cubs-pitcher-kerry-wood-2-15-07.jpg

Less that one week to go until Zambrano fires the first pitch of 2008 and as promised, some final spring cleaning before the club breaks north to take on their newest and most legitimate rivals, the Milwaukee Brewers.

As expected…

Kerry Wood was named the closer yesterday. Despite waking up with a sore back last Wednesday, Woody has had a very nice Spring. Big #34 shook off his sore back to make three solid outings later in the week including back-to-back work this weekend.

Over his last nine appearances, Wood has allowed no runs while giving up four hits and fanning ten. Most importantly, he hasn’t given up a walk. His control, more than anything else, says he’s ready. Having Howry and Marmol in front of him should ease the pressure some and as I’ve said before, Cub fans are more behind Wood than anyone I can remember since Grace and Sandberg. So, he won’t be getting booed the first time he blows a save. If Wood can roll off five or six saves to start the season, he’ll be in great shape. On the other hand, if he blows two of the first three, even his loyal fans will start getting nervous. We’ll see. What do you readers think? Did Piniella make the right move?

Is there such a thing as good soreness?

Scotty Eyre was an excellent left handed specialist. There was an operative word there. He doesn’t have it anymore. Why? Two scenarios. First, as reported by the club yesterday, Eyre has been dealing with (or hiding—depends on how you look at it) a sore elbow. Piniella seemed irked that he hadn’t shared his elbow news earlier.

“He said he wasn’t feeling good when he went out (Saturday),” Piniella said. “I said, ‘Tell somebody. If you don’t tell anybody, nobody knows.’

This scenario is possible; it would explain his 9.45 spring ERA. But listen, I’ve seen this before, and I’ve read identical quotes from the manager’s mouth. The second scenario is that Eyre is being relegated to the LOP DL or the “lack of (quality) performance disabled list”. Having Eyre in the bullpen when you have a team that’s trying to win now, is simply wasting a roster spot.

How do you alleviate this issue?

Send the pitcher to the LOP DL and choose a body part. This time, it’s the all important elbow. The Cubs need a quality lefty in the late innings. They have two good looking young arms in Sean Marshall (3.65 ERA in four spring starts) and Carmen Pignatiello (zero earned runs in seven relief appearances, opposing hitters are batting .105 against him and he’s allowed no walks over 6 1/3 innings). In my humble opinion, Piniella told Hendry that he simply could not continue to carry Eyre on the roster. The second ol’ Lou uttered these words, Eyre started rubbing his elbow. What do you think? Either way, I’m glad we’re not going to open the season with Eyre as our LJ specialist. I like the guy, but he’s out of gas.

No trades…

At least not yet, and I’m going to predict that it’s likely a trade might not be made. Here’s why. Cubs still need a right handed hitting OF. Reed Johnson was just released by the Blue Jays. Johnson is only 31 and he can hit. He carries a .281 career avg and a very respectable .342 career OBP. Not bad for someone you can acquire without giving up ANYONE. Also, Jeff DaVanon, was released by San Diego. DaVanon hits .259 with a .349 OBP and offers better defense than Johnson. Either outfielder would be a quality pickup for the club. Those of you still holding out for Brian Roberts, I ask you to read this and decide if it’s really worth it. I’ve waffled on this, and am leaning towards no again. Fact is, I think DeRosa deserves a shot and we may just need the depth that the Orioles would be taking away by asking for 3-4 of some of our finest prospects. If we still need Roberts in July, he’ll be available…

6 days, 5 Hours, 20 minutes…

Opening day next Monday. Awesome. ESPN 2, 1:20 start. Vacation Day? Yessir.