first three innings, has hit 100 mph six times, averaging 98 mph

    Eric S 17 hours 4 min ago view