01/30/2003 2:17 pm ET
Cubs Spring Training rundown
North Siders look to shed 'loveable loser' image
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
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67-95, fifth in NL Central
2002 Hitting leaders (min. 200 at-bats)
Avg.: Sammy Sosa, .288
OBP: Sosa, .399
SLG: Sosa, .594
Runs: Sosa, 122
RBIs: Sosa, 108
Hits: Sosa, 160
2B: Corey Patterson, 30
3B: Patterson, Alex Gonzalez, 5
HR: Sosa, 49
SB: Patterson, 18
2002 Pitching leaders (min. 30 IP)
IP: Kerry Wood, 213
W: Wood and Matt Clement, 12
L: Wood, Clement, Juan Cruz 11
Win %: Wood, Clement, 12-11
S: Antonio Alfonseca, 19
ERA: Joe Borowski, 2.73
K: Wood, 217
K/9: Clement 9.44
WHIP: Wood, 1.24
Projected starting lineup
2B Bobby Hill
3B Mark Bellhorn
RF Sammy Sosa
LF Moises Alou
1B Hee Seop Choi
SS Alex Gonzalez
CF Corey Patterson
C Damian Miller
1. Kerry Wood
2. Matt Clement
3. Mark Prior
4. Carlos Zambrano
5. Shawn Estes
LH setup man: Mike Remlinger, Mark Guthrie
RH setup man: Dave Veres, Joe Borowski
Closer: Antonio Alfonseca
Spring cleaning: Five questions that need to be answered
1. How long will it take Sammy Sosa to hit his 500th home run? Sosa needs to take care of the milestone dinger and then get back to the business of winning games, not posing for the cameras. New manager Dusty Baker knows how to handle superstars with care (Barry Bonds ring a bell?) but Sosa says the Cubs are his team and the two need to settle their territorial rights.
2. Which Corey Patterson will show up? Will it be the Patterson who swings for the fences or the outfielder who takes advantage of his speed. Baker wants to bring bunting specialist Brett Butler in to tutor Patterson. Whether Patterson listens is another matter.
3. Was Mark Bellhorn a fluke? The jack-of-all trades played mostly second in 2002 but is projected as the starting third baseman. Can the Cubs cut down on his strikeouts -- he was one of four Cubs with more than 100 -- and boost his power?
4. Are Hee Seop Choi and Bobby Hill ready? The two youngsters are projected starters at first and second, respectively, but the Cubs also have Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek in the wings in case the kids struggle. Can Choi and Hill handle a full season in the big leagues?
5. Can the bullpen hold a lead? GM Jim Hendry added veterans Mike Remlinger, Mark Guthrie and Dave Veres. The Cubs pen was the worst in the NL, converting just 23 of 48 save opportunities in 2002. Antonio Alfonseca needs to regain his form and Kyle Farnsworth needs to maintain his focus.
New faces: Players acquired via trade or free agency
C Paul Bako -- Acquired from Milwaukee for a minor leaguer, Bako learned how to call a game while on the Braves roster. That's a great training ground, especially since he once was Greg Maddux's personal catcher.
LHP Shawn Estes -- The southpaw signed a one-year, $3 million contract and hopes being reunited with Baker and bench coach Dick Pole will help him resurrect his career. Estes was 5-12 with a 5.10 ERA in 29 starts for the Mets and Reds last year.
IF Mark Grudzielanek -- Acquired in the trade for Todd Hundley, the infielder, who has primarily played short and second, may be asked to play some third base. He'd probably catch if it meant he could play every day.
LHP Mark Guthrie -- Guthrie rejoins the Cubs, signing a one-year contract. He didn't exactly dazzle Chicagoans in his first visit but says he's a different pitcher now, learning a lot from Mets lefty John Franco.
1B Eric Karros -- Also acquired in the Hundley deal with the Dodgers, Karros gives the Cubs an experienced bat off the bench and in the lineup. He could see lots of action if Hee Seop Choi isn't ready.
