The Giants and 2012 NL MVP Buster Posey rolls into town Thursday. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
The defending world champs roll into Wrigley Field having won a second World Series title in just three years. They’ll be gunning for a third with much the same roster they fielded last season. GM Brian Sabean re-signed veteran center fielder Angel Pagan to a four-year deal and rewarded 37-year-old infielder Marco Scutaro with a three-year contract for his stretch-drive and World Series heroics. But the Giants’ activity (or lack thereof) in the hot stove season underscores how this year’s team is different. In 2012, they lost Pablo Sandoval for one-third of the year to injury, and they traded for Scutaro and right fielder Hunter Pence in the second half. Having that trio join NL MVP Buster Posey for all of 2013 should provide an offensive boost. If they get the same consistency from the league’s best rotation and their deep bullpen, they’ll be hard to beat—and a good bet to repeat.
HITTING: 4.2 RS/G (9th in NL)
What the Giants’ lineup lacks in pure slugging it makes up for in versatility. Though they finished last in the league in home runs in 2012, they take a big hit playing their home games in AT&T Park, where they managed just 31 homers all year. But if they get full seasons from Pence and Sandoval, they’ll have plenty of pop in any park. Despite the absence of a big-name burner, the Giants were fourth in the league in steals and swiped bases at an above-average 75 percent clip. With Pagan up front and the Panda-Posey-Pence trio in the heart of the order, the Giants could have a remarkably efficient short-sequence offense. To extend that all the way through the order, they will need first baseman Brandon Belt to finally break through. Left field could be manned by a rotating cast, as manager Bruce Bochy likes to exploit matchups.
2012 BATTING COMPARISON
.240 (15) AVG .269 (3)
.302 (16) OBP .327 (4)
.378 (14) SLG .397 (8)
3.78 (14) RS/G 4.43 (6)
PITCHING: 3.9 RA/G (5th in the NL)
When people talk about the Giants, it’s usually about their deep and stable rotation. But Tim Lincecum’s off year took some of the shine off their vaunted reputation. If the Freak recovers, he could give the Giants the toughest front four in baseball. Madison Bumgarner is coming into his own, and Ryan Vogelsong might be the reclamation project of the decade. The bullpen more than adapted to the absence of closer Brian Wilson, as Bochy effectively mixed a veteran quartet in righties Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla and lefties Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt. Bochy is expected to be more conventional this year, leaning heavily on Romo to notch saves. If there’s a cause for concern, it’s the unit’s age—this was one of the oldest staffs in baseball last season, and they’re all one year older now.
2012 PITCHING COMPARISON
4.51 (14) ERA 3.68 (5)
.259 (11) AVG .248 (5)
1.39 (14) WHIP 1.27 (7)
4.69 (14) RA/G 4.01 (6)
HITTER TO WATCH — BUSTER POSEY
What constitutes an MVP—value, stats, leadership skills? Posey’s case might rest on two equally impressive feats. For starters, he’s the best-hitting catcher in the league. Last season, he was second among NL catchers in home runs and became the first backstop to win the NL batting title since Ernie Lombardi in 1942. More fundamentally, he’s been around for just three seasons, and in the two he managed to stay healthy, the Giants won the World Series. His tremendous strike-zone judgment and excellent plate coverage make him hard to beat. At 26, he’s entering his prime and on the short list for best player in the game.
PITCHER TO WATCH — MATT CAIN
As if the Giants’ 2012 season wasn’t magical enough, let’s not forget Matt Cain, the man who threw the 22nd perfect game in big league history last year. Cain also set career highs in wins, strikeouts and ERA, and has clearly claimed the role of staff ace in a deep rotation. But that isn’t all that’s perfect about Cain. He’s a true four-pitch starter with low-90s velocity, and he has never been on the DL. That’s right—he’s taken the ball every fifth day for seven years running. All that, and he just turned 28. That is what perfection looks like. With Cain manning the No. 1 spot, the Giants’ rotation should be strong again in 2013. It looks like Cain should get the start in Friday afternoon’s game.
—By Christina Kahrl
(Photo by Stephen Green)
For the April issue of Vine Line, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat sat down with Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer to talk about the 2013 Cubs, the differences between this season and last, and what to look for as the organization moves forward.
In the second part of our three-part interview, Hoyer talks about the organization’s young prospects, including slugging Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler and highly touted shortstop Javier Baez. So far this season, both Daytona Cubs players have shown promise at the plate. After just two games, Soler recorded a .333 batting average in nine at-bats, and Baez held a .250 average with one double, one home run and three RBI.
Vine Line: Fans were eager to see prospects like Jorge Soler and Javier Baez this spring. How excited were you to get a closer look at them?
Jed Hoyer: I’ll be honest, I look forward to the sixth through ninth innings [in Spring Training] more than I look forward to the first five innings. We’ll watch the veteran guys all year. Watching [Jeff] Samardzija the other day, he was clearly working on his off-speed stuff. The results weren’t the most important thing to him. When you get a chance to see Baez and Soler now, it’s nice. During the season, we’ll have to go to different minor league cities to see those guys, but getting a chance to see the young players up close is something we cherish, because we can’t do that all season.
VL: How important was it to have these kids in big league Spring Training camp?
JH: You want to see those guys learn. Seeing Baez standing next to Dale [Sveum] during the game, seeing Soler following Castro around—it’s really important that they see what it’s all about. They’re going to go off to the minor leagues this year, and they’re too busy to have a chance to watch many of our games. Now they get to see how we do things. We kind of joke about slowing things down just because there’s a lot of development left with all these guys. When they get up to the big leagues, they’ll have their struggles as well. It doesn’t mean they’re not really good prospects. Their time is not now. We have to temper ourselves all the time. As a result, we encourage the fans and media to do the same thing. It is a long process.
VL: Cubs fans have seen other highly touted prospects like Félix Pié and Corey Patterson fail to live up to the hype. How are Baez and Soler different?
JH: The truth of the matter is, there is an attrition rate with prospects. There’s no question our goal is to build up a ton of them. I’m glad we’re talking about multiple names now and not just one. I think when you start talking about just one, there’s a lot of danger. I hope this isn’t the best farm system we have. We want to be really deep, so when there is that natural attrition, some guys will outperform expectations and some guys will underperform expectations. I certainly hope not, but it’s the reality.
You grab a top 100 list from Baseball America and flip through it five years later, and there are guys who miss. I don’t think anyone is immune to that. That’s why we want to build up a lot of depth. That’s why having good drafts and doing well internationally is important. You need depth to make sure you get the best nine guys on the field, the best five starting pitchers.
VL: Everyone wants to know when guys like Baez, Soler and Albert Almora will get to the big leagues. Do you have a timetable for them?
JH: The players will determine that, not us. I want nothing more than for these guys to pound the door down and make it clear they’re ready. I think the worst thing we can do is speed up their development for the sake of some arbitrary timetable. They need to go level to level. They need to show they can control the strike zone. They need to show they’re ready. When they are, certainly, we want them here. At the same time, I don’t think we should look at it that we’re controlling it; they control it.
VL: At the Winter Meetings, you talked about how some players can’t use youth as an excuse anymore. What did you mean by that?
JH: Until you’re a true veteran player, you’ll learn new things and make mistakes. … But at some point, you’re not a young player anymore. I think Starlin [Castro] is getting close to that point. He’s probably not quite there yet. A guy [Ian} Stewart’s age, youth isn’t something you can use. [Anthony] Rizzo isn’t quite there either. He’ll probably still have some ups and downs.
You want to get to that point where you have young veterans—that’s your ideal. If you look at the history of the game, the best players break in young, they have their ups and downs, and they start to establish themselves when they’re 24 or 25 years old. That’s what we want to build is that young group that’s been around for a while. I know it sounds like a contradiction, but the younger these guys break in, the more they can make their mistakes early and be ready in their mid-20s. That was a big part of us extending Castro’s [contract] as far as we did. He’s a 23-year-old guy who is going into his fourth season, and that’s a great thing for us.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Other Pitching Profiles:
When the Cubs (2-1) take on the Braves (2-1) at Turner Field Friday night, Scott Feldman will take the mound for his debut appearance as a member of the rebuilt 2013 Cubs pitching staff. Feldman signed a one-year deal worth $6 million, with a possible $1 million in incentives, back in November.
The 30-year-old right-handed pitcher spent 2005-12 with the Rangers. After two seasons pitching out of the bullpen, Feldman was converted to a starter in 2008. He had a breakout year in 2009 when he finished with a 17-8 record, which tied for fourth in AL wins. He also tied for the major league lead with 12 wins on the road.
Last season’s 5.09 ERA was a bit higher than his career 4.81 mark, but Feldman evolved into a strikeout pitcher with a career high 7.0 K/9. Though he’ll make his first NL start on the road, Feldman looks forward to standing on the mound at Wrigley Field, where he has never pitched before.
“I can’t wait,” Feldman said. “I’m sure it will be one of those things where you get some little goose bumps going and realize you’re in Wrigley. It’s cool. It’s like playing in Fenway or Yankee Stadium.”
Feldman is one of several pitchers profiled in Vine Line‘s 2013 Pitching Preview, available in the April issue, on sale now. We’ll be posting pitching profiles throughout the month, so be sure to check back to see what’s in store on the mound for 2013.
Repertoire (Avg. MPH): 4-seam (92), Sinker (92), Cutter (90), Change (86), Curve (77)
Arm Angle: Three-quarter
2012 Stats: 123 IP, 17.9 K%, 5.6 UBB%, 5.09 ERA, 89 ERA+, 1.38 WHIP
Last Season: Looking for a Return to Form
Feldman is a balanced veteran who broke out in 2009, earning himself a three-year deal with the Rangers and an Opening Day start in 2010. But he got hit around on his way to a 5.48 ERA that year, missed most of 2011 due to microfracture surgery on his knee and wrapped up his Rangers career with a 5.09 ERA in 2012. Though last year marked his second poor full season in a row, the fundamentals showed something different. His K rate jumped from 12 percent to 18 percent, his walk rate dropped from 7 percent to 6 percent, and he gave up fewer extra-base hits.
Plan of Attack: Stay off the Barrel
Nothing out of Feldman’s hand is straight. He’s a true sinkerballer, turning the ball over to create heavy movement and get batters to pound the ball into the ground. But he’s more than a one-trick pony, mixing all four of his primary pitches—sinker, cutter, change and curve—in all counts and situations. He prefers to jam hitters to produce a bevy of choppers and pop-ups. He’ll bust his cutter up and in against lefties, while boring his sinker down and in on righties.
Putaway Pitch: Curveball
Feldman’s other weapon is a curve that has developed into a breaker with more drop and glove-side sweep. He uses it roughly a quarter of the time, and he gets an above-average 35 percent whiffs when a batter swings (up from about 25 percent in 2009). Look for the curve to be thrown away, goading righties into swinging over it and lefties into taking it for a called third strike. Because the curve and change have gotten more play, he’s become less of a ground ball pitcher and more of a strikeout guy.
*Numbers courtesy Brooks Baseball
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Other Pitching Profiles:
The Cubs are hoping to close out the first series of 2013 with a win, as Travis Wood takes the mound against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park Thursday afternoon. The 26-year-old left-hander is entering his fourth major league season, his second with the Cubs.
Though his 4.27 ERA in 2012 was below major league average, the coaching staff worked with Wood on developing a system to attack both sides of the plate. Today’s game will be a sneak peek at what he has to offer the rebuilt pitching staff this season.
Wood should also benefit the batting order, as he’s one of the better hitting pitchers on the team. Last year, he hit .189 with three doubles, one home run and four RBI. He has hit one home run in each of his three major league seasons.
Wood is one of several pitchers profiled in Vine Line’s 2013 Pitching Preview, available in the April issue, on sale now. We’ll be posting pitching profiles throughout the month, so be sure to check back to see what’s in store on the mound for 2013.
Repertoire (Avg. MPH): 4-seam (90), 2-seam (89), Cutter (88), Change (80), Slider (80), Curve (75)
2012 Stats: 156 IP, 18.3 K%, 7.9 UBB%, 4.27 ERA, 92 ERA+, 1.20 WHIP
Last Season: Finding Control
Wood started the season in Triple-A to iron out command issues but quickly played himself into a useful bottom-of-the-rotation piece. Though his 4.27 ERA was a shade below major league average, his season suffered from three horrible July starts (22 ER, 9 HR, 15.2 IP). He is a true fly ball pitcher, but he experienced a huge jump in home runs per fly (from about 6 percent in 2010-11 to 12 percent in 2012) largely due to those three games. He’ll hope to lower that HR/FB rate this year through better luck and execution.
Plan of Attack: Use Both Sides of the Plate
Working with the Cubs coaching staff, Wood developed an entirely new way to attack hitters last year, using a backdoor, arm-side cutter against righties for the first time. Wood is a six-pitch pitcher who leans heavily on his hard stuff, throwing about 75 percent fastballs against both right- and left-handed hitters. But there’s still a significant difference within the hard/soft mix. He throws many more two-seam and cut fastballs against righties, which fade away and run in, respectively. He then builds in a change-up to keep hitters off balance. Against lefties, Wood looks to leverage the velocity, location and deception on his four-seam fastball. When he gets ahead in the count, he goes to his slider, which dives away from lefties.
