Results tagged ‘ Jed Hoyer ’

Hot Off the Presses: Vine Line’s Opening Day Issue

001_VL1304_Cover_newstand

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.

To read these stories and more, pick up the April issue of Vine Line, on sale now at select Chicago-area retailers. Or subscribe to Vine Line today. And you can follow us on Twitter at @cubsvineline.

Baseball is back. Let’s see where this ride takes us.

Cubs high on ESPN’s future power rankings

CASTRO-S-083112-SG-06

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Much has been written about the organizational overhaul that has occurred on the North Side since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over in November 2011. Over the last season-plus, the club has seen a dramatic improvement at both the major and minor league levels.

While many publications strongly believe in what the Cubs front office is doing, ESPN’s brain trust of baseball writers took things a step further, rating the Cubs the sixth best organization in their future power rankings.

ESPN described the piece as an attempt to measure how well teams are set up for sustained success over the next five seasons. Each team was ranked 1-30 (30 points were given if they were the best, 29 if they were second, etc.) on five different categories: major league quality, minor league quality, finances, management and mobility.

The Cubs, who ranked 16th last year, made the league’s biggest improvement. Below is what ESPN said about the club:

Chicago Cubs
Rank: 6
Majors (points awarded): 6
Minors: 26
Finance: 24
Management: 25
Mobility: 24
TOTAL SCORE: 65 of 100

The Overview
In Theo We Trust. This club is undergoing a teardown unseen this side of Houston, but they’ve rid themselves of pretty much every significant payroll obligation beyond 2014. It’s been an encouraging rebuilding effort, though Matt Garza’s injury woes will prevent them from extracting full value for him in a trade. — Buster Olney

The Dilemma
They have made a lot of strides adding position-player talent to the organization, and now they must add arms. Most of their winter spending was on pitchers, but they don’t have a future ace in the pipeline. — Jim Bowden

The System
They’ve turned around substantially after trading Paul Maholm, spending lavishly on international free agents (when permitted) and drafting well in 2012, although most of what I like about this system is a good two years  away.  — Keith Law

In a related story, ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski projected the best 30 players in 2018, which included a pair of Cubs in the top 15: Starlin Castro (8) and Anthony Rizzo (15). Below is what Szymborski wrote about each player:

8. Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs
Projected 2018 stats: .293/.341/.478, 19 HR, 4.7 WAR

Can he stay at short? The stats have generally been more positive (or at least, less negative) on Castro’s defense than the eye has been. Wherever he ends up, by 2018 he’s likely to be one of the best hitters for average over the past decade, though he’s not going to ever be a guy who racks up walks.

15. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs
Projected 2018 stats: .273/.356/.520, 34 HR, 4.3 WAR

Ignore Rizzo’s cup of coffee with the Padres, his .285/.342/.463 line with the Cubs in 2012 is a far more accurate representation of where he is as a player. The Theo Epstein Cubs aren’t done rebuilding yet, but if they can round up a worthwhile third baseman, the infield will already be one of the best in baseball.

1000 Words: Hoyer and Rizzo talk shop

RizzHoyer

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer and first baseman Anthony Rizzo share some trade secrets around the batting cages at Fitch Park in Mesa, Ariz. The big league team said a rainy final goodbye to Fitch yesterday afternoon before heading over to HoHoKam Stadium, where they’ll spend the rest of the spring. The team will move into a new facility for spring 2014.

Cactus Notes: Quotes from Hoyer, Sveum and Castro

Hoyer

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Tuesday was the second-to-last day for the Cubs at the Fitch Park practice facility. The team will move over to HoHoKam Stadium after practice tomorrow, and they’ll move into their new complex in the Riverview section of Mesa, Ariz., next year. Manager Dale Sveum jokingly said he’d likely shed a tear for Fitch when the team packs up tomorrow.

There was good news this morning, when General Manager Jed Hoyer announced that an MRI showed Cubs pitcher Matt Garza has only a mild lat strain on his left side and shouldn’t be shut down for more than about a week. There was also much talk today about (and by) Starlin Castro.

