Results tagged ‘ Steve Clevenger ’

Cubs acquire RHP Arrieta, RHP Strop from Baltimore

Arrieta

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty)

The Cubs today acquired right-handed pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop as well as two international signing bonus slots (slot numbers three and four) from the Baltimore Orioles for right-handed pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger.

Arrieta will be assigned to Triple-A Iowa while Strop is expected to report to the Cubs later this week.

Arrieta, 27, is a former top prospect with front-of-the-rotation stuff, but he’s yet to put everything together at he major league level. In parts of four seasons with Baltimore, he’s 20-25 with a 5.46 ERA in 69 appearances, all but six as a starting pitcher. He was originally selected by the Orioles in the fifth round of the 2007 Draft and made his major league debut in 2010 at the age of 24. He was a 10-game winner for the Orioles in 2011, going 10-8 with a 5.05 ERA in 22 starts.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Arrieta, whose fastball averages in the low- to mid-90s, was a member of Baltimore’s 2013 Opening Day roster and has had three stints with the big league club this season, going 1-2 with a 7.23 ERA in five starts. With Norfolk, Arrieta went 5-3 with a 4.41 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts).

Arrieta was drafted by the Orioles out of Texas Christian University and made his professional debut in 2008. A year later, he advanced as high as Triple-A, combining to go 11-11 with a 3.40 ERA in 28 starts between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk. He began the 2010 campaign by going 6-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 12 appearances (11 starts) with Norfolk to earn his first promotion to the big leagues.

Strop, 28, has struggled so far this season, but served as one of Baltimore’s primary set-up men last season, going 5-2 with three saves, 24 holds and a 2.44 ERA in 70 relief appearances. He tied for seventh in the American League in holds and limited opponents to a .283 slugging percentage, the sixth-lowest mark in the majors among pitchers who made at least 70 appearances.

The 6-foot, 175-pounder is 7-6 with three saves and a 4.14 ERA in 144 major league relief appearances with Texas (2009-11) and Baltimore (2011-13). He missed time on the disabled list this year due to a lower back strain and has gone 0-3 with a 7.25 ERA in 29 relief outings.

Feldman, 30, signed a one-year contract with the Cubs prior to the 2013 campaign and went 7-6 with a 3.46 ERA (35 ER/91.0 IP) in 15 starts this season. Overall, Feldman is 46-50 with a 4.66 ERA (424 ER/818.2 IP) in 219 major league games (116 starts) with Texas and the Cubs. Left-hander Chris Rusin (7-7, 3.27 ERA at Iowa) will pitch tonight for the Cubs in place of Feldman.

Clevenger, 27, batted .125 (1-for-8) in eight games with the Cubs this season before straining his left oblique on April 13.  He batted .327 (17-for-52) in 15 games with Iowa this year.

Battle for final Opening Day spot heats up

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Last week’s roster cuts gave Cubs fans a better view of who will be on the Opening Day roster—a total of 11 players were sent to various minor league squads on Friday, and reliever Rafael Dolis was shipped to Triple-A Iowa later in the weekend—but there is still at least one spot up for grabs.

Zach Putnam, Hisanori Takahashi and Cory Wade all will be vying for the final spot in the bullpen, following the news that Michael Bowden and Rule 5 pick Hector Rondon were likely  in.

The 25-year-old Putnam signed with the Cubs this past Christmas after spending 2012 with Colorado. The right-hander has pitched nine innings this spring, posting a 3.00 ERA, a 1.56 WHIP and notching five strikeouts. In Triple-A last year, he racked up 12 saves in 49 games and posted a 4.15 ERA in 60.2 innings of work.

Takahashi is a 37-year-old veteran who spent most of his career playing in Japan before coming to the U.S. in 2010. The left-hander split time with the Angels and Pirates last year, posting a 5.54 ERA in 50.1 major league innings. With James Russell the only lefty locked into the bullpen, the Japanese native might have the inside track.

Wade comes over as an offseason signing as well, having spent the previous two seasons with the Yankees. The 30-year-old right-hander posted a 6.46 ERA in 39 innings in 2012. That came after a 2011 campaign in which he had a 2.04 ERA in 39.2 innings. This spring, he has a 5.63 ERA in eight innings pitched.

Cubs.com’s Carrie Muskat reported that Steve Clevenger is likely going to beat out utility infielder Alberto Gonzalez for the final bench spot on the roster. Clevenger played 69 games for the Cubs in 2012, mostly at catcher. This spring, the organization has tried out the 26-year-old at first base. He’s hitting .395 in 41 plate appearances.

Clevenger will be batting third and playing first Monday as the Cubs host defending World Series champs San Francisco. Lefty Travis Wood will get the start for Chicago, opposite Ryan Vogelsong. The 3:05 CST game can be seen on Comcast SportsNet, or fans can listen in on Cubs.com. Here’s the lineup the Cubs will send out Monday:

CF David DeJesus
SS Brent Lillbridge
1B Steve Clevenger
LF Alfonso Soriano
RF Nate Schierholtz
C Dioner Navarro
3B Luis Valbuena
2B Alberto Gonzalez
P Travis Wood

Fangraphs projects Cubs first basemen among baseball’s best

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Baseball fans and writers alike have taken notice of the emergence of Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Now baseball statistics website Fangraphs.com is calling him one of the best first basemen in the game.

The 23-year-old came up with the Cubs in late June, and wrapped up 2012 with a .285 average, 15 homers and 48 driven in. He also impressed in a short stint with Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic.

This week, Fangraphs is ranking organizations by positional strength, using projected WAR (wins above replacement) as its baseline. The objective is to rank all 30 teams by how much production the publication feels they will get out of each position on the field.

Fangraphs unveiled its first base rankings on Thursday, and rated the Cubs fifth best at the position with a total WAR of 3.8 (Rizzo accounts for a 3.9 WAR, utility man Brent Lillibridge a -0.1 and converted catcher Steve Clevenger a 0.0 WAR at first).

Here’s what Fangraphs had to say about the Cubs’ first base corps:

Who had the Cubs fifth in the pool? Don’t lie. 23-year-old Anthony Rizzo is a young hitter who had a nice debut for Chicago last year, but it is a bit shocking to see the nearly universal jump in power projected by all the systems. They must be really impressed by his Triple-A numbers, which look pretty stunning when it comes to his power. Minor league translations are a tricky matter, so there’s a great deal of uncertainty in play. Rizzo needs his power to to be for real if he’s going to be a star, because so far, his walk and strikeout rates are not exceptionally impressive. Still, even if Rizzo only repeats his rates from 2012, the Cubs will have an above-average performer at first base who has room to improve. Bryan LaHair left for Japan in the off-season, so there is no safety net if Rizzo has an Eric Hosmer-esque sophomore season.

Cabrera, Clevenger both in action for Cubs

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Steve Clevenger’s play at the start of 2012 definitely opened some eyes

He was named to the Cubs’ 25-man roster when the club broke camp, beating out the highly touted Welington Castillo for the backup catcher position behind Geovany Soto. Then the rookie started April going 11-for-22 with five doubles before injuries set him back for the rest of the season. Clevenger finished the year hitting .201 in 215 plate appearances.

In the offseason, the Cubs went out and got a former All-Star in Dioner Navarro to back up Castillo in 2013. Though both catcher spots are already accounted for, Cubs manager Dale Sveum has been looking for ways to get Clevenger more at-bats, even if it means putting the catcher at different positions around the infield.

A seventh round pick in 2006, the 26-year-old Clevenger was selected as an infielder and didn’t switch exclusively to catcher until 2009. He spent much of his time at first base, but also played second and occasionally third. While he’ll be in the lineup as a catcher on Monday when the Cubs host Cleveland, don’t be surprised to see him logging some innings at first this spring, with the hopes of being the squad’s backup first baseman, third catcher and left-handed bat off the bench.