Putaway Pitch: Fastball
While his slider and change-up get the most whiffs, Wood’s four-seam fastball really brings him home with two strikes. It’s a low-90s pitch that he can either locate away from lefties or elevate over the plate to get righties to chase.
*Numbers courtesy Brooks Baseball
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Following what seemed like an interminable Spring Training season, Edwin Jackson will finally make his Cubs debut tonight against the Pirates at 6 p.m. CST. In January, the 29-year-old right-handed pitcher became the first major free agent signing of the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer era when he inked a four-year, $52 million contract with the team. With temperatures hovering in the mid-30s at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park Wednesday, it could be a good night to be a power pitcher.
Though Jackson’s career has been marked by short stints with various major league teams—he’s now with his eighth team in 10 big league seasons—his stats show general improvement. In 2012, Jackson finished the year with a 4.03 ERA and 8.0 K/9, slightly better than his career 4.40 ERA and 6.9 K/9. With a fastball that can reach 97-98 mph, Jackson brings a top-line power arm to the fold and will strengthen the Cubs’ pitching depth—a crucial component to success.
Jackson is one of several pitchers profiled in Vine Line‘s 2013 Pitching Preview, available in the April issue, on sale now. We’ll be posting pitching profiles throughout the month, so be sure to check back to see what’s in store on the mound for 2013.
Repertoire (Avg. MPH): 4-seam (94), 2-seam (94), Cutter (93), Change (87), Slider (86), Curve (80)
2012 Stats: 189 IP, 21.3 K percentage, 6.8 UBB percentage, 4.03 ERA, 98 ERA+, 1.22 WHIP
Last Season: Steady Improvement
As the rotation horse for last year’s playoff-bound Nationals, Jackson had somewhat of a coming of age. The flamethrower, who didn’t turn 29 until season’s end, set career bests with his strikeout and walk rates (21 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively). Despite already working for eight major league employers, Jackson’s career has been marked by durability and general improvement since he made his big league debut after his 20th birthday. He’ll be well worth the Cubs’ four-year investment if he extends his streak of five straight seasons with at least 180 innings.
Plan of Attack: If you have two plus-plus pitches, use them
Watching Jackson deal can be a real treat. His momentum drives toward the plate, and his explosive arm action generates a mid-90s fastball that can touch 97-98 mph even into the late innings. He relies mostly on the pure velocity of his four-seamer, but he’ll sink some two-seamers (and an adequate change-up) away from lefties as well. He even re-implemented a cut fastball during the second half of last season. But his fastball largely sets up his other great weapon—the slider.
Putaway Pitch: Slider
If Jackson gets two strikes on a hitter, watch out. Last season, one of every two swings on Jackson’s slider was a whiff. It was even harder to hit with less than two strikes, when hitters weren’t expecting it. Jackson’s slider has late, downward break and moves farther out of the zone as the game goes along. Largely thanks to the increased use of his slider, as well as his sinking fastball, Jackson transformed from a fly-ball pitcher before 2010 to a more neutral one since.
*Numbers courtesy Brooks Baseball
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The end of Spring Training marked the beginning of Year Two for Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer. Besides knowing his way around Wrigleyville a little better, he also comes into 2013 with a much improved feel for the organization, at both the major league and minor league levels.
The 2012 Cubs had their share of on-field struggles, so Hoyer spent much of his second offseason with the organization finding ways to improve on last year’s meager win total. But Hoyer has a plan, and he doesn’t want to deviate from it. His focus was on finding players who fit what the Cubs are trying to do.
Part of that plan included making the new front office’s first big free-agent splash, adding 29-year-old right-handed pitcher Edwin Jackson, who the team signed to a four-year, $52 million deal in January. Other notable acquisitions included low-risk, high-reward signings like right-handers Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva, and outfielders Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston.
For the April issue of Vine Line, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat sat down with Hoyer to talk about the 2013 Cubs, the differences between this season and last, and what to look for as the organization moves forward. We’ll post some of the quotes here on the blog in the next few weeks. To read the entire interview, pick up the April issue or subscribe to Vine Line today.
Vine Line: Coming off a rough year in 2012, what was your top priority this offseason?