Here are some select quotes from Tuesday’s action.

Hoyer on Garza

“We’re probably going to let him rest for about a week—make sure he’s pain-free—at which point he can ramp back up his throwing. It’s safe to say it pushes back his first Cactus League start. What it means for the regular season, it’s clearly much too early to say. But we felt like it was really good news. It’s just a mild strain, and we think it’ll be about a week until he should be pain free based on the MRI. Matt is in good spirits. He felt much better yesterday. We’re optimistic. It was certainly a positive read from our standpoint.”

Sveum on Garza

“[It was] probably about as good as we could get out of the MRI. He’ll set back maybe five or seven days without throwing. Then we’ll get him back out there. Obviously, it affects probably his first outing—for sure his first outing. But everything else from there hopefully is fine for the start of the season.”

Sveum on Castro

“I like the way he’s been going about his business for the first three days in camp defensively. It’s one thing I challenged him to do. [I said], ‘Your next step now in all this is to win a Gold Glove.’ Obviously, that takes a lot of focus and hard work and being focused for 150 pitches a game and 162 games. He’s got the ability to do it. The rest is up to him.”

“I think the next step for him is to become more of a winning-type hitter. Just understanding any situation about driving runs in. It’s having great at-bats in those key situations and not trying to do too much when the game is on the line. Grinding out at-bats and not making quick early outs on pitcher’s pitches.”

“Besides obviously a couple lapses … He improved tremendously throughout the season. I saw it, so hopefully he keeps improving. That’s all we’re asking for out of a guy like him because the upside there just keeps growing. The rest of it now is pretty much up to him with the experience he already has in the big leagues.”

Castro on Castro

“Some people think that our team is not very good, but we think that this team is very good because we’ve got four good starters. If you’ve got four good starters, you can compete with whatever team.”

“I know that God gave me [the ability to] hit. That’s why when I went to the Dominican, I worked very hard every day on my defense. I want to be like [Darwin] Barney and win a Gold Glove. It’s going to be fun to win a Gold Glove at shortstop, second base and first base. It’s going to be fun because [Anthony] Rizzo is very good too. … It’s good motivation for me. I know I can be like those guys and play very good defense.”

“[If the team is winning], I’m going to be even more of a superstar than I am supposed to be in the future. I know I can be very good because I’ve never been lazy with my work habits. I work hard to be better every day.”

“[Getting the long-term contract] didn’t change anything, but you feel a little more relaxed because my family is going to be good now. I can just play baseball and forget about everything.”

“This year, I concentrated more on my game plan. It’s going to be perfect.”

Cactus Notes: Quotes from spring camp

Today was the second full day of Cubs camp in Mesa, Ariz., and the team definitely stayed busy. Outfielder Tony Campana was traded to the Diamondbacks, it was photo day, the bunting competition got underway, and Dale Sveum and Jed Hoyer addressed the media. Though GM Hoyer said the team is not overly concerned about Matt Garza’a lat injury, the team will schedule an MRI for the right-hander in the next 24-48 hours. Here are some select quotes from Monday’s session.

Hoyer on Garza’s Lat Injury

“The good news is his arm felt really strong and he was throwing really well. It’s unfortunate for sure, and it’s going to set him back a little bit. But we’re still really confident. Our concern, obviously, was with the elbow injury that shut him down last year.”

“It wasn’t the most fun live BP session to watch. He looked great and free and easy where you feel really good about what you’re watching, and the next thing you know, you see a guy stretching his side. Right away, when you see a guy like that stretching, you think the worst. It was a bummer but I’m glad his arm feels good, and Matt is in real good spirits because of that. It’s the kind of injury that you’re thankful happened in the first live BP. When these injuries happen in the last start of Spring Training it really hurts you in the season.”

Sveum on Kyuji Fujikawa

“I’ve probably seen him throw a good four bullpens. I missed him yesterday. I was on another field when he threw. But everybody said his split was really nasty, and that’s his out pitch. … When you have a split finger like that and you throw strikes and you can get ahead of hitters, it’s a pretty devastating pitch. So I think he’s going to do fine. He’s a great athlete, so I think he can make things happen. Even on the days he doesn’t have his split, he knows how to elevate, pitch inside, pitch down and away, use his two-seamer.”

