Chicago's Inside Pitch
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.
Busy day on the South Side.
On Friday afternoon, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn talked about the miserable season that ends Sunday and looked ahead to the future.
Later, Paul Konerko addressed his future.
Let's start with Konerko.
Given his subpar season (.248, 12 home runs, 54 RBI), age (37) and health (he missed a month with a sore lower back), I thought retirement was pretty much a slam-dunk.
But after listening to Konerko lay out his options, I changed my mind a bit. Konekro said he might be open to playing one more season, even though he's had no formal talks with the Sox.
The end is near for the White Sox, and that's a good thing.
Only four games are left in the Sox' worst season since 1970, when they lost 100 games. The White Sox need to win one of four against the Royals to avoid 100 losses this year.
In reality, it doesn't really matter.
This season has been spiraling downward since late May, when the Sox lost eight in a row after scratching their way back to the .500 mark.
"It's not the season that you wanted," manager Robin Ventura said in his pregame media session. "At this point you can't go to the playoffs so you're ready to end it and get ready for what you're going to do next year."
The smell of cigar smoke and champagne still linger in the tiny visitors clubhouse at Wrigley Field after two days of celebration. The Braves celebrated here Sunday after winning the NL East, and the Pirates partied last night after clinching a playoff berth. There’s still a lot to play for as far as Pittsburgh is concerned. The Pirates still want to win the NL Central, and at worst, they want home field for the wild-card play-in game.
The Cubs will send lefty Chris Rusin against Gerrit Cole. Rusin is 2-5 with a 3.52 ERA. Manager Dale Sveum says Rusin looks more self-assured than he did last year, when he came up for a short stint.