Jed Hoyer: As an organization, we’re still not where we want to be from a pitching standpoint. I think that probably the biggest weakness when we got here was depth in pitching, especially at the upper levels. Ideally, you want to home-grow all of your pitching. We don’t have that luxury right now, so we actively sought out a lot of starting pitching. We brought in four guys we see as starters: [Edwin] Jackson, [Scott] Feldman, [Scott] Baker and [Carlos] Villanueva. We’ve had some injuries and setbacks this spring, but we feel we can weather that storm. That was certainly a priority for the offseason.
VL: Jackson’s contract—four years, $52 million—surprised some fans because of the length and amount.
JH: The biggest thing with him is his age. He’s been really durable. He’ll pitch this year at 29 years old. Our goal is to create a really good, young team. At some point, we know we’ll have to delve into free agency. You can’t wait and do it all at once. Signing a 29-year-old pitcher to a four-year deal, we felt, was the right thing to do. Getting him at this age, we feel he still has some upside left and that it was a prudent decision. We’re excited to have him.
VL: Ian Stewart struggled last year and was sidelined by a wrist injury. Why did you decide to bring him back?
JH: We’re not really sure we saw the best of Ian last year. He had the wrist injury, and he never felt 100 percent. We had a lot of discussions about that in the offseason and decided to bring him back, given he had the wrist surgery. We felt he’d be ready to go. Unfortunately, he had a setback early in the spring. I still feel the wrist was an issue with his hitting, but we don’t know how much it affected him last year. We thought the right thing to do was bring him back. It’s hard to find third basemen in today’s game. He’s a really good defender, he’s a left-handed hitter, he has power. There’s a lot there, and hopefully we can unlock it.
VL: How different was this spring compared to last year?
JH: It’s a lot different. I went through the same thing in San Diego when I went there in 2010. I felt so much more comfortable in 2011. Your first year is a blur. Theo and I talk about that all the time. Every face is new from a player standpoint, coaching staff, media, staff. Now you know people, so you feel more comfortable. Even with the players, that’s the biggest thing. It’s a lot different spring in a good way. We hope not to make any changes any time soon and hope to become part of the fabric of the Cubs going forward.
You can never have too much pitching.
If you need further proof of that old baseball axiom, let’s look at the 2012 Cubs. They started the season with a fairly solid rotation behind a pitching-out-of-his-gourd Ryan Dempster, reliever-turned-starter Jeff Samardzija, a rejuvenated Paul Maholm and young veteran ﬁreballer Matt Garza. At the back end, there were two options: newly acquired lefty Travis Wood and underachieving former top draft pick Chris Volstad.
Things looked pretty good on paper. But, as we all know, that didn’t last long.
The offense didn’t score. Injuries took their toll. The trade deadline came and went. And, well, the rest is lamentable Cubs history.
It turned out the team didn’t have much major league-ready talent behind those guys—in the starting rotation or in the bullpen—and baseball president Theo Epstein’s preseason prediction, “The numbers show you’re going to need your ninth starter through the course of the year,” came true.
As a result, the front ofﬁce was laser focused on one thing throughout the hot stove season: acquiring more serviceable big league pitching to ensure there isn’t a repeat performance of last season.
“I think that probably the biggest weakness when we got here was depth in pitching, especially at the upper levels,” General Manager Jed Hoyer said. “Ideally, you want to home-grow all of your pitching. We don’t have that luxury right now, so we actively sought out a lot of starting pitching. We brought in four guys we see as starters: [Edwin] Jackson, [Scott] Feldman, [Scott] Baker and [Carlos] Villanueva.”
The Cubs might not have a traditional “ace” coming into the season, but they have three guys with the ability to ﬁll that role in Samardzija, Garza and Jackson. If strike-throwing machine Baker can fully recover from last April’s Tommy John surgery, he should be a useful veteran addition to the staff. Feldman and Villanueva have both proven they can start and relieve in the big leagues, giving manager Dale Sveum plenty of flexibility. And Travis Wood, the only lefty in the starting mix, has tremendous athleticism and mixes in six different pitches.
The team also solidiﬁed the bullpen by re-signing veteran Shawn Camp and bringing in Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa. Even Rule 5 pick Hector Rondon, who is required to stay on the 25-man major league roster all season or be offered back to the Indians, looked impressive in his spring appearances.
The April issue of Vine Line takes a look at the Cubs pitching staff from top to bottom to give you an idea of what each pitcher throws, how they attack hitters and what to expect this season.