Sveum on Alfonso Soriano

“I had never met him at all in my life until the first day of camp last year. We have a great relationship. I consider him a friend now as much as somebody I manage.”

“Seeing him on the other side of the fence, I was completely blown away by the kind of person he is and the work ethic he puts in. I rank him in the top five people I’ve ever been around in the game as far as work ethic, people and everything.”

Bunting competition is underway in Mesa

bunt

For the second year in a row, Cubs manager Dale Sveum is staging a Spring Training bunting competition that includes coaches, players and—in a new twist this year—a member of the front office.

On Saturday, the front office and clubhouse staff competed in a play-in bracket. The winner of that bracket moved into the larger tournament. In a hotly contested first-round, front office matchup, Cubs baseball president Theo Epstein knocked out GM Jed Hoyer. But Epstein fell in the next round to director of baseball operations Scott Harris. Advanced scouting assistant Nate Halm, who played catcher at Miami of Ohio before graduating in 2008, won the front office competition over strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss.

Halm continued his hot streak in the first round of the official tournament on Monday, taking out Rule 5 pickup Hector Rondon. But that wasn’t the only upset of the day. Bullpen catcher Andy Lane also took down outfielder Dave Sappelt, and last year’s dark horse favorite Steve Clevenger lost handily to infielder Luis Valbuena. Other winners were James Russell, Brian Bogusevic, Edwin Maysonet, Travis Wood and Drew Carpenter.

Cubs Convention kicks off next Friday

CONVENTION-EPSTEIN-SESSION-011412-SG-47

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Ready to get the 2013 baseball season started? The Cubs campaign kicks off next weekend, Jan. 18-20, at the 28th Annual Cubs Convention, held for the first time at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in downtown Chicago. The event will feature more than 75 current, past and future Cubs players and coaches, and will offer more than 100 photo and autograph opportunities.

The Opening Ceremony begins on Friday, Jan. 18, at 5 p.m., and will feature player and alumni introductions on a red carpet runway that will offer special VIP access to children 16 and under. Following the Opening Ceremony, guests will find some of their favorite Cubs throughout the hotel for an exciting Autograph Hunt Game. The evening will conclude with longtime Cubs Convention favorite Cubs Bingo, led by Wayne Messmer, as well as a live radio broadcast of WGN Sports Night.

Saturday’s program continues the gaming fun with the return of Cubs Jeopardy, which pits alumni pitchers Milt Pappas, Scott Sanderson, Lee Smith and Rick Sutcliffe against alumni position players Jose Cardenal, Jody Davis, Randy Hundley and Todd Walker. Cubs Family Feud makes its Cubs Convention debut Saturday afternoon, as Cubs alumni Bobby Dernier, Jon Lieber, Gary Matthews and Billy Williams take on current Cubs Michael Bowden, Shawn Camp, Brett Jackson and Ian Stewart.

Fans can meet many of the club’s offseason acquisitions—including pitchers Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Edwin Jackson; catcher Dioner Navarro; and outfielder Nate Schierholtz—at the Meet the New Cubs session hosted by new television analyst Jim Deshaies and play-by-play broadcaster Len Kasper.

Additional Saturday sessions include:

