SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- The Cubs cut their roster to 25 today (more on this after the jump), and the last spot was generally recognized to be between four players: Chad Tracy, Kevin Millar, Micah Hoffpauir and Sam Fuld.
It really wasn't that much of a competition, actually; Fuld's fate was likely sealed when Tyler Colvin made the team; Millar hadn't done much this spring and neither had Hoffpauir (whose agent ought to be contacting Japanese teams).
So it was no real surprise when the Cubs announced that Tracy had been given the final roster spot. He celebrated today with a two-run homer off Guillermo Mota (who at age 36 is trying to hang on with his seventh team) and the Cubs won their third in a row and fifth in the last seven, 5-3 over the Giants, a team that entered today with the best spring record in baseball.
Both Tom Gorzelanny and ex-Cub Todd Wellemeyer, who will be the fifth starters for their respective teams, threw well in their final spring outings. Each went seven innings and allowed three runs. Gorz gave up some long extra-base hits including a two-run homer to former Cub Mark DeRosa, but interspersed those with 11 outs on ground balls and didn't walk anyone. If he can throw anywhere near this well during the season, we'll be very happy. (DeRosa, for his part, played both left field and second base today, had a double in addition to the homer, and threw Marlon Byrd out trying to score -- not a bad afternoon's work.)
Wellemeyer matched Gorz for the first seven, allowing a pair of runs on a Ryan Theriot RBI single and a Tyler Colvin triple to the deepest part of center field beyond the reach of Aaron Rowand. Colvin had two more hits and actually ran a count to 3-2 today, but did not walk. Colvin also made some nice running catches -- he's no Sam Fuld in the outfield, but I do not believe he will embarrass himself.
Scottsdale Stadium filled up slowly, but eventually a near-sellout of 11,447 arrived. I learned that this venue is the only place in the Cactus League that does not allow outside food, in my opinion a wrongheaded position to take when some have dietary restrictions (Passover) or things like gluten allergies, which would prevent those people from eating just about any sort of ballpark food. Saying "no outside food" to ballpark fans is basically saying, "Screw you, buy our overpriced food and beverages or starve". Not a very fan-friendly policy.
More on the Cubs' roster moves and the 25-man roster after the jump.
The Cubs today parted ways with one of the 2004 Red Sox "idiots", Kevin Millar, giving him his unconditional release. It was the right baseball move to make. Millar was once a pretty good hitter who could play a passable left field, but he hasn't been good in three years and didn't hit much in spring training. But he clearly made an impression on the organization and Jim Hendry:
"Kevin was great," Hendry said. "He's a pro. I think he knew that I agonized over [the decision]. He's a guy you'd always want in your organization. I'm not here to say he's done [playing]. He knows down the road he's a potential employee here. He'd be a great coach. He's a tremendous human being and helped some guys here even though he's not getting on the plane Saturday."
Hendry, as he usually does, did the player a favor by letting him go today, instead of waiting till the last possible day, to see if he could give Millar time to catch on with another team. If not, I suspect Millar will be back in the Cubs' organization in some form as a coach.
So, the 25-man roster the Cubs will begin the 2010 season in Atlanta on Monday reads as follows:
Starting pitchers: Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny
Bullpen: Carlos Marmol, John Grabow, Sean Marshall, Esmailin Caridad, Justin Berg, Jeff Samardzija, James Russell
Starting eight: Geovany Soto, Derrek Lee, Jeff Baker, Ryan Theriot, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, Kosuke Fukudome
Bench: Koyie Hill, Tyler Colvin, Mike Fontenot, Chad Tracy, Xavier Nady
What Hendry and Lou Piniella have done with this team -- so far -- is to sacrifice some defensive skill for depth on the bench and offensive production from the reserve players. Obviously, keeping Andres Blanco and Sam Fuld would have made the team stronger defensively. Tyler Colvin has to start three times a week, in my view, to make his presence useful -- otherwise, I'd rather see him starting at Iowa, and if he struggles, I'd send him there and bring Fuld back.
Incidentally, word is that Jeff Baker was working with Alan Trammell taking grounders at shortstop this morning. If Baker could learn to play this position -- something he has never done as a pro -- it could help the Cubs' flexibility off the bench.
The bullpen has three very inexperienced pitchers. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Last year's Yankees, for example, had three relievers (Phil Coke, David Robertson and Alfredo Aceves) who had about as much major league experience starting 2009 as Berg, Caridad and Russell have now. They also had a reliever who, like Samardzija, was a failed starter (Phil Hughes), who wound up becoming a fine setup man. Granted, the Yankees also had, and have, Mariano Rivera to close. But you still have to set up Rivera, and those kids did it. I believe the Cubs' young relievers can do that, too.
The roster includes 12 players (Silva, Gorzelanny, Grabow, Caridad, Berg, Russell, Samardzija, Baker, Byrd, Colvin, Tracy and Nady) who were not on the 2009 Opening Day roster. After last year's meltdown, that sort of change is needed.
There are still a handful of spring games to be played. Tomorrow is the final split squad of the year; Carlos Zambrano will pitch against the Angels' Jered Weaver in Mesa (Z is not expected to go more than four innings). A team of mostly minor leaguers will take on the Brewers at Maryvale, where they will face Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo.