Friday, April 9, 2010

Series number 2: Invading Dusty's Iron Curtain

 Time to get out your toothpicks!

This weekend the Cubs take on perennial dark-horse team, Cincinnati.

The Reds lost 2 out of 3 to the Cardinals this week, winning yesterday's game on a walk off homer by Jonny Gomes.

Dusty Baker's team seems to be everyone's pick each pre-season for the surprise team of the year.  That's fine by me, because, first off, typically those picks almost never play as well as those people think, and second, they aren't really surprises if everyone thinks they are going to be good.

What do the Reds have to offer this year?  Well, at this point, they're Rookie-of-the-Year candidate, Aroldis Chapman, is not going to be around.  He has suffered some back problems and is spending some time in the minor leagues first before making his eventual debut.  Like Heyward of the Braves, Chapman appears to be the real thing, so it's not a bad thing for us to miss him right now.

So who will we see this weekend?  Well, not much has changed in Cincinnati from last year.  Scott Rolen is at third, Joey Votto is at first, Brandon Phillips is at second, and Jay Bruce is in right.  This will set up a supposedly good lineup.  They added Orlando Cabrera to play shortstop this year.  One thing that was always a problem when Dusty managed the Cubs in Chicago was that their offense underachieved.  If these guys are a good as people claim, well, then they underachieved last year scoring only 673 runs (worse than the offensively challenged Cubs).  I see no reason to believe they are better this year.

The Reds have an adequate starting staff to start the season...Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang, Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey (always loved this old-fashioned name!) actually make up a decent rotation, but they lack that one superstar pitcher.  That brings us to Edinson Volquez who is still recovering from the usual Dusty Baker arm blow out...he was shut down in June of last season and might not be back at all this season.  That's why the Reds are likely to rush Chapman up some time in May. Arroyo is a work horse.  Harang is really ugly and was once a really good pitcher, until Dusty Baker became his manager.  Cueto and Bailey are still young, but aren't horrible.

 "I'm sorry, Eddie.  I broke you." (AP photo)

In the match up this weekend, tonight we will see Carlos Silva make his Cubs debut going up against Homer Bailey.  Saturday Gorzelanny will have and ugly face match against Harang, and on Sunday, Carlos Zambrano looks to rebound after that joke of an outing he had on opening day.  He's going to face Mike Leake, who is making his major league debut.
 These two guys play movie monsters in the off-season.

Now, normally I would be making some joke about the fact that Leake will probably pitch a complete game shutout against the Cubs because in years past that often happened with pitchers that the Cubs had never seen before...but it seems that this trend has stopped over the last few hopefully the Cubs will be knocking this kid all around the ballpark.

About "Great American Ballpark"...which is named after a bank and isn't some self righteous moniker...compared to Turner Field, GAB is considerably more hitter friendly.  Hopefully we will see the offense get charged up a bit more.  GAB is probably one of the worst of the new stadiums built over the last couple decades...having very little charm.  I do intend to make a trip there later this summer to see it for the first time.  For a city, which I consider one of the best baseball towns in the Major Leagues, this place just doesn't measure up.  Of course, the Reds really haven't measured up over the last 15 years anyway.  

As Tim from Aisle424 commented here yesterday, while the Cubs haven't score many runs yet this season, the offense is actually seeing a lot of pitches and really working counts well.  Hopefully they will keep this up.  That is a really good sign. And outside of the relief pitching and Zambrano's implosion on Monday, the team hasn't been that horrible. (The defense has really tightened up the last couple days too.)  And this weekend gives us a chance to see what Silva and Gorzelanny have to offer as they compete for the final spot in the rotation when Lilly comes back in 2 weeks.  (Speaking of which, Lilly has had some back problems and was scratched from his latest scheduled minor league rehab start.)

Overall, the Cubs handled the Reds fairly well last year taking 10 out of 15 games against them.  As the Reds are pretty much the same team as last year, I expect much of the same this year.


Correction:  Thanks to Mel for catching this...Zambrano is starting on Saturday, to keep him on 4 days rest.  Gorzelanny will make his 2010 debut on Sunday against Leake.  (Thank you for getting this wrong!  Bastards!)