IF Ramon Martinez -- Baker knows him well. Martinez has spent his entire four-plus big league seasons with the Giants, primarily as a backup infielder and spot starter. The infielder, who signed a one-year, $800,000 contract, played shortstop, second, first, third and left field last year.
C Damian Miller -- The former Diamondback catcher was acquired for two minor leaguers and then signed a two-year, $5.7 million deal. He'll be busy this spring learning the Cubs staff and should provide more offense than last year's tandem of Hundley and Joe Girardi.
OF Troy O'Leary -- The free agent outfielder, who signed a one-year deal, is a definite improvement to the bench, which batted a dismal .222 last year. He also can start in case Moises Alou is bit by the injury bug again.
LHP Mike Remlinger -- The 36-year-old veteran fills a huge void in the pen. Remlinger, who signed a three-year, $10.65 million deal, had 30 holds last year with Atlanta. The Cubs entire bullpen totaled 32.
RHP Dave Veres -- It'll be tough for the veteran to switch sides after being brainwashed to hate the Cubs while with the Cardinals. Hopefully, it'll be as easy as switching from red to blue shoes. He signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Cubs.
RHP Jason Bere -- He never fully recovered from a groin injury suffered in June. Still, the Cubs expected more than one win over 16 starts.
OF Roosevelt Brown -- A bench player who batted .256 as a pinch-hitter, he signed with a Japanese team along with teammate Angel Echevarria. Hope both like sushi.
C Todd Hundley -- Traded to Los Angeles, Hundley hopefully won't hear the boo birds every home at-bat. He never expected part-time play in Chicago and never adjusted to it.
RHP Jon Lieber -- The Cubs tried to keep the popular pitcher but he wanted two years guaranteed. GM Jim Hendry wasn't willing to commit that much money to someone who had yet to throw following elbow surgery. The Yankees were.
1B Fred McGriff -- His stay in Chicago was short-lived and forgettable. McGriff did get his 30 homers, but as soon as he did he was benched in favor of Hee Seop Choi. He signed with the Dodgers.
IF Chris Stynes -- The Opening Day starter at third base, Stynes never found a niche. He batted .218 in the first half of the season and was delegated to backup duties in the second half.
Returning from injury
LF Moises Alou -- He nearly ran out of healthy body parts. Alou reported to camp out of shape and got off to a slow start, batting .184 over his first 39 games. Cubs officials have checked up on him in the off-season and feel he'll be ready in 2003.
RHP Mark Prior -- He doesn't really qualify because his injury was only a strained hamstring suffered running the bases Aug. 31. And the Cubs didn't project him to complete a full season his rookie year. But he did come back from the sore hammie to throw on the side Sept. 25 and end on a good note.
New kids on the block: Prospects to watch
1B Hee Seop Choi -- The first Korean position player to reach the Major Leagues, Choi needs to show he's ready. The Cubs feel it's time for the 23-year-old, who has a career .286 average in the minors.
2B Bobby Hill -- The sparkplug batted .314 from Aug. 26 to the end of the season and just needs to not try to do everything. He could lead off, he could bat second, he can steal, he has energy -- he could be key in 2003.
On the rebound
RHP Juan Cruz -- The slender right-hander lost his first seven decisions and was demoted to the bullpen after May 21. Hopefully, he's gained some weight and endurance. He could be back in the rotation if Carlos Zambrano struggles.
LHP Shawn Estes -- A 19-game winner in 1997, Estes says he has no explanation for his last season's skid. "I tried to figure it out and I don't have any answers," he says. He'll be reunited with his former pitching coach, Dick Pole, now the Cubs bench coach.
RHP Kyle Farnsworth -- The hard-throwing right-hander needs to return to his 2001 form when he posted a 2.74 ERA and appeared in 76 games. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild says Farnsworth needs to get his priorities in line.
The bottom line
New manager Dusty Baker likes to use the entire 25-man roster and this may be the first year the Cubs actually have 25 qualified guys. Despite all the changes, the regular position players are basically the same and that could mean another poor offensive showing unless Baker finds the right combo. It can't be all Sosa all the time; the Cubs need to do the little things.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.