All the Cubs news I know of at the moment, in easy to digest nugget format. (And, like McDonald's nuggets, they're mostly scraps chopped up and processed to make them seem interesting.)
Here we go!
[Note: The following may not be safe if you are a fan of a certain red-haired player. Click the link with caution. All content in this summary has been sanitized for your Murton-loving convenience.]
Paul Sullivan says that the Cubs are abandoning small-ball. Unlike most baseball writers, he doesn't make it sound like he's chastising a small child when he says that.
Of course, our big pimpin' power lineup relies on Derrek Lee returning to form. Can he?
Can Lee repeat his '05 numbers after missing most of last year with a broken wrist?
"I think I'm capable of it," he said. "I always say I try to get better every year. Obviously, last season didn't work out that way, but I just want to keep improving. I think if I'm healthy and out there every day, my numbers are going to be there."
Sully also asks Piniella if Soriano can handle center field.
"This kid is an athlete," Piniella said. "But I also know two years ago he was playing second base, and he's only had one year in the outfield.
"The guys that have done it, they all did it in the minor leagues, basically, and then had a year or two to play before they got to the big leagues. He's a very talented, athletic young man. It's not the easiest thing to do.
"I'm hoping it works. Am I a little [worried]? No, I'm not. I know it's not an easy transition. And I don't want him worrying about playing a new position. I want him to swing the bat, and I want him comfortable."
Which answers... just about nothing. Thanks, Lou!
The Sun-Times has a good look at the outfield situation. Except the part where they forget to mention that Jones and DeRosa make a pretty good platoon in right field. Oh, and they ask "Hey, whatever happened to Juan Pierre?" We know the answer to that question. He got paid an absurd amount of money to hit nothing but singles, and we got the best power hitter on the market. Any questions?
Elsewhere in the Trib, Phil Rodgers takes a break from advising us to trade away our ace pitcher to... preview the NL West. Sometimes I wonder if Rodgers remembers what city he lives in.
The arbitrator must pick one figure or the other, and the hearings can get contentious because teams bring up negative statistics to shoot down the player's argument.
"I know that it will not affect me," Zambrano said. "I know everything that they will say in the trial. That will not affect me because I know who I am. I know who the Cubs are. Whatever happens is up to them, and thank God for everything.
"It's not personal. Business is business. They're trying to defend the Cubs, and I'm trying to defend myself. Hopefully we won't go to arbitration."
Zambrano's agents and Hendry are currently working on the whole avoiding arbitration business.
Bruce Miles also goes the extra mile, trying to get to the bottom of this Jones batting second business.
"We need some left-hand hitting in the middle of our lineup," said Piniella, who has Derrek Lee hitting third and Aramis Ramirez batting fourth. "For instance, if we had (Cliff) Floyd and Jones both in the lineup, Jones could hit second and Floyd could hit fifth. If we don't have that combination, I would think that a left-hand hitter would have to hit in the No. 5 hole."
"What's going to determine all these things is what happens in center field," said Piniella, who has Soriano penciled in as the center fielder. "Jonesie had a real nice offensive year here last year. We've got (Michael) Barrett. We've got (Mark) DeRosa. We've got the shortstop (Cesar Izturis).
"Right now, the No. 2 hole is something to really look at."
Piniella was asked if Matt Murton could be the No. 2 hitter. The left fielder typically sees a lot of pitches, which would be good for Soriano when he's on base. Murton had an OBP of .365 last year over 455 at-bats.
"We've got some people here who can do it, Piniella said. "The thing about it is we need somebody who's going to be very selective and a little patient because Soriano can run. So we can't be going up there and swinging at the first pitch. We'll have a much better idea the middle of spring training."
First of all, great props to Bruce for the key phrasing "Piniella was asked," as though there was some OTHER Chicago-area sportswriter who could figure out that Matt Murton should bat second. Of all the candidates that Piniella actually mentioned himself, I'm most intreagued by that Michael Barrett guy. I hear he's pretty good with a bat.
And, because Bruce Miles IS the hardest working man in show biz, he also takes to find out what's up with Rich Hill, who feels like a forgotten member of the rotation at times.
Hill is looking to create some new positive memories this year, but he's taking nothing for granted. Carlos Zambrano owns the top spot in the rotation, followed by Ted Lilly. After that, the Cubs have Hill, Jason Marquis and either Mark Prior or Wade Miller. That makes six pitchers for five spots.
"I think you always have to think you have to prove yourself, and you have to be on edge," Hill said. "You can't get too comfortable because if you're too comfortable, you might not have that adrenaline rush. It's almost like you become too laid-back.
"As far as getting a rotation spot, I think I showed them what I could do up in the big leagues. I'm just trying to carry that on here."
No offense to any Murton lovers here, but I think the notion that Jason Marquis could push Hill out of the starting rotation is the most troubling story line out of spring training. Floyd doesn't actively suck and will hurt his way into playing time for Murton. Marquis... yeah. Yeah.
You can also check out what self-help books Hill has been reading.
(What you CAN'T find is a reporter enterprising enough to figure out if the guy that Peter Gammons called the next Barry Zito learned a third freaking pitch during the offseason. Guh.)
And, because she's Carrie Muskat, she wants us to know that Felix Pie and Alfonso Soriano have started dating.
Whenever you see Alfonso Soriano on the Fitch Park practice field, look closely. Felix Pie is probably close by.
Soriano, 31, and Pie, 22, are stationed near each other in the Fitch Park clubhouse. That was a coincidence. But since Wednesday, when they both reported to Cubs camp and both began workouts, they have hit together, shagged fly balls together, and most likely, had a few meals together. It's a perfect match.
Muskat does deliver actually useful information, however -- Pie apparently had some shoulder problems while playing winter ball down in Licey. Assuming this is true, and that it's healed up now, it could mean that his less-than-impressive winter ball stats are behind him now.
And that should tide you over for at least a whole hour. And I finished it while it's still technically morning.