Inbox: How will the bench shape up?
Cubs beat reporter Carrie Muskat fields fans' queries
Andres Blanco, the bench, Sam Fuld and Tyler Colvin are among the topics in this week's Cubs Inbox. E-mail your questions to email@example.com, and please include your full name and hometown.
I've been wondering if there was some reason Blanco has been left out of the roster discussion. It seems no one considers him a candidate for much of anything, but I was very impressed with what I saw of him last year. He made some incredible plays. I know his hitting left something to be desired, but isn't that something that a lot of guys struggle with when they only get into 53 games? Can you help me understand why he's not getting any credit or consideration?
-- Jonathan T., St. Charles, Ill.
The decision comes down to whether the bench is made up of offensive or defensive players. In a perfect world, you have both. Blanco has shown he can play solid defense at second and short. If Mike Fontenot can play second and short, then the Cubs may opt to keep another hitter on the bench, which could include someone like Kevin Millar. One thing to consider regarding Blanco is that he's one of six players out of options. That list includes Jeff Baker, Angel Guzman, Tom Gorzelanny, Koyie Hill and Geovany Soto.
At the moment, Fuld and Colvin are both on the 40-man roster. Do you expect them to open the season at Triple-A Iowa, or would the Cubs opt to take a backup center fielder with them?
-- Sam B., Minneapolis
I can see Fuld making the Cubs' Opening Day roster over Colvin as a bench player. They want Colvin to play every day, and unless there's more regular work available in the big leagues, he'd be better served getting more experience in Iowa. Fuld has shown he can handle the part-time workload, can play all three positions, and can be used as a defensive sub or pinch-runner. However, Colvin did show up 25 pounds heavier -- and it's all good weight that he added. He'll get plenty of at-bats.
Have a question about the Cubs?
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I listen to your reports from Spring Training and you sound way too optimistic. We're missing Ted Lilly for a month, Big Z had nine wins last year, Mike Fontenot hit .236, Alfonso Soriano hit .241 with 55 RBIs, Soto was awful, Kosuke Fukudome in his two years has not proven anything hitting-wise, Carlos Silva had five wins and an inflated ERA with Seattle, and our biggest acquisition was Marlon Byrd. How in the world can you be optimistic?
-- Evan A., St. Louis
Zambrano, Fontenot, Soriano, Soto, Fukudome and Silva were all embarrassed by how they performed last year and all are motivated. No offense to Byrd, but I think the biggest acquisition was hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. Are there holes? Yes. The bullpen has to be sorted out. But the candidates for the bench are more experienced, guys are healthy and the attitude is good. It's March 1. Why not be optimistic?
This is projected to be Lou Piniella's last season as a manager. In the three years he's been here, the Cubs have had three winning seasons. With the possibility of another winning season this year, when was the last time, if ever, a Cubs manager had a winning season every year during his tenure?
-- Dan M., Elmhurst, Ill.
Here's the list: Tommy Burns (1898-99), Frank Chance (1905-12), Hank O'Day (1914), Joe McCarthy (1926-30), and Rogers Hornsby (1930-1932). Piniella also could be the fifth Cubs manager to post above-.500 records in at least his first four seasons as Cubs manager, joining Cap Anson (1879-1891); Chance (1905-1912), Charlie Grimm (1932-1938, 1944-46), and McCarthy (1926-30).
With the Cubs still looking for that veteran arm in the bullpen, do you think they'd consider Kiko Calero?
-- Eric S., Farmington, Minn.
Calero tore his right rotator cuff in 2008 and missed some time last year because of shoulder problems. The medical issues make him a high risk and the Cubs have decided to look elsewhere.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.