02/26/11 2:00 PM EST
Quade stoked to see players in action
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
On Sunday, the Cubs open Cactus League play when they host the Athletics at HoHoKam Park. It won't be Quade's first game as Cubs manager; he guided the team for the final six weeks of 2010 after Lou Piniella went home. But this spring does give Quade a chance to put his mark on the team rather than work with what he has inherited.
The lineup will feature new first baseman Carlos Pena, who will bat fifth behind Aramis Ramirez. Pitcher Matt Garza, acquired from the Rays, is slated to follow Carlos Zambrano in the game.
The uber organized Quade posted lineups for the first three Cactus League games on Friday and also listed the backups so everyone would know when and where they're playing. Sunday could be a preview of Opening Day, April 1, when the Cubs face the Pirates at Wrigley Field, with the exception of the starting pitcher. Kosuke Fukudome will lead off and play right field and be followed by shortstop Starlin Castro, center fielder Marlon Byrd, third baseman Ramirez, Pena, left fielder Alfonso Soriano, catcher Geovany Soto, and second baseman Blake DeWitt. Zambrano will start; Ryan Dempster, who goes Tuesday against the Giants, has been tabbed the regular-season Opening Day starting pitcher.
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"Almost always, it's the guys I haven't seen or the guys I haven't seen recently, which we're talking about people we've acquired," Quade said. "I'm anxious to watch Carlos play first and swing the bat. I'm anxious to see [Trey] McNutt pitch, anxious to see where [outfielder Brett] Jackson is at with his game.
"The list probably goes on and on," Quade said. "It's more like to me, the guys who we're counting on, they'll get into this thing. I'm not going to come off my chair if they go 4-for-4. Let these guys get their work. I want to see improvement from [infielder Darwin] Barney, and look at Augie [Ojeda], who I haven't seen for a while."
Barney and Ojeda are battling for the extra infielder spot. McNutt and Jackson are highly touted prospects. Another player to watch is speedy outfielder Fernando Perez, also acquired in the Garza deal, who will sub for Byrd on Sunday. Expect the starters to get two at-bats each, or play a minimum five innings.
Part of Quade's fascination with the players he listed is to get a good feel for what's in the Cubs organization.
"Some of it is overall development," he said. "Take McNutt. I've never laid eyes on this guy. Jackson, I've seen his game. When a guy possesses a tool like Perez does, let me watch this in action and let me see how it can change a game. Sometimes when you put a ball in play that one thing [speed] is enough."
There are other things to watch for this spring. DeWitt is changing his batting stance to eliminate a tap step. The change should help him hit to all fields. He spent a week with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo in Arizona this offseason to fine-tune his swing.
"The work here has been great, and I know the direction of the work has been good," Quade said. "We'll see starting Sunday what results we get."
Zambrano, who will follow Dempster in the regular-season rotation, will start on Sunday. He's coming off an 11-6 season that he'd rather forget. Garza, who was 15-10 with the Rays, is looking forward to making a good first impression.
"He's almost more wired than I am, which to me is a great thing," Quade said of Garza. "He's bouncing around and going a mile a minute. That's my impression.
"You combine talent with energy and what looks like a really good work ethic -- does it get any better than that?" he said. "I can't wait to see him Sunday. I can read reports and I have a good friend who covers [the Rays] and is a tough grader and he wrote great reports on [Garza]. He's fit in really well, and there's something to be said for that, too."
Quade has been very hands on with fundamental drills this spring. Don't be surprised if he's not bouncing around the dugout during games to make sure players pay attention to his message.
Last year, Tyler Colvin was the surprise out of spring camp. There aren't many spots open on the Cubs' 25-man roster but Quade is keeping an open mind.
"I love the possibility of upsets and guys coming to camp like Colvin did last year," Quade said. "You never close the door to anything. You have a core group you start with and then let people play."
It's time for "Q" and company to play ball.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.