Just got back from Harry Caray’s where the Cubs caravan officially began. We’ll have a crew out at Prospect High School today for manager Mike Quade’s “homecoming.” More on that in a minute. We have some news tidbits out of today’s media session:
--Catcher Koyie Hill and the Cubs avoided an arbitration hearing, agreeing to a one-year, $850,000 deal. [UPDATE: The Cubs also announced they've signed old friend Reed Johnson, an outfielder, to a minor-league contract with an invite to big-league spring training as a nonroster man.] Hill gets a raise from the $700,000 he made last year. Koyie had some good things to say about Quade. “He’s not just showing up and putting a lineup up,” Koyie said. “He’s literally part of the group. He shows up. He has lunch with us. He’s doing the caravan. He’ just one of us, and that goes a long ways.
“The thing I like about our situation is our manager is a huge advocate of fundamentals, so I feel like we’re going to go out there with a chance to win a game every day if we play fundamental baseball.”
Hill is a journeyman who turns 32 in March. He’ll be entering his fifth year in the organization. On signing his deal, he said: “It’s been nice. A lot of the way I was raised and a lot of the way I go about things, from year to year, it’s an easy relationship. I really appreciate everything the Cubs have done for me and my family. It’s been an honest and a fair relationship and process the whole time…From the bottom of my heart, I would probably scrape everything I had to pay, to get a chance to do this.”
--Andrew Cashner says he wants to start, and he’ll get that opportunity in spring training. As we blogged here a few days ago, lefty James Russell likely will get a shot at the rotation, too, at least in spring training. With left-handers Sean Marshall, Scott Maine and John Grabow in the pen, Quade feels the Cubs can stretch Russell out in spring training and see where it leads.
--Q says he has not decided on an opening-day starting pitcher but that Matt Garza is “in the mix,” along with Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano. From this distance, I’d bet on Dempster.
--On heading back to Prospect, from where Q graduated in 1975, he said: “I think half the student body are of an age where I must know a lot of their parents. For all this stuff surrounding this job and being from the area and the dream – you guys know me; I don’t get all wrapped up in that. But this will be kind of cool today. I’m looking forward to it. It’s been a long time since I walked in there. The schools we’ve been going to so far have been smaller schools a couple hundred people. I don’t know what the enrollment is at Prospect. There were about 2,500 when I was there. I can’t imagine that they’re all going to be in some sort of assembly. Maybe they will. Then I get credit for getting them out of a half-day of school. I want to make sure that gets on the record, too.”
More later, online and in the paper.