As pitchers, catchers, and some position players reported to Spring Training yesterday you could sense a different tone than most of us are accustomed to. Simply the theme from almost every player that spoke to the media was “Why Not Us?” With the lack of high expectations from the national spotlight, the Cubs seem -as usual- optimistic that they can contend this season, and perhaps win the National League Central crown.
Carlos Zambrano On His outlook for the 2011 season
After skipping the media yesterday when he reported, Zambrano took time out today before the team’s first workout to spend time with some of his favorite people (sarcastically speaking), the Chicago media.
"“I’m going to do more on the field than what I talk about,” Zambrano said before Cubs pitchers and catchers took the field for the first time this spring. “This year I don’t want to say anything. I just want to talk with my numbers.” ESPN Chicago"
As I have said multiple times before, if Zambrano can just focus on the game itself, then he would be one of the best starting pitchers in the league. But for whatever reason Zambrano’s head gets the best of him. Even after getting treatment for his anger management and finishing the season on a high note, I’m having a hard time trusting Zambrano. Besides, no one really made it a point to say that Zambrano’s streak at the end of the season came in all meaningless games.
Zambrano On Opening Day Start
"“Of course I want to be in the Opening Day lineup,” Zambrano said. “I want to open the season for the Cubs. The decision is in [manager] Mike [Quade]’s hands. There’s nothing I can do about it if he decides on [Ryan] Dempster or [Matt] Garza.” ESPN Chicago"
After last season’s debacle against the Atlanta Braves to start the season, I do not think it would be a wise decision for manager Mike Quade to pencil in Zambrano as the opening day starter. In his last six opening day starts, Zambrano has only come away with one win. Besides, given the dedication and consistency that Ryan Dempster has brought to the Cubs rotation, he should be given the opportunity on Opening Day.
Ryan Dempster on the Cubs chances in 2011
"“I think it’s a very realistic thing. We put in a lot of hard work,” Dempster said. “We come here at 6 a.m. in the morning and there are already guys in here working out. I think everybody’s goal is [going to the World Series]. I think you have to go in with that mentality and believe that. Sometimes you say that and you don’t really mean it, but I like our team, and I like our chances.” ESPN Chicago"
I have a hard time thinking the Cubs will finish ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers this season, let alone win the World Series. But, then again, you ask yourself “what else could Dempster say?” Obviously, he was not going to say that he thinks the Cubs are going to miss the playoffs.
Mike Quade on Tyler Colvin
"Right fielder Tyler Colvin will get some time at first base this spring. Q is promising no playing time, but he expects Colvin to be a prominent part of the team. “He’s got to get better as a player, whether it’s playing this year or playing down the road,” he said. “He’s got lots of work to do. We all do. He’s got plenty of stuff to do, and there’s a good group around him. I’m not handing him a job. He’s a kid we’re excited about. He knows it. He comes work every day expecting to earn a job. That’s all you can ask.” Daily Herald"
How can you not like what Quade is doing by saying those comments about Colvin? Clearly, after a rookie season in where Colvin hit 20 home runs, many have put the spotlight on him. But with Quade saying that he has to work in order to get playing time, that should only push Colvin, who already has a great work ethic, to be the best that he could be. As for playing time, Colvin – for the most part- will be the everyday right fielder. He also will see time in other two outfield spots, as well as be the primary first base backup to Carlos Pena.
Jim Hendry on Non-Roster Players
"Hendry says nonroster veteran Reed Johnson has an honest shot to make the team. “Sure, he does,” Hendry said. “We got a lot of respect for people’s careers, and Reed was a tremendous guy here and a great citizen and a great team guy. Mike was his outfield instructor. We felt we wanted some veteran people in who are high-character guys on a minor-league deal. Augie Ojeda’s another one. I’m anxious to see on Braden Looper if he has anything left in the tank after a year off. Reed has a very realistic chance. I wouldn’t put somebody through any kind of contract, guaranteed or not guaranteed if I didn’t think he had a chance to make the club. If you’re going to give somebody a chance that’s looking for one, Reed Johnson a guy to hang your hat on.” Daily Herald"
When the Cubs first signed Reed Johnson, I didn’t think he had much of a chance to make the 25 man roster. However, recent comments made by Ryan Dempster and Jim Hendry has led me to believe that Johnson may actually have a good chance at making the roster. Johnson enters camp prepared to battle newly acquired Fernando Perez for a spot on the 25 man roster. In a way, putting Johnson on the 25 man roster instead of Perez would make sense. As Johnson brings chemistry to the clubhouse, as well as someone who could hit lefties off the bench. That is not to say that Fernando Perez would go forgotten, as he likely would work on his hitting skills at Triple A- Iowa in anticipation of a call-up during the season.