Mailbag: Where is Marshall?
Beat reporter Carrie Muskat tackles Cubs fans' questions
MESA, Ariz. -- Sean Marshall, Jake Fox, 20-game winners, the home opener and Ronny Cedeno are among the hot topics in this week's mailbag.
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and please include your name and hometown.
What's up with Sean Marshall? I haven't seen him throw in any games yet, and considering his outings last year, wouldn't he have a shot at the fifth spot in the rotation?
-- Andy S., Brookfield, Ill.
Marshall would have a shot if he was healthy. He has had some shoulder issues leftover from last season, and he needed more time to build up arm strength. He was scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Monday, pitching in relief against the Brewers. The reason Spring Training is so long is to give the pitchers enough time to get ready. Marshall is behind the others, and it'll be tough for the left-hander to be ready by Opening Day.
What happened to Michael Wuertz? He was one of the Cubs' best relievers last year, and I see he hasn't pitched this spring. Is he injured?
-- Adam B., Minneapolis
Wuertz had shoulder issues, too. He had a strained right shoulder, which he claims he has every spring. Wuertz is feeling stronger, but he needs to finish spring strong to make the Opening Day roster. Roberto Novoa also has been slowed because of tightness in his shoulder, and the injuries to them could open a spot for rookie right-hander Rocky Cherry, who has looked sharp.
I can't remember the last time the Cubs had a 20-game winner. Who were the last five 20-game winners and what years? Also, besides Big Z [Carlos Zambrano], does anyone have a chance at 20 wins this year?
-- Steve O., San Diego, Calif.
Jon Lieber won 20 in 2001, Greg Maddux won 20 in 1992, Rick Reuschel won 20 in 1977 and Fergie Jenkins won at least 20 in six consecutive seasons (1967-72). And, yes, Zambrano does have a chance at 20. He's got to get off to a good start and cut down on the walks.
I got tickets to my first ever Cubs home opener this year. I was wondering if you had a prediction on who the starting pitcher will be for the game.
-- Kristen A., Evergreen Park, Ill.
If the Cubs stick to a five-man rotation and there are no rainouts, Ted Lilly will start the home opener April 9 against Houston.
What are the chances that Jake Fox stays and the Cubs send Henry Blanco packing? Blanco's offense struggled at times last year, although I imagine it's more his ability to handle the pitchers than his offense that made him an asset to the team. Fox has been lighting it up in the early going.
-- Marc J., Chicago
Blanco, who is one of the better defensive catchers in the game, batted .283 in September when he got regular playing time, and he finished with a career-best .266 average. Plus, he signed a two-year, $5.25 million deal in November. Fox is a good hitter, but he needs to work on his catching skills, and he knows it. And everyone who has e-mailed confusing Jake with Chad Fox should note that Chad can only dream of hitting like Jake.
Have a question about the Cubs?
E-mail your query to MLB.com Cubs beat reporter Carrie Muskat for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
When do you see Jeff Samardzija making the Cubs' Major League roster? I understand there's no room in the rotation now, but he seemed very sharp in Spring Training. Any chance we see him this year?
-- Bryce C., Loveland, Colo.
Technically, he's already on the Cubs' 40-man roster, so he's on the Major League roster. But you're asking when he will come up to the big leagues. As good as Samardzija was this spring, he does need some experience. He's ahead of most Minor League pitchers because he's played in front of huge crowds and is used to big-game situations. He's incredibly poised. He didn't flinch facing Barry Bonds in his last Cactus League game. Samardzija will start at Class A Daytona, and he will move up during the season depending on how he does. Could he be a September call-up? Maybe.
What's up with Ronny Cedeno? Now that the Cubs have Mark DeRosa, Cesar Izturis and Ryan Theriot, it seems that Cedeno will have to be a bench player, be sent to Triple-A Iowa or maybe used as trade material. What will the Cubs do with him?
-- Charlie P., New Johnsonville, Tenn.
It may be up to Cedeno. Cubs manager Lou Piniella has challenged him to be more patient at the plate and hit the ball to right. Piniella has to choose between an extra infielder or extra outfielder for the final spot on the roster, and he has been leaning toward having an extra infielder. If Cedeno shows improvement, he could make the club. However, it would help his development if he played every day, but the only way he'll do that is if he plays at Triple-A Iowa. Izturis is the regular shortstop.
In the scenario that Mark Prior is not one of the starting pitchers on Opening Day, what will happen to him? The bullpen? The Minor Leagues?
-- Adam P., Charlottesville, Va.
The only reason Prior wouldn't be on the Opening Day roster is if he's not ready physically, and then he likely would begin the year on the disabled list.
Why would Piniella start Cliff Floyd as much as Matt Murton? Floyd has only a few years left and has not hit for average. Murton has hit over .300 in his two years and has 20 homers in a full season. That is not far behind Floyd. The Cubs should not hurt Murton's development.
-- Steve K., Forest Park, Ill.
The Cubs have no intention of holding Murton back. But Floyd, when healthy, can be a force in the lineup and provides some power from the left side. The Cubs will be careful with Floyd, who is coming off surgery on his left foot, and he could get a lot of at-bats as a pinch-hitter.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.