  • Ricketts Family Forum—Tom, Laura, Pete and Todd Ricketts speak with Len Kasper and fans about their experience as team owners over the past three years.
  • Meet Cubs Baseball Management—President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, Executive Vice President/General Manager Jed Hoyer, Assistant General Manager Randy Bush, Assistant General Manager Shiraz Rehman and manager Dale Sveum speak about the club’s recent moves and what lies ahead for the 2013 season.
  • From Draft Day to the Big Leagues—Cubs minor league prospects Dallas Beeler, Matt Szczur, Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych discuss what it’s like to get drafted by the Chicago Cubs and advance through the minor leagues.
  • Dale Sveum and the Coaching Staff—The Cubs manager, bench coach Jamie Quirk, hitting coach James Rowson, assistant hitting coach Rob Deer, bullpen boach Lester Strode, first base coach Dave McKay and third base coach David Bell speak with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies about what’s in store during the staff’s second year.
  • For Kids Only Press Conference, presented by Advocate Health Care—A unique Q&A session where kids ask the questions to Darwin Barney, David DeJesus, Brooks Raley, Anthony Rizzo and Chris Rusin.
  • Renew Wrigley Field—Cubs executives discuss ideas to preserve and renew iconic Wrigley Field based on input from Cubs fans, season ticket holders and the community.
  • Not for Women Only—Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, James Russell, and Travis Wood discuss their personal sides and lives off the field.
  • WGN Radio’s Sports Central—This live broadcast with WGN Radio’s Jim Memolo and Glen Kozlowski will feature segments with David DeJesus and Matt Garza; Darwin Barney and Jeff Samardzija; Tony Campana and Starlin Castro; and Brett Jackson, Edwin Jackson and Anthony Rizzo.

Sunday’s program features two panel sessions to close out the Convention:

  • Down on the Farm—Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod, Director of Pro Scouting Joe Bohringer and Director of Player Development Brandon Hyde will be joined by Cubs farmhands Chris Rusin and Josh Vitters to give a breakdown of the Cubs minor league teams from Iowa down to Mesa. Hosted by Vine Line editor Gary Cohen and broadcaster Dave Otto.
  • Stat Sundays—Broadcasters Jim Deshaies, Len Kasper and WGN’s Bob Vorwald offer insight into the statistics they analyze and feature during Stat Sundays throughout the season.

In addition to the sessions highlighted above, the Convention includes many new and returning activities throughout the weekend for fans:

Rookie of the Year Movie Night, presented by the Cubs Kids Club, makes its Cubs Convention debut. Fans can eat popcorn and relax with family and friends Saturday evening while watching the popular film, Rookie of the Year.

Walgreens Field is a new miniature turf diamond that gives kids a fun place to take practice batting, play pick-up wiffle ball games or participate in professional instructional clinics as part of the Baseball Interactive Zone. Cubs players and coaches will pair up with Illinois Baseball Academy instructors to conduct a series of training opportunities for fans of all ages throughout the weekend.

Comcast SportsNet Chicago is giving fans the chance to test their play-by-play broadcasting skills in a custom-built fantasy broadcasting booth. Guests will call a pre-recorded play in the booth, then download a recorded copy of their work for keeps.

MLB Network’s Strike Zone allows fans to test their arm speed and win prizes at an inflatable speed pitch.

The Sony PlayStation Gaming Zone gives attendees a chance to take a break from the action to play MLB 12 The Show at one of several Sony PS3 kiosks.

The LEGOLAND® Discovery Center returns with an area dedicated for families to exercise their creativity with the small building blocks.

American Girl’s Activity Area features activities inspired by American Girl dolls and the chance to win a new doll and book.

The Chicago Sun-Times Photo Kiosk lets fans have their picture taken for the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times with customizable headlines that make for a memorable souvenir.

Fans can learn about or contribute to the history of the Cubs franchise in collaboration with team archivists. Historical pieces of memorabilia will be on hand for viewing, and guests can receive professional tips on how to preserve their own valuable keepsakes. Attendees are invited to share their personal stories with a video crew, and they may be used in future promotions or publications.

Limited individual weekend passes for the 2013 Cubs Convention are still available for $60 per pass plus convenience fees. Visit www.cubs.com/convention or call 1-800-THE-CUBS. A percentage of the proceeds from the Cubs Convention benefits Chicago Cubs Charities. To date, Cubs Convention has raised approximately $4 million for Chicago Cubs Charities.

Cubs agree to terms with RHP Edwin Jackson

EJax

After narrowly missing out on free agent starter Anibal Sanchez last month, the Cubs rang in the New Year by coming to terms with right-handed pitcher Edwin Jackson. The 29-year-old signed a reported four-year, $52 million deal—the largest given out by Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer during their brief tenure—and should be a key piece of the Cubs’ rotation in 2013 and beyond.

