Stay or go? Veteran Cubs on the brink in Mesa

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Stay or go? Veteran Cubs on the brink in Mesa

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Posted 9:05 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. The Cubs didnt want to be anywhere near bench coach Pat Listach on Tuesday morning. A tap on the shoulder meant you were wanted in the managers office.

There Mike Quade and general manager Jim Hendry informed 18 players that they were heading down the street to minor-league camp. The Turk isnt on call yet for the next rounds of cuts, but after Wednesdays off-day the Cubs have less than two weeks left in Arizona.

During his six-week audition last season, Quade didnt manage every night like it was Game 7 of the World Series. He won points and almost two out of every three games by using players the front office needed to evaluate.

But as the 25-man roster comes into focus, Quade will have to find his voice and articulate what he needs to win now.

Jims been upfront about so many of these decisions being mine, but Im always mindful, Quade said. Whos got options? Whats the contractual status?

I fully expect to have the loudest voice, at least of the group in here. And if (chairman) Tom Ricketts or Jim Hendry or (assistant general manager) Randy Bush shouts me down, thats because theyre ahead of me. Theyre my bosses. Itll be a group effort and then well put our heads together.

Hendry purposely brought in character guys on minor-league deals to add a sense of professionalism this spring. They are still hoping to fly back to Chicago.

Braden Looper

With his gray hair and stubble, the 36-year-old pitcher looks like Brett Favre, and he has ideas about retirement. Looper sat out last season to be a stay-at-home father in Chicagos south suburbs. Across the past 18 months, hes been trying to get a job with the only team he wants to play for.

Looper is still a candidate for the two open spots in rotation, along with Randy Wells, Andrew Cashner and Carlos Silva. He might be a fit as the long man in the bullpen. He becomes a free agent if he doesnt make the team and would have to decide if he really wants to walk away again.

I got a wife and three kids at home that I dont want to drag all over the place anymore, Looper said. They put up with that for a long time. I played almost (12 years) traveling all over the country and its a lot to ask of a family.

Were going to do this and see if it works out, and then Ill cross that bridge when it comes. But hopefully this works out and Ill be pitching for the Cubs.

Todd Wellemeyer

Admittedly still a little rusty, Wellemeyer has essentially thrown six innings since tearing his quadriceps last June. The San Francisco Giants were six games out of first place when they released Wellemeyer on Aug. 19. Hes waiting for his World Series ring and dealing with a sore right hip, something hes felt every spring for the past three years.

The Cubs go way back with Wellemeyer, their fourth-round pick in the 2000 draft, and they remember what he did eight years later 13-9 with a 3.71 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals. At the age of 32, he figures: If these guys dont have a spot for me, maybe one of the other teams will.

Augie Ojeda

The Cubs brought in Ojeda to help mentor Starlin Castro, and they need a utility infielder to back up their young shortstop. This is Ojedas third tour with the Cubs, and he once played for Quade at Triple-A Iowa. The manager says that when it comes to defense, you wont find them much better.

The 36-year-old Ojeda will have to beat out Darwin Barney, who is almost 11 years younger and hitting .333 this spring. Barney could also play himself into more at-bats as the second baseman.

Reed Johnson

Last month Marlon Byrd stood in front of his locker and raised his voice while talking about when Johnson makes the team. Johnson still has many allies in the organization after his two seasons on the North Side (2008-09), when Quade was his outfield coach.

Though Johnson has hit only .138 so far, the Cubs value his experience and ability to play all three outfield positions. Fernando Perez has unbelievable speed, and that could be a real asset for a team that could struggle to score runs. But Perez may need more time in Iowa to develop as a switch-hitter.

If Johnson doesnt make the club, he will become a free agent.

I know (what) he can do on the field, Quade. The fact that he played well here in this division, in this ballpark, in this city theres a lot of real good stuff that comes with Reed.

What is that worth exactly? Those are the types of conversations the Cubs will be having behind closed doors.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

President Obama, with Cubs at White House: 'Among Sox fans, I'm the Cubs' No. 1 fan'

President Obama, with Cubs at White House: 'Among Sox fans, I'm the Cubs' No. 1 fan'

President Obama was happy to have a Chicago team visit the White House one last time during his administration.

But he's not 100-percent changing his baseball loyalties quite yet.

The world's most famous White Sox fan, Obama's made no secret about his love of Chicago's South Side team. But with the World Series champion Cubs on hand Monday at the White House, he had to give his support for his other hometown baseball club.

"Among Sox fans," Obama said as his honoring of the Cubs was wrapping up, "I'm the Cubs' No. 1 fan."

It was the line worth remembering, as Chicago baseball unity took another step toward becoming reality.

The Cubs attempted to make the president an honorary Cubs fan, giving him a lifetime pass to Wrigley Field as well as tons of other goodies.

But the most useful gift for the president might be the second jersey he was presented, a Cubs road jersey that simply says "Chicago."

Check out more from the president in the video above.

President Obama on Joe Maddon: 'Not a lot of coaches or managers who are as cool as this guy'

President Obama on Joe Maddon: 'Not a lot of coaches or managers who are as cool as this guy'

As one of the cooler presidents ever, President Obama knows cool when he sees it.

The president talked about numerous members of the Cubs during the team's visit to the White House on Monday, but he only offered the "cool" label to manager Joe Maddon, who most folks can agree is probably the coolest person to ever manage the Cubs.

"Let's face it, there are not a lot of coaches or managers who are as cool as this guy. Look how he looks right now," Obama said, pointing out Maddon's non-traditional suit. "That's cool."

The president also praised Maddon's unique style, with his themed road trips and visits from zoo animals, as well as his on-field prowess, throwing in a joke about something the skipper couldn't control during the World Series.

"He's got a lot tricks to motivate. But he's also a master of tactics and knows how to make the right move at the right time: when to pinch hit, when to pinch run, when to make it rain in Game 7 of the World Series. It was masterful."

Maybe President Obama really does admire Maddon's style. Or maybe he's just extending his bromance with Vice President Biden to other famous Joes.

Check out the video above for more from the president.