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03/30/09 7:00 PM ET

Inbox: Is Fukudome on a short leash?

Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers Cubs fans' questions

The Mailbag is back, but it's now the Inbox, and fans are encouraged to e-mail questions about the Cubs. Please include your full name and hometown.

How long do you think Lou Piniella will give Kosuke Fukudome to produce? He was clearly frustrated last year and surprised everyone by playing him in the playoffs. Fukudome was the worst hitter on the Japan team and benched for the championship game [in the World Baseball Classic], so it doesn't appear he's straightened anything out. Piniella will start him, but how long will he give him a chance before he pulls the plug?
-- Jim O., Twin Lakes, Wis.

Piniella has said he'll be patient, but I'd expect Reed Johnson to get more playing time in center if Fukudome falters. As Piniella said Sunday, Johnson "didn't come here this spring to share a job. He came here to take a job." Fukudome has said he expects better results in his second season in the Major Leagues. We haven't seen it yet this spring. You're right that Fukudome didn't start in the World Baseball Classic finale, but that was partly because Korea started a left-handed pitcher.

If Rule 5 Draft pick David Patton doesn't make the Cubs' Opening Day roster, do they lose his rights since he was taken in the Major League round? And is it true that he's never played above the high-A level? This spring, it looks like Patton has been very good.
-- Paul C., Earlham, Iowa

Yes, they would lose Patton's rights unless the Cubs make a trade with the Rockies. And it's correct that he has not pitched above the Class A level. He's making the decisions tough on who to pick for the bullpen. As of Monday, there were five relievers left for two spots, including Patton.

I've been hearing the Cubs might move to Florida next spring. Is this true?
-- Elliott B., Naperville, Ill.

Not next spring, but Florida is trying to lure the Cubs east. If the Cubs give the city of Mesa, Ariz., notice before Spring Training 2010 that they want to exit their lease early, they could leave after the 2012 season. Cubs chairman Crane Kenney did meet with Mesa officials to discuss their options. Kenney said he's also been in touch with Florida officials, but he wouldn't say which cities.

The Cubs, who lead the Major Leagues in spring home attendance this year, marked their 31st consecutive spring in Mesa. They want to improve the stadium and the Minor League facility, which is an 11-month operation.

I will be attending the exhibition opener of the new Yankee Stadium. Have the Cubs said who will start those two games?
-- Matt B., Cedar Rapids, Iowa

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Ted Lilly was scheduled to start Friday and Rich Harden on Saturday. However, they will not go deep in the game. This will be their final regular-season tuneup.

With the construction at the corner of Addison and Waveland making way for the new Harry Caray's, I was wondering what will happen with all the memorial bricks? Peeking through the construction fence, I can see they've been removed. Any word on where they will be relocated? Also, will there be any concessions for people (like me) who bought bricks early to get into good sections (i.e., Ron Santo's section), but will now be moved into what I can only assume to be Todd Wellemeyer-esque sections?
-- Kevin L., Chicago

The bricks will be relocated on the corner, and if that's your brick, you'll get a letter telling you about the new location. There can't be a bad spot. I'd take a Wellemeyer section over a Mel Rojas one any day.

I noticed that most of the Cubs are wearing the old style batting helmets. Is that just for Spring Training or do most players not like the "Airflow" helmets?
-- Stewart Y., Bettendorf, Iowa

The Cubs have discontinued the "Airflow" helmets because they kept breaking. They went through 40-50 helmets last year and have returned to the old style ones. Also, no red bill on their caps.

What does a "simulated game" look like? I've always read that somebody pitched in a simulated game, but I can't imagine how it works.
-- Gergely H., Budapest, Hungary

It's basically a way to help the pitcher get his work done in a controlled environment. For example, Harden could go to the back field with three or four hitters, and will throw a certain number of pitches each "inning." The hitters take turns, and the pitching coach is the umpire and determines whether a batter has made a hit or out. The batters usually don't run the bases, unless they want the pitcher to work on pitching out of the stretch.

With the weather being ugly and cold in Chicago and the season about to start, I'm interested to see how the players handle the freezing conditions. In years past, certain players take several weeks to "heat up." With so many players from warmer climates, I wondered if the clubs are required to spend every last day at camp, or if it could jump-start things to get the club into the conditions they will be playing in sooner rather than later.
-- Craig A., Chicago

You'd have a tough time convincing teams to leave the warm sunshine of Arizona for the cold of Chicago in March.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.