Cubs Inside Pitch

The Cubs and Brewers, who staged a dramatic battle in the National League Central before Chicago won the division by two games, will face each other to open the 2008 season. The teams will play at Wrigley Field.

During the 2007 season, the two teams met head-to-head 15 times, with the Cubs owning a 9-6 advantage. That, in part, helped the Cubs claim the division.

The trouble for the Cubs in 2007 was that Milwaukee was one of the few winning NL teams that the Cubs were able to beat.

Against the "big boys," the Cubs usually came up small.

Despite a sharp 5-2 mark against National League champion Colorado and the success against the Brewers, the Cubs were 2-4 against Arizona (and were swept in three games by the Diamondbacks in the National League Division Series), 2-5 against the Los Angeles Dodgers and 3-5 against San Diego.

And against National League East foes with winning records, the Cubs were 4-5 against Atlanta, 2-5 against the New York Mets and 3-4 against Philadelphia.

The Cubs were lucky to be in a weak division where they could pick up wins against sub-par competition. Arizona exposed several weaknesses on the Cubs, including strike-zone judgment. ...

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Roberto Novoa, who missed the 2007 season with shoulder and head injuries suffered in an offseason car accident, was claimed off waivers by Baltimore on Oct. 16. Novoa, who came to the Cubs along with Scott Moore in a deal that sent Kyle Farnsworth to Detroit, was 6-6 with a 4.33 ERA in 115 relief appearances for the Cubs in 2005 and 2006.

--RHP Carlos Zambrano continues to defend manager Lou Piniella for what turned out to be a controversial move. Piniella pulled the Cubs ace after six innings of a 1-1 tie with Arizona in Game 1 of the NL Division Series in Phoenix. The idea was to give Zambrano rest for Game 4 four days later. But Carlos Marmol gave up two runs in the seventh inning of Game 1, and there never was a Game 4 because the Cubs were swept. "If I was the manager, I might do the same thing," Zambrano told reporters at a recent book signing.

--C Jason Kendall ended up being the highest-paid member of the Cubs roster, picking up more than $13.5 million even though most of it was paid by other teams. It's doubtful that Kendall, who came to the Cubs in a July deal, will be asked to come back in 2008, with rookie Geovany Soto looking strong during the stretch run in September.

--OF Craig Monroe, who hit .204 in 23 games and was kept off the NLDS roster, likely will not be asked to come back to the Cubs in 2008.

--RHP Steve Trachsel, who was 1-3 with an 8.31 ERA in four starts after he was acquired in an Aug. 31 trade, likely will not be asked back in 2008.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- Homers hit by Jacque Jones in 135 games in 2007, his lowest output since hitting nine with Minnesota in 95 games as a rookie.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't know -- I love the team and I love the opportunity I had here. I love all the guys. If you're going to play, you want to be comfortable, and this is comfortable. Everybody's together. When you think it's greener on the other side, you get in trouble. I'm very content here. I'm very happy. Hopefully if I do play again, it's for the Cubs." -- Cubs right fielder and south suburban Chicago native Cliff Floyd on his future with the team.

ROSTER REPORT

Most of the Cubs' top players are locked into expensive contracts, so it's going to be tough to see a flurry of offseason activity regarding impact players. General manager Jim Hendry was planning for the long haul when he inked many of his stars to long deals, but it may handcuff him, too.

BIGGEST NEEDS: The Cubs need power in their lineup, and the only positions open are center field, right field and catcher. If the Cubs somehow have enough dollars for potential free agent CF Torii Hunter, that could help. If rookie C Geovany Soto can provide some muscle, that also would go a long way toward beefing up a lineup that went into long lulls without putting the ball over the fence in 2007.

FREE AGENTS: C Jason Kendall, RHP Kerry Wood, RHP Steve Trachsel, OF Craig Monroe, OF Daryle Ward, OF Cliff Floyd.

Kendall, Trachsel and Monroe, who came to the team via trades during the season, appear to be gone. Ward and Floyd have options, and it appears the team could pick up Ward's and not Floyd's. The Cubs want Wood back, but will other teams offer him more based on how effective he looked in the bullpen for less than half of a season?

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: RHP Mark Prior, RHP Michael Wuertz.

There are some who believe Prior surely will be gone and some who believe the Cubs will give the oft-injured a pitcher another shot. The man who can answer that question is Hendry, and he's not tipping his hand just yet. The Cubs likely will bring Wuertz back.

IN LIMBO: OF Jacque Jones is in the final year of his three-year deal, and the Cubs might have an easier time trying to deal him. They tried last offseason and were close to sending him to Florida during the season. LHPs Scott Eyre and Will Ohman also could be on the block.

MEDICAL WATCH:

RHP Mark Prior (shoulder surgery in April 2007) is optimistic he will be ready by spring training.

RHP Angel Guzman (elbow surgery in September 2007) will miss most of the 2008 campaign.

This report was obtained through mutual agreement from a third-party outlet.


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