Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Marmol. A couple of Carloses (Carlosi?) that we need to worry about in the head category, the mental game. Zambrano had an awful ’09 by Big Z standards. Every from Hendry down to Ronnie Woo Woo thinks this year is going to be potentially the biggest of his career. Piniella’s gone as far as saying that Z could hit the 20 win mark in 2010. Zambrano’s going to have to keep his head straight and lay off the meltdowns if 20 wins is going to be anywhere near Z’s future this season. He’s projected to once again start Opening Day for the Cubs, a position he’s been horribly unsuccesful in when it comes to which flag ends up flying for the Cubs at Wrigley after doing so. From Opening Day right on through September, if we’re going to have a chance of picking up the games necessary to catch the Cards and make the postseason, Zambrano has to keep his head on straight and lead the way. Be the ace we pay you to be Z. Lead the way.
And set the example for another guy in the head/mental concern category for 2010. This is finally what Marmol has been waiting for. After spending years proving himself out of the bullpen as the set up guy, this year, he’s the man. The owner of the job of Cubs’ closer. After losing out two years ago in an audition and then only being given the chance to take over for an ineffective, season poisoning pitcher in Kevin Gregg he has now been given the role he’s coveted. Let’s hope his head stays where we need it to be. Focused on the task at hand day in and day out and not overwhelmed by achieving a goal he’s had his sights on for years. Sometimes when we get where we want to be, it’s hard to maintain that momentum and it isn’t always what we thought it would be. I have no doubt being the Cubs closer will be all Marmol feels it’s cracked up to be…I just hope he kicks off the season right in roughly a month from now and keeps up that momentum through all of 2010.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m a Lil’ worried about Ted Lilly. He’s saying all the right things as is the organization. He’s taking his time in getting back and no one expects him to be available come Opening Day. Not only am I concerned about what we get in Ted when he does return, I’m concerned about what his absence does to our rotation. Without Lilly as part of the Cubs’ five, we’re looking at Zambrano, Dempster, Wells and then two guys currently sharing the same name on the back of their jersey: TBD. That doesn’t exactly bode well no matter how much Muskat wants to report that this is Samardzija’s year or that Gorzellany or Marshall or Silva may have enough to do their fair share while we wait for our most consistent pitcher to get back in pinstripes. Ted Lilly’s shoulder needs to show up in 2010 at 100% because without Ted healthy, we have no shot at the playoffs this year.
Angel Guzman is another guy who has seen some down time recently due to soreness in his shoulder and the Cubs are going to look to him as potentially a strong part of the bullpen this year. With Nady’s elbow working it’s way back through possibly new throwing mechanics from the outfield, you have to acknowledge that once you start throwing different than your body is used to, it could have a negative effect on other parts. IE: his shoulder. These three shoulders need to get healthy and be ready come Opening Day.
Really, the only knees I am extremely concerned about are those of our left fielder, Alfonso Soriano. One day he is saying that he doesn’t feel his knee is where it needs to be considering how much time has passed since his surgery late last year. Then the next day, suddenly, it’s not feeling so bad. Well, which is it Sori? Good? Not so good? Hopefully Piniella and the team doctors keep a real close eye on Alfonso this Spring. The appropriate number of plate appearances to shake off that Winter dust is one thing. Let’s not push him beyond that though. He needs to be as healthy as possible to hold his own in the six hole this year and getting to any fly balls he can’t hop too or anything too far left of Byrd’s range in center. Soriano’s contract is already putting a damper on financial flexibility. His knees can’t suffer from any sort of damper in the flexibility category as well.
Our man Geo behind plate represents the ‘Tos for this rundown of concerns for ’10 heading into Spring Training. If the Cubs were the cast of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, Soto’s off-season efforts would’ve taken home the grand prize. 40 pounds lighter and the desire to prove his sophomore slump was nothing but a fluke could spell an amazing 2010 for Soto! A more serious attitude towards winning and staying in shape, less weed and perhaps less snacks led to Soto’s weight loss. We need him in shape and turning that bat around on opposing pitchers’ fastballs quick like an athletic catcher and not our fat friend who we like so much we can’t tell him he can’t play, we just stick him behind the plate to play catcher so he doesn’t have to move too much. From the time Soto saw folks at the Cubs Convention right through reports coming in from Spring Training, the word has been that Soto looks amazing and is going to bring it this year. With the first games of Spring around the corner, I can’t wait to see what he looks like in action.
Lots of competition on the ball club this year in rounding out the bench and guys coming back from injuries and off years should make for a thrilling Spring Training. Can’t wait to see Sori, Millar, Zambrano, Nady, Soto and what happens in the battle for second base.
Spring Training is here as guys have started to report even earlier than necessary. You have to love the ambition and commitment. Add some health to the mix this year, and we could be talking Cubs baseball right into October in the present tense, not looking back like last year.
Wells to start the Cubs opener this Thursday against the A’s…Go Cubs Go!