Roberts-Free Saturday Morning Cubs/MLB Headlines

This one slipped by a couple of days ago, buried in another Carrie Muskat missive from Mesa:

While thinking out loud, Piniella said he'd like to carry 14 position players and 11 pitchers if possible. The team isn't sure how to slot some players -- newcomer Aaron Miles, for example. Piniella wants to see them on the field, and the Cubs will have 39 spring games to evaluate the team.

To which I'd say, HOORAY! Especially in April and May, with 5 off days sprinkled in amongst the season's first 38 games, there's really no reason for a seventh reliever. Rich Harden and Sean Marshall could split the 4th/5th spot in the rotation, resting Harden and leaving Marshall available for long relief when he's not starting. All having a 12th pitcher accomplishes during those early-season dates is to have the guy rust in the pen for ten days and then get hammered when they finally do need him because there's not enough work for him.

Go for it, Lou. Be daring. Now, who's that extra bench player going to be? Maybe someone to be acquired. Maybe one of the nonroster guys -- speaking of which, lefty nonroster guy Bill White failed his physical and was sent home:

To replace him, the Cubs invited non-roster right-hander Brian Schlitter to camp. Schlitter, a Park Ridge neighbor of GM Jim Hendry, is the Class A pitcher the Cubs got from Philadelphia in last summer's Scott Eyre trade.

Also mentioned in the above notes link is Carlos Marmol possibly deciding to skip the WBC. (He'll decide today.) At the rate major leaguers are dropping out (Vernon Wells, top Nats pitching prospect Shairon Martis, and several Yankees are all out), they'll have to make pickup teams. This likely makes Japan the favorite to repeat as WBC champions -- all of their top players will be participating. I'm particularly interested in seeing Yu Darvish pitch; the second he decides to be posted to the USA, teams will be lined up to bid on him.

Of interest in this Jayson Stark column on the Rays and how they might do this year after their stunning 2008, is the chart showing how the last eight teams to jump 21 or more wins from the prior year and make the playoffs. Two of those teams are Cub teams -- the 1997-98 Cubs (+22 wins) and the 2002-03 Cubs (+21 wins). The only one of the group to add to their win total in the year after they made the playoffs was the 2004 Cubs, who won one more game than they did in '03 -- for all the good that did 'em. Most of the rest of that group seriously regressed in playoff year +1, which does not bode well for the Rays, who signed former Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen to a minor league deal yesterday. (I hadn't realized before reading that article, that Isringhausen is 36. Where does the time go?)

The Oakland A's had plans to move down the East Bay peninsula to Fremont, which might have had them called by the ridiculous moniker "Oakland Athletics of Fremont". Well, not so fast. The A's have "halted" the Fremont plans:

A's spokesman Bob Rose confirmed to the Chronicle that the team has halted the process.

"At this time we have decided to no longer pursue the Fremont project," Rose said. "We are regrouping and will have discussions internally about our future options."

Maybe they'll finally figure out a way to move to San Jose, where much of their fanbase lives, and a move that makes the most sense. Of course, in the present economic conditions, getting stadium financing from any entity, public or private, has to be seen as a bit dicey.

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