Alberto Cabrera will get the start Monday. It will mark his second appearance of the spring. In his first appearance last week, he went 2.2 innings, surrendering two earned runs and striking out three. The organization appears high on the 24-year-old, who will likely try his luck as a starter in Triple-A to begin the season. In 21.2 innings of major league ball in 2012, the Dominican native had a 5.40 ERA, but struck out 27 batters.

First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 CST, and the game will be webcast at cubs.com. The Indians will be sending Zach McAllister to the hill. Here is the Cubs full batting order:

SS Luis Valbuena
CF Darnell McDonald
RF Scott Hairston
LF Alfonso Soriano
C Steve Clevenger
3B Junior Lake
1B Brad Nelson
DH Jorge Soler
2B Logan Watkins

Spring Training Preview: Behind the Dish

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Baseball is finally back. Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training this past weekend, and Cubs fans everywhere got a little more excited with the realization that the baseball season is almost here.

To get us back into gear, the February issue of Vine Line previewed the squad heading into Mesa, Ariz. We broke the team down into five categories—starting pitching, relief pitching, catchers, infielders and outfielders—to give fans a clearer picture of what to expect when the Cubs break camp and head to Chicago.

Below is a look at the catchers. The February issue is on newsstands now, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. Or visit the Vine Line page on Cubs.com to subscribe to the magazine.


After Geovany Soto was traded at the deadline last July, manager Dale Sveum gave equal playing time to catchers Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo. Though Clevenger won the backup job out of Spring Training, Castillo had earned the bulk of the starts by September, thanks to a strong presence with the bat (with both solid power and on-base skills) and what Sveum described as one of the best arms in baseball behind the plate.

Outside of throwing out would-be base stealers, Castillo does need to work on everything that comes with being an everyday backstop in the big leagues, including calling a good game and framing pitches. The pieces are there for Castillo to be an All-Star-caliber catcher, but it’s up to him and the coaching staff to put it all together and extract his full potential.

Dioner Navarro was signed to be Castillo’s backup and also act as veteran insurance in case Castillo fails to mature as hoped. Navarro’s signing all but assures Clevenger is left without a spot on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster.

1000 Words: Say goodbye to Movember

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

When the clock strikes midnight, men everywhere will be busting out shaving cream and razors to remove a month-long growth of facial hair, marking the end of another successful month of Movember. This year, thousands of men, including many in the Cubs front office, grew out their beards and moustaches to help raise awareness for men’s health issues, such as prostate and testicular cancer.

Cubs venture to the South Side — Part II

The Cubs got the season’s second crosstown series off to a lopsided start, hammering 15 hits and tallying 12 runs, in a 12-3 victory. Yesterday we broke down the pitching matchups for the Cubs’ series with the South Side Sox. Today we examine the infielders.

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Catcher

Geovany Soto (.173/.257/.337, 4 HR, 21% CS)  vs. A.J. Pierzynski (.286/.329/.512, 12 HR, 29% CS)

Geovany Soto is off the DL and looks to have retained his regular catching duties, despite a .173 batting average. Backup catcher Steve Clevenger (.284/.303/.392, 8 doubles, 76 PA), who played first base yesterday, looked good in Soto’s absence. Soto, a former NL All-Star and Rookie of the Year, will need to bolster his stats a bit to keep his everyday job.

A.J. Pierzynski continues to up his game, even at 35 years old. His .286 average is second-highest among AL catchers, and he leads that group in slugging percentage. He should get serious All-Star consideration.

First Base

Bryan LaHair (.299/.380/.572, 13 HR, 28 RBI) vs. Paul Konerko (.359/.434/.600, 13 HR, 38 RBI)

Despite not being in the lineup against lefties, Bryan LaHair’s numbers are some of the best among National League first basemen. So far this season, he has been one of the better feel-good stories in baseball. With the Cubs facing three righties this series, expect to see the 29-year-old slugger’s name penciled into the lineup all three games—even if it’s in the outfield, where he started the first game of the series. That could be a signal the team is readying for first base uber-prospect Anthony Rizzo.

But as good as LaHair has been, Paul Konerko has turned himself into a legitimate MVP candidate—an impressive feat for a 36-year-old many believed was past his prime. His .359 batting average is more than 40 points above his career high.

Second Base

Darwin Barney (.272/.319/.392, 3 HR, 22 RBI) vs. Gordon Beckham (.236/.286/.372, 8 HR, 27 RBI)

Darwin Barney has been a big contributor for the Cubs all season long. While Manager Dale Sveum has platooned much of the starting lineup, Barney has been one of the few steady regulars, regardless of the matchup. His .272 average and .319 OBP are third-best among Cubs regulars, and he has come through in the clutch on several occasions.

Former first-round draft pick Gordon Beckham continues to struggle at the plate after a promising rookie season in ’08. The Sox were hoping Beckham could emerge as a top-of-the-order guy when the season started, but his .286 on-base percentage has kept him at the bottom of the high-powered lineup. However, he did hit the go-ahead home run in the first game at Wrigley earlier this year.

Shortstop

Starlin Castro (.303/.317/.448, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 16 SB) vs. Alexei Ramirez (.230/.255/.282, 1 HR, 29 RBI, 9 SB)

Starlin Castro is putting together another solid campaign and will likely represent the Cubs in July’s All-Star Game. While he’s walked just six times in 285 plate appearances, he’s still hovering around a .300 batting average. And, despite a few mental gaffes, his defense is improving. His UZR ranks him as one of the NL’s elite defensive shortstops. He’s also running more this season. His 16 stolen bases are already closing in on his career-high total (22) from last year.

Alexei Ramirez has been ice cold for the Sox all season, which may be a bigger surprise than Konerko’s torrid start. Last year, the 30-year-old Ramirez finished with a 4.9 WAR (wins above replacement), good for 17th in the AL. This year, he sits a -0.6, third-worst in the league.

Third Base

Luis Valbuena (.294/.333/.647, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 12 AB) vs. Orlando Hudson (.176/.265/.297, 2 HR, 10 RBI)

The hot corner features a pair of newcomers to their respective teams. Luis Valbuena was signed by the Cubs a week before the season began and just started earning regular playing time after Ian Stewart went on the DL with wrist problems. Valbuena has produced offensively in the past, hitting .250 with 10 homers in 103 games for the Indians in 2009. In just five games this year, he’s already hit two home runs and driven in seven.

The Sox signed 34-year-old Orlando Hudson in May to take over for the slumping Brent Morel. The four-time Gold Glove winner and career second baseman has been moderately successful with the transition to third, committing three errors in 23 games, but he continues to struggle mightily at the dish.

Tomorrow, we focus on designated hitters and outfielders.

Cactus Notes: 3 catchers move into Sweet 16

MESA, Ariz.–Four more players moved into the round of 16 today in the Cubs bunting tournament, and the catchers are leading the way. Three backstops, Welington Castillo, Steve Clevenger and Blake Lalli, all advanced this week, and one may be becoming the prohibitive favorite. After knocking out Tony Campana in the first round, Clevenger continued to impress, ousting fierce competitor Bryan LaHair. The battle between Clevenger and LaHair was also a painful one, as both players were hit by a pitch from bullpen catcher Andy Lane. Pitchers Chris Rusin and Casey Coleman also advanced today.

While top outfield prospect Brett Jackson lost his battle with Castillo, he did manage the first 100-point bunt of the tournament. Players can score 100 points if they land a bunt in a small red circle on either side of the pitcher’s mound, but they have to “call their shot” first.

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