In anticipation of the upcoming series in Chicago, I answered some questions about the Pirates for Byron of Goat Riders of the Apocalypse. In return, he answered some of my questions about the Cubs. Check out his answers below.
PLC: So what is the deal with the Soriano hop? How much will his absence hurt the Cubs? Which player will benefit most from his injury?
GROTA: The explanation of Soriano’s hop was that he was uncomfortable waiting for the ball, so he would go to meet it. I don’t care if he does a hand stand in route to catching fly balls, just catch the ball. I think it’s typical for people to get sidetracked by the issue of the hop. The hop didn’t injure him, and was really irrelevant. It’s not like hopping should have any impact on his health, so who cares… but I’m apparently in the minority around Cubdom. Regardless of the hop, it’s going to hurt the Cubs. They’ll probably lose a game in the next two weeks they would have otherwise won. As for who will benefit? The logical answer would be Matt Murton who was the odd man out in the outfield, and was thus sent to AAA at the end of spring. Now, for some befuddling reason, Murton didn’t get the call up, so two players are the main benefactors of the injury. Eric Patterson because he got the call up, and Mike Fontenot because he’ll get a bunch of starts he wouldn’t have otherwise.
PLC: Should Felix Pie be in Triple-A getting regular at-bats? Will his sporadic playing time in Chicago hurt his development?
GROTA: I think Felix Pie should be in Chicago getting regular at-bats. I have faith in Felix, but he’s not delivered on it yet, and I think Soriano’s injury makes it even less likely he’ll get an extended opportunity at the major league level. If Felix doesn’t start delivering soon, the Cubs might send him down to give him regular at-bats, but less for developmental purposes, than for the fact that without Soriano, we can’t carry any deadweight on the roster.
PLC: Ryan Dempster completely shut down the Pirates in the first series. But in the past couple of years, we have been dominated many times by a mediocre reliever-turned-starter. Do you expect much from him this season in his return to the starting rotation?
GROTA: I’ve been poo-pooing Dempster to any one who will listen ever since the decision was made to have him start. I briefly thought about changing my tune, but I’m superstitious enough to fear that if I give in and embrace the great start, that would doom it. So, the standard answer is that Dempster hasn’t had a good season as a starter since 2000 and has no reason to be in the rotation. But, so far, Dempster’s been our best starter (even better than Zambrano).
PLC: Do you see any changes to the Cubs’ starting rotation in the near future?
GROTA: Yes. Perhaps several. Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis, and Rich Hill – all horrible thus far. In the short term, I expect Jon Lieber to quickly land a slot, but I couldn’t tell you who he would replace (should be Lilly, most likely Hill). It’s also possible that Sean Marshall and Sean Gallagher could step into the rotation if those three continue to struggle.
PLC: Which comes first, a Cubs’ championship or a .500 season for the Pirates?
GROTA: Two weeks ago, I would have given the nod to the Pirates… but this Cubs team has got me really excited, so the Pirates better finish .500 this year if they’re gonna beat us to a championship*. (Superstition Disclaimer: Championship includes NL Central Championship.)
Thanks to Byron for his assistance. You can check him out at Goat Riders of the Apocalypse.