Mailbag: Sorting out starting pitchers
Cubs beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers fans' questions
MESA, Ariz. -- The overload of starting pitchers, the lineup, Cliff Floyd vs. Matt Murton, Jason Marquis' ground ball-to-fly ball ratio and non-roster invitees are among the topics in this week's mailbag.
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and please include your name and hometown.
A few things: Yes, the Cubs will have names on the back of home jerseys this season. And, anyone having trouble buying bracelets from the 1st Touch Foundation Web site to support Derrek Lee's Project 3000 should do a Google search on "1st Touch Foundation Derrek Lee." You should be able to find the Web site (1sttouch.org) that way.
If both Mark Prior and Wade Miller are healthy (knock on wood) and capable of starting in the rotation, then that would make six starting pitchers. In this case, would there be a trade or a Minor League demotion? How about moving Marquis, Miller or Prior to the bullpen? I have no idea if this idea would work. Just wanted to hear your thoughts.
-- Scott W., Buchanan, Mich.
Actually, the Cubs are considering seven starters because Angel Guzman has looked good. In two Cactus League games, Prior has been able to throw one pitch, a fastball, and hasn't been able to locate it very well. Miller is doing OK, but his velocity isn't quite there. And you can forget about Marquis going to the bullpen. He's looked sharp, and the Cubs didn't sign him to a three-year deal to be a setup pitcher. Could Miller do that? Maybe. But the problem with starters moving to a relief role is that starting pitchers usually need more time to warm up, and sometimes teams don't have the luxury of time.
Guzman will start Friday against the White Sox. Prior will try to get back on track with a start in the Minor League camp Thursday. There's no trade talk now until the Cubs figure out who, among the three, is ready. We've got three weeks to go to sort this out.
What stats suggest that Jacque Jones would make for a good No. 2 hitter? I noticed you said manager Lou Piniella said Jones may bat there. I've never seen him as a No. 2 hitter, but as a No. 5 hitter.
-- Shawn C., Round Lake Beach, Ill.
Jones is an option if he and Floyd are both in the lineup. It's a matter of finding the right player who fits that spot. What Piniella is looking for is someone who can take advantage of what will likely be a heavy dose of fastballs, someone who can hit to right field, and someone who will make contact. You will see Murton, Mark DeRosa and Cesar Izturis there as well.
I would rather see Alfonso Soriano batting in one of the 2-3-4 spots to utilize his power. Does Piniella realize he's in the National League now? This is where the leadoff hitter will lead off a lot more innings than in the American League. I see him hitting a lot of solo home runs.
-- Sam H., Portland, Ore.
On other teams, Soriano may fit somewhere else, but he'll bat leadoff for the Cubs. That's what Piniella and general manager Jim Hendry told Soriano when they signed him, and that's where he wants to hit. If Soriano could have a 40-40-40 season as the Nationals leadoff hitter, there's no reason he can't do that for the Cubs. Plus, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez are very good fits in the 3-4 spots.
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I know DeRosa had a breakout year last year, but why did the Cubs sign him when they have Ryan Theriot and Eric Patterson in the Minors? Both of those guys are very talented. The one thing the Cubs lack is someone who hits for a high average. Murton has shown he's a good contact hitter, but I feel Theriot is that guy. He's a hard-nosed player, and when he played toward the end of the season, he put up good numbers. Why not go with him?
-- Justin N., Decatur, Ill.
The Cubs front office didn't think Theriot or Patterson were ready. Piniella likes Theriot, and has already told the young infielder that he'll be on the Opening Day roster. He's been playing some third base as well as second, and could get some time in the outfield. The Cubs signed DeRosa because Hendry and his staff have always liked him. They also promised him a regular job at second base.
Piniella likes to talk about how when he played for the Yankees, he was the fourth outfielder at the start of the season, and a regular by June. Theriot should keep that in mind. Patterson needs a little more time.
I think Floyd should start over Murton in left field. I agree that Murton is a good player, but I think that Floyd has a lot more experience and a lot more power at the plate. Is there any sign of who will be starting in left on Opening Day?
-- Chase G., Pratt, Kan.
If Piniella decides to platoon Murton and Floyd, and the Reds start a right-hander on April 2, then Floyd would get the start. But Piniella says he's not going with a straight left-right platoon, and he intends on giving everybody at-bats. It's tricky, but it can be done. Yes, Floyd has more experience -- the 2007 season is only Murton's second full year in the big leagues -- but he's also coming off foot surgery. Anyone who has had bone spurs (like me) knows how miserable life can be if your feet hurt. It could be that Floyd starts a game, and Murton comes in to sub, or vice versa.
Just curious -- what is the correct pronunciation of Felix Pie's last name. Is it "Pi," "Pay" or "Pee?"
-- Dennis S., Amarillo, Texas
As a Ron Santo fan, is there an e-mail address I can write to to voice my support for him and thank him for the fond memories and also for the wonderful job he does?
-- Arnold E., Michigan City, Ind.
You can send mail to Santo in care of WGN Radio, 435 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611.
What is Marquis' career ground ball to fly ball out ratio, and what is it compared to Greg Maddux? I know the ERA and wins total aren't quite equal, but I was wondering about the ground ball-fly ball ratio.
-- Michael J., Northbrook, Ill.
Let's go with the last three years, and you'll see how the numbers work. Marquis has a ground ball-fly ball ratio of 1.82 (777 ground balls to 428 fly balls), which is close to Maddux in that time period. He has a 1.86 ratio (1,088 ground balls to 585 fly balls). The difference is the amount of ground balls and fly balls.
To date, how many men have played for the Cubs and White Sox?
-- Kevin S., Jamaica, N.Y.
According to historian Ed Hartig's count, 161 players have appeared in at least one game for both the Cubs and the White Sox. The most recent (guys who have played for either at some time in the 2000s) include: Jason Bere, Scott Eyre, Ross Gload, Tom Gordon, Bob Howry, Matt Karchner, Darren Lewis, Kenny Lofton, Andrew Lorraine, Robert Machado, Dave Martinez, Josh Paul, Sammy Sosa, Tanyon Sturtze and Kevin Tapani. Neal Cotts would be No. 162.
I was looking at the list of non-roster invitees, and wondering if anyone who was a non-roster invitee has made it on the Opening Day roster for the Cubs.
-- Tim G., Bolingbrook, Ill.
It's fairly common for one or two non-roster players to make the Opening Day roster. Seldom is it an impact player. Over the last decade, some non-roster players to make the Cubs Opening Day roster include Chad Fox, Michael Wuertz, Tom Goodwin, Lenny Harris, Joe Borowski, Dave Hansen, Jeff Huson, Terry Mulholland and Gary Matthews Jr.
Leo Gomez, who appeared in 136 games in 1996, was the most recent Cubs everyday player to make the team as a non-roster invitee.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.