The Cubs Inside Pitch

It's been a busy offseason, and there's still work to do. This week's Inside Pitch talks about Todd Walker's situation, Barry Zito coming to Chicago(?!), Mike Piazza's flirtations, Kerry Wood's elbow, Wade Miller's role...and more.

    Spring training has not even started, but for now it appears the Cubs' starting rotation to begin the season will be Carlos Zambrano, Mark Prior, Greg Maddux, Glendon Rusch and Jerome Williams

But what will it look like in June?

The Cubs are banking on Kerry Wood (August shoulder surgery) being back long before then. And there is another wrinkle. The team signed right-handed pitcher Wade Miller to a one-year deal worth $1 million plus incentives that could pay him up to another million if he starts 25 games.

Miller is coming off September shoulder surgery of his own, and the Cubs are not counting on him to start the season. But by May he could be a factor.

"He's about a month behind (Wood)," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "Wade gutted it out last year with a lot of discomfort, but all of our doctors and trainers feel good about him, and we've consulted with Dr. (Craig) Morgan (who performed Miller's surgery). 

"We probably won't see him in the big leagues until sometime in May.  He's a player who wants to be with us, and if he's healthy, he could be a great addition to the rotation."

Miller also received interest from Seattle, Pittsburgh, Houston, Philadelphia and Boston. 

When Wood and Miller are ready to return, it appears the Cubs will have too much starting pitching. But in the last two seasons, the Cubs have had plenty of pitching injuries -- especially with Wood and Prior -- so having the extra arms around is something that should be valuable to the team.

Rookies Rich Hill and Angel Guzman are also hoping for a shot in the rotation.
    --INF/OF Jerry Hairston Jr. avoided arbitration, reaching agreement on a one-year, $2.3 million deal. The Cubs originally offered $1.95 million, while Hairston had filed a $2.6 million salary request.
    --RHP Mark Prior and the Cubs split the difference, agreeing to a $3.65 million contract for 2006. Prior had filed for $4 million arbitration, while the Cubs had offered $3.3 million.
    Prior would have made $2.75 million this year under his old contract, which he was allowed to void due to an usual clause.
    --OF Angel Pagan's contract was purchased by the Cubs on Jan. 25, and he was added to the 40-man roster.  Pagan, who was with the New York Mets organization but has no major league experience, is a switch hitter with speed and will fight with a host of other players for one of the final spots on the Cubs roster in spring training.
    --2B Todd Walker and general manager Jim Hendry recently had a conversation about Walker's role on the team. Walker has been on the trading block, but if he is back with the Cubs, he was told he would compete with Neifi Perez and Jerry Hairston Jr. for the job as starting second baseman. It appears that position is the only one up for grabs when the Cubs head into camp.
    --RHP Sean Gallagher is a pitching prospect who is not quite ready for the big leagues just yet, but the Cubs have him in mind for the future. Gallagher was named the team's minor league Pitcher of the Year after posting a 14-5 mark with a 2.71 ERA for Class A Peoria. Gallagher was the only player in the organization without any major league experience to be invited to participate in the franchise's Cubs Convention and Cubs Caravan in mid-January. He likely will open the 2006 season in Double-A West Tenn or high Class A Daytona.
    --C Mike Piazza was named in a published report as a possible fit with the Cubs. However, since the Cubs already have two catchers (Michael Barrett and Henry Blanco) under contract, they didn't pursue him very hard. He would up signing with the Padres.
    --LHP Barry Zito was rumored to be on the Cubs' radar screen, but insiders say the Oakland A's star likely will stay put until during the season, and then the A's might want to consider dealing him.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 32-13 -- Newly acquired Wade Miller's record against National League Central foes St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Cincinnati.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's a winning type guy. We're making a good gamble with the right type of guy." -- Cubs general manager Jim Hendry on signing pitcher Wade Miller to a one-year deal even though Miller is
coming off shoulder surgery.

    In recent years, the Cubs made some of their biggest offseason deals after the New Year's holiday. This time, they picked up two setup men, a starting center fielder and a starting right fielder before Christmas. They could still be eyeing infield help and another starting pitcher.
    ARRIVALS: LHP Scott Eyre (free agent from San Francisco), RHP Bobby Howry (free agent from Cleveland), OF Juan Pierre (trade with Florida), OF John Mabry (free agent from St. Louis), OF Jacque Jones (free agent
from Minnesota), OF Marquis Grissom (free agent from San Francisco), OF Michael Restovich (free agent from Pittsburgh), INF Augie Ojeda (free agent from Minnesota), RHP Wade Miller (free agent from Boston), OF Angel Pagan (purchased from New York Mets).
    DEPARTURES: RHP Sergio Mitre (traded to Florida), INF Nomar Garciaparra (free agent, signed with Los Angeles Dodgers), OF Jeromy Burnitz (free agent, signed with Pittsburgh), CF Corey Patterson (traded to Baltimore).
    BIGGEST NEEDS: The Cubs solved some serious problems in shoring up the bullpen and picking up a leadoff man. Now it's a matter of tweaking the infield or perhaps the starting rotation in the wake of the news that Kerry Wood (shoulder surgery) might not be ready for Opening Day.
    FREE AGENTS: None.
    ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE: LHP Will Ohman, RHP Carlos Zambrano, CF Juan Pierre.
    IN LIMBO: 2B Todd Walker has been used as trade bait this offseason, but if he doesn't get dealt, he will have to fight with Neifi Perez and Jerry Hairston, Jr. for playing time.
    MEDICAL WATCH: All eyes are on RHP Kerry Wood's Aug. 31 arthroscopic right shoulder surgery. Cubs officials are convinced everything is cleaned out and hope he is ready to open the season in the rotation this year, but it appears that is overly optimistic and he may be ready in April or May. 3B Aramis Ramirez missed the final month of the season with a strained left quadriceps muscle and had various other nagging injuries throughout the season. RHP Carlos Zambrano also had nagging injuries that never put him on the DL but forced him to leave some
starts early during the season. The Cubs want to make sure the 265-pound Zambrano stays in shape.

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