We also sat down with Hoyer to get a sense of where the organization stands as he enters his second season in the driver’s seat. The team certainly still has work to do, but there are many reasons to feel optimistic about the future.
“We’re trying to build something that every year [fans] know is a playoff-quality team,” Hoyer said. “It doesn’t happen overnight, and we’ve been really honest about that. But I do think fans deserve to start seeing the fruits of our labor, and I think you’re going to start to see that coming together now.”
Still, winning organizations are not built solely by shrewd front ofﬁce maneuvers. They require buy-in from coaches, players and personnel at every level. While we were in Mesa, Ariz., with the team this spring, we got a ﬁrsthand look at how the Cubs’ message is being passed along from veteran players, like David DeJesus and Alfonso Soriano, to the younger generation, like Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson. It’s a time-honored baseball tradition—each spring, older players take the young studs under their wings to teach them the ins and outs of the major league game.
Baseball is back. Let’s see where this ride takes us.
Opening Day is just four days away. As Cubs fans prepare for pitcher Jeff Samardzija and the rest of the squad to kick off the regular season, we here at Vine Line are counting down the days in a unique way. For every day remaining until the season starts—today’s number is four—we’ll commemorate some of the best players to wear that number for the Cubs.
(Photo by Getty Images)
Former Cubs coach and manager Don Zimmer has been in professional baseball since 1949. He played for the Cubs as a backup infielder from 1960-61 and managed the team from 1988-91. Zim, known as much for his personality as his on-field exploits, led the 1989 Cubs to a 93-69 record and an NL East title. Unfortunately the Boys of Zimmer were ousted by San Francisco in five games.
Zimmer went on to win four World Series titles with the Yankees dynasty of the late 1990s. He is currently a senior advisor for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Other notable Cubs to wear the No. 4 include:
Billy Williams (1959), Randy Hundley (1977) and Lee Elia
(Photo by Stephen Green)
It all happened fast last season for Cubs left-handed pitcher Chris Rusin. After a flurry of trades and injuries, the Cubs called the 26-year-old up to the majors, where he made seven starts, posting a 2-3 record and a 6.37 ERA. This year, Rusin is likely slated for the minor leagues, but he could also be an option for a swing role in Chicago. So far this spring, he’s posted a 1.80 ERA in 5.0 innings of work. For the March issue of Vine Line, we talked to the left-hander about his call-up to the big leagues, his goals for this season and how he spends his free time.
WELCOME TO THE SHOW It’s pretty crazy. You get everything thrown at you. The first game was probably the most nervous I’ve been in a long time. After that, you kind of get settled in. It’s just how the big leagues are. I had a couple of rough games that were hard to handle, but I had some good ones too. I’ll take that … and try to learn from it.
THE MAJOR DIFFERENCE [The biggest difference between the minors and the majors is you have to] have an everyday routine, and you have to hit your spots. If you don’t, [hitters are] going to capitalize on that. The penalty for missing your spots here is a lot bigger than it is in the minors. That was the biggest thing. If you miss, they get their pitch and hit it.
CRAFTY LEFTIES I like watching [Tom] Glavine or [Andy] Pettitte just because they weren’t overpowering. They were crafty, and that’s kind of what I am. I don’t power pitch, so I have to find ways to get hitters out.
HONING THE CRAFT [This season, my goal is to] just be more consistent. I’m not going to worry about making a roster spot. I just have to do my part … and come back a better pitcher, a better player, and fight for a spot. [I’m going to] do my best and see what happens in Spring Training.
DOWNTIME I watch SportsCenter all the time. It’s either SportsCenter or video games. I’m just a real relaxed guy. I don’t like to go out and do too much. I play golf here and there, but for the most part, I just watch sports and play Call of Duty all the time. It’s a good offseason thing for me.
To read the complete interview with Rusin, pick up the March issue of Vine Line, featuring Jeff Samardzija, available now at select Jewel-Osco, Walgreens, Meijer, Barnes & Noble and other Chicago-area retailers. Or subscribe to Vine Line today.
The major league season can be a grind. Playing 162 games takes a toll on an athlete’s body and mind. That’s why downtime is so important. Some players play video games; others spend time with their families.
This week, Vine Line had some fun with the team to dig up a few facts you won’t find on the back of a baseball card. In the last installment of our spring Kicking Back video series, we talk to Cubs players about how they spent their offseason, what they do to kill time on the road and who is the worst dresser in the clubhouse.
Here are the other videos from out Spring Training series: