Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Spring Training News & Notes - Cubs Top Closer Candidate, Yanks In Good Shape, David Ortiz Takes Batting Practice

Lou Piniella told WGN-TV in Chicago that Bob Howry is in the lead to replace Ryan Dempster as the Cubs closer. We reported this back in our Cubs Season Preview and it was confirmed today, by the the Cubs manager himself. Howry has the most experience, and filled in admirably for Dempster last season.

After Howry the other two candidates are;

Carlos Marmol who has great stuff, but the not a ton of major league experience closing games. he proved himself to be a valuable set up last year, so expect to see him flourish in that role this season.

Kerry Wood, has proven to be too injury prone to throw every 5 days, consistently. So the Cubs decided that having him throw an inning or so here and there at any time, would be better for his health. Don't take him seriously as a candidate to get any saves. He'll continue to battle injury, and struggle to find consistency on the hill in his new role.

In other news, Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu have both reported to Yankee camp in much better shape than they appeared in last season. The two lefties struggled mightily the first couple months of the season, and were a big reason for the Yanks slow start last year.

Manager Joe Girardi met with Damon at the GM meetings in November and explained to Damon the expectations that they are holding him to and how they wanted him to show up to camp. Abreu, well he's in a contract year, and everyone is at their best in a contract season.

Finally, Red Sox DH David Ortiz took batting practice in a cage at Red Sox camp and said that his surgically repaired knee felt good was almost there. Ortiz had surgery on his right knee shortly after the World Series to repair some cartilage he had damaged in a game against the Yankees in 2006.


Cubs Closer Situation: You can probably get Howry a bit later in the draft than you could a closer who will be on a team that will battle for a Division Title. He is a definite draft night steal. If you want to feel more comfortable and "handcuff" the situation draft Marmol also. At worst he will help ERA, strikeouts, WHIP and (if your league counts the stat) Holds. At best, Howry blows two consecutive saves in April, the media go nuts and Piniella announces that Howry will start the next game. Then, Pinella will change his mind and announce that Howry will remain the closer. Then, expect Marmol to get a save later that evening.

Yankees Outfield Shape: Damon and Abreu picked it up when they got healthy and both went on to have very good seasons. Since they were both so terrible in April and May, they could go under the radar a bit this season, and be drafted later than they should be.

David Ortiz hit .332AVG with 35HR and 117RBI, with a BAD KNEE last season. Draft the slugging DH and enjoy an elite slugger. Don't complain about his limited position eligibility either, his numbers are good enough that you should be able to accept that limitation.

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