“He fits very well on the team in 2013, but we think he fits even better with the team going forward as a core member of what we’re trying to build here in Chicago,” Hoyer said. “His talent, his age, and everything we’ve learned about him as a teammate were all part of the reasons we decided to add him to the roster.”

Jackson has called more than a few places home since his 2003 debut with the Dodgers. The 6-foot-3 power arm, who has averaged 94.1 MPH on his fastball throughout his career, was selected out of high school in the sixth round of the 2001 draft by Los Angeles, and was the youngest player in the National League in 2003 and 2004. He was traded to the Rays in 2006 and got his first regular work in a major league rotation in 2007. After the Rays’ 2008 playoff run, Jackson’s travels really started.

Since 2009, the starter has had stints with the Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Cardinals and Nationals. The Cubs will be the seventh team Jackson has played for since 2008 (excluding his trade from the White Sox to the Blue Jays, who sent him to the Cardinals later that day, on July 27, 2011).

“It definitely feels great [to have signed a long-term deal],” Jackson said. “I think the most assuring part is that you have a chance to relax and know that you’re going to be somewhere for a while. You don’t have to feel like you have to prove yourself every year. I think it’s definitely going to help for me to just go out and have fun and not have to worry about anything else.”

Jackson spent last season with the NL East champion Nationals, where he posted a 10-11 record and a 4.03 ERA. The Nationals did not tender Jackson a qualifying offer, so he will not cost the Cubs a draft pick.

In 10 major league seasons, Jackson owns a 70-71 record with a 4.40 ERA and 969 strikeouts in 1,268.2 innings (6.9 K/9). He has reached 31 or more starts in each of his last six seasons, has recorded double-digit wins in each of the last five seasons and has exceeded 180.0 innings pitched in each of the last five seasons. The 2009 All-Star with Detroit also pitched a no-hitter for the Diamondbacks in 2010 and won a World Series with the Cardinals in 2011.

“Edwin is 29 years old, and he’s already had six consecutive seasons of making 30-plus starts,” Hoyer said. “He’s proven his durability, he’s proven his talents, but he’s also still at an age where we think he can get even better.”

The Cubs have been extremely aggressive in remaking their rotation this offseason. Prior to the Jackson signing, they had already signed starters Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva to complement Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood.

“As a pitching staff, when you get pitchers that are competitive and pitchers that want to go out and win, it definitely helps,” said Jackson, who pitched alongside Garza in Tampa Bay. “Everyone is pulling on each other’s coattails, and it’s a positive competitiveness.”

Jackson has a 1-2 career record at Wrigley Field with a 7.94 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 17 innings.

Jacksonstats

GM Hoyer heats up the Hot Stove season

HOYER-J-053012-SG-20

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Sporting brown eyes and brown hair with a touch of salt and pepper at the sides, 39-year-old Jed Hoyer gives firm but friendly answers to the media and comes off as an approachable person. He’s also the fifth-sexiest GM in baseball, according to a very entertaining article from Yahoo.com’s Big League Stew.

After Athletics free agent signee Hiroyuki Nakajima called general manager Billy Beane “cool and sexy” during his introductory press conference,  the baseball blog unveiled its rankings for the sexiest general managers in baseball. Click the link for the complete list.

Now Playing: Cubs introduce reliever Fujikawa at Wrigley

The Cubs introduced the newest member of their relief corps, Japanese import Kyuji Fujikawa, on Friday at Wrigley Field. Fujikawa is the first Japanese player to suit up for the Cubs since Kosuke Fukudome, who roamed the Wrigley outfield from 2008-11. In 12 seasons with the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese Central League, the 32-year-old right-hander went 42-25 with 220 saves and a 1.77 ERA in 692.1 innings pitched. Fujikawa will likely pitch the seventh or eighth inning for the Cubs, as GM Jed Hoyer said Carlos Marmol remains the team’s closer.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,565 other followers