SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- I'm still in Arizona, heading back to Chicago starting tomorrow, with plenty of time before the Cubs' home opener a week from today.
But today, BASEBALL! For real, "this time it counts", to expropriate that awful All-Star Game term. Happy Opening Day, the day when we can hope, before reality sinks in.
Here's a scout's take on all the major 2013 Cubs, as quoted by Gordon Wittenmyer in the Sun-Times. I agree with virtually all of these assessments. With the best possible performances by these players, the Cubs will be an improved team. How much so? Realistically, it's a 70-75 win team. Note that I am not predicting this -- but here it is, Opening Day, and optimism reigns. A year ago, would anyone have guessed the Orioles and Athletics would be 90+ win teams?
The Cubs won't. But they will be better than they were a year ago.
This year is significant for me, because coming up later this summer is the 50th anniversary of the first game I attended at Wrigley Field, starting my life as a Cubs fan. I think I'll wait until the actual date to tell you when that is. Interestingly enough, the 2013 calendar is identical to the 1963 calendar, so all 50th anniversaries from that year will fall on the same day of the week as the original date.
DeJesus CF, Castro SS, Rizzo 1B, Soriano LF, Schierholtz RF, Castillo C, Valbuena 3B, Lillibridge 2B, Samardzija P
Darwin Barney, as you know, had five stitches in his knee after a collision with the wall in Houston Saturday; this morning, Barney has been placed on the 15-day DL. Alberto Gonzalez, who was in camp as a non-roster invitee, will be added to take his place. Brent Lillibridge and Hisanori Takahashi had previously been added to the 40-man roster; with Scott Baker placed on the 60-day DL, that opens a spot for Gonzalez. Also, Robert Whitenack, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has been designated for assignment. By my count, that leaves 39 players on the 40-man; sounds like Theo & Jed are still looking around for someone to add -- although, as Brett pointed out on Twitter, Trey McNutt's name is inexplicably missing from the 40-man list. So maybe it is at 40.
Four Cubs have changed uniform numbers as of today: Carlos Villanueva switches from his spring-training No. 57 to No. 33; Travis Wood changes from the No. 30 he wore the last two years to No. 37, at the request of Dioner Navarro, who wanted No. 30; manager Dale Sveum will switch from last year's No. 33 to No. 4.
Marte LF, Jones RF, McCutchen CF, Alvarez 3B, Sanchez 1B, Walker 2B, Martin C, Barmes SS, Burnett P
This weather forecast for the game isn't that great:
A chance of showers, mainly before 1pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 45. West wind around 16 mph. Chance of precipitation is 3O%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.
Hopefully, that rain will pass by before the 1:35 p.m. ET starting time and there will be baseball!
Today's Starting Pitchers
Pitcher stat lines will return after each pitcher's first 2013 start.
Jeff Samardzija had one of the best starts of his career against the Pirates last July 23, allowing just one hit in eight innings. In his last start before being shut down last year, he threw a complete-game win against Pittsburgh, striking out nine and giving up just four hits. Shark has had a good spring, not spectacular but in line with his good numbers from last year. I expect big things from him this year, a real step forward.
Nice tats, A.J. He's now 36, and is coming off one of the better years of his career. He faced the Cubs three times in 2012, throwing a one-hit shutout at Wrigley Field (that's the closest the Cubs have come to being no-hit in recent years; the first hit didn't come until Adrian Cardenas singled with two out in the eighth). Overall he threw 19⅓ innings against the Cubs in 2012, allowing three earned runs, issuing five walks and striking out 18. Doomed? Maybe not. It is, after all, Opening Day, when optimism is at its highest.
Today's game is on WGN-TV.
Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.
Baseball-reference.com game preview
Please visit our SB Nation Pirates site Bucs Dugout.
Here's how we're going to do game threads this year, as it seems to have worked well during spring training. You'll find the game preview -- like this one -- posting as the first link in the StoryStream™, which will then contain all the overflow threads and the recap. The recap will also be on the front page as a separate post; once I post a game recap, the stream for each game will be retitled "Cubs vs. (Team) (Day of Week) Game Threads" so you can go back and find every thread related to that particular game.
In general, game previews will post two hours before game time. Exception: for day games after night games, that will usually be 90 minutes.
As has been the case during spring training, you will also be able to find the First Pitch Thread and all the overflow threads in the box marked "Chicago Cubs Game Threads" at the bottom of the front page (you can also find them in this section link). They will also appear in this StoryStream™. As I've done for each regular-season game for several years now, we'll have the First Pitch thread at game time, then an overflow one hour, two hours and 2:45 after game time.
Discuss amongst yourselves.