Cubs

What will Cubs Opening Day lineup look like?

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What will Cubs Opening Day lineup look like?

Friday, Feb. 25, 2011Posted: 6:30 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. They circled the board where the lineup was supposed to be posted and saw empty white space. It frustrated them last year, not knowing if or where theyd play while trying to get ready for a game.

This is not to say that Lou Piniella didnt know what he was doing or that Mike Quade has all the answers.

Piniella won more than 1,800 games and a World Series during a managing career that should land him in the Hall of Fame. Quade is only running his first big-league camp.

But you could see the differences on Friday as bench coach Pat Listach struggled to find room on a clubhouse door to tape up yet another piece of paper. He had lineups for the first three exhibition games before the Cubs had completely moved out of Fitch Park.

Heres what it looks like for Sundays Cactus League opener, down the street at HoHoKam Park against the Oakland As:

1. Kosuke Fukudome, RF
2. Starlin Castro, SS
3. Marlon Byrd, CF
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
5. Carlos Pena, 1B
6. Alfonso Soriano, LF
7. Geovany Soto, C
8. Blake DeWitt, 2B
9. Carlos Zambrano, P

Replace Zambrano with Ryan Dempster and that could be your lineup on Opening Day at Wrigley Field.

Next to each name in parentheses was the player who would substitute in next. The sheet also noted that there will be a two at-bat minimum and a five-inning maximum. An organization man, Quade is all about the details.

Rod Blagojevich once sent Piniella his lineup suggestions, and Quade understands that he will constantly be second-guessed.

Everybody thinks they can manage, Quade said. Im a fan. I look at other clubs and go: How come that guys hitting there?

The manager will defer to veterans, locking in Ramirez as the cleanup hitter. He still views Fukudome as the best leadoff option if the matchups are right that day.

I dont hate it, Fukudome said with a smile to a Japanese reporter.

For now Quade is looking beyond Fukudomes .193 average from the No. 1 spot last season. Quade thinks of Fukudome as someone who sees a lot of pitches and has posted good on-base percentages across his first three seasons: .359; .375; and .371.

Ultimately, the lineup combinations and the final scores wont really matter across the next month. But Quade is particularly interested in seeing new pieces like Pena and Matt Garza up close, as well as rising prospects Trey McNutt and Brett Jackson. How he interacts with them does count.

Players are obsessed with routine. They live in a bubble where everything is taken care of for them. A pair of pants fell out of one players bag as he walked out of the clubhouse Friday afternoon and he barely broke stride.

Veteran move, he said. Watch this.

He tossed the pants into a laundry cart, cracking up a few reporters and a team official.

Quade wants to simplify things for his players and let them know where they stand. He is prepared, but this didnt keep him up at night. He didnt spend his offseason in Florida staring out into the Gulf of Mexico and picturing his lineup.

If I find myself in the middle of a bunch of trout or redfish someday and all of a sudden Im thinking about whos my third-hole hitter, Ill kill myself, Quade said. Theres plenty of time for that. Theres all sorts of things that will become clear later. And why in the world get locked in too early when theres so much that can change?

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Joe Maddon is liking the look of Cubs 'backwards' lineup

Joe Maddon is liking the look of Cubs 'backwards' lineup

No matter how much people complain and Tweet, Joe Maddon will never go with a set lineup every game.

But that doesn't mean he won't let certain spots in the lineup settle in for a couple weeks in a row.

That's what may be occuring right now with Anthony Rizzo holding serve as the "Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All-Time" once again.

Rizzo made his 5th straight start atop the Cubs order Friday after collecting a pair of doubles and a walk in Thursday's 9-6 victory.

Initially, moving Rizzo from the heart of the order to the top was in part to help the Cubs first baseman get going. Maddon is a big fan of hitting guys leadoff to help them reset mentally and find their stroke again.

But it is working — Rizzo entered play Friday 8-for-16 with 5 doubles, 3 walks, 3 runs and 3 RBI in the leadoff spot over the last week. The promptly reached on a hit-by-pitch and walk his first two times up Friday.

He's also been the team's biggest cheerleader:

So how long will Maddon keep this unconventional lineup?

"I don't know," he said, smiling and shaking his head. "I don't know. He came up again in crucial moments [Thursday]. He looks really good out there. I don't know. That's my exact answer."

Yes, Rizzo is looking good in the leadoff spot, but his insertion atop the order has given the Cubs lineup a new dynamic. 

With Rizzo first and Kris Bryant second, the guys that are historically the Cubs' top two run producers are hitting atop the order and "behind" the pitcher's spot. 

But they're also the Cubs' top two on-base guys and Maddon is liking the look of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — two high-contact guys — following Bryzzo in the order, as they have done recently. (It doesn't hurt to have the NL leader in RBI — Javy Baez — hitting cleanup, either.)

"It's almost a backwards way of doing this right now that I'm finding fascinating," Maddon said. "So I'm just gonna let it play for just a little bit and see where it takes us."

It's taken the Cubs on a 4-game winning streak endcapping the All-Star Break, though the Cardinals got up big early Friday afternoon.

For a team that leads the NL in just about every important offensive category, it's going to be a huge key moving forward if Rizzo gets going on a consistent basis in the second half.

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

The Cubs didn't wait long to make Joe Maddon's words come true.

Roughly 5 hours after Maddon said the Cubs are definitely in the market for more pitching, the front office went out and acquired Jesse Chavez, a journeyman jack-of-all-trades type.

It's a minor move, not in the realm of Zach Britton or any of the other top relievers on the market.

But the Cubs only had to part with pitcher Class-A pitcher Tyler Thomas, their 7th-round draft pick from last summer who was pitching out of the South Bend rotation as a 22-year-old.

Chavez — who turns 35 in a month — brings over a vast array of big-league experience, with 799 innings under his belt. He's made 70 starts, 313 appearances as a reliever and even has 3 saves, including one this season for the Texas Rangers.

Chavez is currently 3-1 with a 3.51 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. He has a career 4.61 ERA and 1.38 WHIP while pitching for the Pirates, Braves, Royals, Blue Jays, A's, Dodgers, Angels and Rangers before coming to Chicago.

Of his 30 appearances this season, Chavez has worked multiple innings 18 times and can serve as a perfect right-handed swingman in the Cubs bullpen, filling the role previously occupied by Luke Farrell and Eddie Butler earlier in the season.

Chavez had a pretty solid run as a swingman in Oakland from 2013-15, making 47 starts and 50 appearances as a reliever, pitching to a 3.85 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 across 360.1 innings.

"Good arm, versatile, could start and relieve," Joe Maddon said Thursday after the trade. "I've watched him. I know he had some great runs with different teams. 

"The word that comes to mind is verstaility. You could either start him or put him in the bullpen and he's very good in both arenas."

It's not a flasy move, but a valuable piece to give the Cubs depth down the stretch.

There's no way the Cubs are done after this one trade with nearly two weeks left until the deadline. There are more moves coming from this front office, right?

"Oh yeah," Maddon said. "I don't think that's gonna be the end of it. They enjoy it too much."