MESA, Ariz. -- When Cubs general manager
Indeed, America's favorite star-crossed team is facing a serious bullpen deficit. Talented set-up man
Meanwhile, iconic manager
Piniella's right when he says the Cubs have more homegrown talent than ever. And he remains eternally grateful that
The bullpen isn't the only problem area. Two spots remain open in the starting rotation.
The bench spots are also up for grabs, and the eclectic contenders range from the young, defensively strong, intellectual (Stanford econ grad)
Fuld is a great story. The shortish (he's listed as 5-foot-10, but is closer to 5-8) scrapper is overcoming diabetes to be a major leaguer. "It's definitely a battle every day, something that's always on my mind and never quite figured out," he said. "It's like hitting in that way."
As for the bullpen, unless Hendry can pull off a miracle and land a veteran arm, Piniella will go with two kids -- he has specifically mentioned
Despite the gathering questions, Piniella remains amazingly positive -- at least publicly. So, too, does Guzman, the worst injured and least lucky of the Cubs. Only two months ago, Guzman held his dying brother in his arms after the latter was murdered in Caracas. "It's hard," Guzman said. "It's been tough. I just have to stay strong and carry on."
Hendry and the eternally energetic Piniella have told Guzman that he would be well within his rights to go back to Venezuela to be with his mother while contemplating potentially career-saving surgery. But while Guzman agreed "staying close to the people close to me" is his greatest medicine, he told SI.com, "After what happened to my brother, I think going back to Venezuela would bring back sad feelings.''
Instead, Guzman is having his MRI sent to noted surgeon
The same thinking holds true for the Cubs. They have great players in
At season's end, Piniella said he felt compelled to tell the team how proud he was of it. But truth be told, he had worried last spring about a lack of depth. He feels a bit better this year. He's also ignoring a century of Cubs history, instead choosing to believe that the club's luck has to improve. "Last year we finished second with all those injuries," Piniella said. "We scored 148 fewer runs. I think we'll score more runs. I'm looking forward to a good year.''
Piniella acknowledged that staying healthy will be key, and to that end the Cubs are off to a troubling start.
But none of those loses compare to Guzman, who was once considered a prospect on par with Zambrano before an upsetting series of injuries and operations, including ones to his elbow and knee. This one, which is threatening his career, is patently unfair considering what he's been through.
But when it comes to unfair struggles, the Cubs have been there before.
• Piniella said he has no intention to let hot prospect
• One scout who saw the Padres summed them up in one word: "pitiful."
• Another scout said that even
• On the plus side, one scout likened
• On Sunday, the Rays were working on some final details with
• The NFL union has been consulting the MLB players association about its CBA. People involved say this isn't unusual. I say, good idea, since the MLBPA has been a lot more successful in getting fair deals for players than the NFL union.
• There's been a lot of excitement over the possibility of HGH testing, but the new HGH test still has apparently caught only one athlete. Since that rugby player failed, few details have surfaced about the case, since he didn't challenge the ruling (who knows if he could afford to?). The test needs to come under more serious scrutiny before baseball rushes into it.
• One scout who has seen the A's said they need to put power-hitting
• One scout who has seen
• I was all set to jump on the Nats' bandwagon. But 56 runs allowed in five spring games is just a tad worrisome.
• The Cubs are beloved here, drawing about 24,000 fans in back-to-back games, and showing why Mesa will never let them leave for Naples, Fla.