Chicago's Inside Pitch
Welcome to Opening Day at Wrigley Field as the Cubs take on Ryne Sandberg’s Phillies. It’s No. 101 in the history of this ballpark and the 99th for the Cubs, who moved in after the Federal League went out of business. The day is cloudy and cool, with the wind howling out. If there’s one consolation it’s that the wind is not coming in off the lake. But gusts could hit 40 mph or more today.
We’ll get to a few of the highlights of the pregame here on the blog, with much more in the paper tomorrow from several of us from the Daily Herald out here at the ballpark.
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts spoke with reporters for a few minutes and said that seeking additional investors to help with the planned ballpark renovations is one option. That news was reported Thursday.
It's about 30 degrees colder today than it was for Monday's White Sox-Twins season opener, but the rain is expected to hold off until later so there will be baseball this afternoon on the South Side.
Some pregame notes:
-With right-hander Kevin Correia on the mound for Minnesota today, left-handed hitting Alejandro De Aza is back in left field for the second straight game and right-handed hitting Dayan Viciedo is back on the bench.
If this is going to be a platoon situation, De Aza is going to get the majority of the starts. Last season, the Sox played 124 games against right-handed starters and just 38 vs. left-handers.
Viciedo is taking his new role in stride, for now.
It's sunny, 65 degrees (feels like about 110), the wind at U.S. Cellular Field is gusting out to left field and, in a little over an hour, the White Sox can officially the 99-loss 2013 season in the past.
While it doesn't look like the Sox are going to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008, at least they should be more interesting and easier to watch over the next six months.
We shall see.
Here are some Opening Day notes as White Sox ace Chris Sale prepares to face the Twins, who again stack up as one of the worst teams in baseball.
-Matt Lindstrom - not Nate Jones - opens the season as the Sox' closer.
“I just have confidence in him with what he's done in the past and what he did in spring training,” Ventura said. “He's the right guy to start us off."
PHOENIX _ Never let it be said that there isn’t competition for jobs in spring training. Sometimes it seems that way, but this year, the Cubs generated a few surprises, all based on competition. They announced the final spot on their roster today, and it went to Park Ridge resident Brian Schlitter.
Schlitter pitched for the Cubs in 2010, but elbow and shoulder injuries derailed his career, so much so that waiver claims on him by the Yankees and Phillies were voided. To me, Schlitter and John Baker making the team as the backup catcher are the two biggest surprise in camp.
MESA, Ariz. _ It’s Cubs-White Sox today at Cubs Park in the Cactus League finale for both teams. The White Sox will take off for Birmingham after the game, and the Cubs will head over to Phoenix to play the Diamondbacks at Chase Field Friday and Saturday.
There is more Cubs news to report. General manager Jed Hoyer told us the Cubs have finalized their position-player roster. Third baseman Mike Olt and outfielder Ryan Kalish have made the team. Outfielder Chris Coghlan and infielder Ryan Roberts were the final cuts.
Kalish is a nonroster man as is infielder Emilio Bonifacio, whose making the team was a foregone conclusion.
MESA, Ariz. _ Cubs manager Rick Renteria was talking up three backup-catcher possibilities this morning at Cubs Park. And then there were two. The looming Cubs roster crunch eased a bit today as the Cubs released backup catcher George Kottaras and saw utility infielder Donnie Murphy claimed off waivers by the Texas Rangers.
The Cubs also announced that John Baker had won the backup catcher's job over Eli Whiteside, who will be assigned to Class AAA Iowa.
“Those are two guys that have a tremendous amount of experience, are known for being very good receivers, blocking," said manager Rick Renteria.
After being voted into the Hall of Fame last week on the first ballot, Frank Thomas again voiced his displeasure with players either caught or suspected of using performance enhancing drugs.
"A lot of people portrayed me as having a huge stance on the whole situation," Thomas said. "I was just pretty much honest about the situation. For me, I know I was 100 percent clean. I didn't worry about any of the other guys because I knew I was going to average in a healthy season 40 (home runs) and 120 RBI anyway. And I did that when I was healthy, pretty much my whole career.
Already deep in pitching - and still short on hitting - the White Sox added another arm Monday during the first day of baseball's winter meetings in Orlando.
The Sox signed right-hander Felipe Paulino to a one-year, $1.75-million contract, which includes a $4 million club option for 2015. Under terms of the agreement, Paulino gets $1.5 million nest season. On the option, the White Sox also hold a $250,000 buyout.
The 30-year-old Paulino was impressive in 2012 before having right elbow surgery. In 7 starts with Kansas City, Paulino was 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 37.2 innings. On July 3 of '12, he had ulnar collateral ligament replacement surgery.
Forget a big name like Jim Thome, Frank Thomas or Charlie Manuel.
A source has confirmed an MLB.com report that Todd Steverson is going to replace the fired Jeff Manto as White Sox hitting coach.
Steverson, 41, has filled multiple coaching roles with the Oakland A’s since 2004.
He joined the organization as hitting coach for Class A Vancouver and was named manager at A Stockton in 2005. Steverson continued managing in the Athletics’ minor-league system until taking over as Oakland’s first-base coach for two years.
In 2011, he was on the move again, serving as hitting coach for Triple-A Sacramento.
The past two seasons, Steverson was Oakland’s minor-league hitting coordinator.
While we wait for the White Sox to officially announce the signing of first baseman/designated hitter Jose Abreu, which probably isn't happening until after the World Series, let's take a look around the AL Central:
*Top prospect Micah Johnson's Arizona Fall League season is over.
According to the White Sox, Johnson is going to have a surgical procedure Tuesday to reposition a nerve in his right elbow.
Dr. Mark Cohen, the Sox' hand/wrist/elbow specialist, will perform the surgery at Midwest Orthopedic's Surgery Center in Chicago.
Johnson had a similar procedure when he was playing college baseball at Indiana. According to the Sox, the 22-year-old second baseman is expected to be fully recovered by the start of spring training.